(This picture was taken the day this book began to change my life. At Gulf Port with my beautiful wife.)
By Caleb Bobrycki
Praise for Mark Jones
I first stumbled across Mark Jones a few years ago at a small conference and quite enjoyed his first few sentences until he began to state things about modern day teachers I was currently following, which really rubbed me the wrong way. He had previously written a blog, the link of which is at the bottom, that pastorally addressed certain concerns he had with some “gospel-centered” emphases in the modern pulpit. After much backlash, he decided to come at the debate from a historical angle, in his more recent book titled Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? Antinomianism is a term referring to those who are anti-law; nomos, means law, and those opposed are termed anti-nomos, or anti-nomian. Those often accused of being antinomian today, and in the 17th century, are usually those who put such an emphasis on Christ’s finished work at the cross that it seems they are saying that after faith in Christ, there is no need to pursue holiness or follow the moral law thereafter at all.
However tempting, it is not fair to lump all “antinomians” into one confessional category, since there are so many different forms, as with all heresy. Therefore Jones carefully addresses unforeseen main points of contention in the debate: instead of merely stating, as some authors have unfairly done, “Yeah huh! Christians ought to do good works! See these verses? Paul says it right there!”, he comes at it stating, in general, that there are a few deeper issues that must be clarified to help identify if one truly is antinomian, and if we have blindly begun to theologize like one ourselves. Mark Jones is a long awaited breath of fresh air to so much confused arguing; it is hard to walk away from his book disappointed if one has ever been a part of the good works debate, and knows their way around a few theological terms. According to Jones, a few main misunderstandings are what begin to form antinomianism: who Christ is, what he has done, and how the Bible teaches those two things. These clarifications stuck out to me as the most important in his treatise, and are some of the most helpful theological insights in my Christian life thus far. I hope to faithfully engage them below.
Firstly, there is the priority of Christ’s person before his work. We mustn't replace Jesus Christ with grace. Before we can understand what Christ does (substitution, sanctification, and so on) we must understand who he is. He is able to do because he is able. There is so much to unpack here, but remaining brief, one must consider this astounding point: “Christ’s own faculties were involved, but that does not mean only his faculties were involved…. His mind and heart, for example received the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, our souls are the immediate principle of our moral actions, but our morally righteous actions are impossible apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit strengthening us for actual obedience” (Jones, 24-25). This is incredibly important because our understanding of the Spirit’s work in Christ’s life will significantly impact how we believe he works in ours. What Jesus knew and the power he exhibited was not simply from his divine nature, but from the power of the Holy Spirit. What just blows our human minds is the thought that, as a man, he depended upon this precious Friend for guidance and power; and when we are grafted into Christ, the Spirit drips off the head of Christ, as it were, onto his bride, the Church.
The doctrine of “justification by faith” is the foundation of the believer’s life. We were dead in our tresspasses (Ephesians 2:1-10), and God the Father sent his Son to make the debt payment we could never pay. At conversion, the Holy Spirit descends upon the human will and heart and mind, and opens eyes to see the beauty of Christ's finished work. What can a dead man do? Nothing! Christ died for our sins, those who put their faith in him do not; Christ absorbs God’s wrath, we do not; we are justified not by our payment or anything we have to offer, but wholly by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died absolutely in our stead, and his righteousness is credited to our account absolutely outside of ourselves. Justification, to be made right and “just”, is not something we can work for or earn, but something we achieve “by faith”, a trust that God will provide the righteousness we cannot in his Son. Without an understanding of Christ’s payment for the debt sinners at the cross, one cannot be saved.
God substituted our rightful place under his wrath with his Son. But is it helpful to draw the same conclusions about substitution for sanctification? We never read in the Bible descriptions of us cooperating with Jesus in enduring the wrath of God on the cross, it is something he did “alone”. We do, however, read multiple times about our “cooperation”, for lack of a better word, in sanctification. God delivers unto us a righteousness outside of ourselves, or “apart from the law”, in justification; but in sanctification (our becoming more like Jesus after faith in him, until death), we are told to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12). Paul says, “By God’s grace I am what I am. However, I worked harder than any of [the apostles], yet it was not I but God who worked in me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). I’ll state that again: the Bible never speaks of being initially right before God in terms of “God and me”, but only in terms of “God”; it does, however, frequently refer to becoming what we are in Christ in terms of “God and me.” Though, any good work we do is initiated and sustained by God’s Spirit in us.
This may seem like making a mountain out of a molehill, but is it good news to tell someone that in the gospel, God just completely erases you? Those leaning toward antinomianism are famous for dressing up their “gospel” with phrases similar to “You cannot even say that you are satisfied in Jesus. He satisfied God for you” (see link to video at the bottom). This is disgusting. This issue is not if Jesus could pay for my not enjoying God; of course he did that! But after that, an important contention is compatibilism in sanctification for the sake of identity. Does God completely substitute my entire person when he sanctifies me? Sure, he substitutes our place at the cross, but does he also substitute my real love for Jesus? Can I even say, “I am satisfied in Jesus” anymore? Or does Jesus love Jesus for me? Do I even exist? We should not carry our idea of substitution so far that Jesus even substitutes my own love for him with his love for himself; the doctrine of “justification by faith” isn’t supposed to be carried over to replace sanctification, but be the grounds for it; it isn’t supposed erase who I am, but begin to restore who I am.
Paul told Timothy to preach the whole Word, and nothing but the Word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4). The Bible has stories, themes, ideas, and so on, that must all be faithfully preached. What some Antinomian pastors are prone to do is to replace every passage’s content with “Christ died for you” even if it isn’t explicitly there. Seems okay if we want to be gospel centered, right? “Christ died for you” is a message we ought to often hear, but how exactly has God ordained we hear it? Consider this: substitutionary atonement has a place in every passage, but is not the only message, or sometimes even the main message, of every passage; it ought to be appropriated in the gospel as a whole and in each text of Scripture. The beautiful message of justification by faith must be walked to by the path each text of Scripture decides to take, and not every passage does it the same way or with the same tone. Some call this flattening the text every Sunday, or in private study, to mean only “Christ died in my place.”
This is tougher to accept than expected, but guarding our words and phrases is massively important, lest we spin off into error. Now, some may be lazy with their words; others are too cautious, and said party can become bogged down by details. Paul may have been alluding to both approaches to truth in his pastoral letters when he exhorts pastors not “quarrel over words” (2 Timothy 2:14). Yet, what Jones has done here is not make a case based on “truths” but rather Truth himself. “Legalistic thinking suffers from the same types of subtle errors as antinomianism. Indeed, they share the same fundamental problem: poor Christology….I have endeavored to show that the true solution to antinomianism must have in view the person and work of Christ, properly understood” (Jones, 124). Thank God for Mark Jones not quarreling but pointing us to Christ. I highly recommend this book and pray that it would “fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” (Colossians 1:9).
Jones, Mark. Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2013.
By Caleb Bobrycki
So much of my Christian walk has been looking back into seasons past and realizing that much pain, confusion, and loneliness has come from feeling missed placed, i.e. misunderstanding who I am. I was speaking with the Lord recently, and asked him rhetorically how many times I have read Psalm 8 and felt left out. The Psalmist seems so enthused when he looks around at God's work in the world and the word and blows up with joy. "What is man that you are mindful of him!" There seems to be so much joy and admiration for God because of his mindfulness of man. God is huge and man is small. Knowing that God stoops to our level and pays attention to us and places us specifically in the created order in dominion over creation should draw praise out of us. But not me, and not for the longest time. I would read Psalm 8 and feel left out, like the Psalmist understood some kind of mysterious equation that I did not. If the input was God's work and his word, the output with praise. But like some kind of broken computer, I could meditate on the created order, and he Lord's spoken word, all day long and my output was only frustration. I believe the answer to this anxious wrestling with such passages is in such passages.
The Psalmist looks around and he names stars and moon, meditating upon the grandeur of the cosmos. Why then is it not selfish for him to turn to himself and say "What is man?" Why is it okay for him to look around and, instead of noticing God, notice himself? That's what I've tried to do. I look around the created order and turn back to me and I think, "Who cares?" I say with King Solomon, "Everything is meaningless!" But I think the key for the Psalmist in the eighth song is identity. He isn't looking around the cosmos before selfishly turning inward; he looks around the created order and notices the deference that God has established between the created. He notices that, "You have given him dominion." That is not tyranny. That is identity. I believe that the Psalmist looked around the created order, saw that God had placed in over the created order, and felt purpose spring up in his bones; then declaring that God had called him to work the ground: in his backyard, his broken political system, his churches, and in men's hearts. And what a purpose that is! God has called man to sustain his created order. And in those quiet moments when the devil and all his friends tell us that our lives are meaningless, let us declare, by roaring or meowing, our purpose to restore and sustain God's beautiful world.
My last thoughts are on the meaning of "man" in the passage. Is this psalm intended to be read only through the eyes of man or through the eyes of Christ? My first response is to read Hebrews chapter 2. And from there, my second response is, "yes." Let Romans 5 remind us that we were once under our federal head, that vicious father named Adam. But let Romans five also remind us that we are now under the new and better Adam, Jesus Christ. Our Lord, the Christ, is the one who ultimately fulfills Psalm 8. But based on everything we know from the rest of the Scriptures, we are to follow in the footsteps of this great and better Adam, and play a grand part in restoring God's fallen yet redeemed order. The next time you wake up and feel that gnawing sense of meaninglessness, remind yourself that you are in the business of your Elder Brother, the Great Architect, the Great and better Adam, in restoring God's world. God created the world, we screwed it up, so he redeemed us to redeem it; we have been created to have a dominion over the world's soil and the soil of men's hearts. Let's go win some souls.
By Cody Wilson
“...by the will of God…” 2 Corinthians 1:1
This phrase has been one of the most haunting in my own personal life. How do I know what the will of God is? Sometimes I tell myself, “it is obviously what has come to pass or what will come to pass”, and while this is true, it rarely helps my anxious heart. How do I know what the will of God is for me to do in this situation? I’m not always sure. Heck, if I’m honest, then I’m rarely ever sure, but I do know that though I may sin, God’s will is sure, yet this does not excuse me of my sin. I trust that anyone reading this shares my same anxious frustration.
It is not my intention to explore the depths of this mystery now, but suffice it to say, there is a clear difference between God's providence and what God's commands. This is what Piper and others have called the two wills of God. As John Frame so simply says, "God does not intend to bring about everything he values, but he never fails to bring about what he intends".
So often we overthink things when we must remember to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. He has given us clear, overarching framework of promises and commands in scripture, so this must be our starting point. Once we finally get off of our butts and start actually walking in what God has made clear to us, He will clarify the other blurry details as needed along the way. Once we start walking, He will direct our steps. He has given us a canvas and once we gather our paint and dip the brush, He will tell us what we are to paint.
It is so simple. How do we miss it so easily and so often? And how do others (especially those who have with unbiblical theology) find this so easy? It seems we get so lost in our books, thoughts, and rules that we stop trusting God and start relying on ourselves. God, help us and forgive us.
By Caleb Bobrycki
While listening to a sermon recently on a parable Jesus told, something literally took my breath away: I realized that God walked this earth as a man and spoke words. It breaks my heart as I realize how important this is that so many Christians take Jesus’ words for granted. Now, I am not contending for a canon inside of the canon. In other words, I am not saying that Jesus words are more important than the Prophets’ or Paul’s; all I’m saying is that the sheer fact that God spoke as a man is incredible, and I believe the Bible picks up on this.
Here are some instances in Matthew (not for any particular reason other than that I love Matthew), I believe, uniquely communicate that Jesus Christ said words. Jesus began to preach (Matthew 4:17); proclaimed the gospel (4:23) he opened his mouth ( 5:2); taught with authority (7:29); many times in the gospels he says ‘Truly, I tell you’ ( 8:10); he tells a storm to stop (8:26); he tells demons to leave a man (8:32) then, he tells the paralytic to be well (9:6); he tells Matthew to follow him (9:9); because he calls, with his voice, the sinners of this world (9:13); he sends out the disciples with authority with his voice (10:5); he reminds John the Baptist of the beauty of his words (11:1-5); and around chapter 13, and through the rest of the book, Jesus tells stories! And Just because it is currently on my mind, I have to skip over to John, though all the gospels are chalked full of beautifully worded descriptions of this, in chapter 10: “My sheep hear my voice”; and all the weary Christians in the house said? “Lord, where else can we go, then? You have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68). Yes, and amen.
So what? Well, for starters, Jesus was strongly preacher and prophet. Yes, a miracle worker, but to change the world, the focus was his words. His miracles only underlined his words. His words fed his disciples, his words cleared the guilt of adulteresses, his words brought Peter back, and his words commissioned his followers to change the world. So please do not despise the value of preaching. It's simple, but the spiritual vehicle for revival.
On top of that, this paradox of God’s Word’s words should not confuse and anger us, rather lead us to worship and repentance. In other words, when we see the complete and final revelation of God revealing things about God, let us then break forth in praise! The fountain of living waters, with his crystal clear waters and their healing, refreshing breakers of truth, has come, and has been sealed for us in wonderful accounts for our weary hearts: “Blessed are those who mourn; repent, for the Kingdom of God is here; abide in me.” Read these words, laugh, cry, and thank God that he has spoken.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Daytime cares and worries... Sometimes, it seems like the only thing we can think of is our failures. When we survey the wondrous cross, many times devilish pride rises within and tells our consciences that our sins outweigh Christ's virtues. Sheesh. We need to rest. We need rest. There are millions of ways revealed in God's Word on how to calm our anxious hearts and minds with the gospel of Christ. Here is one that has helped me.
There has to be a reason the gospel is called "God's Rest" in Hebrews 4. Now, of course God did not take a nap after he created the world, but there has to be some connection between human's physical and spiritual rest. I think there is something interesting about us becoming, as Piper calls it, a bag of sand when we fall asleep. We give the day, with all its worries and cares to God. "Today sucked. You can have it. Tomorrow will suck without you. Take that too."
But isn't that just regular prayer? What do I mean by "bedside prayers"? I'm talking those last breaths before we drift off. Of course we should attempt all day to quiet our souls in the presence of God. I am just saying it's easier to do when we are literally resting. There is a sense of "finished" and, unless we are under an unusual amount of stress, we enter a unique calm that is not possible during the day. I've been finding much more joy in falling asleep since noticing it's a clear declaration that God is in control. And sleep has turned into a sort of "quiet time." I trust God will take care of me while I sleep. And so do you. We just need to hone in on that trust as we give ourselves to the mattress, and turn sleep into an act of worship. Telling our Master that his name is holy above all others, that he is King of the universe, that his voice is sweet, and his Words are the purest words we could ever find, will help clear away anxieties. Reminding our souls, as reality blurs and we start to cross over to dreamland, that Christ has the Words of eternal life, and there is nowhere to turn but to him, will help cure us of restlessness.
Ever wonder what the Bible means by "His mercies are new every morning"? Perhaps his mercies seem "new" because we experience a freshness of the gospel when first awake, after being romanced by its sweetness while asleep.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Some mornings I wake up and the love of God is heavy and it is real and it is alive. I feel wrapped up inside of his presence I think, “Anymore joy and I will explode.” Other mornings I wake up and I could not agree with the Psalmist more that it feels as though God has forgotten me. It feels as though I could repeat 200 times, "My hope is in you" or call to remembrance when God has been faithful, just like the Psalms tell me to do, but it doesn't “work”. I noticed the other day that Psalm 42 doesn't end very well like so many other Psalms. A lot of them close with confidence in God. But not 42! Psalm 42 ends with, "Hope in God, oh my soul. I will praise him again."
Oh, the agony of having to tell your soul that you will praise him again, “but perhaps not today.” What in the world are we supposed to do? For those of us who are a little more impatient, we will give up. We will absolutely quit and walk away, from the church, faith, for any pursuit of joy. What a living hell impatience can be. Others will drink tears day in and day out, and cry out to God nonstop, no giving up. What a living hell patience can also be.
A huge problem is we love self-control. Some cries for help seem empty and silly, and we mock them, but we can cry them out with honesty: "Jesus take the wheel! Take control!" The fight of faith is just that: it's a fight of faith, a violent revolt against our self-righteousness. We wake up as wired legalists, our hope freshly set on ourselves, and before we know it we have attempted to satisfy our guilty conscience is with book reading lists, prayer lists, scripture memory, and every good deed known to man.
As screwy and painful as it is, many days will close like Psalm 42, but we cannot stop telling our souls that soon and very soon we will praise him again. Christian, do everything you can to remember you cannot do a thing. Restlessly rest in your Christ. Cast your sin upon the shoulders of the man of sorrows. Rip it off, nail it, kill it. Often times our quiet times are bloody battles against our desire for control. Quick! Throw your self-righteousness under the nail! Let it be nailed there to the cross, leave it there and do not take it down! Hope in God. And when the day closes and it seems you lost the battle, hope in God. You will praise him again.
By Caleb Bobrycki
I hate how my head and heart are always playing catch-up with each other. Some seasons I have this weird ache in my heart with the Spirit of Christ, but I don't know how to express it with words or theology. I am just aching. Romans 8 says something about the Spirit groaning inside me as a sort of definition of sanctification. That's my Christian growth and strength? God crying? "Caleb, the Kingdom! Oh, for the Kingdom to come!" "Not now, Spirit, I need to play this video game."
But then there are so many times when I am learning empty theology with seemingly no groaning. Silence. My life begins to look like the blank page between Malachi and Matthew. What then? When the Spirit starts groaning again on his own will, it freaks me out. God's sobs start echoing in my dark life and I'm utterly startled.
Well, this problem won't exist in heaven, I know that. But what do I do until then? My knee jerk response is, first, give in and do my best to fit the groaning into words, as painful and confusing as it may be. Journaling, praying, crying. Heck, literally groaning out loud, if that's all I can do at the time. Second, when I hear good theology, whether it's in a sermon, a video, or even just in my head; and I know it truly is good, despite if I feel it, pray for the grace to feel. Pray, pray, pray, and pray.
I want so desperately to maintain that perfect balance in my life, in which theology is never cold, and the Holy Spirit's desires are never misunderstood or out of place. O God, haste the day when my head and heart always agree. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.