All posts by Steve

Steve Kilgore joined the staff of Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA in the fall of 2002 as the Pastor of Discipleship to facilitate the equipping ministries, which include Adult Bible Fellowship and other adult discipleship ministries, and work with the rest of the education ministries. He currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Ministries with a focus on providing ministries that facility individuals taking intentional Next Steps for growing and participating in the leadership and administrative aspect at Calvary. He has also taught part-time at Lancaster Bible College in the area of Spiritual Formation and New Testament. Prior to coming to Calvary he served in two churches as well as taught part-time at Philadelphia Biblical University. He was born in Dallas, Texas, but spent the first 13 years of his life in Guatemala where his parents were missionaries. It was there at the age of four and a half that Steve placed his faith in Christ as his Savior. Steve received a Bachelor’s degree in Bible from Philadelphia College of Bible and a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Steve and his wife, Mary Anne, have their two boys, Andrew and Nathan (both in college), and live in East Lampeter Township. Steve lives and ministers by the personal motto, Know what you believe and why, live it, be able to defend it. His hobbies, other than playing with his family, include tinkering with computers, reading, drinking coffee with his wife, playing and watching basketball. Steve and Mary Anne are looking forward to exploring new hobbies as they transition to life as empty-nesters.

5 Solas–a brief summary

Salvation is based on…

  • the Scripture alone
  • by grace alone
  • through faith alone
  • in Christ alone
  • to the glory of God alone

Or, put another way, the core theology of the Reformation advocated for the…

  • sufficiency of Scripture to lead us to understand the
  • sufficiency of grace for salvation through the
  • sufficiency of faith in the all
  • sufficient Christ
  • resulting in glory to God alone.

Grace alone by faith alone does not mean that good works are not important or necessary—only that they are not meritorious. Good works (Titus 2:7; 14; 3:1, 6, 13) are the response of a grateful heart that understands the freedom from performing for acceptance by God.

Therefore, grace alone by faith alone is the entrance into a life lived to the glory of God alone, a…

    • Grace-enabled
      • Spirit-empowered
        • Christ-imitating
          • Scripture-obeying
            • Love-manifesting life!1

What would Christianity be without the 5 Solas?

  • Without Sola Fide (faith alone)—we have a religion of self-effort or of works
  • Without Solas Gracia (grace alone)—we not only have to earn salvation, we bear the burden of guilt and the uncertainty of acceptance
  • Without Solus Christus (Christ alone)—we have no salvation, we have no object of salvation
  • Without Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)—we are left to the opinions of men or the whims of society
  • Without Sola Dio Gloria (To the glory of God alone)—we are prone to create our own version of God, in our own image and take credit for saving ourselves

Praise the Lord that we have, through God’s gracious gift, in the perfect substitute Jesus Christ, revealed in Scripture for us to understand that God receives glory when we respond in faith alone to His offer of a restored relationship with Him.

Getting the Gospel Right

This is the third of three summaries of Galatians.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us that we must get the gospel right—to understand: 1) not only what God requires for us to have a relationship with Him, but also 2) how to live that relationship out on a daily basis.

We must get the gospel right

The gospel is the good news that in spite of our own pervasive sin

(total depravity: sin nature, acts of sin and failure to love)

and apart from our own effort, goodness, ethnic identity or family of origin

we can be declared righteous, based on the substitutionary death of Christ

(justified—given a right standing before God
redeemed—from bondage to sin and the Law
reconciled with God—from the alienation of enemies to acceptance as friends )

by grace through faith

(adopted into God’s family as full heirs, not second class citizens)

resulting in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit

(empower us to live in practice what we are in position as saints).

With that true clear and our relationship with God secure…

We are free to love God and serve others.

 

Summaries of Galatians

1. Content overview/review 
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
2. Summary of the argument of the book in light of the problem Paul is addressing
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
3. The role of the gospel in the book of Galatians
Helpful to remind us of the gospel.

Summary of the Argument of Galatians

I’ve had the privilege of teaching the book of Galatians twice this year and feel like I was just finally getting a handle on this wonderful book. So I decided to continue working on summarizing the book. And to capture the book I developed 3 different summaries.

1. Content overview/review 
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
2. Summary of the argument of the book in light of the problem Paul is addressing
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
3. The role of the gospel in the book of Galatians
Helpful to remind us of the gospel.

Galatians 1–2         the opponents sought to discredit Paul’s authority and message by implying or teaching that Paul’s apostleship was not valid

Therefore,

  • Paul defends himself against the accusation that what he taught was done to please people (1:10).
  • Paul declares his independence from the apostles (1:16-17) as one who received his message, just as they did, directly from Jesus (1:1, 11-12). And showing that he had limited contact with the apostles (1:18-24).
  • Paul demonstrates that his message was affirmed by the apostles (2:6, 7-10), including the rejection of the pressure of the Judaizers in Jerusalem to require circumcision for Titus, a Gentile convert (2:3).
  • Paul displays (validates) that he was not a man pleaser and had authority by challenging Peter who was hypocritically bending to the same issues the false teachers in Galatia were proposing (2:11-14).

Galatians 3–4         the opponents’ message and use of the Old Testament to support their false teaching is challenged by Paul though series of Old Testament expositions

  • Appealing to Abraham as the key example of justification by grace through faith apart from works of the law (3:6, 7-9).

The false teachers may have used the “curse” of Genesis 12:3 as a threat to Gentiles—Paul used the “blessing” of Genesis 12:3 as the rebuttal, supported by Genesis 15:6.

Paul shows that any, Jew or Gentile, who respond to God in faith, as Abraham did, enter into the promises given to Abraham (3:9).

  • Demonstrating that the Mosaic Covenant was inferior (and temporary) to the promise and covenant God made to Abraham (3:16-18).

The false teachers may have placed the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenant on par with each other and missing the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant and the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant.

Paul particularly points out that the promise was primarily about a singular offspring, the future Messiah (3:16).

  • Reminding them of two reasons the Law was given
    • Because of transgression (3:19)—to increase at minimum the realization of sin if not more so to increase the realization of their own need because of sin
    • Because of the Law’s roles as a guardian (3:24)—to be a disciplinarian until Christ came
  • Freedom from enslavement was provided in God’s timing through His Son who was born under the Old Covenant in order to remove the barrier of the Law which allowed both Jews and Gentiles to be adopted into God’s family (4:4-7).
    • So why would the Galatians desire to be enslaved again to the law? (4:9)
    • The false teacher sought to enslave the Galatians, not for the Galatians’ good, but to keep the Galatians in obligation to them.
    • Paul, on the other hand, wants them to have Christ formed in them (4:19).
  • Paul’s final Old Testament support is not expositional but illustrative (4:23-31) seeking to demonstrate through analogy that the Galatians were already free.

Galatians 5–6         the opponents’ message requiring circumcision is rejected and shown to invalidate justification by faith

  • Paul challenges the Galatians to stand firm in freedom not being forced back to the yoke of slavery—because adding to the gospel invalidates the gospel (5:1-6)
    • Freedom is lived out through the Spirit by faith in Christ Jesus resulting in certain anticipation of righteousness (5:6-7), and this faith is worked out through love.
  • Paul goes on to show the implications of the Gospel—as he had when personally present with the Galatians (5:21)—is Spirit produced (5:16, 18, 22, 25) godliness and unity (Negatively: 5:15, 20b-21a, 26; Positively: 5:13-14, 22)

Paul concludes his letter showing that the only way to overcome the works of the flesh is through the Spirit, whom they received by faith, not works of the law (3:1-6).

    • Contrasting the evidence of works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (5:16-26).
    • Providing practical instructions to assist in the restoration of unity (6:1-5).
    • Challenging them to take seriously what they are facing (6:7-10) and understand the real motivation of the opponents (6:12-15).

Summary of Galatians

I’ve had the privilege of teaching the book of Galatians twice this year and feel like I was just finally getting a handle on this wonderful book. So I decided to continue working on summarizing the book. And to capture the book I developed 3 different summaries.

1. Content overview/review 
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
2. Summary of the argument of the book in light of the problem Paul is addressing
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
3. The role of the gospel in the book of Galatians
Helpful to remind us of the gospel.

Preview / Review

Justification by faith

Galatians 1-2 Personal defense

Defend—authenticity of the message

1:1-5 Paul introduces his God-given authority and his message—forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil age.

1:6-10 Paul introduces the problem and warns the Galatians of the seriousness of their current situation (deserting and distorting the gospel, the grace of Christ)—anyone who proclaims (for the purpose of convincing others toward) a contrary gospel, is accursed.

1:11–2:10 Paul seeks to establish the credentials for himself and his message—reaffirming that his message was from God, not men.

Paul proves it by showing that he did not receive it from other Apostles, though they affirmed his message. And proving it by not requiring a Gentile co-worker to be baptized, which was also affirmed by the Apostles.

2:11-21

2:11-14 Paul provides additional proof (demonstrates that his authority and message come from God independent of men) by recounting his correction of Peter, who gave in to the pressure (in one specific situation) to make the gospel and Christianity too closely associated with Judaism (Jewish traditions and law-keeping).

2:15-21 Paul begins to answer the question of the relationship between Gentiles and practices of the Law by focusing on the core of the gospel—being declared righteous (justification) by faith in Christ not by works of the law (that which the Law required).

Galatians 3-4 Theological defense

Declare—the gospel of grace through faith

3:1-9 Paul continues to vindication justification by faith. For the Galatians, having received the Spirit is proof that justification is by faith not the works of the Law. Which indicates that they are benefiting from the blessings of Abraham and therefore are children of Abraham by faith—not by works of the Law.

3:10-29 Paul continues to vindicate justification by faith, by demonstrating that Abraham’s justification was by faith not by the Law. Therefore, works of the Law are not means of establishing or maintaining a relationship with God. And the Abrahamic promises were not invalidated by the Mosaic covenant, which was temporary. This naturally leads to the question of the purpose of the Law, to which Paul provides two answers—to reveal sin and to serve as a guardian until Christ. It is through Christ that anyone (Jew or Gentile) by faith can be sons of God receiving the promised blessing of Abraham.

4:1-11 In God’s perfect timing, He broke into the history of humanity (who were enslaved to the weak and worthless controlling principle of the world) to send His Son in full human form, under the weight of the Old Covenant for the purpose of redeeming those who were under the law, resulting in adopt as sons. The benefits: an intimate relationship with the Father and intimate access as that of the firstborn heir.

Why go back to a lesser status? Nothing more is needed to relate to God. Nothing more to receive, nothing more can be earned by works of the Law. Already fully approved by God as evidence of being included in as part of His family.

4:12-31 Paul returns to delineate his personal relationship with the Galatians—reminding them of their acceptance of him and his message. He questions the motivation of his opponents while passionately declaring his desire for the Galatians to have Christ formed in them. He then uses an extended illustration to show that not all the biological children of Abraham are children of promise. Reinforcing his belief that the Galatians are children of promise.

Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5-6 Practical application

Describe—the outcome of the message

5:1-15 Paul encourages the Galatians to enjoy, preserve and protect their freedom.

5:1-12 Paul pivots to the demonstrate that justification by faith provides freedom so the Galatians should stand firm in that freedom and not allow anyone to force them back under the yoke of slavery which is the Law. They must understand that they cannot pick-and-choose aspects of the Law—if they choose to accept the need for circumcision, they must keep the whole Law. But this would sever them from Christ and the hope of righteousness produced through the Spirit by faith.

5:13-15 But this freedom does not lead to antinomian recklessness, but enables them through love to serve others—thereby, carrying out the ultimate ethical aspect of the Law—to love one’s neighbor, rather than opposite—destructive, antagonistic behavior.

5:16-26 Paul challenges the Galatians to continually depend on the Spirit for the power to obey God, even as they continue to battle the desires of the flesh. Paul provides a list of vices and virtues which provide the evidence of whether one is carrying out the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit.

This section helps support the fact that a faith relationship with God, through Christ, is not antinomian. Paul describes the present battle and power source for Christians—the Spirit.

5:25–6:10 Since believers are still in a battle against the flesh which is often evident by an exaggerated self-conception, Paul provides instruction for how walking by the Spirit should be evident within the household of faith. Walking by the Spirit results in personal and community responsibilities—including restoring one who sins and assisting the overburdened. And while this can be wearying, Paul exhorts them to not give up.

6:11-18        Summary

Paul’s concluding section, written in his own handwriting as the mark of authenticity, reviews the key issues addressed throughout the letter and makes it clear that the primary issue the Galatians were facing was pressure to be circumcised as a means for obtaining a proper relationship with God. But what should be their boast is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for through it the world no longer has influence over them.

Martin Luther: Guilt versus Grace

As I watch a documentary on the reformer, Martin Luther, I am struck by the contrast between guilt and grace.

As a Monk, Martin Luther was driven by guilt. The feeling that he may never be able to live up to the standard of God. A guilt fulled by the teaching of the church.

The Catholic Church, under which Martin Luther lived his early years, believed that Christ was the means of salvation. But in order to guard against individual living too aware of grace—which they thought would result in sinful life. They emphasized what individuals had to do to secure full-saving grace. The list of physical rituals (sacraments) including penance were the means of grace controlled by the church.

This belief system drove Luther to harsh treatment of his body motivated by fear.  He was tormented by fear and guilt.

But as he wrestled with Scripture he discovered the absolute wonder of grace. That God was a gracious giving God, not a tyrannical oppressive overlord. That salvation was a gift provided by grace and received not by sacraments and penance, but through faith in Christ Jesus.

The realization of the wonder of grace did not lead to a licentious life, “taking advantage of grace.” But rather, out of devotion to the one who had freed him from sin and guilt, Luther was motivated to live in a way that would honor God.

That lesson—the wonder of grace and the impact on life—is key to every Christian life. The continual amazement of grace should remove guilt. Amen! And in gratitude for grace, we should live for God.

Praise the Lord.

The 5 Solas of the Reformation

On October 31, 2017, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

I thought it would be beneficial personally to review the history and benefits of the Reformation. So I read a few articles and started watching several documents. And am looking forward to reading Eric Metaxas’ recently released biography of Luther, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the Word.

In the process, I’ve updated the following post and will in provide additional resources.

The five pillars of the Reformation

Although these 5 Solas as not listed together in succinct fashion during the time of the Reformation, they do serve as a good summary of the core beliefs that developed and propelled the Reformation.

What we do find stated by the reformers is that, “Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.”

  • Sola Scriptura   Scripture alone—the Bible is to serve as the ultimate or final source of authority  (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2)
  • Solus Christus   Christ alone—salvation is found only in Christ  (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12)
  • Sola Gratia   Grace alone—justification is grace alone, not based on effort/works   (Ephesians 1:7)
  • Sola Fide   Faith alone—this justification which is by grace alone, is through faith alone  (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Soli Deo Gloria   Glory to God alone—the whole of creation and all elements of the redemption process are for God’s glory (Revelation 4:11; 5:9)

Some thoughts (definitely not exhaustive) and observations, starting with Sola Scriptura.

Sola Scriptura—Scripture alone

This had to be the focus of the Reformation because so much tradition had not just been added to Scripture but replaced it.

Apart from God’s initiative to speak to us in an authoritative, reliable, and sufficient way, we would not know God in a true, objective manner. No doubt, in creating the world, God has made himself known in creation which reflects his plan (general revelation), but to know God’s plan, purposes, and will, we need a specific Word-revelation, which serves as our final and ultimate authority. (Stephen J. Wellum) 1

But is it true that we only use Scripture?

What about reason? Theology is a process of reasoning about what God has revealed. God, in His wisdom, did not give us a systematic theology text, but a revelation of Himself. Sometimes this revelation is through nature (general revelation, Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-21), sometimes through conscience (Romans 2:14-15), clearly through His Word (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:21) and His Son (John 1:18; Hebrews 1:1-2).

The revelation through the Word is sometimes through narratives which reveals how a personal God interacts with man. These narratives are sometimes descriptive, not prescriptive. Sometimes His Word is in poetry, the language of emotion. At times through didactic, logical progressive thoughts. All these forms of revelation require us to reason. As we encounter God and His Word, we must process what we read.

A danger occurs when our logic and reason seek to determine what the text should say rather than working to understand the text. There are theological systems that are logical, but which are not biblical. That is, in order to be logical they make conclusions that can’t always be supported by Scripture, and I believe, at other times create contradictions. But those problems do not negate the need for reason.

It does not mean that other things cannot inform our theology. The Reformers quoted past theologians freely as authoritative guides. They reflected on experience and used their reason. What sola Scriptura does mean is that when we have to choose, there is only one choice we can make: Scripture alone is our ultimate authority. And in particular it is the supreme authority, in contrast to the authority of the church and its traditions. 2

But not only do we use reason, along with Scripture, we also involve tradition and experience. We never approach a biblical text without preunderstanding. We are not neutral. Everyone has presuppositions which form the basis of their thinking. While our preunderstanding can color our view of the world and the Word, the goal is not to become pre-suppositionless but pre-suppositionally self-critical. No matter how hard we try, we can’t see a text from a totally neutral perspective. But we must allow the text to mold, develop, change and correct our preunderstanding. Preunderstanding that may be caused by gender, ethnicity, culture, experience (and many more areas).

So, Scripture is the final authority, but we use reason and we have traditions and experience of which we must be aware.

These next two graphics picture how I think we develop our theological understanding. It should be founded on the Word and making a practical difference in my life. (I guess there could be things we believe, but don’t think about regularly or for which we may not have immediate applications—I’ll need to think more about that.) As I develop my theology I also evaluate my theology. My theological system should be consistent and therefore it helps me as I do exegesis. Since Scripture interprets Scripture my theology (the synthesis of my overall understanding of Scripture) helps me connect passages. But my theology should not force a passage to say something it does not say, nor ignore a challenging or difficult issue. When my exegesis and my theology are not consistent, I must evaluate both my theology and my exegesis. Sometimes admitting that there are things I can’t fully understand (the finite trying to understand the infinite). Those times I should celebrate the greatness of God and continue seeking answers.

Ideally, we should always be in the process of “doing theology.” By “doing theology” I mean that theology should not be stagnant but dynamic. Not that we are looking for ways of discarding our theology, but we are seeking to refine it. As we continue to study God’s Word and as the world changes around us, we must be able to communicate God’s truth into our world, responding to new or repackaged ideas.

God has been so gracious to give us His Word, to allow us to know Him–but it’s not just for us, or for a mental exercise, but ultimately for His glory.

May God be our passion, His Word our priority and His glory our purpose.

There are four other Solas, we’ll get back to them in later posts.

The election in light of Hebrews 11

I was reflecting on Hebrews 11 this week and with our national election one week away, I was reminded of the need for perspective—faith over the long haul in the same direction.

Reflections on Hebrews 10:32-39; 11:1-40; 12:1-3

In light of the Election
Pray—seek God, not to manipulate but to discover His will, prioritizing what He values—His glory and our mission

Remember prayer is first to commune with God not just to request from God. Pray for Him to be glorified and His Church to be a testimony of grace which shines brightly in darkness.

Think—be informed

A biblical worldview prioritizes a wide array of God-honoring goals. Seek to learn what you can about issues and candidates not just what party they are affiliated with.
Our upbringing, gender, race and experiences form a worldview of things that “go unsaid” and form biases that we do not know we have. Therefore, as we pray and think and seek to evaluate positions and politicians we must seek to do so through a biblical lens—which as best we can, prioritizes God’s heart.

Vote—be involved, trust in God does not remove our need for action, it should motivate our engagement

When we vote we are choosing flawed individuals to lead flawed people through a system that only works when people collaborate and cooperate by concessions. Therefore, character, maturity, perspective and values matter.

Trust—perspective

When the election is over and new local, state and national leaders are selected our responsibility…

—to pursue life in Christ will still be our primary goal—demonstrating our love for God
—to live God’s Word must still be our focus
—to keep growing with God’s people must still be a priority
—to go into God’s world and invest in God’s work will still be our calling

Knowing that as citizens of heaven,

—we long for a future blessing not just current prosperity
—we seek a heavenly city, a heavenly homeland
—we long to receive our promised inheritance

but in the meantime, we must persevere with the eyes of faith captivated by Christ to inspire an active intentional endurance.

 

Today, I also heard this wonderful reminder.

Steven Curtis Chapman

I hear everybody talking
on the right and on the left,
They’re holding out their promises
while we all hold our breath,
and if I did not know better
I would be scared to death,
But God is on the throne.
I know that it all matters
and there’s so much at stake
And I know we all need wisdom
for decisions we must make
But there’s only one who’s making promises that He won’t break
And He is on the throne.

He is faithful and true,
everything He says He’ll do,
And everything we go through,
He will go with us.
All the kingdoms of man
are in the palm of His hand
So I will not fear, I’ll say it loud and clear, so my own heart can hear it
God is on the throne.

Well I’ve got my fears and worries
like everybody else
I love this country and it’s broken
and in desperate need of help
So I’m praying to the one
who has the power to make us well
‘Cause He is on the throne

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall,
only one stands through it all
It’s the kingdom of
the God of grace and love
And I’m not worried because I know
God is on the throne.