Monday, August 24, 2009

...recovering a reverence of God in ministry (pt 3)

"O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day."
-Ps. 119:97

by Thomas Watson

Part A: Godly Man Loves the Word Written:
A godly man delights to walk in this garden and sweetly solace himself. He loves every branch and part of the Word:

1. He loves the counselling part of the Word, as it is a directory and rule of life. The Word is the direction sign which points us to our duty. It contains in it things to be believed and practiced. A godly man loves the directions of the Word.

2. He loves the threatening part of the Word. The Scripture is like the Garden of Eden: as it has a tree of life in it, so it has a flaming sword at its gates. This is the threatening of the Word. It flashes fire in the face of every person who goes on obstinately in wickedness. "God will wound the head of His enemies, the hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses." (Psa. 68:21). The Word gives no indulgence to evil. It will not let a man halt half-way between God and sin. The true mother would not let the child be divided (I Kings 3:26), and God will not have the heart divided. The Word thunders out threats against the very appearance of evil. It is like that flying scroll full of curses (Zech. 5:1).

A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God's threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat.

3. He loves the consolatory part of the Word - the promises. He goes feeding on these as Samson went on his way eating the honeycomb (Judges 14:8,9). The promises are all marrow and sweetness. They are reviving to us when we are fainting; they are the conduits of the water of life. "In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul." (Psa. 94:19). The promises were David's harp to drive away sad thoughts; they were the breast which gave him the milk of divine consolation.

A godly man shows his love to the Word written:

(a) By diligently reading it. The noble Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11). Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:12). The Word is our Magna Carta for heaven; we should be daily reading over this charter. The Word shows what is truth and what is error. It is the field where the pearl of price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man's heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16). It is reported of Melanchthon that when he was young, he always carried the Bible with him and read it greedily. The Word has a double work: to teach us and to judge us. Those who will not be taught by the Word shall be judged by the Word. Oh, let us make ourselves familiar with the Scripture! What if it should be as in the times of Diocletian, who commanded by proclamation that the Bible be burned? Or as in Queen Mary's days, when it spelled death to have a Bible in English? By diligent conversing with Scripture, we may carry a Bible in our heads.

(b) By frequently meditating on it: "It is my meditation all the day" (Psa. 119:97). A pious soul meditates on the truth and holiness of the Word. He not only has a few transient thoughts, but leaves his mind steeping in the Scripture. By meditation, he sucks from this sweet flower and ruminates on holy truths in his mind.

(c) By delighting in it. It is his recreation: "Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." (Jer 15:16) Never did a man take such delight in a dish that he loved as the prophet did in the Word. And indeed, how can a saint choose but take great pleasure in the Word? All that he ever hopes to be worth is contained in it. Does not a son take pleasure in reading his father's will and testament, in which he bequeaths his estate to him?

(d) By hiding it: "Your word I have hidden in my heart" (Psa 119:11) - as one hides a treasure so that it should not be stolen. The Word is the jewel; the heart is the cabinet where it must be locked up. Many hide the Word in their memory, but not in their heart. And why would David enclose the Word in his heart? "That I might not sin against you." As a man would carry an antidote about him when he comes near an infected place, so a godly man carries the Word in his heart as a spiritual antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin. Why have so many been poisoned with error, others with moral vice, but because they have not hidden the Word as a holy antidote in their heart?

(e) By defending it. A wise man will not let his land be taken from him but will defend his title. David looked upon the Word as his land of inheritance: "Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart." (Psa 119:111) And do you think he will let his inheritance be wrested out of his hands? A godly man will not only dispute for the Word but die for it: "I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God." (Rev 6:9)

(f) By preferring it above things most precious: (1) Above food: "I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food." (Job. 23:12). (2) Above riches: "The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver." (Psa. 119:72). (3) Above worldly honour. Memorable is the story of King Edward the Sixth. On the day of his coronation, when they presented three swords before him, signifying to him that he was monarch of three kingdoms, the king said, "There is still one sword missing." On being asked what that was, he answered, "The Holy Bible, which is the 'sword of the Spirit' and is to be preferred before these ensigns of royalty."

(g) By talking about it: "My tongue shall speak of your word." (Psa. 119:172). As a covetous man talks of his rich purchase, so a godly man speaks of the Word. What a treasure it is, how full of beauty and sweetness! Those whose mouths the devil has gagged, who never speak of God's Word, indicate that they never reaped any good from it.

(h) By conforming to it. The Word is his compass, by which he sets his life, the balance in which he weighs his actions. He copies out the Word in his daily walk: "I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7). St Paul kept the doctrine of faith, and lived the life of faith.

Question: Why is a godly man a lover of the Word?

Answer: Because of the excellence of the Word.

1. The Word written is our pillar of fire to guide us. It shows us what rocks we are to avoid; it is the map by which we sail to the new Jerusalem.

2. The Word is a spiritual mirror through which we may see our own hearts. The mirror of nature, which the heathen had, revealed spots in their lives, but this mirror reveals spots in the imagination; that mirror revealed the spots of their unrighteousness, this reveals the spots of our righteousness. "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Rom. 7:9). When the Word came like a mirror, all my opinion of self-righteousness died.

3. The Word of God is a sovereign comfort in distress. While we follow this cloud, the rock follows us. "This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life." (Psa. 119:50). Christ is the fountain of living water, the Word is the golden pipe through which it runs. What can revive at the hour of death but the word of life (Phil. 2:16)?

Part B:
A Godly Man Loves the Word,
Because of the Efficacy it has had upon Him.

A godly man loves the Word preached, which is a commentary upon the Word written. This daystar has risen in his heart, and ushered in the Sun of righteousness. The Scriptures are the sovereign oils and balsams; the preaching of the Word is the pouring of them out.
The Scriptures are the precious spices; the preaching of the Word is the beating of these spices, which causes a wonderful fragrance and delight. The Word preached is "the rod of God's strength" (Psa. 110:2) and "the breath of his lips" (Isa. 11:4). What was once said of the city of Thebes, that it was built by the sound of Amphius' harp, is much more true of soul conversion. It is built by the sound of the gospel harp. Therefore the preaching of the Word is called "the power of God to salvation" (Rom 1:16). By this, Christ is said (now) to speak to us from heaven (Heb. 12:25). This ministry of the Word is to be preferred before the ministry of angels.

A godly man loves the Word preached, partly from the good he has found by it - he has felt the dew fall with this manna - and partly because of God's institution. The Lord has appointed this ordinance to save him.
The king's image makes the coin current. The stamp of divine authority on the Word preached makes it an instrument conducive to men's salvation.

Application: Let us test by this characteristic
whether we are godly: Are we lovers of the Word?

1. Do we love the Word written? What sums of money the martyrs gave for a few pages of the Bible! Do we make the Word our bosom friend? As Moses often had 'the rod of God' in his hand, so we should have 'the Book of God' in our hand. When we want direction, do we consult this sacred oracle? When we find corruptions strong, do we make use of this "sword of the Spirit" to hew them down? When we are disconsolate, do we go to this bottle of the water of life for comfort? Then we are lovers of the Word! But alas, how can they who are seldom conversant with the Scriptures say they love them? Their eyes begin to be sore when they look at a Bible. The two testaments are hung up like rusty armour which is seldom or never made use of. The Lord wrote the law with his own finger, but though God took pains to write, men will not take pains to read. They would rather look at a deck of cards than at a Bible.

2. Do we love the Word preached? Do we prize it in our judgments? Do we receive it into our hearts? Do we fear the loss of the Word preached more than the loss of peace and trade? Is it the removal of the ark that troubles us?
Again, do we attend to the Word with reverential devotion? When the judge is giving his charge from the bench, all attend. When the Word is preached, the great God is giving us his charge. Do we listen to it as to a matter of life and death? This is a good sign that we love the Word.

Again, do we love the holiness of the Word (Psa. 119:140)? The Word is preached to beat down sin and advance holiness. Do we love it for its spirituality and purity? Many love the Word preached only for its eloquence and notion. They come to a sermon as to a performance (Ezek. 33:31,32) or as to a garden to pick flowers, but not to have their lusts subdued or their hearts bettered. These are like a foolish woman who paints her face but neglects her health.

Again, do we love the convictions of the Word? Do we love the Word when it comes home to our conscience and shoots its arrows of reproof at our sins? It is the minister's duty sometimes to reprove. He who can speak smooth words in the pulpit, but does not know how to reprove, is like a sword with a fine hilt but without an edge. "Rebuke them sharply" (Titus 2:15). Dip the nail in oil, reprove in love, but strike the nail home. Now Christian, when the Word touches on your sin and says, "You are the man", do you love the reproof? Can you bless God that "the sword of the Spirit" has divided between you and your lusts? This is indeed a sign of grace and shows that you are a lover of the Word.
A corrupt heart loves the comforts of the Word, but not the reproofs: "They hate the one who rebukes in the gate." (Amos 5:1O). "Their eyes flash with fire!" Like venomous creatures that at the least touch spit poison, "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth." (Acts 7:54). When Stephen touched them to the quick, they were mad and could not endure it.

Question: How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?

1: When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.

2: When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it found out and executed. We do not want sin covered, but cured. We can open our breast to the bullet of the Word and say, "Lord, smite this sin."

3: When we are thankful for a reproof: "Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked." (Psa. 141:5). David was glad of a reproof. Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man, would he not be thankful? So, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death, shall we not be thankful? A gracious soul rejoices when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess. He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: "Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to an obedient ear." (Prov. 25:12).
To conclude, it is convincing preaching which must do the soul good. A nipping reproof prepares for comfort, as a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring.

[From The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson,
a Puritan Paperback edition published by the Banner of Truth.]



hashbrown said...

That's one of my favorite books. I've used the chapters from that book many times during a Wednesday night prayer meeting.

Thanks for sharing.

SJ Camp said...

Thank you for your comment.

Watson is always convicting for me to read. Every phrase peels back the pretense of my own wicked heart to expose me to the truths of God's Word. What grace to go under the Great Physician's scalpel to root out the infected tissue of my spiritual life to daily conform me to Jesus (Heb. 4:12-16).

Here is my prayer for today:
"Oh Lord thank you for your Word: the comfort of it, the conviction of it, the reproof of it, the rebuke of it, the correction of it, and for the conformity to godliness through obedience by Your grace to it. May I treasure it more than my daily food, my greatest lust, more than wealth, fame, acceptance, or even ministry itself. Teach me to say with David Lord, 'Oh how I love Thy law!' For Your names sake alone... amen."

May the Lord continue to bless your faithfulness to His Word brother.


donsands said...

What a blessing to read. Convicting and encouraging. Such well spoken words about the Word are such a delight to read and study.

Thanks for the post. And thanks for the godly prayer.

Greg in Colorado said...

Thank you, brother, for this post! How refreshing, convicting and beautiful to sit back and soak in the wonder of the Word of God and be reminded of who and what I should be...

Praise God for His Word!

In Christ,

hashbrown said...

I've described Watson's writings as "poetic theology."

Carla said...


this was excellent! I had to copy it to word to read it, the giant font made me googlie-eyed. :o)

Thanks for posting this, this is the kind of stuff I love to see on blogs.

This is why my husband likes dead theologians so much - the things they had to say just knock you off your feet, in a godly way, as opposed to the shock-jock affect so many seem to be going for in our day.


4given said...

Love this post. It made me thing of Psalm chapter one... it was the first portion of Scripture we had our boys memorize.
May we actively pursue living out His excellent Word of Truth with delight and joy and reverence.
I have a long way to go. I wrote in the comments of my own blog on acquiring knowledge. "...We will be held accountable for how we display it (use it, live it out, speak it, blog it). Is it to be seen my men or to glorify God? (ouch) I think we all struggle with that if we tell ourselves the truth. And the Lord WILL, according to Philippians 3:15, reveal such things to us through just and divine chastisement if it has to come to that. (read Heb 12:5-11)

An eager student of the Word of Truth,

cyd said...

Aahhh...Watson! What a tremendous relief from the weightless fluff of trendy theology and cultural-itis.

He is one of my favorite 'Dead Guys'; brilliant, simple, Christ exalting, and uncompromisingly biblical.

Thank you for posting this Steve.

Gordan said...

Let me add my own enthusiastic recommendation of Thomas Brooks' book, "The Godly Man's Picture (Drawn With a Scripture Pencil)."

Especially if you are new to Puritan writings or have been intimidated by them in the past, this is a wonderful place to start.

Contrary to the negative images we have in our culture when we hear the term "puritanical," I think you will find Brooks to be overflowing with compassion for his people. He is one of the most warmly pastoral writers you will ever read. Your stereotype of Puritans as stoic, stiff, dry, and harsh will be sweetly, though utterly, melted.

Breuss Wane said...

Wait...where's the controversy?

littlegal_66 said...

I love the following thoughts from Mr. Watson, which dramatically reflect his healthy respect for (and fear of) both God and His Word:
"A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat.
God would not have us perish; He therefore mercifully threatens us, so that He may scare us from sin. There is mercy in every threat."

(emphasis my own).

I also thought it interesting that he mentioned "the threatening part of the Word" ahead of "the consolatory part of the Word." So many times we seem to wind up focusing on the parts that are a comfort to our weary souls first, rather than the parts that can threaten and convict us.
And might as well stop trying to make us all think you're some sort of big "trouble-maker"'s just not in you, brother. :-)

Grosey's Messages said...

Thank you so much for keeping Christo-centric and biblical in your posts. Watson has been my favourite writer (along side Brooks) for nearly 30 years now. I was weaned on his Body of Divinity with Lord's Prayer and 10 commandments!
Thank you for putting something on the web that is crystal clear and challeneges our hearts (as everything you put on is).
Steve in Australia
Oh by the way.. you are amazing at getting good pictures that match your commentary! (i've pinched every one for powerpoints!)

Breuss Wane said...

little gal...

you busted me. :-)

what bugs me about posts like this (and I've noticed this on mine and other's blogs) is that there seemingly is less interest in what matters most.

littlegal_66 said...

"what bugs me about posts like this that there seemingly is less interest in what matters most.

I know. :-(
It is a bothersome & disconcerting phenomenon.

I blame Springer (for promoting the appeal of controversial topics in our society). Yeah...that's's all Jerry Springer's fault...;-)

Terry Rayburn said...

Warning: Sin-centered Christians will not like the following comments. But sin-centered Christians love warnings, so I knew it would be an attention-getter :)

Watson, like other Puritans in general, thought he was being Christ-centered by being sin-centered.

This is a result of his not cutting straight (rightly dividing) the Word of Truth.

He didn't understand that the Old Covenant was made obsolete by the New (Heb. 8).

He didn't understand that sin shall no longer be master of us because we are no longer under Law but under grace (Rom. 6:14).

While he acknowledges grace in a vague way, his *focus* is on himself and his sin. This is unbiblical under the New Covenant. Our *focus* is to be on Christ, and walking by His Spirit. Keeping our eyes on Him, fellowshiping with Him. Not examining our navel 24 hours a day to see if we're more sinless than we were yesterday, and wringing our hands and hankies when we're not.

"If we walk by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). The love of Christ constrains us to walk this way, and the love of Christ is grown in our hearts and minds as we look on Him, not our fleshly wretchedness.

And the Puritans didn't get it, because they were reactionaries, reacting to a decadent immoral secular English church. And they reacted with a law/sin-focused life and study.

They rightfully gloried in the greatness of God, and this is the one value of reading the Puritans, but it's a big mistake to go to them for tips on Christian living.

They are the Emperor who has no clothes. Greatly admired, almost worshiped like they were Christ himself, they were Law/Sin nerds who never got out of Old Covenant thinking, and into the bright light of Gal. 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

And yet, I mean no disrespect to them as men. They were influenced by their peers and their times.

But we are in another time, friends. A time in which we have an opportunity to bring the light of the New Covenant to a generation of believers who still think that their performance is the point.

A time when we can shake off "Religion" and replace it with Christ Who is our Life (Col. 3:4), and leave "Religion" for the World.

A time in which we can build true "...fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 Jn. 1:3), because "...the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin." (1 Jn. 1:7)

We all want "true revival". But true revival is happening now in the hearts of those who understand the radical nature of Grace, who understand the freedom which is in Christ, and I don't mean Antinomianism.

The Performance-Based Believer can never have the revival he thirsts for, because his *focus* is himself, and he doesn't even know it.

He thinks he still has a wicked heart, and doesn't realize that he's been given a *new* heart, a heart of flesh to replace the heart of stone. (He has no idea what Paul means in Rom. 7:17, when he says, " is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.")

His goal in a good sermon is to be "convicted", so that he can head back to his laboratory of Performance and maybe get it right this time.

Tetelestai! It is finished! He has done it! Life conquered Death! Our sins, beloved are *all* forgiven. We are free to take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on the Author and Finisher of our Faith.

And the Catch-22 is that then we will sin less.

And it's all of Grace.

That's the New Covenant.


Cathy J said...

Oh, thank you, thank you , thank you, Terry. Scripture come alive and freedom anounced. I recently had a young man ask me, "Can God be that good!!!. A thousand times a thousand times yes.....

donsands said...


It's difficult to believe the Puritan scholars all missed it. Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Watson, Thomas Boston, and all these incredible men of the Scriptures missed it.

We're all bound to abide by the Scriptures, and I believe the Puritans most asuredly did this.

Sure we can disgree, but to say they missed it, I don't know.

littlegal_66 said...

Michele said: "So, it became increasingly unclear to me as to who Watson was talking about...the Christian or the unbeliever. It seemed he was mixing the two. How God uses the Word on the unbeliever and how He uses the Word on His children is quite different. How God speaks to the unbeliever, or brings the unbeliever to repentance through His Word is different than how he teaches His children to grow in that grace by which they have now been saved."

Interesting've given me much to think about, and have caused me to consider again my comment above.

cyd said...

Thank you Donsands. I agree wholeheartedly.

If I may be so bold, it is not that Watson (or any of the Puritan writers) are sin-focused or sin centered. On the contrary, because of the *new* nature and ongoing sanctification, does one not become MORE aware of sin? Are sins not all the more glaringly horrifying as we are being conformed to the image of Christ? It is not a matter of 'performance' or 'navel-gazing', rather a holy, reverential fear and awe of the beauty and perfection of Christ as He reveals Himself to us through His word. And the joy of knowing and believing that He offered Himself on our behalf to save us from the wrath of God, sanctify us here and now, and give us eternal life with Himself is so tremendously humbling to the depths of the soul, wouldn't you agree?
The Puritan believers were grounded in the exaltation of Christ; their lives were not merely reactionary to the times, but completely God centered.


cyd said...

Terry and Michele:

Do you favor a New Covenant theology or Dispensationalism, or both?

Just curious -


donsands said...


Very well said.

littlegal_66 said...

Thanks, Cindy. I think those were kind of the sentiments I was going for, but just couldn't quite articulate them. You summed it up well, though. :-)

Bhedr said...

I'd just like to put a word in For Terry and Michele. I think they get it, but please know...I love you guys.


Terry Rayburn said...

Hi Don,

You wrote, "It's difficult to believe the Puritan scholars all missed it....We're all bound to abide by the Scriptures, and I believe the Puritans most asuredly did this."

I agree that the Puritans studied and sought to "abide by" the Scriptures. The question is one of "rightly dividing", and understanding the radical nature of the New Covenant and the New Creation. Of course the Puritans didn't "miss" everything, it's just that they spent most of their time focused on duty, duty, duty.

And since we all fail in our duty, it results in condemnation and a wrong view that God is frowning on His children all the time. This quenches the Holy Spirit, and inflames sin, and causes a downward cycle and a lack of the fruit of the Spirit (although the believer may pretend, and look good and smell good).


Terry Rayburn said...

Hi Cyd,

You wrote, "it is not that Watson (or any of the Puritan writers) are sin-focused or sin centered."

I would recommend just skimming through and seeing how much is geared toward the Law and duty, and how little is geared toward grace, joy, freedom, forgiveness, *after* initial salvation. Their emphasis is hard to escape.

You wrote, "On the contrary, because of the *new* nature and ongoing sanctification, does one not become MORE aware of sin? Are sins not all the more glaringly horrifying as we are being conformed to the image of Christ?"

Yes, but unfortunately the horror of sin doesn't keep it from being committed. Only walking by the Spirit does that. All the guilt and Law poured on the sinful believer is powerless to prevent sin.

You wrote, "It is not a matter of 'performance' or 'navel-gazing'"

Again, I'd recommend breezing through The Performance-based thinking of the Puritans is legendary. Duty, duty, and more duty. Instruction on how to do the duty. Duty to study the instruction on how to do the infinitum, and very slanted to Old Covenant thinking. And very quenching to the Christian life. Unforunately, Christians trained in this kind of thinking often *relish* the misery caused by the "conviction" (I'm not saying that about you personally).

You wrote, "...rather a holy, reverential fear and awe of the beauty and perfection of Christ as He reveals Himself to us through His word. And the joy of knowing and believing that He offered Himself on our behalf to save us from the wrath of God, sanctify us here and now, and give us eternal life with Himself is so tremendously humbling to the depths of the soul, wouldn't you agree?"

Yes, I would agree. Unfortunately, that's seldom ever the emphasis of the Puritans. They see the Christian life in terms of sinning or not sinning.

Do you know what Richard Baxter's counsel was to those grieving for relatives who passed away? Don't grieve too much, because it's sin, and such sin that keeps you from your other duties, thereby causing even more sin. (It's not that it's not true, it just illustrates the *focus* of the Puritans.)

You wrote, "The Puritan believers were grounded in the exaltation of Christ; their lives were not merely reactionary to the times, but completely God centered."

I would disagree. The Puritans were partly grounded in the Holiness of God and His Law, and partly in our duty (and usually failure) to live up to that Law. Thus their ministry was almost totally one of legal responsibility, threats and all, with a great confusion of Old and New Covenants.

I mean this kindly, but I find it interesting that your comments argue nothing from Scripture, nor address the several Scriptures I cited in addressing the Puritans. This isn't just a question of historical perspective, but exegetical.


SJ Camp said...

This discussion is good.

We don't want to use grace to go back to a yoke of slavery (legalism - Gal. 5:1) nor to use it as an opportunity for the flesh (libertinism or antinomianism - Gal. 5:13); but for holiness and purity before the Lord and each other.

The Puritans rightly understood this balance. They were not driven by Law, but by grace; they were not driven by wicked hearts, but "perfecting holiness in the fear of God"; they were not driven by an unhealthy view of sin, but by a right view of reverence; AND that is was all driven by and under grace (Titus 2:12).

This is a tremendous article that Watson nailed and got absolutely right. His words bring honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, a right view of Scripture in sanctification, an exalted view of grace, and a much needed recovery of the reverence and transcendence of God in sanctification. The amount of God's Word contained therein by Dr. Watson is profound...

Even the Apostle Paul said that "it was by the terror of the Lord" that he "persuaded men..." (2 Cor. 5:11). Also, as Paul grew in the faith he realized that he was "the chief of sinners", and a "wretched man." This was not self-flagellation or some sort of Law-induced-guilt under the weight of bad misguided, misunderstood theology - hardly; this was grace-based-sanctification at its most pure and honorable biblical form. It is called humility... and Watson understood this too.

The problem is, we can't take our 21st sensibilities of Christianity and then try to "fit it" in a 17th or 18th century context without understanding what the Puritans language and day afforded them.

Needless to say, Watson's words sting our postmodern evangelical ears that it was bound to produce some of the well-meaning, yet uncomfortable reactions expressed here. I know this, that in the age of NPP, emerging church pabulum, SBC confusion on soteriology, Open Theism, pragmatism, and Schuller's self-esteem gospel - I find Watson refreshing, challenging, and most of all... biblical.

I do agree with my brother Terry when he says, "this isn't just a question of historical perspective, but exegetical." Amen man - preach it...

May the living, active, double-edged sword of the Spirit, pierce us all with a deep sense of our depravity, a great sense of the Lord's grace, and a holy sense of His person.

To God be all the glory...
1 Peter 1:13-17

Terry Rayburn said...


We all use labels for convenience, but I'm reluctant to use them regarding a theological system, because they carry so much baggage, and have so many aberrant devotees in each system.

Having said that, I reject Dispensationalism, especially of the Classical variety, and especially in varieties that teach a different salvific covenant for Israel and The Church. Scripture teaches that under the New Covenant promised to Israel, there is now no Jew or Gentile, but one Body of Christ.

I held to a form of New Covenant Theology long before the term was even in existence. But I would prefer "a theology of the New Covenant", rather than New Covenant Theology for two reasons:

1. NCT has some in it's ranks whom I believe are in error regarding justification. For example, the guys at are valiant battlers for NCT, but are sympathetic to the New Perspective on Paul, as taught by Sanders, Dunn and Wright.

2. NCT has not been very thoroughly "systematized", it being a newer kid on the block. I don't shy away from it for that reason, however, since God sheds light on Scripture as He chooses. I'm sola scriptura all the way, and thankfully the Reformers didn't reject justification by faith because it was the new kid on the Roman Catholic block.

One thing that is clearly ludicrous, however, is the claim in a monthly issue of Sproul's Table Talk a couple of years ago that New Covenant Theology is Antinomian. Only a person who doesn't understand NCT could make such a claim.


Exblogitory said...

Hi Terry,

Since I know the "battlers" of personally, and I know many proponents of NCT I wanted to make a little clarification to your comment. and their view of justification is truly the exception rather than the norm in NCT. They did not receive this aberrant view of justification from reading NCT material.

Having read John Reisinger, Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells, and many other proponents (and met most of them) of NCT they all hold to a sound view of justification. In fact, John Reisinger wrote a number of articles in his Sound of Grace newsletter refuting the New Perspective.

In His Grace,

Terry Rayburn said...

Hi Chris,

Thank you. I agree 100% with your clarification on NCT. I know the Christonomy guys are the exception, but only pointed it out to illustrate my dislike of [alas, unavoidable] labels. After all, think of the array of aberrants in Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, though most in these movements are, of course, honorable and orthodox folks.

John Reisinger is an online friend of mine (through the Sound of Grace chat group), and one of the most astute theological minds of our time (he would blush at that).


Terry Rayburn said...


I agree with much of what you say, and again, I would not disparage the Puritans as men.

But I do believe the infection of their *emphasis* has colored too much of our theology.

Two examples:

1. You wrote, " Paul grew in the faith he realized that he was 'the chief of sinners', and a ' wretched man.' "

Nowhere after the cross are believers called Sinners (which is not to say they don't sin). They were always called Saints. Paul even glowed about Christ's love for us "while we WERE yet sinners" (Rom. 5:8) A quick online concordance search of the word "sinner" will show that it always refers to unbelievers. (For commentary on James' "cleanse your hands, you sinners", see MacArthur Study Bible note, which I agree with).

So we would conclude that Paul called himself "chief of sinners" (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) in the same way a 50-year-old man who holds the record for pole-vaulting from his High School days might call himself the pole-vault Record-Holder. Paul was reflecting back on his persecution of Christ and His church.

He called himself "wretched man", not because his heart was wicked. He never says any such thing in any other context. On the contrary, he is the one who reveals the glorious truth of the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and though he uses the word "heart" all through his epistles, it is never in a negative way toward the believer.

Indeed he speaks of the love of God poured out within our hearts (Rom. 5:5), and says God has sent forth the Spirit of His son into our hearts (Gal. 4:6). I would contend that this would not be a "wicked" heart.

Why then did Paul call himself "wretched man"? I believe the clue is in his statement that, "I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me." (Rom. 7:20)

He experienced the frustration that we all do at times, that we live in this "body of death", this flesh in which still dwells sin, this flesh that wars with the Spirit, and temporarily "wins" at such times that we are deceived by the world, the flesh, and the devil.

When we sin, it is not a result of a wicked heart, it is in *spite* of our new heart, bypassing it (no pun intended) when we temporarily walk by the flesh, and not by the Spirit. For Scripture is clear that if we walk by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

2. You wrote, "...pierce us all with a deep sense of our depravity."

I believe the Scripture is clear regarding the depravity ("total") of the unregenerate. But thank God, He has made us a "new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:17)

That's why Paul could say, with a straight face, "...such WERE some of you," after the list of all the categories of sinners.

Indeed, to God be all the glory...

Bhedr said...

Amen Terry,

Hey guys the Law is good. A mirror is good, but you can't wash your face with a mirror and comb your hair with it. You need water and a comb.

donsands said...


I appreciate your thoughts. I agree the question is of rightly dividing, as I'm sure Jonathan Edwards would agree as well.

Here's a quote from the WLC:

"The person who tries to take away his own sin by moral reform, good resolutions, "turning over a new leaf", performing good works, acts of charity, religious observances, forms and ceremonies, church membership, prayer, ascetic practices, or any other way whatever is a miserable, self-deceived sinner on the road to eternal frustration in hell.
Only the precious blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, can take away the guilt of human sin. There is no other way."
Have a blessed evening in His rest. Matt 11:28-29
And I agree with Steve's comments. Very well spoken words.

cyd said...

Dear Terry:

Thank you for your gracious response.