Archives For Ray Ortlund

This post from Ray Ortlund, Certainty, Openness and Theological Wisdom, is excellent. This is an echo of how I begin every lecture addressing theology when I teach TEDS MDiv students the course EFCA History, Theology and Polity. After going through various ways of discerning and distinguishing essentials from non-essentials, which is foundational for understanding the Christian Theology in general, and the EFCA in particular, I encourage these students to consider seriously doing this same exercise with their elders when they are called to a local church as the pastor, the undershepherd.

Ortlund begins,  

Some Christians seem “all certainty.”  Maybe it makes them feel heroic.  But they see too few gray areas.  Everything is a federal case.  They have a fundamentalist mindset.

Other Christians seem “all openness.”  Maybe it makes them feel humble.  But they see too few black-and-white areas.  They have a liberal mindset — though they may demonstrate a surprising certainty against certainty.

The Bible is our authority as we sort out what deserves certainty and what deserves openness.  1 Corinthians 15:1-4, for example, defines the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins, Christ buried and Christ risen again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, as “of first importance.”  Here is the center of our certainty 

From that “of first importance” theological address, we move out toward the whole range of theological and practical questions deserving our attention.  The more clearly our logic connects back with that center, the more certain and the less open we should be.  The further our thinking extrapolates from that center, the less certain and the more open we should be.  When a question cannot be addressed by a clear appeal to the Bible, our conclusions should be all the more modest 

The gospel requires us to have high expectations of one another on biblically central doctrines and strategies, and it cautions us to be more relaxed with one another the further we have to move out from the center.

He concludes,

A church or movement may desire, for its own reasons, to define secondary and tertiary doctrines and strategies as important expectations within their own ministry.  That’s okay.  But then it’s helpful to say, “We know this isn’t a dividing line for Christian oneness.  It’s just a decision we’ve made for ourselves, because we think it will help us in our situation.  We realize that other Christians will see it differently, and that’s no problem for us.”

May we become more certain where we’ve been too open, and more open where we’ve been too certain, according to Scripture.  And where it seems helpful to provide further definition on our own authority, may we do so with candor and humility.

We in the EFCA ought to resonate with this articulation of essentials, secondary matters and theological wisdom.

I also encourage you to do the same exercise with elders and leaders that I recommend to the MDiv students. If you need some resources to help you to do this, please let me know. If you have some resources you use to do this, please let me know.


Preaching: Doctrinal and Experiential

Greg Strand – November 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Preaching the Word of God consists of communicating truth/content. It also consists of communicating that truth as one who has been and continues to be transformed by that truth/content. I am thankful that one does not have to have mastered the biblical truth one preaches before it can be preached. But unless one seeks to be mastered by that truth one preaches one is not qualified to preach that truth.

Ray Ortlund rightly and insightfully articulates that of which true preaching consists. It consists of preaching objective truth which is also deeply personal. It is something he preaches that is outside of self, since it consists of God’s special revelation, but it is also something that has captured the preacher since it is truth that is also in him.  

True preaching is more than preaching truth.  It is also deeply personal.  It rises from within a man.  He is fully aware and engaged and intelligent.  But he is forced to speak, compelled not by the expectations of others around but by the power of God within.

A man can preach the word, but still the word is not in him.  It has not yet become interior to him, experientialized to him, a part of him.  Such preaching is mere wind.  True preaching is brewed within, as the gospel enters into a man, floods his awareness, rearranges his own interiority, and surges out of him as something divine and yet still his own.

To preach in the power of the Holy Spirit is not to take a good thing and make it even better.  Preaching the truth in one’s own strength is destructive (1 Corinthians 1:17).  “The word is not in him.”  Preaching the gospel in the power of God is the only true preaching.  All lesser preaching is sinful and to be repented of. 

May the Lord help all of us pastors!  May we resolve, God helping us, never again to preach a single sermon without power from on high — and deep within!

Amen and amen!


“Christ the Renewer”

Greg Strand – June 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Please read this wonderful account of the Holy Spirit’s recreating and renewing work in a person’s life as recounted by Bishop Kivengere in reference to the revival experienced in East Africa.

I could tell you a case of a man back home, forty-five years old – a pagan, illiterate, who knew nothing about Christ.  Then he was brought by grace, through the preaching of the Christians, into the presence of Jesus and Him crucified; and that man was so changed that within a month, when impure thoughts came into his heart he literally went outside from a meeting and vomited.  What a standard, what sensitivity!  A man steeped in paganism, with no Bible training, no background.  And now in the light of Calvary, in that smashing, invading love, this man is taken, re-created, renewed, his conscience is so clean that when impure thoughts came he even went and physically vomited.  A sensitivity had been created.  The Holy Spirit had renewed the personality.  Is this your case?

I find after I have gone on with the Lord, sometimes I grow insensitive.  But the impact of the Holy Spirit, the impact of the renewal, is that you begin to move with that sensitive tact in the heart.  If it is jealousy, don’t you think the time has come when you can say, ‘My heart was been renewed, and I am going to write a letter to that person and ask for forgiveness’?  Yes, the posts of England may be very busy when God begins to work.  And the homes of your country may experience men renewed, coming to put a few things right.  That’s when Jesus comes alive: not when we enjoy lovely teaching, but when the teaching becomes so embarrassing that you walk away and do something about it.”

Bishop Festo Kivengere, “Christ the Renewer,” in The Keswick Week 1972, (Marshall Morgan And Scott, 1972), 75.

O God, by the Holy Spirit help us to see Christ, give us a heart of renewal with an increasing sensitively to holiness, and give us the will and strength to respond appropriately.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Gospel Truth Creates a Gospel Culture

Greg Strand – May 24, 2013 2 Comments

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, Ray Ortlund speaks specifically to the centrality of gospel doctrine, which God the Holy Spirit uses to create a gospel culture, i.e. the functional centrality of the gospel in all of life and ministry: “Gospel Doctrine, Gospel Culture.”

Ortlund writes,

Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrines of grace create a culture of grace, as Jesus himself touches us through his truths. Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile. Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless. For example:

The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Ephesians 2:1-9).

The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Galatians 2:11-16).

The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Ephesians 2:14-16).

The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Romans 6:20-23).

The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Romans 5:2).

The doctrine of God creates a culture of honesty (1 John 1:5-10). And what could be more basic than that?

If we want this culture to thrive, we can’t take doctrinal short cuts. If we want this doctrine to be credible, we can’t disregard the culture. But churches where the doctrine and culture converge bear living witness to the power of Jesus.

Churches that do not exude humility, inclusion, peace, life, hope and honesty — even if they have gospel doctrine on paper, they lack that doctrine at a functional level, where it counts in the lives of actual people. Churches that are haughty, exclusivistic, contentious, exhausted, past-oriented and in denial are revealing a gospel deficit.

The current rediscovery of the gospel as doctrine is good, very good. But a completely new discovery of the gospel as culture — the gospel embodied in community — will be infinitely better, filled with a divine power such as we have not yet seen.

Is there any reason not to go there? Is the status quo all that great? Doesn’t the gospel itself call for a new kind of community?

May God create this sort of commitment to the gospel accompanied with this sort of gospel culture such that it will be a sweet aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14-17).

The Chief End of Preaching

Greg Strand – March 27, 2013 Leave a comment

“What is the chief end of preaching?  I like to think it is this.  It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.”

Raymond Lanning, “The Doctor: Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,” in More Than Conquerors, ed. John Woodbridge (Chicago: Moody 1992), 209.

HT: Ray Ortlund