2007 Sermons of the Year

The end of December is an ideal time to reflect on God’s blessings from the past year. And today I am reminded of some specific memories from the Spring.

The Banner of Truth invited me to attend their minister’s conference in Grantham, Pennsylvania. To my surprise, when I landed in the Harrisburg airport I was kindly chauffeured to the conference in the same car as Dr. Sinclair Ferguson and Dr. Derek Thomas. It was a memorable 45 minutes, as the two men laughed over funny pulpit experiences. Ferguson’s humor had me rolling the entire trip, like the time he bought some marmalade as a gift for his wife and attempted to bring it through airport security. The gift was confiscated. Apparently, he concluded, the United States is fearful of being attacked by marmalade. The story seemed especially funny with the punch line packaged in a thick Scottish accent.

The conference at Messiah College was sunny and hot. Derek Thomas took a chance of speaking without a jacket on, and his friends caught word over at Reformation21. Dr. Thomas took the brunt of some public correction and perhaps lost points with Mississippi Presbyterians and “British Lloyd Jonesites.” The heat was too intense for a jacket. I think I was wearing jean shorts.

At the end of the first night of messages I experienced the now-famous Ferguson walk through the conference bookstore. The bookstore was stuffed with onlookers, and Ferguson wove his way around the tables of Banner treasures, holding up specific volumes long enough to expound their value in the library of a “gospel minister” (another phrase that sounds great with the Scottish accent). Among others, he lifted Iain Murray’s 2-volume biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, B.B. Warfield’s Faith and Life, Charles Bridges’ The Christian Ministry, J.C. Ryle’s The Upper Room, and Gerhard Vos’ Biblical Theology. Every book he mentioned was drastically cut in price and snatched up quickly. He began the walk through the bookstore with a memorable preface. When he graduated seminary, the really useful books printed by Evangelical publishers could easily fit on one shelf. In other words, we are blessed to have so many excellent volumes available today.

Overall, I had great roommates in the shared dorms. We shared a lot of laughs, ate some wonderful food, and met several new friends. The format of the conference was a bit more formal than I’m used to, but experiencing the Holy Spirit’s work in different settings and formats is always encouraging. And my time with Steve was encouraging and edifying, especially the late drive from the conference to the Banner of Truth warehouse in Carlisle, PA. Because of a tight schedule, time allowed only a midnight tour of the Banner warehouse. It was a conference highlight.

These conference memories come back because last week (after I released my top books of the year), I received an email from a reader (Dean) inquiring about my list of favorite messages I’d heard this year. My “Now on my iPod…” on the sidebar spikes listener interest and some assume that I compile a lot of audio messages (which I don’t). But I like the idea, and off Dean’s advice I set out to complete a top-10 list of favorite messages from 2007. As much as I tried, the list never came together for me. Next year I’ll take note of favorite messages throughout the year (as I do in compiling favorite books).

Despite being unable to complete a top 10-list, there is no debate over my top two favorite messages from 2007. Sitting in an oak pew in the balcony of a hot Pennsylvania chapel, I remember frantically writing down notes in a Moleskine as I absorbed every word from Ferguson’s two messages. It was the first time seeing Ferguson in person, and his messages struck deep because he turned my attention to the Cross in a way I had not previously considered.

Taking his cue from Titus 2:11-15, Ferguson expounded how our sanctification is the purchase of the Cross. In other words, when we consider our personal growth in holiness, we should be reminded that Christ purchased this sanctification for us. It was a stirring message, and I left with a deeper appreciation for the Cross.

I could explain both messages in detail, but I’ve already written summaries and your time would be best spent listening to the audio for yourselves. Enjoy.

“Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase” (Titus 2:11-14)
by Sinclair Ferguson
May 29, 2007
Blog summary
Download MP3 (1:02:31, 35.8 MB)

“Our Holiness: Abiding in Christ’s Love” (John 15:1-11)
by Sinclair Ferguson
May 30, 2007
Blog summary
Download MP3 (1:07:52, 38.5 MB)


Related: Transcripted excerpt from the first message titled Supporting the imperatives to holiness.

Related: Transcripted excerpt from the second message titled No such ‘thing’ as grace.

Cross-centered alarm

“What have been the themes of the seminars, conferences, books, sermons, classes, DVDs, CDs, and songs that we have attended, heard, seen, read, and talked about recently? How many — what percentage of them — have been cross-centered? Of the titles of Christian books you have read, or of which you know, how many highlight the cross? The answer to that question should probably alarm us.”

Sinclair Ferguson in the introduction to The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness by Jerry Bridges and Robert C. Bevington (Crossway: 2007) pp. 11-12.

Ferguson: Supporting the imperatives to holiness

Ferguson: Supporting the imperatives to holiness

At the 2007 Banner of Truth conference this Spring, Sinclair Ferguson made the following note after reading Titus 2:11-13 (“For the grace of God has appeared … training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”). He says,

“The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. … Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.”

Sinclair Ferguson, message from the 2007 Banner of Truth Conference, Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase.

Along with Titus 2:11-13, Ferguson cited 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 8:28-29 and 15:16. Ferguson preached from John 15:9 the next day where Jesus’ call for fruitful disciples is wrapped in His call for them to “Abide in my love.” Ferguson challenges preachers to root the commands to be holy in the grace of our electing Father, the work of His Son on the Cross and the ongoing work of the indwelling and filling Spirit towards our holiness. The challenge is not to avoid the commands, but make certain our indicatives are strong enough to support them. Preaching from the indicatives assumes the preacher is first living daily in the indicatives of God in his private study.

Sinclair Ferguson: No such ‘thing’ as grace

tsslogo.jpgNo such ‘thing’ as grace
by Sinclair Ferguson

“There is nothing between the person of the Lord Jesus and the person of the believer as that union and communion develops and grows. I think this is a very important thing for us to grasp. Let me put it the way I sometimes put it: The union with Christ we have is not that we somehow or another share His grace. Because – follow me carefully – there actually is no ‘thing’ as grace. That actually is a Medieval Roman Catholic teaching. There is a ‘thing’ called grace that can be separated from the person of Jesus Christ. It is something Jesus Christ won on the Cross and He can bestow it on you. And there are at least seven ways it can be bestowed on you and they all, as it happens, turn out to be in the hands of the church. And you can have this kind of grace, and this kind of grace, and this kind of grace … There is no such ‘thing’ as grace! Grace is not some appendage to His being. Nor is it some substance that flows from us: ‘Let me give you grace.’ All there is is the Lord Jesus Himself. And so when Jesus speaks about us abiding in Him and He abiding in us – however mysterious it may be, mystical in that sense – it is a personal union. Do not let us fail because of the abuse of expressions. Do not let us fail to understand that, at the end of the day, actually Christianity is Christ because there isn’t anything else. There is no atonement that somehow can be detached from who the Lord Jesus is. There is no grace that can be attached to you transferred from Him. All there is is Christ and your soul.”

Sinclair Ferguson on John 15 at the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Grantham, PA this Spring.

BoT > Session 4 > Sinclair Ferguson

Session 4 – (Wed. 10:45 AM)
“Our Holiness: Abiding in Christ’s Love”
Sinclair Ferguson

GRANTHAM, PA – Ferguson began his session with a reminder that while sanctification is a fight against sin to the death, we are inclined to forget about abiding in Christ and naturally move on into the more “manly” aspects of sanctification. Architecturally, as people who think systematically about holiness the struggle of sanctification, this is right. But at the end of the day, sanctification is a matter of personal character. Holiness is who we become in Jesus Christ. This is why it’s very insightful to see the way Walt Chantry designed the conference topics and themes.

The centerpiece of the Christian faith is love, of the Christian abiding in the love of Jesus Christ. This is what produces genuine holiness. False holiness does not come by abiding in the love of Christ, and as a result it’s a ‘holiness’ that does not attract unbelievers and weak believers. In the Gospels Jesus shows true Christlikeness in a character that attracted unbelievers and those who were particularly weak. This is a test case for our own holiness. The evidence of true holiness is not in my appearance, but rather in my devotion to those who have little of God. True Christlike godliness draws the weak, which is to say that those abiding in the love of Christ have an atmosphere noticed by others.

The Vine and the Branches

In this morning’s session Ferguson would center his teaching on the vine and branches (John 15:1-11) with a particular emphasis on Jesus’ command in verse 9 to “Abide in my love.” The full text reads,

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

To abide in Jesus love is the quintessence of true holiness. I am genuinely holy only to the degree that I abide in His love. There are no substitutes for growing in holiness than to abide in Jesus’ love.

Abiding in Christ’s Love

The text was broken down by Ferguson into three points: 1. The love in which we abide; 2. The union by which we abide; and, 3. The character of those who abide in Christ’s love.

1. The love in which we abide. Due to a lack of teaching, people make this “abiding” in Christ into some mystical reality that cannot be put into words. But using words is exactly how Jesus describes this abiding. Jesus gives us a carefully expounded teaching of the pattern of abiding. It is to love the Son.

In John there are many references to the Father’s love for the Son but only one reference to the Son’s love of the Father. This Son is the eternal Word who is face-to-face with the Father (John 1).

There is an eternal bond of love between the Father and Son. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (3:35). “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing” (5:20). The love of the Father towards the Son is extraordinary because no secrets are hidden from the Son in God’s daily work. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (8:42). If you knew who I was, Jesus says, you would love me like the Father loves me. Jesus prayed, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me … I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:23,26). And the most significant of all: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17).

We must grasp the love of the Father towards His Son! Here is eternal intimacy, mutual admiration, loving esteem, and a full enjoyment of one another. This is fellowship.

In Genesis we get a picture of the mutual love of the husband and wife as Adam and Eve enjoying their perfectly loving relationship. This is a glimpse of the eternal and divine relationship. So what was God doing before creation? What did He spend His time doing? He was enjoying His Son! God needed nothing more for His own joy! This is beyond our imagination to grasp, but we do get a taste of this fellowship at a conference like this one. We come together to meet with pastors we have not seen in a long time and the time together is rich fellowship. It’s fellowship, not because we are accomplishing some task together, but simply in the fact that we are enjoying the presence of one another! Fellowship is not always about doing something; often it’s about enjoying one another. This is the oneness, the fellowship that makes the church the church (John 17:11,21-23).

That the Father loves the Son for His willingness to die on the Cross reveals a love between them capable of growth and development (John 10:17). Some of the basis of the Father’s love towards the Son is for the work of the Son. So the love that we abide in is an eternal love also capable of growth and development. In other words, the Atonement of Christ on the Cross is an act of love whereby sinners may receive even more love from the Father. The Atonement is not the end, but the beginning of an eternally growing and developing love from God. So salvation is not the end, but the means to restoring God’s love to the soul so we can enjoy greater love in communion with Christ! [This reminds me of a quote by John Piper that “God is the Gospel.”]

A. This is a “love of complacency” (John Owen). The Atonement is the stepping-stone and foundation of every other blessing. God delights in those who have been atoned. Because of the Cross we are now objects of His pleasure and satisfaction. John Owen says, “The love of Christ is a love of complacency.” This love and delight flows in more love and joy (Zeph. 3:14-17, John 15:11). [Owen defines “complacency” as the delight and joy displayed by one fully satisfied in the object he has fixed his love upon (See Communion with God, 1:25).]

Jesus promises, “My joy will be in you.” Once our sins are atoned, there is a love in Jesus’ heart that overflows in sheer delight over us. Bathe in this truth! We are prone to beat ourselves into the dust over our remaining sinfulness rather than abide in Jesus’ love. Remember, Jesus’ love towards us is a love of complacency.

B. This is a “love of value” (John Owen). The saving love of God expresses valuation. Because Christ died for us and we are in Him, God values us as nothing less than His own Son. We love what we value (Matt. 6:21). We are loved because we are His treasure.

C. This is a “love of friendship” (John Owen). In verses 13-15 we see that we are loved like a friend. We are no longer servants. To the extent that I understand this truth and the dynamics of God’s love is the extent it will affect the character of my holiness.

[It appears Ferguson was pulling concepts from John Owen’s book Christologia. This book is available online and found in The Works of John Owen (1:2-273). Especially note chapter 13 (1:150-161).]

2. The union by which we abide. The union by which we abide in Christ is a very personal union. The Greek word for “to believe” (pistos) is more literally translated “to believe into.” Our union with Christ is a union of personal like that of marriage. This is Christ dwelling in the Father and He in me. This is the union we share with Christ is a union of His person. We do not merely share in the graces of Christ, but in His entire person. His person and the grace from Him cannot be separated, as the Roman Catholics attempt, in order to make grace something mediated and dispensed by a church. There is no such concept. We have union with the full person of Christ and all His graces. Christianity is Christ. Union with Him is personally grounded in the incarnation. Our holiness is forged in us because we become like the One we most love!

This spiritual union is forged by the Holy Spirit. It is important to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal union with Christ (see John 14:15-31).

This union is regulated by Scripture as the Word abides in our hearts (Col 3:16 and Eph. 5:18). It’s important to note that we as pastors do not stand on the Word of God as expert interpreters. Preachers are deep-sea divers, diving down into the depths to search for pearls to bring to the surface. Preaching is bringing the pearls to the surface. We are explorers in a world of grace. Preachers are below this Book!

Some think we will become infinite in heaven. This is not true. In our union with Christ, we are always finite creatures. Even in eternity we will forever have a past, present and a future. Because of this we will, each day, have increasingly more reason to love Christ throughout eternity!

3. The character of those who abide in Christ’s love. Due to time restraints these points were given as a list. The Christian abiding in Christ’s love will show itself in …

a. A universal obedience to Jesus’ commands (v. 14).

b. A life aware of Christ’s friendship (vv. 13-15). We are sinners saved by grace and in need of further cleansing, yet Jesus calls us friend!

c. A love for what Jesus has accomplished (v. 13).

d. A universal love for all those Christ has purchased (vv. 12,17).

e. A willingness to suffer in Him and with Him (vv. 18-20). To see death as the way to life.

f. A constraint to witness to others (vv. 26-27). In the context of evangelism, Paul says, “the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). The Holy Spirit is the witness of Christ because the Spirit has been united with Jesus eternally. Abiding in Christ and witnessing of Christ are inseparably linked.

g. A full joy (v. 11). Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” What does this mean? Two things: He is the cause of our joy and we are the cause of His joy!

Understanding this mystery of abiding in Christ’s love will transform our ministries. Let us bathe in this truth!


Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.

BoT > Session 2 > Sinclair Ferguson

Session 2 – (Tues. 7:00 PM)
“Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase”
Sinclair Ferguson

GRANTHAM, PA – It was unfortunate Walt Chantry was not able to speak at this year’s conference (his book, The Shadow of the Cross is a treasure). Sinclair Ferguson was his chosen replacement. Ferguson, who has been a friend of Chantry for 30 years, took time at the beginning of his address to honor his friend.

Ferguson is one of the great contemporary preachers in our age. He serves as Senior Minister of The First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC and as professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas. What I love about Ferguson is that he is a Cross-centered scholar. A Puritan, really. And the opening night of the conference was a special treat because his address centered on how the Son purchases our sanctification.

Ferguson began by reading Titus 1 — words directed to a Gospel minister — with an emphasis on verses 11-15 where Christ’s redemption is tied to our sanctification.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2:11-15)

The three messages on holiness (“Our Holiness”) at the conference are titled: 1) The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase, 2) Abiding in Christ’s Love, and 3) Walking in the Spirit. This excellent, God-centered division was outlined by Chantry.

Ferguson shared many helpful personal questions and reflections throughout his message, beginning with this statement (and continuing throughout my notes below).

Fill in this statement: My people’s greatest need is (blank). Is it my improved preaching? My improved pastoral skill? Overall church attendance and growth? Or, is my people’s greatest need my personal growth in holiness? We all come in here knowing this is our great weakness, but excellence in holiness is one of the supreme qualifications for pastoral ministry. In fact, in the lists of qualifications for elders, giftedness and skillfulness are not the dominate characteristics of the qualified pastor. But holiness is! Holiness marks out pastors as authentic believers.

We are timid of this fact because this means that others should see our progress. These questions have haunted me constantly with other ministry friends: Are they seeing my progress in holiness over the years? Is my congregation seeing my progress in godliness over the years? There are few other things more important to consider than our own personal holiness.

But here is the great encouragement. The great Gospel imperatives are rooted in the indicatives of grace that sustain those imperatives! As preachers, often our indicatives are not big enough or gracious enough to sustain the weight of our imperatives. Preaching then becomes a rod to beat holiness, but all we see are our own failures. We lose sight of the Gospel.

And we need to remember how the imperatives of holiness are grounded in the NT in the Triune God. “To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Woven into the warp and woof, holiness is grounded in God. This holy God has in Himself, by Himself, for Himself, and is committed by Himself to bring about sanctification of His own people. Paul writes, “because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit”(Rom. 15:15-16). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3).

Elected to Holiness

Our holiness has been planned eternally by God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). The grace of God has appeared, and this produces holiness. That the grace of God has appeared is a reference to Christ. He has appeared and this eternal planning shows that our holiness is the fruit of eternal planning.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). A living Calvinist is marked by compassion, humility, kindness. If you don’t look like this, you are not a Calvinist. This holiness is rooted in the eternal counsel of the eternally blessed God. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). The divine and eternal purposes of God are shown in our conformity to Christlikeness. This is holiness. It is of supreme importance that we understand that Christlikeness is holiness, not plus or minus anything else. We may have all types of abilities, theological knowledge, intellectual ability and affection towards the Gospel, but if I am not like Him I am not holy.

Election grounds our holiness. John Owen asked the question, how do we know if we are truly elect? The answer: Has God destined you to be holy? His chosen are to be like Himself (See Owen’s Works, 3:597-598). I still have powerful sin in me and without grace I would utterly fail at holiness. God’s eternal plan is the necessary inducement to holiness. God has seen His portrait fractured in the Fall and rebellion has set in. God wants His portrait back and He is getting rid of what is not Christlike in us. He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son. In Romans Paul goes on to say that nothing will thwart this plan? Satan? Who can stand in God’s way? Charge them? Destroy them?

God is bending all circumstances and pain, He is chiseling and doing one thing – riding the universe of what does not reflect Christ. He deconstructs us to reconstruct our character, lives, to be Christlike. God is determined that you will be transformed into Christ. Holiness is not a threat but a cause of joy, wonder, worship and humility because this holiness has been purchased by the work of the Son.

Christ and Sanctification

The role of Christ in sanctification extends beyond purchase, but we should see holiness is purchased by Christ – not as an additional work. Justification and sanctification are linked together. My sanctification is as much purchased as any other aspect of salvation (Heb. 2:14-17). We can get so focused on the blood of Christ which pardons that we lose sight of Christ purchasing our sanctification and holiness. There are no gospel blessings that come apart from the crucified Christ. The conduit is His death. We receive nothing in the Christian life unless He purchased it by His obedience and Atonement.

The death of Christ is a multifaceted reality. Just look at how many Hebrew nouns are used in the Old Testament to communicate the multidimensional, sinister, twisted, fallen, nature of sin. And these are not all synonyms. The Spirit comes and loosens the flesh. Sin is not a single independent mass in our hearts, but rather sin is woven multidimensionally into our lives. The salvation in the Blood of Christ is a corresponding Atonement to this sin. We are to be totally sanctified which means there will be no remnant of sin.

Our understanding of the Cross is often superficial. Shame on me if I expound to my people multiple dimensions of sin without expounding the multiple dimensions of the Cross! How is it possible that redemption purchases salvation from sin in all dimensions?

The Cross and Sanctification

1. Christ propitiates God’s wrath (Rom. 3:21-24). Christ answers the wrath of God for the sins of Romans 1-3:20. But propitiation is more than mere justification. Under the wrath of God (or a fear of future wrath from God) I will be emptied of all hope in sanctification. It is not psychologically possible to be under the wrath of God and desire to be like Him. We have been freed from God’s wrath, are exalted in Christ, and we now stand before God with the identical confidence of Christ. His righteousness is mine! “Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.” Propitiation is significant for sanctification.

2. Christ expiates defilement. “How much more will the blood of Christ … purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). In the Cross our sins are washed away. But our hearts and our consciences are cleansed, too! Too often we miss this.

3. Christ dies to sin. Our holiness is affected at the Cross because in the Cross Christ died to sin. “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God” (Rom. 6:10). It does not say here Christ died for sin but rather that He died to sin. This point may be controversial. The context is in explaining Christian baptism. We no longer live in sin because Christ died to sin. We have been set free from the reign and dominion of sin in order to yield ourselves to Jesus. Christians do not die for sin but rather we die to sin which is to say that we have died to sin because Christ has died to sin. Since sin reigns in death, it was in Jesus’ death that His humanity came under the reign of sin in the process of overcoming sin. Christ not only purchased justification from the wrath of God and cleaned our consciences, but He also purchased that freedom from the dominion of sin that makes it possible to live endlessly to the glory of God. John Owen said there are two primary problems for the pastor, convincing sinners they are under sin and convincing the redeemed they are no longer under sin. Nearly all pastoral situations come back to this!

4. Christ frees from Satanic bondage.
Jesus entered enemy-occupied territory and defeated Satan. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Without redemption in Christ, we are lifelong slaves to the fear of death. We see this in all non-Christian funerals. There are no windows, it is bleak, there is a concerted effort to celebrate but nobody in the room has conquered the fear of death. In a truly Christian funeral there is hope and a future. Even in the loss and grief we rejoice for the one taken into the presence of Christ. The fear of death is the mother of all fears. Psychobabble abounds over the fears people have. The world is awash in insecurities. Only Christ delivers from the fear of death. The Resurrection of Christ is such a glorious thing! Arguments to prove the Resurrection is one thing, but to be overwhelmed by the powerful reality of being saved from death is another. To be “dead to sin” is to be raised into newness of life. This is the glorious power of the Resurrection. Has it made my life different? When people look at my life do they say, ‘Someone must have been raised from the dead’?

5. Christ purchases the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because of the work of Christ on the Cross the Holy Spirit comes. Jesus said to the disciples, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Later in John’s Gospel we see that John was struck that blood and water flowed from the side of Jesus (John 19:34). This is because John understood that Jesus was not only the source of Atoning blood, but also the river of living water. He is the One for Whom the river flows, He is the true Jerusalem where the thirsty go to drink (Rev. 22). When Christ ascended into the clouds He entered behind a curtain where we can no longer see Him. We don’t know exactly what happens behind the curtain but Peter says, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). In the ascension, Jesus pours out His life transforming Holy Spirit. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The point is that Christ purchased everything we need. We are purchased by Christ, therefore we glorify Him in our lives (1 Cor. 6:20). We are owned by Him and nobody else. Once we are purchased, we begin taking baby steps in holiness that are apparent towards others. Has anyone thought of your life, ‘There is something in this man’s life that looks like Jesus’? It is not great gifts that God blesses in the ministry but a likeness to Jesus (M’Cheyne). And this likeness to Christ is eternal.


Related: For more posts and pictures from the 2007 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference check out the complete TSS conference index.