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Colossians 1:21–23  (ID: 2500)

Throughout the centuries, the church has consistently maintained that believers should be firmly grounded in the essentials of the faith. In this message, Alistair Begg draws on both history and Scripture to emphasize the necessity for every Christian to know what they believe and why they believe it. Understanding basic Christian doctrine and applying these principles to every aspect of our lives is crucial for discerning false teaching and ensuring that correct beliefs are carried forward to future generations.

Series Containing This Sermon

Christian Basics

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 25101

The Basics of the Christian Faith

A 13-Lesson Survey Selected Scriptures Series ID: 28701

Sermon Transcript: Print

Father, we thank you for the immense privilege of being in this place at this time—a specific place on a specific day for a specific purpose. We thank you that you have plans and purposes for us; we’re not here a ragbag of individuals brought together by happenstance, but that in the mystery of your purposes and providence, you have brought us together for this time. So then, help us in the balance of our time as we turn to the Bible and read it, as we think about its truth, and as we seek to have you come and apply it to our lives, whether to convince us of our sin, to convict us of our need of a Savior, or to establish us in our faith. Come, Lord, to our waiting hearts, we pray. For Christ’s sake. Amen.

Do be seated. And we’ll read just a couple of verses from Colossians chapter 1. I will have a number of cross-references this evening. I say that just to warn you, because some of you very quickly get frustrated with that, so I’d rather you got your frustration over with in anticipation and just determine that you’re not going to look up any of the references at all, but you’ll get the tape or the CD and take care of it in due course.

Colossians 1:21: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

I’m not sure what to call this this evening. I don’t think it qualifies, certainly, as an exposition. We could call it an introduction in search of an exposition. I don’t want to call it a lecture. Perhaps we could call it an address. Maybe we’ll just call it a talk. But it is what it is. And why I say that will become apparent as I go along.

Sunday Afternoon in the Seventeenth Century

But let me begin by trying to take you, in your mind’s eye at least, far away from here and now. We’re going to have to go back three centuries. That’s a shift to begin with, isn’t it? It takes us back into the 1600s. We’re in England. Let’s choose 1675; that day will work. It’s now less than ten years since the Great Fire of London, which, if you know your history at all and have visited the old city of London, you will know that fire started in Pudding Lane and quickly spread throughout the city and destroyed vast chunks of it, including a significant number of churches.

It’s the afternoon of a Sunday. Sunday afternoon—we’ve had lunch, and we’re out walking. And we walk down Bishopsgate Street, which those of you who are from a business background and have visited Lloyd’s of London will know Bishopsgate Street, Threadneedle Street, and so on. And so some of you have a better grasp of this, at least in your imagination. But, of course, you’ve got to go back three centuries with it, so we’re all about even.

But as we walk down Bishopsgate Street, we discover a constant flow of people entering a building on the east side of the street. In checking it, we discover that they’re heading for the great hall of a large home called Crosby House. The owner is a man called Sir John Langham, and he’s a Nonconformist. In other words, he’s not part of the establishment Church of England.

Intrigued, we join the crowd and enter into this large hall, finding ourselves very quickly in a significant number of people that have gathered, and the reason for their gathering on this Sunday afternoon is to learn the basics of the Christian faith. Their teacher is a man by the name of Thomas Watson. He has a colleague in ministry—an associate, not an assistant—and that man’s name is Stephen Charnock. And together they had become convinced of the absolute necessity of making sure that their congregation was grounded in their Christian faith, so much so that they determined that the only right and proper approach would be to have them catechized—in other words, that they would give them oral instruction that would have a repetitive element and would be sustained in large measure as a result of questions and answers.

Both of them agreed to try and set out what they would refer to as “a body of divinity”—in other words, the information necessary to understand the divine. Stephen Charnock died before he completed his, but those of you who have on your shelves The Existence and Attributes of God in these two volumes and who know the richness of them and the density of them will be intrigued to think that this is what he was preparing for those people on Sunday afternoons in Bishopsgate Street. His colleague—and the one who was largely responsible for it—Thomas Watson made a far more modest attempt at things and produced what became known as A Body of Divinity.

In informing his congregation of what he was planning to do on the Sabbaths that were following, he said this:

Catechising is the best expedient for the grounding and settling of people. I fear one reason why there has been no more good done by preaching, has been because the chief heads and articles in religion have not been explained in a catechistical way. Catechising is laying the foundation. … To preach and not to catechise is to build without foundation.

And then he goes on and finally says,

It is my design, therefore (with the blessing of God), to begin this work of catechising the next Sabbath day; and I intend every other Sabbath, in the afternoon, to make it my whole work to lay down the grounds and fundamentals of religion in a catechistical way. If I am hindered in this work by men, or taken away by death, I hope God will raise up some other labourer in the vineyard among you, that may perfect the work which I am now beginning.[1]

Sunday afternoon in the mid-seventeenth century. He regarded it as the duty of every Christian to be “settled” in the faith, and he reckoned that the best way to be settled in the faith was for each Christian to be “grounded” in the faith. And he determined that in order that they might be grounded in the faith, he was going to have to do more than simply preach to them expositionally, but he was going to have to show them the way in which the whole story wed together.

It is impossible to go through the Letters without finding that again and again the apostles are urging upon their readers the absolute necessity of knowing what and why they believe.

Now, one of his contemporaries, at least within the century, whose name will be known to some, again, was the godly Richard Baxter—brought up as a lad in Shropshire and eventually had the body of his life’s work take place in a place called Kidderminster. And interestingly, in that same period, a little before Watson reaches his conclusion, we find that Richard Baxter is determining to operate in the same way. He reckoned that his preaching, which he did twice a week—preached for an hour on Sunday and another hour on Thursday, and with “enormous energy and urgency”—he reckoned that his “preaching was not enough,” that

a more hands-on strategy was needed to awaken sleeping souls. As a pastor, Baxter believed that conversion could happen at any age, and that the most effective way of finding out whether a person needed to be converted was not by public preaching but by private conversation. He would spend an hour with each family, using the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments to instruct each person and gauge his or her spiritual condition. Every Monday and Thursday Baxter would start at the one end of the town, his assistant would start at the other, and together they managed to interview 15 or 16 families a week—a total of 800 families … each year.[2]

Can you imagine this, when you knew you were on the list? “Pastor Begg and Pastor Kennedy are coming over at eleven o’clock. We better have our homework done. They’re examining us on the Ten Commandments.” “I only know three of them,” says one of the children, “and I’ve only kept one of the three in the last week.” It’s going to be a difficult day—nowhere to hide, no superficial nonsense.

Baxter discovered that some people learned more in an hour’s conversation than in ten years of preaching. He became convinced that personal instruction, or catechizing, was essential to insure the salvation of parishioners and thus the reformation of the parish. It also helped people better understand his sermons and enabled him to know who was ready to take the sacraments and where loving discipline was needed.

As a result of Baxter’s one-on-one catechizing, he got to know his parishioners so well that he adapted his pastoral care to their widely varying spiritual states and needs. Rather than simply dividing people into “godly” and “ungodly,” he claimed that there were 12 different categories of people in his parish—including those who merely conformed to the externals of church membership, those who desired to live godly lives but did not yet understand the fundamentals of faith, those with skeptical tendencies, those who rebelled against their pastor, and those whose wrong-headed theology was leading them into lawlessness. Thanks to his intimate knowledge of his flock, most of Kidderminster’s 2,000 adult inhabitants were converted under Baxter’s ministry, and this town formerly infamous for its ignorance and debauchery became a model Christian community.[3]

Knowing What and Why We Believe

Tonight, the issue is knowing what we believe as Christians. We’re not thinking now tonight about the nature of belief or the nature of saving faith. We endeavored to do that last time. But rather, our emphasis this evening is on the need for every Christian to know what he believes and why he believes it. And that emphasis is not simply to be found in seventeenth-century England amongst the Puritans, but that emphasis is to be found at the very heart of apostolic preaching. It is impossible to go through the Letters without finding that again and again the apostles are urging upon their readers the absolute necessity of knowing what and why they believe.

And that’s why we read from Colossians 1. And he says, “And you are in this condition reconciled to God if by your continuance in the faith, established and firm, and not moved from the hope held out in the gospel, your continuance gives evidence of the fact of your living relationship with God through Christ.” But we could easily go back a couple of pages to Ephesians 4 and find Paul making the same emphasis. Ephesians 4:11: God, the ascended Christ, has poured out from heaven his gifts,[4] and he has given “some to be apostles,” and “some to be prophets,” and “some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” And what are they supposed to do? Well, they’re supposed “to prepare God’s people for works of service.” Well, and what will happen then? Well, “the body of Christ may be built up.” Edified is the word you may have in your version—oikodomḗ is the Greek word, “being built up, strengthened, secured”—“until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”[5]

“Then”—notice, verse 14—then and only then “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” In other words, how is a congregation to hold on to the gospel in their generation when everything wages war against it? The answer is: by being settled in what they believe and being grounded in that truth as a result of their own personal study and the instruction that they receive.

Now, I don’t want to belabor the point, but I have in my notes Romans 16:17 and 2 Timothy 3:14. The whole emphasis in these passages is on the basics—or, if you like, to borrow a phrase of our own, it is upon the “main things.” Many disciplines—educational disciplines—are represented in our congregation this evening. And you know that in whatever you do, whether it is in art or in economics, in mathematics, in business, that there are certain first principles. And everything that takes place has to take place in reference to those first principles. If you’re a pilot, you understand the law of gravity, but you also recognize that there is a point at which the law of aerodynamics overturns the law of gravity and propels that craft into the air. And those essential first principles are the building blocks of every maneuver that you make in the air, of every decision that you make in response to the circumstances that you face.

Now, in the same way, when it comes to Christian faith, when it comes to belief, there are certain first principles. And whether it is Paul in the passages we’re referencing, or John in 1 John 2:24, or Peter in 2 Peter 3:16, all of them without exception say to their readers, “If you are going to be able to detect that which is fraudulent, it is essential that you have a solid grasp of first principles and how those first principles then work their way out in the whole body of experiential Christian teaching.”

We must labor to endeavor to understand the first principles of Christian doctrine and to bring those principles to bear on every aspect of our lives, lest we be swept away.

Now, it should already be obvious to you—and this is why I said I don’t know quite what to call this—it should already be obvious to you that to address the core beliefs of Christian faith in one talk is virtually impossible. And I realized this as soon as I began to prepare for the address. I said, “Well, I could do one of them,” then I said, “No, that would be the start of a series, and we don’t have a series. Well, we have a series, but it’s not that series, and so we can’t do that.”

But actually, what I’m going to give to you now, and just run through these—there’s nothing surprising in them—I anticipate and I hope will become, if you like, something of a core curriculum, whether it happens on every other Sunday afternoon or whether it happens on a Wednesday night or a Tuesday night or a Thursday morning. But I have it heavy on my heart, as a result not simply of my reading in the past week but as a result of a lot of things that’ve been going on in my mind, to ensure that as long as God gives me strength and my colleagues with me, we must labor to endeavor that our congregation understands the first principles of Christian doctrine and is able to bring those principles to bear on every aspect of their lives, lest they be swept away—if not now then perhaps in a further subsequent generation. And the difficulty in addressing it all is obvious when you take Charnock’s attempt that comes to two volumes and Watson—this is dense material here, and it goes to some 316 pages. What can I possibly do with so few minutes left to me right now?

The Core Christian Beliefs

Well, let me just outline, if you like, the content of our curriculum, reminding you that the affirmations of the Christian faith all have to do with the being of God. They all have to do with eternal truths. And the being of God—God as God—and these eternal truths are not available to us by our own unaided comprehension. In other words, there is no intellectual route to a knowledge of God. We cannot evidentially simply get to God by thinking it out. God has given signs and indications in our moral being, in the nature of creation, and so on. But in all of that general revelation there is only enough to convince us that we need a God; there is not enough to convert us. And it is in the special revelation that he gives in the person and work of the Lord Jesus that such a conversion may take place. Only when God is pleased to take the initiative and reveal himself may we know just what it is and why it is we believe it. That happens, as we saw last time, as a result of God using his Word and as a result of God working by his Spirit.

In case you weren’t here last time, I’ll just draw your attention to the wonderful story of how God worked in a lady’s life. There may be a lady here tonight, and you’re wondering about the Christian faith. This lady was a prosperous lady. She had a nice home, she had the gift of hospitality, and she actually was “a worshiper of God.”[6] “Well,” you say, “that pretty well takes care of her, doesn’t it? Wonderful hospitality, a worshipper of God, a nice place to live—she’s all set. There’s nothing more that would be needed.” No, she didn’t know the God that she worshipped. And when Paul and some of his colleagues arrive at the prayer meeting that they find down by the river, they meet this lady, Lydia. And then Luke tells us, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”[7] He preached the message; the Lord opened her heart.

There’s no point in running through a list of core Christian beliefs apart from our own discovery of Jesus as Lord and Savior and King. You don’t have to know all of these things to become a Christian, but having become a Christian, you cannot—nor can I—adequately fulfill the responsibilities of Christian life without an experiential grasp of these essential doctrines.

Now, it’s been well said that it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian. And one of the great dangers that is represented in the study of doctrine is that it is studied in a very lopsided fashion. So you go to one church, and they emphasize one thing, and you go somewhere else, and they’re banging on about something else. And you find people, they come to Parkside, and they always have a certain question. It’s probably a good question, but you can see them; I can identify them before they even speak. They have a mark about them. I know, “This going to be a King James Version question,” or “This going to be one of the other questions.” I don’t mean that in any unkind or dismissive way, but I just—over time, the same way when a doctor sees somebody walk in, he says, “Oh, here we go again; this will be a tonsillitis, I’m pretty sure,” and, of course, it is. How does he know that? He just has built up a sixth sense over time. Well, that’s what happens in pastoral ministry as well.

And so it is that you need to be in a church. You need to be in a church where the pastors of that church are urging you not so much to listen to what they say as to turn to the Bible from which they teach, urging you as sensible people to be like the Bereans: examining the Scriptures all the time to see if these things are so[8]—not simply coming like birds in the springtime up to the nest to their mother so that the mother may simply drop food into their mouths and have them fly off for a little while but rather out ferreting around in the Bible and in the bookstore, and laying hold of these things, and working things out, and getting to grips with the first principles. We can help. We can start you off. But even with the best of attempts, it’s going to involve your own determination.

Now, it is, then, in these things that we have the anchor for our spiritual lives and the anchor for our intellectual discoveries as well. Incidentally, intellect is not the key in learning Christian doctrine. Obedience is the key in learning Christian doctrine. You can be a PhD three times over and a theological nincompoop, and you can be a crofter in the Highlands of Scotland with a solid grasp of the Bible. You can be uncredentialed in every way, and yet you may be a teacher of the brightest intellects. Why? Because it is not about intellectual capacity. It is about morality. It is about moral response. It is about obedience to the truth as it comes to us.

You need to be in a church where the pastors are urging you not so much to listen to what they say as to turn to the Bible from which they teach.

Well then, let me run this list. I’ve been telling you about the list for an hour; let me just give it to you. And I’m just going to read them; I’m not going to stop. I daren’t stop. If I stop, we’re in dreadful difficulty. But we will come back, and this will be approximating to our new core curriculum that will be appearing somewhere in the next decade. (Jeff is not here this evening, so he won’t be able to hold me to it, so I feel a certain measure of freedom. ’Cause he’s always like, “Okay, when are we doing it? When are we doing it? When…?” I don’t know.)

Number one: the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead. The unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, the doctrine of the Trinity.

Number two: the sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption, and final judgment. (You’re writing these things down. I told you, you don’t need to. I should have had a PowerPoint thing here. If I do it again, we might have one, but probably not.)

Thirdly, the divine inspiration of Scripture; its infallibility as originally given; its sole authority, complete sufficiency, in all matters of faith and conduct.

Fifthly, the universal sinfulness and guilt of human nature since the fall, rendering men and women subject to God’s wrath and condemnation.

Sixthly, redemption from the guilt, penalty, and power of sin only through the sacrificial death as our representative and substitute of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. In other words, the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement: he died in our place. We can only make sense of his self-sacrificial love when we understand what it was he was doing. He bears in himself all that we deserve. But I’m not supposed to comment on these.

Next one is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead—not a resurrection in the minds of people, not a resurrection in the spirits of the apostles, but a literal physical resurrection from the dead.

The necessity, next, of the work of the Holy Spirit to make the death of Jesus effective to the individual sinner, granting him repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ.

And the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit in the believer.

And the one holy universal church, which is the body of Christ and to which all true believers belong.

And the expectation of the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and in glory.

All of those are main things, and all of those are plain things. I don’t expect you to have remembered more than one or two of them, but we do need to labor to ensure that this generation and the one that follows not only understands them but believes them and furthermore believes that it is so important to believe them. That’s probably the greater challenge at this point. People say, “Well, that’s okay if you want to believe that kind of thing and if you want to emphasize that kind of thing over at Parkside, but it’s not really—it’s tangential to the main issue, isn’t it?” No, it’s not. It is foundational.

Paul’s final letters that we referenced this morning are replete with warnings about false teachers. Just go to 1 Timothy and let me show you this. First Timothy chapter 1: right out of the gate, he reminds Timothy—1:3—“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These [are the things that] promote [controversy] rather than God’s work—which is by faith.”[9] Go to the fourth chapter—you only need to turn a page—and what does he say? “The Spirit clearly says that in [the] later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits.”[10] And he goes on to say how important it is that Timothy is aware of this and he alerts his congregation to it. Into 6:20, and listen to how he wraps up the letter: “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.”[11]

And then into his swan song, 2 Timothy. Go to chapter 3. Back on his same story, isn’t he? Verse 1: “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.” And then he goes on to describe the nature of the impact of falsehood and describes these people who are both deceived themselves, and they are being deceived.[12] And he has very straightforward things to say concerning the depravity of their minds in relationship to the faith; you could see that in verse 8. And then the antidote in verse 14 of the same chapter: “But as for you, [Timothy, you] continue in what you[’ve] learned and have become convinced of.” You see that? You don’t become convinced of a vacuum. You don’t be convinced of nothing. There has to be a body of material that you’re convinced of.

Now, that is the work of the Spirit of God, without doubt. The Spirit of God confirms for us the veracity of the Bible. It is a mysterious thing. But not in any self-focused way, I recognized as I prepared this talk that somehow along the journey of my life, wittingly or unwittingly, maturer people have taken me aside and made sure that I understood these things. Sunday afternoons, learning the Bible off by heart in a little green hut that I was sent to by my parents. The fellow said I could win a car if I memorized enough of the Bible. That was enough for me. “I’m memorizing!” Might not have been the best of motivations, but I learned a ton of the Bible. And some of you are involved in our children’s ministries, and you wonder what you’re doing. Well, if you’re giving them the elementary knowledge of the gospel, you’re actually beginning to fashion and form the very lines down which their tiny minds are running. You are providing them with the wherewithal so as to be able to adjudicate as time goes by, so as to be able to detect error when it comes their way. You’re at the very heart of the whole operation. And the same is true as we run throughout the congregation.

A Clear and Present Danger

Now, let me finish by making just one point of application. Because it seems to me that in one sense, this is pretty ho-hum. People could say, “Well, after all, it is a church, and they do have a Bible, and there’s stuff in the Bible, and they’re supposed to know the Bible. What’s the big deal about that?” But you know, when you read the Epistles, you recognize that Paul is saying to Timothy in his generation what actually needs to be said in every generation, and in some generations more than others—namely, “Timothy, don’t fall asleep at the wheel, stay alert to the context in which you’re ministering, and make sure that those under your care are grounded in the foundations.”

Now, these are my observations, with the help of some of my friends, as I conclude. And I don’t give any authority to them beyond any authority that you may find in them with the concurrence of you own thinking as you consider the Bible. But it is my observation that at the present time, within the climate of contemporary evangelicalism in America, the lack of clearly defined belief is a clear and present danger. That’s my observation: that the lack of clearly defined belief is a clear and present danger. And the reasons for that are multivarious. But one comes from an interesting source. Because there is a prevalent belief—if I’m listening correctly, if I’m reading publications properly—there is a prevalent belief that the only way for the church to survive in the modern world is to adapt the Christian faith in some way to that world.

Now, if you know any history at all, you will know that that is exactly what liberal Christianity assumed to be the case in the early part of the twentieth century. They said to themselves, “If we’re going to reach a world that has been ravished by these wars, if we’re going to reach people who now are post–Scopes Monkey Trial, if we are going to reach men and women who are educated and intelligent, then we’re going to have to adapt our message to them. So, you don’t like miracles? It’s not a problem; we got rid of them for you. You got a problem with the deity of Christ? That’s okay; we’ll just talk about his humanity. You don’t like the idea of a resurrected Jesus? That’s okay; we haven’t believed it for some time ourselves.” And so, unwittingly, generations of people hear language that sounds orthodox from lips that are unorthodox, which finally bleed into a subsequent generation the very destruction of anything that was there to begin with.

Within the climate of contemporary evangelicalism in America, the lack of clearly defined belief is a clear and present danger.

“Oh,” you say, “how could that possibly be akin to what is happening today?” In this way: it is an increasingly influential notion among contemporary evangelicals—some—that the way that we need to adapt now is not in adapting our theology. I’m not suggesting that; I’m not suggesting that people are saying we’re going to dismiss theology. No, we’re going to adapt in the form of our delivery. And that raises a very, very important question. And the question is this: whether orthodox Christianity can be dressed up in contemporary forms and still survive intact.

Now, the jury’s out. And it may take another generation to discover whether I am a false prophet or true. But the question is still on the table: Is it possible to appeal to the consumer mentality—to adopt the methodologies of Disney World, which creates a little world where there’s no filth on the street, no cigarette butt ends, no nothing at all? Everything is wonderful, and everything nasty is buried underground. And it makes people take themselves out of the ugly world in which they live and live in a funny world that we’ve created specially for you, and it’s all there to cater to what you want and what you need and what your children want so that you can be absolutely happy and contented and fine. Can you take that as a methodology and wrap the gospel of a crucified Savior in it without having it make an impact on the story of the gospel itself? I suggest to you that you can’t.

Says David Wells, “The very way in which survival is being sought raises questions as to whether that strategy for survival may not [in] itself bring on the demise of its orthodoxy just as it did in liberal Protestantism.”[13] You see, what happens in those churches is that they are bound together not by a theological vision of the world, but they’re bound together by a common strategy for reaching particular segments of society and by a common methodology for accomplishing their strategy. And, says Wells again, “it is a methodology [which] can be hitched up equally as well to evangelical faith as to New Age belief, or to anything in between. [And] why is this so? The reason is that there is no theological truth upon which the methodology is predicated and upon which it insists, because theological truth”—doctrine—“it is thought, is not what builds churches.”[14]

So, let’s go back to Sunday afternoon in London and ask whether that is not to go back to the future. Writing to his congregation in 1880, Spurgeon asked, “How are we to expect the gospel to be kept alive in the world if we do not hand it on to the next generation as the former generation handed it down to us[?] … Oh, shall it ever be said a century hence, ‘The people of 1880 never thought of us of 1980? They let the gospel go: they allowed the doctrines to be denied one after [another]’ …?”[15]

Oh, shall it be said in ten years from now, in half a century from now, “All these people, with all their slick ideas and their clever methodologies, tried to wrap up this radical message in this beautiful package, and the people grabbed the package and never got the message, but since everybody was consumed with numbers and success, they decided to settle for their apparent victory while failing to recognize that they were actually sowing the seeds of their own destruction”?

Does it matter what we believe? Yes, it does. Do you know what you believe? Why you believe it? I tell you, and I say it to you sincerely: we will do better as a church in the next period of time than we have ever done as a church in helping young and old to come to terms with basic Christian doctrine.

Father, we thank you that you have given to us the Bible. We thank you that you’ve given to us the Holy Spirit so as to illumine the printed page to us and sensitize our hearts to its truth. We thank you that you’ve given us intellect so that we may be able think rationally about things. And when we think about the nature of the world in which we’re set and the blurring of so many distinctives, save us from any undue schismatic tendencies, lest we fail to embrace all who are laboring in the gospel. But save us also from cowardice that’s unprepared to say, “Hey, are you sure about that? Do you think that’s right?” Save us, too, from the very ease of things, from settling down to the drift.

Help us as individuals to become men and women of the Book. “You have exalted above all things your name and your word.”[16] Every other name is subservient to yours. Every other shepherd points to you, the great Shepherd. Every teacher is a learner from you, Christ, the great teacher of your people. And it is in you, Lord Jesus Christ alone, that all of our hope is found. You are everything to us, Jesus. And may we share you in the days of this coming week. For we pray in your precious name. Amen.

[1] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965), 5.

[2] Paul C. H. Lim, “A Pen in God’s Hand,” Christian History and Biography, Winter 2006,

[3] Lim.

[4] See Ephesians 4:8.

[5] Ephesians 4:12–13 (NIV 1984).

[6] Acts 16:14 (NIV 1984).

[7] Acts 16:14 (NIV 1984).

[8] See Acts 17:11.

[9] 1 Timothy 1:3–4 (NIV 1984).

[10] 1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV 1984).

[11] 1 Timothy 6:20–21 (NIV 1984).

[12] See 2 Timothy 3:13.

[13] David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 281.

[14] Wells, 281.

[15] C. H. Spurgeon, “Cheer for the Worker, and Hope for London,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 26, no. 1566, 619.

[16] Psalm 138:2 (NIV 1984).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.