Category Archives: Doctrine

How Should We Think About Birthdays?

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Studying to preach on Matthew 14 has me thinking about birthdays. There are two, and only two, birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible. The first is Pharaoh’s birthday feast, recorded in Genesis 40:20-22, where Pharaoh restores his chief butler and has his baker hanged. The second is Herod’s birthday celebration, recorded in Matthew 14:6-11 (parallel account in Mark 6:21-28), where John the Baptist’s head is brought on a platter.

Suffice it to say, the celebrating of birthdays is off to a rough start. And why not? Birthdays have always been a me-me-me proposition anyway, have they not?

Now consider the thoughts of John Calvin:

“The ancient custom of observing a birth-day every year as an occasion of joy cannot in itself be disapproved; for that day, as often as it returns, reminds each of us to give thanks to God, who brought us into this world, and has permitted us, in his kindness, to spend many years in it; next, to bring to our recollection how improperly and uselessly the time which God granted to us has been permitted to pass away; and, lastly, that we ought to commit ourselves to the protection of the same God for the remainder of our life.” – Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 14:6

That is a different angle entirely, and one worthy of some reflection. Calvin counsels us to use birthdays as a tool to do three things:

  1. Thank God for life. Life doesn’t result from boy-meets-girl. It is a gift from God. David declares this in Psalm 139:14, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” We have something to celebrate: God gave us life and has sustained us for another 365 days. That is praiseworthy, worth a day of intentional thankfulness.
  2. Reflect on the use of time. There may be no better day for taking inventory. How are we investing these lives God has given us? In Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents, one man exercises good stewardship, turning his five talents into ten, and he is greeted by his Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Another man buries what his Master has given him, and his Master calls him wicked, lazy, and unprofitable and casts him out. Ephesians 5:15-16, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
  3. Commit ourselves to God. Don’t we need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Don’t we want to? Then let birthdays be days of pleading with God for progress, consecrating ourselves to His use in the coming year. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:12b, “…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

It is small wonder that pagan kings use their birthdays for all manner of self-serving wickedness. The people of God, however, are a peculiar people, turning our sights to our glorious God and King at every opportunity. A birthday is one such opportunity. Use birthdays to acknowledge God as the giver and sustainer of life, to reflect on the use of the past year, and to commit to His good pleasure as many years as He would be pleased to give.

Bible Translation and Some Implications

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Early this year, our elder team gave every family at Hope Baptist a copy of this great little book by William Einwechter, which has been made available online by our friends at Chapel Library.

Since that was prior to the planting of Sovereign Redeemer, I thought it would be useful to highlight this book again, and to offer a very brief summary. WARNING: The summary won’t deliver the full benefit, and shouldn’t be viewed as a substitute for the full read, especially since the entire book can literally be read in a couple of hours.

Einwechter structures the book around two essential pillars:

1. Verbal-Plenary Inspiration.

Simply put, this means that the unit of inspiration is the individual word. With perfect precision and intentionality, God chose every word of the Bible. IMPLICATION: Don’t mess with the words. KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, and The Geneva Bible are prominent translations that embrace the verbal-plenary inspiration of Scripture. Alternatively, NIV and HCS are examples of translations that have departed from this principle in favor of “thought for thought” translation, so that the thought becomes the unit of inspiration, instead of the individual word. I won’t be addressing translations towards “The Message” end of the spectrum. Those are more commentary than translation, and frequently bad commentary at that.

Jesus understood the Bible to be infallibly reliable (inspired by God) not only down to the word, but even down to the verb tense. With a lot on the line, Jesus rests the entire weight of His argument against the Sadducees on a single verb tense. “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32). If the “am” could be “was”, Jesus’ argument comes apart at the seams. No matter. Jesus stands with confidence on the present tense of that one verb.

Likewise, Paul understood the Bible to be infallibly reliable even down to singular vs. plural. In Galatians 3:16, Paul makes his argument based on whether God’s promise to Abraham was to one Seed or many seeds. “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.”

SUMMARY: Sticking close to Jesus and Paul and their view of inspiration is always a good thing.

2.  Providential Preservation.

So far, most readers have probably been able to stand up and cheer. This is the part where you may encounter implications that you haven’t considered before, and where your translation of choice might get gored. Of the translations which hold to verbal-plenary inspiration, KJV, NKJV, and The Geneva Bible are founded on providential preservation, while NASB and ESV have taken a different course.

Providential preservation affirms that God has sovereignly provided His people with uninterrupted access to the inspired Hebrew and Greek texts. More plainly and to the point, never for a single day, let alone hundreds of years, have the people of God been kept from the inspired texts because those texts were hidden away in a cave. Providential preservation holds steadfastly to a view that God is not only able to do this, but also abundantly willing, and more than willing based on His regard for His own word.

Psalm 138:2b reads, “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Think about that for a minute. God has magnified His word even above His name, a name not to be taken in vain, a name that is to be hallowed.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Admittedly, neither verse explicitly says that God could not have a reason in His wisdom why He would keep the inspired Hebrew and Greek texts from His people through the centuries, but what basis do we have for that conclusion, especially given the alternative. The alternative is that men – yes, very learned men, and in some cases very godly men, but nonetheless men – have been able to determine that some texts are older and therefore better than the texts available to the church of God throughout the centuries. Says who? Says them.

I view this as bad theology, but it is also a concept with other practical problems which Einwechter underscores in the book. This process of textual criticism – preferring “better” texts based on presumed age or other evidence – has given us a patchwork of underlying texts (particularly for the New Testament) different from anything used by the church before now.

I’ll take my stand with who I understand the God of the Bible to be, and how I see Him relating to His people, thanks. Every day and all day long.

SUMMARY: Door #1 is God preserving His inspired word for His people in every age; Door#2 is men looking at all of the ancient texts and determining which ones are best in which spot. Uh…


The elders aren’t insisting that you throw away your stack of ESVs. I like my ESV and use it every week for comparison purposes. But we do want to raise awareness of the issues and implications, so that you understand why we defend, prefer, and use a translation in our corporate gatherings that affirms both verbal-plenary inspiration and providential preservation.

I had never thought about some of these things prior to reading the book. But I read the book, I read it critically, and although I haven’t adopted every one of the conclusions (Einwechter prefers the KJV), I found the arguments to be very, very solid and I strongly hold to the two key principles outlined. And while many of the actual translational differences seem to be very minor, we should never think that it doesn’t matter.

Every jot and tittle matters, at least to Jesus and Paul. If nothing else, that should make us think.

Martin Luther’s Conclusion on “Free Will”

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Today I finished Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will.  The great reformer summarizes his defense of the doctrines of grace as follows:

“I shall here draw this book to a conclusion:  prepared if it were necessary to pursue this Discussion still farther.  Though I consider that I have now abundantly satisfied the godly man, who wishes to believe the truth without making resistance.  For if we believe it to be true, that God fore-knows and fore-ordains all things; that He can be neither deceived nor hindered in His Prescience and Predestination; and that nothing can take place but according to His Will, (which reason herself is compelled to confess;) then, even according to the testimony of reason herself, there can be no “Free-will” – in man, – in angel, – or in any creature!

Hence: – If we believe that Satan is the prince of this world, ever ensnaring and fighting against the kingdom of Christ with all his powers; and that he does not let go his captives without being forced by the Divine Power of the Spirit; it is manifest, that there can be no such thing as – “Free-will!”

Again: – If we believe that original sin has so destroyed us, that even in the godly who are led by the Spirit, it causes the utmost molestation by striving against that which is good; it is maifest, that there can be nothing left in a man devoid of the Spirit, which can turn itself towards good, but which must turn towards evil!

Again: – If the Jews, who followed after righteousness with all their powers, ran rather into unrighteousness, while the Gentiles who followed after unrighteousness attained unto a free righteousness which they never hoped for; it is equally manifest, from their very works, and from experience, that man, without grace, can do nothing but will evil!

Finally: – If we believe that Christ redeemed men by His blood, we are compelled to confess, that the whole man was lost:  otherwise, we shall make Christ superfluous, or a Redeemer of the grossest part of man only, – which is blasphemy and sacrilege!”

Of course, this is only his very brief conclusion, having firmly established each point through the careful exegesis of Scripture, and addressed the counter arguments, throughout the course of the book.

Suffice it to say, for all of us who have wondered about the sovereignty of God and free will (that would be all of us), Luther’s classic is a “must read”.  And for all of us who even today need to defend basic reformation doctrines against the likes of Michael Pearl, who denies total depravity and calls the theology of Luther and Calvin, which is simply the theology of Jesus and His apostles, “ancient heresy”, it remains an invaluable resource.