Throwback Thursday: John Owen on Christ’s Role as a Prophet

Throwback Thursday3On Wednesday nights, I am currently leading a group of children and students ages 5-18 through The Lighthouse Catechism. We have been looking at the doctrine of Christ since the beginning of August and have made it to our study of the offices of Christ. We are learning that as our Redeemer, Jesus Christ performs the roles of a prophet, a priest, and a king. Walking through these Christological truths has been an edifying journey not only for the students, but also for me. Learning about Christ as a prophet, priest, and king has given me deeper understanding of the purpose of the prophets, priests, and kings in the Old Testament, as well as a deeper understanding and appreciation of Christ’s work on our behalf.

Yesterday, I briefly reflected on what it means for Christ to be our prophet. In short, as our prophet, Christ reveals God’s will for our salvation, brings news of salvation and judgment, and continues to speak to his people. Christ is the eternal medium through which God speaks (Heb. 1:1-3). He truly is the first and final Word (John 1:1). We also have been sent out into the world as “little prophets” to bring good news of great joy and bad news of great judgment through our proclamation of the gospel. As we proclaim the gospel, God uses us to speak to his people.

What’s most interesting about Christ’s role as a prophet is its duration. How long will Christ communicate revelation from God? Is this something that will only last until final glorification? Will Christ perform the role of a prophet even in the new earth? The only way any of us can have any knowledge of God now is through Christ’s prophetic work. But according to John Owen, Jesus will mediate our knowledge and love for God even after glorification. The Puritan genius writes,

All communications from the Divine Being and infinite fullness in heaven unto the glorified saints, are in and through Christ Jesus, who shall forever be the medium of communication between God and the church, even in glory. All things being gathered into one head in him, even things in heaven and things in earth…this order shall never be dissolved…And on these communications from God through Christ depend entirely our continuance in a state of blessedness and glory. [Mediations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ in The Works of John Owen, 1:414]

God generally reveals himself in creation. God specially reveals himself in his Word–the 66 books of the Bible. And God specially and eternally reveals himself in his Son–the incarnate Word of God. God will never cease speaking to his people, and he will always speak to us through Christ. Even though Owen believed the offices of Christ would come to an end with the consummation of the new covenant with the return of Christ, he also saw that knowledge of God would forever be mediated to God’s people exclusively through the person of Jesus Christ. In one sense, Christ will forever be a prophet who reveals the knowledge of God to his own.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.


Morning Mashup 09/27

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


On the Puritans

A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life | J.I. Packer | $16.20


Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were | Leland Ryken | $15.85


A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life | Joel Beeke & Mark Jones | $45.79


Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints | Joel Beeke & Randall Pederson | $35.00



How Much Do Christian Kids Need a ‘Christian’ Education? | Thomas Kidd

We know for sure, of course, that whatever combination of public, private, or home education a child receives, the parents’ influence on a child’s mind is pre-eminent. But I still think that evangelicals and other Christians need to think hard about what education for their children should accomplish.

Distinguishing Among the Three Persons of the Trinity in the Reformed Tradition | Kevin DeYoung

So why I am writing something now? For the simple reason that I am hearing from more people in my own congregation who want to know what to make of this kerfuffle over the Trinity. Twitter demands to “say something!” mean little to me. Honest theological questions from my church family mean a lot.

Scripture and the Long Shadow of American Slavery | Timothy Paul Jones

Yet, if Scriptures seem to have accepted some forms of slavery, why should Christians today view the enslavement of African Americans as a depraved and dehumanizing system from its inception? More important, how can a renewed recognition of the sinfulness of this system help us to understand better the struggles that we face still today?

Complaining Isn’t Authentic, It’s a Waste of Time | Matt Rogers

There are certainly healthy aspects to this trend. It’s hard to love and be loved if everyone is a phony. But, if I’m honest, the rise of authenticity has some rather annoying byproducts. One of the most common is the incessant noise of complaining Christians. Since sin invaded the world, we’ve all had issues doing everything without complaining or grumbling (Phil. 2:14). But lately, it seems that we’ve begun to celebrate complaining as a virtue rather than a vice.

Transcript of the First Debate | NY Times

If you’re like me and skipped out on the debate, here is your one-stop source for every second of the debate in all it’s glory.

Donald Trump’s Cruel Streak | Conor Friedersdorf

Giving a cruel man power and expecting that he won’t use it to inflict cruelty is madness. To vote for Trump, knowing all of this, is to knowingly empower cruelty.


Throwback Thursday: Thomas Boston on the Supremacy of Scripture

Throwback ThursdayIn the catechism ministry I lead on Wednesday evenings, we just finished looking at questions and answers relating to the Word of God. The catechism I adapted from historic Reformed catechisms, such as the Westminster Shorter and Baptist Catechisms, is divided into six major sections. The first section deals with the Bible. Over the past few weeks, we have studied the content, purpose, message, and nature of the Bible.

Q 2. What teaches us how we should glorify God by enjoying him forever?
A. The Word of God alone teaches us how we should glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Q 3. What is the Word of God?
A. The Word of God is the Bible made up of the Old and New Testaments and inspired by God.

Q 4. What does the Bible mainly teach?
A. The Bible mainly teaches what man must believe about God and what God requires of man.

The questions do not encapsulate everything within the doctrine of the Word of God, but they do cover most of the crucial and fundamental aspects of the Bible. What I want the kids I lead to come away with is a sense of what the Bible is and what it is for. I feel confident that most of the kids know the nature, purpose, and basic content of the Bible.

But more than a thorough and impressive head knowledge, I want the kids I lead to come away dumbfounded by the Bible. I want them to see it as amazing that God speaks. I want them to see Scripture as supremely satisfying for their lives. Because of this, I believe it is more crucial to our ministry for our leaders to show enthusiasm and joy over the Bible than to say kids should be enthused and joyed over the Bible.

Only when the Bible is seen as supremely valuable; only when it is seen as a precious treasure, will it be obeyed. There are countless competing pleasures in the world and many worldviews demanding obedience. Once we see and understand the Bible is revelation from God himself, where do we go from here? Christians far too casually confess the Bible is God’s Word. If that massively radical statement is true, then what should it mean for our lives. If the Bible truly is what it says it is, what now?

Scottish theologian Thomas Boston (1676-1732) presents four exhortations for Christians approaching the Bible. If you hold that the Bible is God’s Word, inerrant, infallible, and supremely valuable, then consider Boston’s exhortations.

  1. Let us highly prize this book for the sake of the author. The Ephesians thought that they had good ground to be zealous for the image of Diana, because they fancied it fell down from Jupiter, Acts 19:35. Your Bible is a book really come from God; let us be ashamed we do not prize it more, by using it diligently to the ends for which if was given the church.
  2. Let us believe it in all the parts thereof; the commands, that we may study to conform ourselves to them; the promises, that we may thereby be encouraged to a holy life; and the threatenings, that we may thereby be deterred from sin. Alas ! though we own it to be the word of God, that we are no more moved with it than if it were the word of man, and such a man as we give little credit to. For compare the lives of the most part with it they say, it is but idle tales.
  3. Let us submit our souls to it, as the oracles of the living God. He is the great Lawgiver, and in that book he speaks: let us own his authority in his word, and submit to it as the rule of our faith and life, without disputing or opposing.
  4. Let us study to be well acquainted with it, and make it our business to search the scriptures.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Throwback Thursday: Thomas Brooks on Spiritual Warfare

snakeapple-e1384797536842In his classic work, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Puritan, Thomas Brooks, makes much of waging war against sin and Satan.
In this book, Brooks observes various devices that Satan employs in his work to destroy the work of God in the life of the believer. He then offers “precious remedies” to sooth the soul and ground the heart in the fight.

The seventh device of Satan is “By making the soul bold to venture upon occasions to sin.” Brooks continues,

Saith Satan, You may walk by the harlot’s door though you won’t go into the harlot’s bed; you may sit and sup with the drunkard, though you won’t be with the drunkard; you may look upon Jezebel’s beauty, and you may play and toy with Delilah, though you do not commit wickedness with the one or the other; you may with the Achan handle the golden wedge, though you do not steal the golden wedge (42).

Brooks responds to this device from Satan with this remedy:

Dwell upon those scriptures that do expressly command us to avoid the occasions of sin, and the least appearance of evil (42).

Brooks has a very important lesson that we must not forget in the midst of spiritual warfare. One way Satan attacks us is through the subtle flatter of our pride and ego. He entices the flesh by challenging us to put ourselves in occasions that could lead to us to sin. When Satan appeals to our pride and fallen reason, how do we respond? By dwelling on the word of God, which commands we avoid such occasions.

We must fight Satan and sin by going to the Scriptures! In order to live in a fallen world where Satan is rampant and sin permeates every aspect of life, Brooks reminds us to dive deep into the text, dwell in the text, and be found in the Bible. To think we can fight Satan’s cunning “devices” with any success without God’s word is ignorant and misplaced.

Satan and sin creep at your bedside and they are waiting to pounce. Paul says this in Romans 7:18, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, but sin dwells within me”. We must begin each day with this realization and have it point us to the cross. This is exactly the attitude of Paul when he wrote, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)

To fight Satan and sin on a daily basis will require a life focused on the cross. The moment you wake up and think you do not need Christ will be the moment you being to lose spiritual battle after spiritual battle.

Friend, who will deliver you from the body of death, the body of sin. Who will deliver you from the attacks of Satan; from his temptations and accusations? Who is it? It is Christ Jesus! “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25)

Shun the sinful occasions and uproars of Satan as Thomas Brooks encouraged. Look upon the Cross. That is where both sin and Satan find ultimate defeat and death. Fight. Make War.

For you only get one life, and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ Jesus will last.

1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

Morning Mashup 09/03

10 articles for your information, edification, and enjoyment.

Let No Special Need Hinder the Spread of the Gospel – Amen. Wondering how your church can minister the gospel to those with special needs? Look no further than this post.

Should I Attend a Same-Sex Wedding? – “Sometimes the most loving thing to do is not the thing that on the surface looks most loving…Going to a same-sex wedding is not the most loving thing to do because I don’t want to encourage my friends in actions that run contrary to God’s command.”

How Now Shall We Write? – Bethany Jenkins on how the authority of God is at risk through our use of modal verbs. This is such a helpful piece for preachers, teachers, and writers, especially.

Why Curing Cancer Matters to Me – Barnabas Piper is always entertaining and interesting to read, but in this short post he is particularly heartwarming.

What Would it Have Been Like to Attend a Puritan Worship Service? – History buffs, particularly church history buffs, like myself, will greatly appreciate this.

Walk With God For Joy – Jared Wilson says that Victoria Osteen most definitely wasn’t right in her recent comments, but she also wasn’t completely wrong. Read to see what he means.

The Osteen Predicament – Albert Mohler: “If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston.”

Victoria Osteen, the Glory of God, and Reformed Worship – Ok, ok, this is the last post on the Osteens. Promise! Ligon Duncan says at the very least, Victoria Osteen prompted an important discussion about the nature of worship.

War in Europe is Not a Hysterical Idea – Now before you tie Anne Applebaum to the stake for being a witch, you would do well to consider her opinion on the state of eastern Europe, Russia, and the comparison between pre-WWII and today. I am slow to take her thoughts to their logical end, but she does make some compelling points.

Church Re-Plant Grows From 13 to 1,300 in Ten Years – I love stories like this one. May this encourage you to further faithfulness in your ministry.

Never, never underestimate the power of the love of God to break down and transform the most amazingly hard individuals. –D.A. Carson

Throwback Thursday: John Owen on Seeing the Glory of Christ

Pastor and theologian John Owen was born in 1616 and died in 1683. He was a prominent leader in the church and even served on the academic administration at Oxford. If you look at the life of John Owen, you will notice how much he engaged the culture. He was involved in politics and he deeply cared for the souls of men. Owen was a remarkable theologian and one of the most influential minds in the history of the church. Some joke today, that there is more theology in one strand of Owen’s hair, than there is in all of Joel Osteen’s preaching. I would agree!

John Owen is my favorite Puritan preacher to read.  I love his writings and if you’re around me long enough, you will see me quote him. (Kill sin or sin will be killing you!) My favorite work by Owen is his book The Glory of Christ published by Banner of Truth. There are so many others that are refreshing to the Christian soul, such as The Death of Death, Priesthood of Christ, Mortification of Sin, and Communion with God. The Glory of Christ was written in the later period of his life. When I served as a youth pastor in Louisiana, this was the book we went through during Sunday School. What I love most about Owen is the effect he has on both the mind and heart. He leads readers into deep contemplation about God and also drives readers into passionate love for and worship of God. He enlightens the mind while engaging the heart. This is important because if our theology and thinking of God just remains in our heads, and has no effect on our hearts, we would then have a very poor theology.

There is much we can learn from Owen on seeing the glory of Christ. I will focus on just a couple aspects here.

The first idea Owen can remind us about seeing the glory of Christ is that if Christ is not seen as glorious to a professing Christian, they are in fact an unbeliever. Owen says this,

Unbelievers see no glory in Christ. They see nothing attractive about him. They despise him in their hearts. Outwardly they cry, like Judas, ‘Hail Master’, but in their hearts they crucify him. Thus they strip him of his glory, deny the ‘only Lord that bought us’ and substitute a false Christ (The Glory of Christ, pp. 2-3).

It is ultimately contradictory for someone to claim Christ as Lord and not treasure him. I am a Christian, because Jesus Christ is my only hope. So for me, if I turn to myself, hope in myself, I deny Christ! Outside of Christ, I am terrible and totally rotten to the core. But Jesus has come! He has taken the cross for my sin! He has risen and he is coming again. If I don’t see that as awesome–as utterly glorious–then I am glorying in myself rather than the cross of Christ and that is a shame. Not just a short period of shame, but an eternal shame. Owen seems to believe that treasuring Christ is the natural product of believing in Christ. Not seeing and savoring the glory of Christ is a Judas-like “faith.”

The second idea John Owen can remind us about seeing the glory of Christ is that if we don’t begin to behold the glory of Christ here, we won’t be beholding his glory in eternity. Owen said,

He that has no sight of Christ’s glory here shall never see it hereafter. The beholding of Christ in glory is too high, glorious, and marvelous for us in our present condition. The splendor of Christ’s glory is too much for our physical eyes just as is the sun shining in all its strength. So while we are here on earth we can behold his glory only by faith. Many learned men have written of this future state of eternal glory. Some of their writings are filled with excellent things which cannot but stir the minds and hearts of all who read them. But many complain that such writings do nothing for them. They are like a man who ‘beholds his natural face in a mirror, and immediately forgets what he saw'(James 1:23-24). These writings make no fixed impression on their minds. They briefly refresh, like a shower of rain in a drought, which does not soak down to the roots. But why do these writings make no impression on them? Is it not because their idea of future things has not arisen out of an experience of them which faith alone gives? In fact, a soul will be troubled rather than edified when it thinks of future glory, if it has had no foretaste, sense, experience or evidence of these things by faith. No man ought to look for anything in heaven if he has not by faith first had some experience of it in this life. If men were convinced of this, they would spend more time in the exercise of faith and love about heavenly things than they usually do. At present they do not know what they enjoy, so they do not know what to expect. This is why men who are complete strangers to seeing the person and glory of Christ by faith have turned to images, pictures and music to help them in their worship. Music cannot please a deaf man, nor can beautiful colors impress a blind man. A fish would not thank you for taking it out of the sea and putting it on dry land under the blazing sun! Neither would an unregenerate sinner welcome the thought of living for in the blazing glory of Christ (The Glory of Christ, pp. 6-7).

Owen makes it very clear. If one does not have sight of Christ’s glory here on earth, they won’t have it after. Heaven isn’t a golf course, a big lake with an uncountable amount of fish, a football field, etc. It isn’t merely a family reunion or the absence of sin, evil, and suffering. Heaven is primarily where the glory of Christ dwells abundantly! And it is utterly satisfying (Ps. 16:11). Heaven is all about Jesus! If you don’t want Jesus, you’re not going to Heaven! It’s that simple! How horrible it is to say that one who doesn’t want Christ is going to Heaven. This is a sobering thought. If golf is your supreme treasure, then you’re going to hell. Christ is the gift of Heaven.

Life is a long journey and there are many things calling for us to see and savor their glory. More often than not, we don’t ponder the long haul. We don’t ponder the heavenly things. We should. Eternity matters. When Christians think about the glory of Christ, it will naturally overflow into delight and this leaves born again believers with one primary option and mission: share the glory of Christ! If you have been born again and are following Christ, what is the best thing you can do for someone else? Tell them about Jesus!

I challenge you today to ponder eternity. Think about these weighty things. If your favorite sports team wins the championship this year, so what? This is a satisfaction that will quickly fade the moment they begin to lose. Jesus has hung on the cross for my sin and your sin. That changes the way we live today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our earthly walk. Christ is supremely glorious. When we begin to ponder him, and have a foretaste of eternity.  I am thankful to God for John Owen and his curly hair. He has helped the church by thinking about and pondering the glory of Christ.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. –1 Corinthians 13:12

Friends, you only get one life, and it will soon pass. Only what is done for King Jesus will last!

1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

The Godward Poetic Excellence of George Herbert

george-herbert-1George Herbert is widely regarded as one of the most skillful and important British poets of all time. The truth is that this incredible gift to poetry was within a man who was mainly obscure, humanly speaking, during his lifetime. Herbert died at the age of thirty-nine as a little known country pastor. Herbert was born in 1593 and died a month short of his fortieth birthday in 1633. Herbert’s influence was felt the moment his poems began to be published posthumously. Puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote of Herbert: “Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in this world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books.”
I have read many of Herbert’s poems and aside from appreciation of his mastery of the English language and poetic verse, his poetry has deeply ministered to my soul. Whenever I feel my affections from God waning, one remedy is to crack open a book of Herbert’s poems and read one. I always leave them wanting more, not of Herbert per say, but of God. Herbert’s Calvinism is the reason for his Godward poetic style. So, as Gene Veith says, “The dynamics of Calvinism are also the dynamics of Herbert’s poetry,” John Piper rightly characterizes Herbert’s poetry:

The heart of these ‘dynamics’ is the sovereign intervention of God’s grace into the rebellious human heart to subdue the mutiny against heaven and give a new allegiance to the true king of the world, Jesus Christ. [1]

So, come with me and marvel at Herbert’s poetic mastery for a moment.

Poetry: Master of Head and Heart

Poetry makes use of words in a way that prose is not designed to do. Poetry exposes and engages human emotions in a way that other forms of writing simply cannot do. George Herbert crafts the English language in beautiful poetry so as to pierce the hearts of men and women in ways like few others have done. His use of imagery helps readers grasp and see transcendent realities. Herbert’s poetry teaches the hearts of men to see their sin and the glory of God’s grace in Christ. He uses words to teach the head and the heart.

Herbert’s poem “The Altar” is no exception. While Herbert definitely uses linguistic imagery, he also uses visual imagery. Herbert conveys his message through his words, the way he crafts his words, and the way he places his words on the page. Herbert makes use of visual poetry as the form of this poem takes on its content. In other words, the poem “The Altar” is in the form of an altar. Herbert also uses this style of poetry in his poem “Easter Wings” as the poem takes the form of wings. Herbert is not alone in his use of visual poetry. John Hollander makes use of this literary style in his poem “Swan and Shadow.” The form of this poem takes on its content—the form of a swan and its shadow. The impact and force of the poem is felt by the form of the poem on the page before even one word is read.

One Example: “The Altar”

“The Altar” focuses on the worship of God in the lives of believers. How is one to worship God? Herbert answers this question in this poem. The altar that is being reared before the Lord is one that is broken as stated and as symbolized by the space between the letters (“A L T A R”). This altar is the heart of a man broken in the presence of God. Herbert describes this by saying that this heart that is being offered to God in worship is broken and “cemented in tears.” This heart that is breaking before God has been formed by God! Herbert writes, “Made of a heart, and cemented with tears/Whose parts are as thy hand did frame/No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.” The breaking of the worshiper’s heart before God is the result of God’s work. This is because in the face of God’s holiness, Herbert emphasizes the dreadful sin of man. It is once again a broken “H E A R T” that is said to be hard as stone as the poem makes its way down a center shaft.

Herbert emphasizes the main point of his poem at this point—that the heart of man is so hardened by sin that only the incomparable power of God can break it. The hard heart of this worshiper meets in the frame of the altar of this poem and at the altar for worship. While all a man can offer God is a heart that is as hard as stone, it is the glorious power of God’s grace that softens the heart of man to enable proper worship. And what does Herbert see as the means that God softens our heart and enables proper praise? The great sacrifice of Christ. In order for our broken hearts to be sanctified unto God, it must be through reception of the blessed sacrifice of Christ.

George Herbert employs a unique style of visual poetry and appropriate imagery to convey the central theme of the need for worshipers to be sorrowful over sin, in awe of God’s powerful grace, and grateful and glad in the sacrifice of Christ, who is the object of worship and reason for worship. Herbert is clear: the broken altars of our hearts are made whole in Christ.


[1] John Piper. Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. p. 50

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.