13 March 2009

Words of life, Richard Phillips (PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

by Dan Phillips

This is the opening session, at 9:00am Friday the 13th. (No hockey masks to be seen... if I'm not mixing my bad movies.)

The speaker is Richard D. Phillips (no relation).
Profile: Phillips might be known through the God's Living Word broadcast. He is an Alliance Council Member, and chaira the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology. Unlike your correspondent, he's a through-and-through Presbyterranean pastor, serving in South Carolina. Also unlike this Phillips, Richard's MDiv is from Westminster Theological Seminary. And he's a published author. Pastor Phillips has a blog, and you can find his sermons at Monergism.
Phillips welcomed us all, warned us about the efficient parking policing, wished John Calvin a happy birthday, and got underway.

Phillips took us to John 6:60-65. He remarked that John 6 has a particular concentration of "Reformed" doctrines; J. M. Boice said the title that got him in the most trouble was a sermon from John 6 titled "Jesus the Calvinist."

Jesus had become popular, but these professed followers would be tested by doctrine. John calls them "disciples" because they were all sitting under Jesus' teaching, not to indicate internal reality. They were grumbling about Jesus' teaching (vv. 52, 64). They were like multitudes in "evangelical" churches today.

What Jesus had said was a "hard" teaching (John 6:60), not in that it was internally hard, but in that it was difficult to accept. It was contrary to their customary thinking, it rubbed them the wrong way. Still happens today. People object, not because we're hard to understand, but because Biblical doctrine is hard to accept, rubs them the wrong way, is contrary to conventional thought.

The Bible does that. It confronts our thinking about God, ourselves, life, salvation. God's thoughts are not ours (Isaiah 55). We should expect to have our thinking confronted and corrected! Phillips was converted at age 30, and his Christian life afterwards was one confrontation after another. First sermon he heard as a Christian was Boice preaching "Double or Nothing" (double predestination) from Romans 9!

We should all come with attitude of Psalm 25:5 — "Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long"

We should expect it to happen to us as it did to Jesus here in John 6. The crowds hated what He was saying. It is as Paul warned Timothy: people will not endure sound teaching. They did not with Jesus; they will not with us.

What was so hard about it? One, He was not teaching to meet their worldly desires. Jesus did not do "felt needs" preaching. They wanted goods and services; He didn't give it. Two, they didn't like the insinuation that Jesus was greater than Moses. Three and far above was Jesus' teaching about penal, substitutionary atonement, and His call to faith in Him. The Cross offended them.

The doctrine of the Cross "offended" them. The Ten Commandments themselves, moral teaching, is not offensive. Christmas, the manger, the resurrection — not inherently offensive. The Cross is offensive. Why?

First, because it allows no way for men and women to save themselves. We are so lost in sin, that our only hope is God sending His Son, to save us. The Cross shows us as hopeless failures. Natural man's pride always wants to do something to save himself. Remember Naaman, who was offended at the call to dip in the river. He was going to pay, but the prophet wouldn't even see him, just told him to take a dip. Naaman was furious at not being treated like the great man he thought he was. Lloyd-Jones said that the Gospel insults and humiliates us, in not calling us to imitate Christ, but to look to the gibbet, the Cross, the agonized and forsaken Savior.

Second, because of its exclusivity, its call to look only to Christ and His cross. This is not recent, either. The offense, Machen said, lies in the word "only." Without it, the offense would be gone — as would the glory and power! What is new is that professed evangelicals are deriding the atonement, as only liberals would have a mere ten years ago. To reject the Cross, is to reject the only Gospel that Christ and His apostles taught (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1ff.).

In verse 61, Christ asks if they take offense at the Cross? If we do, it can only be because we refuse to confess our sins, and let God be sovereign in salvation. The flesh is of no avail, and that is why they were not receiving the Gospel then. That is why salvation must be of grace alone (v. 65). Faith is something God contributes to us, not the reverse.

We must never be dismayed at the world's rejection of the Gospel. It is to be expected. We must preach the Gospel nonetheless, and boldly, because it is God's means to save sinners. Pink said all fleshly activities amount to nothing — reasoning, entertainments, enticements - it is the Spirit who gives life.
"The surest sign that we are relying on the Spirit of God is that we are proclaiming the Word of God."

Dan Phillips's signature


The Squirrel said...

It sounds like it will be a fantastic conference; I'm looking forward to reading more of your impressions/reports. I wish I could be there.

John 6 was formative in my coming to accept Reformed soteriology.

Dan, have a great time!

The Squirrel

Chad V. said...

John 6 has many teachings that people found offensive including;

But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:64-66

Anonymous said...

Outstanding! I realize this post is a summation of Dr. Phillips message, but how rich in Truth.

Wishing I could be in attendance.