Fortress for Truth: Martin Luther

By Steven J. Lawson

Martin Luther was a giant of history. Some believe he was the most significant European figure of the second millennium. He was the pioneer Reformer, the one God first used to spark a transformation of Christianity and the Western world. He was the undisputed leader of the German Reformation. In a day of ecclesiastical corruptions and apostasies, he was a valiant champion of the truth; his powerful preaching and pen helped to restore the pure gospel. More books have been written about him than any other man of history except Jesus Christ and possibly Augustine.

Luther came from hard-working stock. He was born in the little town of Eisleben, Germany, on November 10, 1483. His father, Hans, was a copper miner who eventually gained some wealth from a shared interest in mines, smelters, and other business ventures. His mother was pious but religiously superstitious. Luther was raised under the strict disciplines of the Roman Catholic Church and was groomed by his industrious father to be a successful lawyer. To this end, he pursued an education at Eisenach (1498–1501) and then at the University of Erfurt in philosophy. At the latter, he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1502 and a master of arts degree in 1505.

Luther’s life took an unexpected turn in July 1505, when he was twenty-one. He was caught in a severe thunderstorm and knocked to the ground by a nearby lightning strike. Terrified, he cried out to the Catholic patroness of miners, “Help me, St. Anna, and I will become a monk.” Luther survived the storm and made good on his dramatic vow. Two weeks later, he entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. His father was furious over Luther’s apparent wasted education, but Luther was determined to follow through on his vow.

Lost in Self-Righteousness

In the monastery, Luther was driven to find acceptance with God through works. He wrote: “I tortured myself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing; the frost alone might have killed me… . What else did I seek by doing this but God, who was supposed to note my strict observance of the monastic order and my austere life? I constantly walked in a dream and lived in real idolatry, for I did not believe in Christ: I regarded Him only as a severe and terrible Judge portrayed as seated on a rainbow” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 24, eds. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann [St. Louis: Concordia, 2002], 62). Elsewhere he recalled: “When I was a monk, I wearied myself greatly for almost fifteen years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers, and other very rigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 12, 273).

In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood. When he celebrated his first Mass, as he held the bread and cup for the first time, he was so awestruck at the thought of transubstantiation that he almost fainted. “I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken,” he confessed. “I thought to myself, ‘Who am I that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine majesty? For I am dust and ashes and full of sin, and I am speaking to the living, eternal and true God’” (Luther, cited in Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995], 238). Fear only compounded his personal struggle for acceptance with God.

In 1510, Luther was sent to Rome, where he witnessed the corruption of the Roman church. He climbed the Scala Sancta (“The Holy Stairs”), supposedly the same stairs Jesus ascended when He appeared before Pilate. According to fables, the steps had been moved from Jerusalem to Rome, and the priests claimed that God forgave sins for those who climbed the stairs on their knees. Luther did so, repeating the Lord’s Prayer, kissing each step, and seeking peace with God. But when he reached the top step, he looked back and thought, “Who knows whether this is true?” (Luther, cited in Barbara A. Somervill, Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation [Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006], 36). He felt no closer to God.

Luther received his doctor of theology degree from the University of Wittenberg in 1512 and was named professor of Bible there. Remarkably, Luther kept this teaching position for the next thirty-four years, until his death in 1546. One question consumed him: How is a sinful man made right before a holy God?

In 1517, a Dominican itinerant named John Tetzel began to sell indulgences near Wittenberg with the offer of the forgiveness of sins. This crass practice had been inaugurated during the Crusades to raise money for the church. Commoners could purchase from the church a letter that allegedly freed a dead loved one from purgatory. Rome profited enormously from this sham. In this case, the proceeds were intended to help Pope Leo X pay for a new St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

This horrible abuse enraged Luther. He determined that there must be a public debate on the matter. On October 31, 1517, he nailed a list of Ninety-five Theses regarding indulgences to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Nailing such theses to the church door was a common practice in the scholarly debates of the time. Luther hoped to provoke calm discussion among the faculty, not a popular revolution. But a copy fell into the hands of a printer, who saw that the Ninety-five Theses were printed and spread throughout Germany and Europe in a few weeks. Luther became an overnight hero. With that, the Reformation essentially was born.

The Tower Experience

It is possible Luther was still not yet converted. In the midst of his spiritual struggles, Luther had become obsessed with Romans 1:17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.” Luther had understood the righteousness of God to mean His active righteousness, His avenging justice by which He punishes sin. On those terms, he admitted that he hated the righteousness of God. But while sitting in the tower of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Luther meditated on this text and wrestled with its meaning. He writes:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 34, 337)

The time of Luther’s conversion is debated. Some think it took place as early as 1508, but Luther himself wrote that it happened in 1519, two years after he posted his Ninety-five Theses. More important is the reality of his conversion. Luther came to realize that salvation was a gift for the guilty, not a reward for the righteous. Man is not saved by his good works but by trusting the finished work of Christ. Thus, justification by faith alone became the central tenet of the Reformation.

Attacking Papal Authority

Justification by faith alone clashed with Rome’s teaching of justification by faith and works. Thus, the pope denounced Luther for preaching “dangerous doctrines” and summoned him to Rome. When Luther refused, he was called to Leipzig in 1519 for a public debate with John Eck, a leading Catholic theologian. In this dispute, Luther affirmed that a church council could err, a point that had been made by John Wycliffe and John Hus.

Luther went on to say that the authority of the pope was a recent contrivance. Such religious superstition, he exclaimed, opposed the Council of Nicaea and church history. Worse, it contradicted Scripture. By taking this stand, Luther irritated the major nerve of Rome—papal authority.

In the summer of 1520, the pope issued a bull, an edict sealed with a bulla, or red seal. The document began by saying: “Arise, O Lord, and judge Your cause. A wild boar has invaded Your vineyard” (Pope Leo, Exsurge Domine, as cited in R.C.Sproul, The Holiness of God [Wheaton: Tyndale, 1998], 81).  With these words, the pope was referring to Luther as an unrestrained animal causing havoc. Forty-one of Luther’s teachings were deemed to be heretical, scandalous, or false.

With that, Luther had sixty days to repent or suffer excommunication. He responded by publicly burning the papal bull. This was nothing short of open defiance. Thomas Lindsay writes, “It is scarcely possible for us in the twentieth century to imagine the thrill that went through Germany, and indeed through all Europe, when the news spread that a poor monk had burnt the Pope’s Bull” (Thomas Lindsay, Martin Luther: The Man Who Started the Reformation [Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2004], 91). But though he was hailed by many, Luther was a marked man in the eyes of the church.

The Diet of Worms: Luther’s Stand

In 1521, the young Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, summoned Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms in Worms, Germany, in order to officially recant. The renegade monk was shown his books on a table in full view. Then Luther was asked whether he would retract the teachings in the books. The next day, Luther replied with his now-famous words: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and

contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 32, 113). These defiant words became a Reformation battle cry.

Charles V condemned Luther as a heretic and placed a hefty price on his head. When Luther left Worms, he had twenty-one days for safe passage to Wittenberg before the sentence fell. While he was en route, some of his supporters, fearing for his life, kidnapped him and took him to the Wartburg Castle. There, he was hidden from public sight for eight months. During this time of confinement, Luther began his translation of the Bible into German, the language of the commoners. Through this work, Reformation flames would spread even swifter.

On March 10, 1522, Luther explained the mounting success of the Reformation in a sermon. With strong confidence in God’s Word, he declared: “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept … the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 51, 77). Luther saw that God had used him as a mouthpiece for truth. The Reformation was founded not on him and his teachings, but on the unshakeable footing of Scripture alone.

In 1525, Luther married Katherine von Bora. This amazing woman was an escaped nun committed to the Reformation cause. The two repudiated their monastic vows in order to marry. Luther was forty-two and Katie was twenty-six. Their union produced six children. Luther had an extremely happy family life, which eased the demands of his ministry.

Till the end of his life, Luther maintained a heavy workload of lecturing, preaching, teaching, writing, and debating. This work for reform came at a high physical and emotional price. Each battle extracted something from him and left him weaker. He soon became subject to illnesses. In 1537, he became so ill that his friends feared he would die. In 1541, he again became seriously ill, and this time he himself thought he would pass from this world. He recovered yet again, but he was plagued by various ailments throughout his final fourteen years. Among other illnesses, he suffered from gallstones and even lost sight in one eye.

Faithful to the End

In early 1546, Luther traveled to Eisleben, his hometown. He preached there and then traveled on to Mansfeld. Two brothers, the counts of Mansfeld, had asked him to arbitrate a family difference. Luther had the great satisfaction of seeing the two reconciled.

That evening, Luther fell ill. As the night passed, Luther’s three sons—Jonas, Martin, and Paul—and some friends watched by his side. They pressed him: “Reverend father, do you stand by Christ and the doctrine you have preached?” The Reformer gave a distinct “yes” in reply. He died in the early hours of February 18, 1546, within sight of the font where he was baptized as an infant.

Luther’s body was carried to Wittenberg as thousands of mourners lined the route and church bells tolled. Luther was buried in front of the pulpit in the Castle Church of Wittenberg, the very church where, twenty-nine years earlier, he had nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses to the door.

Upon his death, his wife, Katherine, wrote concerning his lasting influence and monumental impact upon Christendom: “For who would not be sad and afflicted at the loss of such a precious man as my dear lord was. He did great things not just for a city or a single land, but for the whole world” (Katherine Luther, cited in Martin E. Marty, Martin Luther: A Life [New York: Penguin, 2008], 188). She was right. Luther’s voice sounded throughout the European continent in his own day and has echoed around the world through the centuries since.

Source: Excerpted with edits from Pillars of Grace, © 2011 by Steven J. Lawson. Published by Reformation Trust Publishing, a division of Ligonier Ministries. 17, 2011.

Dr David P. Craig on the Question: “Am I Pastor or a Life Coach?”

Answer: “I’m a Pastoral Life Coach”

About the picture above: From the left [me] David P. Craig; in the middle – my uncle Enrique – the brother of my mother – and a faithful disciple and evangelist of Jesus, and on the right, a church member named Jorge. I had just preached on what family relationships from Ephesians 5 :22 -6:4 look like when Christ is at the center of them. It was a tremendous honor to preach in Spanish with several family members present on my mother’s side. My family has a long history of church involvement – planting; preaching; and service in Quilmes – a large city in a suburb of Buenos Aires. I had just returned from a week of training pastors in the Northern part of Argentina – Jujuy; and was about to do some training with some young church leaders at A Christian Camp Facility in Buenos Aires.

In January of 2006 I had returned from a trip to South America to train pastors and missionaries (almost all of them were bi-vocational; in the Province of Jujuy on the Northern Argentinean and Southern Bolivian border. I have been on such trips in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and many times in Argentina (the land of my roots – My parents were born there and I have adopted many of their customs – especially drinking an Argentine tea called “mate;” becoming a soccer fanatic – especially of River Plate and Quilmes, and of course their national team (Messi is the Best!); and loving all foods Argentine – especially “asados” with “entrana” and chorizos; empanadas, bocadillos, tortilla, and gnocchi. I also grew up learning “Castellano” – the Italian sounding Spanish of the Argentines – full of slang – they have a unique word, phrase, or idiom for everything!

Both of my grandfathers were preachers. My dad’s father – John Craig (my youngest son, Johnny aged 16, is named after him) – was a Plymouth Brethren missionary who was born in Belfast, Ireland and spent over 50 years in Argentina and Uruguay planting churches, being an itinerant preacher, and making disciples (I’ve spoken in parts of Argentina where people have told me that my grandfather led them to the Lord and discipled them – it always brings me to tears of joy). John Craig died at the age of 86 and he was still pastoring a church in the Province of Tucuman in Argentina shortly before his promotion to Heaven.

My mom’s dad – Saul Moreira (of Portuguese heritage) was a beloved Bible teacher and expositor of the Bible. Everyone loved to hear “Don Saul” teach – children, co-workers, and the various “Hermanos Libres” churches in and around Quilmes – a large suburb of Buenos Aires  La Boca is most famous for the “Boca Juniors Football Club” and the dance known worldwide as the “Tango.”

About the picture above: My Grandfather – Saul Moreira – was one of the project supervisors of the building of the bridge pictured above “Puente Transborador” – built in 1914 is one of the most recognized bridges in all of South America. The Bridge is located in what many consider the heart of Buenos Aires – “La Boca.” The La Boca neighborhood was so named for its position at “the mouth” of the Riachuelo, and its role as the port of call for thousands of immigrants from Italy, Spain, and other European countries in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s within walking distance from of the birth of the “Tango” in El Caminito, and the home of the famous Boca Juniors Football Club).

When I was 17 years old (almost the age of my youngest son) I was a soccer, football, basketball, and baseball FANATIC! On any given day you would see me with a ball in competition depending on the season – I was fiercely seeking a victory in one of these sports. Growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Huntington Beach, CA., I was a diehard Laker fan (during the Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird era); a HUGE Dodger fan -during the Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Red Machine; when the St. Louis Rams were the L.A. Rams and played in Anaheim; and the L.A. Galaxy didn’t exist and we had season tickets for the L.A Aztecs. I still vividly recall going to the L.A. Coliseum and witnessing the amazing offensive and defensive skills of some of the best players in world soccer history – Johann Cruyff, Pele, and Franz Beckenbauer.

About the picture above: My room in Huntington Beach in 1975.  I was ten years old and already a sports fanatic. Notice the Rams (in L.A. back then) souvenirs on the left and the Los Angeles Dodgers souvenirs on the right. There is a 10th Anniversary Houston “Astrodome” pennant on my desk, and I’m reading a baseball world series magazine from 1975. I still love the Dodgers; wear Hawaiian shirts; but prefer the San Diego Chargers to those “traders” – the St. Louis Rams.

In my junior year of High School I was involved in a serious car accident. My best friend at the time was driving his Jeep and we were cut off by a drunk driver after the first day of baseball season my junior year. My dad and mom were on a business trip in Europe at the time. My older sister and the great staff at the hospital in Fountain Valley took terrific care of me. I suffered numerous broken ribs, bones, and had a lot of stitches in my head. I can remember shaking in bed at the hospital for a week straight and had a migraine headache for the next three months that subsided gradually so I could take catnaps here and there.

It was during that time that I received my calling to the ministry. Up until that year I was dreaming of either being a pro soccer or baseball player. Before the car accident I made my decision to focus on baseball and have a terrific junior season at Liberty Christian High School in Huntington Beach. I had dreamed about being a Los Angeles Dodger with the goal of taking over Bill Russell’s job at shortstop  The reality is I was a good baseball player, but not “great.”  I think if I had focused on being great at one sport instead of being “good” at four sports – I would have had a chance to make the pros (I ended up playing soccer in college for 3 years in Portland).

About the picture above. From about 1975 to 1980 my family would get about 20-30 games of season tickets during some of the Dodgers best years. The first Dodger game I went to was in 1974 and Ron Cey “The Penguin” hit a home run against the New York Mets to win the game in the 9th inning. I was imediately hooked on the Dodgers.Here is a picture of the “Fabulous Four: Ron Cey – 3B; Davey Lopes – 2B; Bill Russell – SS; and Steve Garvey – 1B.

I missed all of baseball season my junior year. During that summer – I started thinking more seriously about my life.  I had been a disciple of Jesus Christ since I was six years old.  I always loved the Lord, went to church weekly, loved going to “big church” (my pastor was the well-known Bible expositor – David L. Hocking. I’d rather hear “Pastor Dave” preach the meat of the Word than “watered down” Sunday school lessons designed for children who’d rather play with lincoln logs, than listen to a teacher. From an early age I’ve always loved apologetics and anything to do with the Bible, Theology, the Gospel, and the Church for whom Jesus gave His life.

However, the summer of 1983 was different from any previous summer in my short life. My passion for sports waned, and God gave me a renewed passion to know Him intimately and magnify Jesus in the proclamation of the Gospel. My senior year of high school I didn’t play any sports for the first time since I was six years old. I realized that I was a follower of Christ second, and a sports idolater first. I needed to repent of my sin of “sports idolatry” and was struck by what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”

Up until my junior year of high school I had been a selfish “sports-aholic,” primarily living for the thrill of victory and to avoid the agony of defeat. I had been living for my glory first, and Christ’s second. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of this rebellious state and moved by the Holy Spirit “to be transformed by the renewing of my mind” (See Romans 12:1-2).

Over the summer I started asking and wrestling with these questions:

“What if I had died in that accident?”

“What have I accomplished in life that will actually last for eternity?”

“What will I do that will last for eternity for the rest of my life?”

“What things will last on into eternity when I die?”

“Why did God create humans for in the first place?”

“How many people do I know that have I never told about Jesus?

There were many more questions like those above. However, my senior year was different. I started going to a Christian Book store called “Pilgrim’s Progress” and started devouring theology books by J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and many others. While all my friends were going on dates and spending money on movies – I was saving money to buy more books. I studied Greek that fall in a discipleship relationship with my Bible professor in High School – he was a Talbot Seminary student at the time (I would eventually earn my Master of Divinity at Talbot in 1991); I started teaching a junior high Sunday school class in my church; I was witnessing to everything that breathed – I even practiced on my cocker spaniel – “Carlitos” and my cat “Jinx.”

Two defining moments happened to me in the summer of 1983. The first was through an evangelist that you’ve probably heard of – Luis Palau. Billy Graham, Bill Bright, and Luis Palau have planted more seeds of the Gospel than perhaps all the other evangelists of history combined. Luis Palau was passing through on his way to Los Angeles and came over for dinner one evening. Anyone who has ever eaten my mom’s cooking, would NEVER pass up an opportunity to eat her food! If she were younger (she’s 80 today – and still cooks up a storm), I’m convinced she would have her own show on the Food Network and be more popular than Paula Dean or Giada DeLaurentiis!

About the picture above: Luis Palau has literally preached to more people than anyone in the history of Christianity next to Billy Graham – and he’s done it in perfect Spanish and English.  I haven’t heard or seen much of Luis since our days at Multnomah – but I will be forever indebted to Luis for recommending I attend Multnomah University. I received some great training there. However, the best gifts I received were some of my life-long godly friends – who are all comrades in the ministry of the Gospel around the world. Luis Palau’s nephew George Palau, who with his wonderful wife – Stacey – runs an orphanage in Mexico is one of those very close friends. George is one of the greatest servants of Christ I’ve ever known. I have learned much more from him, than I ever will from Luis. Nothing against Luis. But one of the great things about being a Christian is that we all impact one another up close in the context of community – especially when we minister to those who are suffering and in great need. George drove all the way from Mexico yesterday to spend the day with me. I love George, Dave Steele, Eddie Remley, and Mark Wilks, as if they were my very own brothers – and in Christ we are a “band of brothers.” 

Luis Palau is one of the few “big name” Christian heroes that I really respect and admire. He is one of the few pastors I know that is the same in his home, as when he is in front of a crowd of 100,000 people. What you see or hear from Luis is what you get. He practices what he preaches, and is quick to repent when he blows it. My parents grew up in the same Plymouth Brethren (“Los Hermanos Liberes”) church as Luis in Quilmes, Argentina and have known him since he was very young.

Getting back to the dinner. My mom made her famous Caesar salad, homemade spinach ravioli with her amazing Osso-Bucco and meat-sauce, and we had her amazing homemade “dulce de batata” for dessert (I remember – because these are three foods I never eat anywhere else – because no one comes close to preparing these items as well as my mom). After this very filling and satisfying meal Luis and I went for a long walk. I picked his brain and remember asking him, “Luis, how do you know if you are being called to the ministry?”

I honestly can’t remember his exact reply. I just remember that he affirmed my calling and recommended that I attend the same college he attended when Ray Stedman (author of the very influential book “Body Life” and, at that time Pastor of the influential Peninsula Bible Church in Northern California) helped bring a young Luis to the United States to be pastorally trained – because he heard Luis preach on a trip to Argentina and saw how gifted he was. Ray Stedman made it possible for Luis Palau to go to Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. The school’s motto was, “If it’s Bible you want, then you want Multnomah”.  Luis encouraged me to visit the school and noted and affirmed my passion to know the Word and to make Jesus known.

The second “defining moment” for me came in letting my parents know that I believed and felt overwhelmingly that God was calling me to full-time ministry. God was blessing my teaching, evangelism, and discipleship with youth. I couldn’t imagine doing anything more worthwhile for the rest of my life. I wanted to make my time and life count for what would matter for eternity.

A few days after my walk and talk with Luis Palau, I sat down at approximately 11:30 a.m. at the kitchen table with my mom. My parents are godly people. My dad has worked hard since he was seven years old and he has had several successful businesses in Argentina, England, and the United States. My dad has always been incredibly giving and very involved in ministry. I don’t ever remember getting up in the morning not seeing my dad with an open Bible and drinking mate (Argentine tea). My dad has been an elder and on the Board of several missions around the world. He devours theology, and manifests all the fruit of the Spirit. There is not a single man on the planet that I admire, respect, and desire to be more like than my father. He has been such a good model and such an influence in my life – that I could probably write a whole book on his influence for good in my life.

Meanwhile, getting back to the table with my mom. My dad was working in his office – he added an office to the garage over our Huntington Harbor home, so he didn’t have to drive to Los Angeles anymore. I sat down with my mom and was hesitant to bring up my “calling” for fear that my parents would think I was “loco.” I thought I would share it with my mom first before bringing it up to my dad. My plan up until that summer had been to get a baseball scholarship to a Pac Ten (now Pac 12 or whatever they call it) school, preferably UCLA (Go Bruins! – largely through John Wooden’s influence in my life – his book “They Call Me Coach” was the first book I read from cover-to-cover; John Wooden pictured below)), and to major in Business Administration. I never thought of being anything but a professional athlete – my only difficult decision was I wanted to play all four major USA sports – baseball, football, basketball, and soccer! I’m sure hockey would have been in there too, but nobody except for Canadians knew what that was in the 1980’s – until we won the Olympics in the “Miracle on Ice”!

About the picture above: John Wooden won 10 National Championships as a coach of the UCLA Bruins Basketball team. Wooden had some great players; but he was also able to make great players make other players even better. I think John Wooden (a committed Christ follower) would have been a great pastor as well. He is a perfect model of a life coach – committed to Christ; committed to bringing out the best in individuals; and their teams, churches, and organizations. Everybody wins when they have a good coach. John Wooden was simply the best!

I would literally dream almost every night, and daydream in my classes in school of throwing the over time touchdown pass in the last seconds of the Super Bowl to lead the Rams to victory over the Steelers; hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series before the home crowd in Los Angeles over (who else?) the New York Yankees; shooting a three-point shot in over time to win the NBA championship for the Lakers against the Celtics.  I dreamed of taking the Americans all the way to the final in the World Cup and beating Germany, Argentina, or Brazil by scoring a hat trick in bringing the World Cup to the USA for the first time. I even remember in my dreams calling my cousins Ariel and Martin in Argentina to apologize to them for beating their homeland in their favorite sport!

Oh yeah – sorry, sidetracked – back to the table with my mom. When I told my mom about the stirring in my heart, my desire to know the Scriptures, my passion to proclaim Christ, and my desire to attend Multnomah in Portland – she began to sob. I was thinking to myself, “Oh no, now I’m in trouble – there goes the family business.”

My mom came around the table and gave me a big hug and went and got her Bible and read from 1 Samuel 1 – the story of Samuel’s being dedicated to the Lord (I encourage you to read it). She read the entire chapter to me out loud and then after reading the last three verses of chapter 1 and the first 2 verses of chapter where Hannah says and prays the following:

And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 1:26-2:2)…

She came and hugged me, and said that Hannah’s was her story and Samuel’s story was my story. Rachel (my mom) told me that the doctors told her she would never have a child again. She lost two children due to complications between my sister – Miriam – and myself.

I never knew the story of my mom and dad’s loss until this day, at this moment, at the table in our kitchen. In short, my mother had always wanted six children (two of them I will meet for the first time in Heaven one day). I have two brothers – Daniel, 15 years my senior and George, 10 years older than me; and a sister that’s 8 years older than me – Miriam. One child my mom lost was never named (but will have a name that Jesus has given according to Revelation), the other was named Michelle.

My mom went and got my dad from the office and she shared the story of how she prayed that if God gave her another child – she and my dad would dedicate him to the Lord – just as Hannah had dedicated Samuel. Talk about a confirmation! We all wept and prayed, and thanked the Lord for His answers to prayer to my faithful parents prayer to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

About the Picture above: My parents have been the biggest influences on my life spiritually. My dad, Daniel, will be 90 in January; and my mom, Rachel, will be 81. They prayed for me before I was born. They read the Bible to me from the time I was a baby (and still quote it to me on the phone or every time we are together). They are my biggest heroes in life. They are going to be married 64 years on December 4, 2012. My parents have always been my biggest fans, but better than that – they have been huge fans of Jesus, His Church, and the spread of the Gospel around the world. They have had a lot of difficult times financially, physically, and have lost almost all their life-long friends. And yet they always have a smile on their faces and exhibit the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. I love them with such admiration, appreciation, and respect that I will never be able to convey in words. I am a Christian today because of the sovereign election of God in eternity past; and love and follow Jesus because they modeled His love and grace when I was growing up, and continue to do so, to this very day. I can’t think of two people who better model what the Apostle Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Jesus Christ.”

Since that day I have gone on to earn a B.S. (at Multnomah); a M.Div. at Talbot School of Theology; a doctorate and doctoral work in Theology and Pastoral Leadership at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, and Northwest Graduate School in Seattle. I have been a youth and senior pastor in California and Washington State. I have traveled to more than 30 countries on missions trips and training pastors and missionaries. I have discipled dozens of men. My best education was one I never purposely applied for, but have most definitely been “accepted” to. It’s proverbially called “The School of Hard Knocks.” I would concur with the great Reformer Martin Luther who summarized his learning in this way, ““Suffering has made me a better theologian than any book I’ve ever read.” However, I don’t think I’ve seen the tip of the iceberg of what God has entrusted unto me as a steward of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The questions I asked earlier are questions I’m still asking. Having been diagnosed with cancer recently and beginning radiation and chemotherapy in the next week, I pray that God will continue to change me and conform me to His Son. I pray that whether I live another forty-six years, or only have days to live for him – that people will know, see, and hear about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I desire more than anything that all my family members would know and follow Jesus. I firmly believe with the sentiment, “This life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

I have lived a wonderful life. I have been bruised and broken, but not crushed. I am becoming stronger through life’s trials and tribulations. Since the age of seventeen all I’ve ever wanted to do, is know Jesus intimately and make Him known.

This past year I’ve been doing some “life coaching” through a non-profit ministry I established called Vertical Living Ministries. I started this Pastoral ministry with the help of some wonderful people who have sacrificially contributed generously, so that I can make multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ around the world. I have trained people one-on-one and in small and large groups, discipled men and women, and trained people in Christ-centered living through this ministry.

I originally established Vertical Living MInistries to provide training for leaders in poor countries. We who live in America have access to so many good resources by way of books, conferences, Bible Colleges, and Seminaries. I have been to countries where pastors share one Bible amongst themselves and have absolutely no training or access to any resources whatsoever. However, now with my cancer, I really don’t know where God is calling me. However, I know that I will always be a pastor. I am a shepherd. I have had Jesus shepherd me, and I simply want to find other sheep who will follow hard after the Good Shepherd.

I call myself a Pastoral Coach because I want to encourage Christians to make Christ number one in their lives. I love “life” coaching because I can help disciples of Christ focus on the following nine areas of Christo-centricity.  Just as we talk about  a Planetary system that’s Helio, and not Geo-centered, I like to think of life functioning best when our lives revolve around, and in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

(1) Spiritually – Your Relationship to God through the Lordship of Jesus Christ. My main focus here is to help people understand the life transforming ramifications of the Gospel in your life: past, present, and future ramifications for today. Most Christians only remember or hold on to their past, or future in Christ and forget how the Gospel needs to be lived out on a daily basis – we are continually learning to repent and grow in our faith with Christ at the center of it all.

(2) Marriage – Your triune covenantal relationship with Christ at the center. Marriages can work for two unbelievers, and even sometimes when an unbeliever is married to an unbeliever. However, it was designed by God to not be a marriage of two, but of three. I help couples to practically make Christ the center of their “solar system” in their marriage.

(3) Family/Parenting – How to be a Christ-centered family and raise Children that love Jesus above all else. For many parents, their children become “idols.”, especially for women.  Their identity, security, and significance is oftentimes wrapped up in the performance, success, and behavior of their children. If their children are doing well – they are doing well. However, if a child rebels or is unsuccessful in life – they take it personally, and lose their way. Many “empty nesters” – especially women, become depressed and feel like life is meaningless when their kids move out of the home. I help parents to see that our security and significance needs to be properly placed in submission to the Lordship of Christ. Only God never changes. If we place our security in our kids or anything else – we are in big trouble. In raising our children we are merely short-term stewards of what is rightfully God’s. The greatest thing we can do as parents is to model Christo-centricity for our children. I’m grateful that my parents modeled and taught me daily that the most important thing in life is my relationship with and service unto Jesus.

(4) Vocationally – Your Work in the World and with the Church. Most women have the idolatry of “motherhood.” Most men see their significance and security in their work. Their identity is wrapped up in their position, possessions, and provisions for their families. Well, what happens to the man who loses his job, gets physically incapacitated, or runs into midlife.  You’ve been working at a job for 30 years and come to realize that you were climbing the wrong ladder that was leaning up against the wrong wall in your “prime” years? Men and women both have pseudo securities – or what the Bible calls “idolatry.” I try to teach people how to view their talents, passions, skills, abilities, and hobbies as unto the Lord. Ultimately, God is our boss and we will spend the bulk of our lives working – but do we find the pleasure of God in our work? Few things excite me more than seeing businessmen or women shine brightly for the sake of Christ in the context of making a profit that will last for eternity in the lives of others.

(5) Health – Taking care of your body that God will use on this earth until the day of your final glorification. This is one of the most neglected areas for Christians. It’s very easy to get out of balance in what we eat, how we exercise, and being responsible with the stewardship of our bodies. I love what C.S. Lewis says, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” In other words, we are dualists. We have an immaterial part of us, and we are housed in a physical body that must be maintained. Sometimes, we can’t control what happens to our bodies (Doctors don’t know how I got cancer). However, even if we have ailments and age, we still need to be responsible in taking care of our bodies as best as we can, so we can serve Jesus as long as we can, and as effectively as we can, while we “house” the soul.

(6) Friendship – Your connections and building bridges with others as you reflect Christ in your community. Too many people are wrapped up in work, family, and get isolated outside of community. I thank God for the emphasis on community by many churches. However, if you want to have friends, you must be a friend. Nobody models this better than Jesus, “a friend of sinners.” Friends are so important – especially in tough times. Having friends and family means the world to me especially when the “going gets tough.” I firmly believe that especially among pastors (health and friendships are two of the most neglected areas in this list of nine – and that it’s what will “do them in” during mid-life or their retirement years).

(7) Financially – Your stewardship of God’s resources. I can honestly say that having to give away or sell more than 6,000 theology books in the past five years, going from a 3,400 square foot house we owned to a 1,600 square foot condo we rent, and having to give away all our pets (four cats and a dog) have been some of the hardest things to go through, but also some of the best. Money and possessions (having control) is a huge idolatry in our culture. Simple is better. Jesus left earth for Heaven literally naked – and so will we. However, are you content with only Him and nothing else? Look at the difference Jesus made two thousand years ago, and is still making today. He owned nothing and left no possessions behind. Nothing “owned” Him. What owns you? I believe that generosity exhibits the nature and character of God perhaps more fully than any other trait. For example, I don’t think it’s coincidence that the most famous verse in the Bible is about the greatest sacrifice and the greatest gift: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Aren’t you glad God is a giver? How about you? I believe that Tim Keller is dead-on here when he says, “Idolatry is just a failure to obey God, It’s setting the whole heart on something besides God… Where your money goes most effortlessly, that’s where your heart really rests.” In my life I’ve found peace and rest not in the economy, but in Jesus alone – and He never changes – satisfaction is truly found when you realize that when God is all you have, He’s all you really need.

(8) Mentoring – Investing in Others Using your unique Skills, Gifting, Talents, Personality, and Passion. I’m forty-six years old and have never really been formally discipled or mentored by anyone. That’s a tragedy of the first order. I firmly believe that every single man and every woman has strengths and skills to teach future generations, but these don’t typically happen without intentionality. I train people to use their unique gifts, passions, abilities, skills, and so forth and pass those on to future generations – with intentionality. It really upsets me to no end to see how self-absorbed we’ve become. We have our I-pads, I-pods, and I-phones, and have become “I-focused”! Don’t get me wrong – I love technology, but for many it’s become an obsession and an idol. We need to become more focused on Jesus and others if we want to make a difference that will last into eternity. I love what Paul says about Jesus in Philippians 2:4-5, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

(9) Discipleship – You’re investing in the Spiritual Growth of other followers and would-be followers of Christ. Nothing gets me more riled up than the lack of lifestyle and intentional discipleship taking place among Christians. Again, without intentionality this just doesn’t happen. I have asked men in their twenties up until their eighties if they have ever been discipled by another man – In thirty years of doing ministry I hear “Never” or “What are you talking about” at least 90% of the time. This is unconscionable! And yet, the great commission is all about “making disciples” of all nations. Are you intentionally making disciples in your circle of influence with your children, friends, neighbors, spouses, family, co-workers, teammates, and fellow students?

It is my prayer and hope to take the baton that has been passed on to me from my godly heritage in these nine areas. I hope that God will use my cancer to further the Gospel. I desire to teach, preach, and live for the glory of Christ while I have breath.

My life verses are 1 Timothy 4:16 where the Apostle Paul says to Timothy: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Acts 20:24, where the Apostle Paul proclaims, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

And Romans 8:16-18 & 28-30, where the Apostle Paul declares, The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

It’s been about 13 months since I last preached – I haven’t had any invitations. And yet the passion of my soul is to preach the Gospel. Sometimes I feel like a Pastor who is a dinosaur in the 21st century, fast-paced Church. I have tried to get a job in a modern church for the past 13 months – in churches that appear to want CEO’s, not Shepherds; Programs, not Preachers; is more concerned about being politically correct and pragmatic than Theologically correct and Christ-centered. Whether I end up pastoring again in a local church or life coaching, I can’t help but be what I am – dependent on God’s mercy and grace as I battle cancer. Since the age of seventeen all I’ve ever wanted to do, is to know Jesus and to make Him known.

I love Him because He first loved me. I love the gospel and to declare it with my whole heart, mind, and soul. I love to shepherd people – not because I’m a great shepherd, but because I have a Great Shepherd! His name is Jesus! As long as I have breath I will declare Him among the nations. I will serve Him because He came to seek, serve, and save me first. He is my peace, and He is the hope of all nations. He will reign on the Earth again, and I will reign with Him. Until that day, I believe wholeheartedly with these words of Paul David Tripp:

“No matter how great your weakness is, God’s power is greater. No matter how out of control your life is, God’s sovereignty is greater. No matter how alone you may feel, God’s presence is greater. No matter how out of control your life is, God’s provisions are greater. No matter how deep your sin is, God’s grace is deeper. No matter how foolish your foolishness is, God’s wisdom is greater. The same sovereign God who planned the details of your life sent his Son so you would have what you need to face what He willed for you.”

According to the New American Oxford Dictionary a “Pastor” is “one who gives guidance to someone.” A coach is “a tutor who gives private or specialized teaching.” It is my desire to guide people with the experiences and education I’ve received and to teach them of Jesus at the center of all of life. Whether in a local church as a pastor, or in the Church universal as a “pastoral life coach.” I only want to invest in that which matters for eternity. All these years I have preached the Gospel – how one can have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now as I battle cancer, it is my desire to preach with my life and suffering how to have peace with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Once again I quote from the Apostle Paul,

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (12 Corinthians 5:14-15).

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14).

 Sola Scriptura! Sola Fide! Sola Gratia! Solus Christus! Soli Deo Gloria!

 (Scripture Alone! Faith Alone! Grace Alone! Christ Alone – To God be the Glory Alone!)

Richard Baxter on The Importance of Hard Work

Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive an inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

(1)  You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.

(2)  You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind, that swarm in the minds of idle persons.

(3)  You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.

(4)  You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.

(5)  You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle persons have no time for praying and reading because they lose time by loitering at their work.

(6)  You may expect God’s blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.

(7)  It may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul.

About Richard Baxter: A Mini-Biography

Excerpt from Meet the Puritans

by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson

Richard Baxter was born in 1615, in Rowton, near Shrewsbury, in Shropshire. He was the only son of Beatrice Adeney and Richard Baxter, Sr. Because of his father’s gambling habit and inherited debts, and his mother’s poor health, Richard lived with his maternal grandparents for the first ten years of his life. When his father was converted through “the bare reading of the Scriptures in private,” Richard returned to his parental home, and later acknowledged that God used his father’s serious talks about God and eternity as “the Instrument of my first Convictions, and Approbation of a Holy Life” (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:2-4).

Baxter’s education was largely informal; he later wrote that he had four teachers in six years, all of whom were ignorant and two led immoral lives. Nevertheless, he had a fertile mind, and enjoyed reading and studying. A prolonged illness and various books—particularly William Perkins’s Works—were the means God used to “resolve me for himself,” Baxter wrote (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:3-4). When he was fifteen, he was deeply affected by Richard Sibbes’s The Bruised Reed: “Sibbes opened more the love of God to me, and gave me a livelier apprehension of the mystery of redemption and how much I was beholden to Jesus Christ.” Subsequently, Ezekiel Culverwell’s Treatise of Faith (1623) “did me much good” (ibid., 1:4-5).

Baxter’s education took a turn for the better when he transferred to the Wroxeter grammar school, where he received some tuition support from a schoolmaster named John Owen. His best teacher there was an erudite minister, Francis Garbet, who took a real interest in Baxter. At the age of sixteen, under Owen’s persuasion, Baxter decided to forego university in favor of placing himself under the instruction of Owen’s friend, Richard Wickstead, chaplain at Ludlow Castle, who tutored him rather half-heartedly for eighteen months.

In 1633, Baxter went to London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, in the court of Charles I. Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock, two godly Puritan ministers in London, roused his sympathy for nonconformity, but he stayed in London only four weeks. Having become dissatisfied with the worldly court life in London and desiring to care for his ailing mother, he returned home in 1634; his mother died in May of 1635. He spent the next four years privately studying theology, particularly that of the scholastics, including Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham.

At age twenty-three, having as yet “no scruple at all against subscription,” and thinking “the Conformists had the better cause” (ibid., 1:13), Baxter was ordained deacon by John Thornborough, the elderly bishop of Worcester. For nine months he served as master of the school founded at Dudley, a center of nonconformity. In 1639, he became an assistant minister at Bridgnorth, Shropshire, where he developed a deeper appreciation for nonconformity.

In 1641, Baxter became curate at Kidderminster. Though many among a rather corrupt and crude population of handloom workers were initially offended by his forceful preaching and stress on a controlled Lord’s Supper and on church discipline, his seventeen-year ministry there (1641-42, 1647-61) bore substantial fruit. He preached as “a dying man to dying men,” which, with the Spirit’s blessing, resulted in numerous conversions. His praying was no less intense: “His soul tookwing for heaven and rapt up the souls of others with him” (Leonard Bacon, Select Practical Writings of Richard Baxter [New Haven, 1831], 1:262).

During the early days of the Civil War, Baxter supported, and on occasion accompanied, the Parliamentary Army. He preached before Cromwell, but he was uncomfortable with the Protector’s toleration of separatists. Though he was only an occasional “conformer,” Baxter favored being part of an established church and opposed the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. He also believed that the antinomian tendencies of some of the soldiers and preachers, such as Tobias Crisp and John Saltmarsh, were antithetical to practical Christian living. Their teaching prompted him to write Aphorisms of Justification (1649), in which he argued for a combination of divine grace and human cooperation in justification.

In 1647, Baxter’s prolonged illnesses compelled him to leave the army. He recuperated at the Worcestershire home of Sir Thomas and Lady Rous, where he wrote the first part of The Saints’ Everlasting Rest. He later said he wrote it as a labor of love while “looking death full in the face and yet experiencing the sufficient grace of God.”

After he recovered, Baxter returned to Kidderminster, where he concentrated on writing. “My writings were my chiefest daily labor,” he wrote, whereas “preaching and preparing for it, were but my recreation” (Reliquae, p. 85). He also catechized church members two days each week. He went from home to home with an assistant, speaking with each family for one hour and providing each family with an edifying book or two, usually written by himself. He said of these visits, “Few families went from me without some tears, or seemingly serious promises [to strive] for a godly life.” He added, “Some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse of conscience in half an hour’s close disclosure, than they did from ten year’s public preaching” (ibid., 1:83ff.).

The home visits bore fruit. The congregation kept overflowing its meeting place so that five galleries had to be added. When Baxter came to Kidderminster, scarcely one family on each street among the 800 families honored God in family worship. By the end of his ministry in 1661, there were streets on which every family did so. On the Sabbath, he writes, “you might hear an hundred families singing Psalms and repeating sermons, as you passed through the streets.” Of the approximately six hundred people who became full communicants under his ministry, he adds, “There was not twelve that I had not good hopes of, as to their sincerity” (ibid., 1:84-85).

Baxter worked hard, despite chronic pain from the age of twenty-one until the end of his life. He suffered from tuberculosis and feared consumption. In the years following the Restoration, he left Kidderminster for London, where he often preached at St. Dunstan’s and lectured at Pinner’s Hall and Fetters Lane. He pleaded in vain, however, at the Savoy Conference (1661) for the non-prelatical, synodical form of episcopacy devised by Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) and for a Puritan revision of the Prayer Book.

In 1662, Baxter was ejected from the Church of England by the Act of Uniformity. He continued to preach for the rest of his life where he could, but never gathered a congregation of his own. J. I. Packer writes, “Miscalled a Presbyterian, Baxter was a reluctant Nonconformist who favored monarchy, national churches, liturgy and episcopacy, and could accept the unsympathetically revised 1662 Prayer Book. But the 1662 Act of Uniformity required renunciation on oath of Puritan ideals of reformation as a condition of incumbency in the restored Church of England, and Baxter balked at that” (New Dictionary of Theology, p. 83).

After his ejection, when he was almost fifty, Baxter married one of his converts, Margaret Charlton, who was in her early twenties. The disparity of their ages caused some consternation for a time, but the excellence of their marriage in Christ silenced the rumors. Margaret proved to be a devout Christian and faithful wife who earnestly yearned for the salvation of souls. Baxter’s tenderness toward her, and her godliness, are described in Breviate of the Life of Mrs. Margaret Baxter (1681). There Baxter writes that he “never knew her equal” in practical divinity, for she was “better at resolving a case of conscience than most Divines that ever I knew.” Consequently, Baxter habitually shared all cases with her except for those that compelled confidentiality (Breviate, pp. 67-68).

The Baxters settled in London. Prelates and magistrates hounded Baxter for most of his remaining years. He was imprisoned at least three times for preaching and never again resumed a pastoral charge; even his books were taken from him. His response was, “I found I was near the end of both that work and that life which needeth books, and so I easily let go all.” Once, even the bed on which he was lying sick was confiscated.

After James II took the throne in 1685, Baxter was charged with attacking episcopacy in Paraphrase on the New Testament and was brought before Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys. Jeffreys charged Baxter with seditious behavior, calling him “an old rogue who poisoned the world with his Kidderminster doctrine.” Jeffreys went on to exclaim, “This conceited, stubborn, fanatical dog—that did not conform when he might have been preferred; hang him!” The bishop of London intervened, and Baxter was spared a public whipping, though he was still imprisoned
for five more months.

Baxter eventually benefited from the Toleration Act of 1689, introduced by William and Mary to protect nonconformists. His last days were spent in the pleasant surroundings of Charterhouse Square. He occasionally preached to large crowds there, but he spent most of his time writing. When he was dying and a friend reminded him of the benefits many had received from his writings, Baxter replied, “I was but a pen in God’s hand, and what praise is due to a pen?” By the time he died on December 8, 1691, Baxter had written about 150 treatises, as well as hundreds of unpublished letters and papers.

Baxter’s writings are a strange theological mix. He was one of a few Puritans whose doctrines of God’s decrees, atonement, and justification were anything but Reformed. Though he generally structured his theology along Reformed lines of thought, he frequently leaned towards Arminian thinking. He developed his own notion of universal redemption, which offended Calvinists, but retained a form of personal election, which offended Arminians. He rejected reprobation. He was greatly influenced by the Amyraldians and incorporated much of their thinking, including hypothetical universalism, which teaches that Christ hypothetically died for all men, but His death only has real benefit to those who believe. For Baxter, Christ’s death was more of a legal satisfaction of the law than a personal substitutionary death on behalf of elect sinners.

Baxter’s approach to justification has been called neonomianism (that is, “new law”); he said that God has made a new law offering forgiveness to repentant breakers of the old law. Faith and repentance—the new laws that must be obeyed—become the believer’s personal, saving righteousness that is sustained by preserving grace. Baxter’s soteriology, then, is Amyraldian with the addition of Arminian “new law” teaching. Happily, these erroneous doctrines do not surface much in Baxter’s devotional writings, which are geared mainly to encourage one’s sanctification rather than to teach theology.

Baxter professed to resent having to write polemical treatises: “Controversies I have written of, but only to end them, not to make them.” Hans Boersma has shown, however, that though irenic in some respects, Baxter could be provocative as well (see A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification in its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy [Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 1993]).

Modern Reprints

A Call to the Unconverted (Zondervan; 170 pages; 1953). This classic evangelistic “tract,” based on Ezekiel 33:11, reveals Baxter’s passionate concern for evangelism. It is an earnest and reasoned appeal to the unsaved to turn to God and accept His offered mercy. Here is one example:

If thou die unconverted, there is no doubt to be made of thy damnation; and thou are not sure to live an hour, and yet art thou not ready to turn and to come in? Oh miserable wretch! Hast thou not served the flesh and the devil long enough yet? Hast thou not enough of sin? Is it so good to thee? or so profitable for thee? Dost thou know what it is, that thou wouldst yet have more of it? Hast thou had so many calls and so many mercies, and so many blows, and so many examples? Hast thou seen so many laid in the grave, and yet art thou not ready to let go thy sins and come to Christ? What? After so many convictions and gripes of conscience, after so many purposes and promises, art thou not ready yet to turn and live? Oh that thy eyes, thy heart were opened to know how fair an offer is now made to thee! and what joyful message it is that we are sent on, to bid thee come, for all things are ready (pp. 70-71).

Stressing that sinners “die because they will die; that is, because they will not turn,” Baxter says, “So earnest is God for the conversion of sinners, that he doubleth his commands and exhortations with vehemency, Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?” Discernment is necessary in reading this book, since Baxter’s unsound views do occasionally surface.

Dying Thoughts (Baker; 144 pages; 2004). Based on Philippians 1:23, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better,” Baxter sets forth a proper attitude towards the present life and the life hereafter. Dying Thoughts was written shortly before Baxter’s death in 1691. It breathes a spirit of vital faith in the promises of God.

This reprint was abridged by Benjamin Fawcett. It also contains an excellent introductory essay by Edward Donnelly, “A Corrective for Reformed Preachers,” which gleans practical lessons for ministers from Baxter’s preaching.

The Practical Works of Richard Baxter (SDG; 4 vols., 4,201 pages; 2000). Baxter authored about 150 books, of which several were folios of more than a million words. If his entire works were ever to be printed, they would amount to more than double the size of Owen’s. Most of Baxter’s books are homiletical, catechetical, biographical, historical, practical, philosophical, ethical, or polemical in nature, though he also published commentaries, poetry, and politics. Keeble writes, “Puritanism had always utilized the press, but there had never been a literary career like this, either in scale or in success: Baxter was the first author of a string of bestsellers in British literary history” (Oxford DNB, 4:430).

Baxter’s practical writings were usually the most popular. His Practical Works were published in four folio volumes in London in 1707, then helpfully edited by William Orme and republished in twenty-three volumes in 1830, after which H. R. Rogers’s four-volume set was published in 1868. The SDG reprint in 2000 is of the Rogers set.

The first volume, A Christian Directory (1673), offers keen insights into the life of the believer, expounding practical and casuistical divinity in more than a million words. No Puritan work on applied theology has approached the popularity, scope, or depth of this treatise. With widespread interest in counseling and practical, biblical living in today’s church, this reprint of Baxter’s work should be a welcome addition to every library and to anyone who wishes to give solid scriptural
answers to man’s most important questions.

Volume 2, titled A Call to the Unconverted (1658), contains that work unabridged, plus eleven treatises, including The Reasons of the Christian Religion, The Unreasonableness of Infidelity, A Treatise of Conversion, and The Character of a Sound, Confirmed Christian. Volume 3 contains The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1649), A Treatise of Self-Denial (1659), Dying Thoughts (1683), and other miscellaneous treatises. Volume 4 contains the unabridged version of the masterful treatise The Reformed Pastor (1656), as well as The Catechising of Families, The Vain Religion of the Formal Hypocrite, various sermons, and thirteen smaller treatises, including The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith—perhaps the most undervalued work of Baxter. In it, Baxter, as a physician of souls, probes with remarkable insight into the human psyche and offers suggestions for the cure of depression and other mental ailments. For example, Baxter says, “As much as you can, divert them from the thoughts which are their trouble; keep them on some other talks and business; break in upon them and interrupt their musings; rouse them out of it, but with loving importunity; suffer them not to be long alone; get fit company to them, or them to it; especially, suffer them not to be idle, but drive or draw them to some pleasing works which may stir the body, and employ the thoughts” (Practical Works, 4:933).

The Reformed Pastor (BTT; 256 pages; 1999). Abridged from the original work, this edition offers a more accessible look at Baxter’s pastoral theology. Writing this book out of a deep determination to rectify the pastoral neglect he had experienced as a young man in the West Midlands, Baxter describes in zealous detail the oversight pastors are to have over themselves first and then over their flocks, out of heartfelt love for souls (Acts 20:28).

By “Reformed” in the title, Baxter does not only mean that pastors should be “Calvinistic,” but they must be “revived.” He excels in convincing ministers of their high calling to pursue personal revival and to take up their work seriously and prayerfully. Certain portions of this book are remarkably convicting, such as Baxter’s denunciation of pastoral pride. He also offers much practical guidance for dealing with the perennial problems of instructing and guiding the church. This is Baxter at his best.

Philip Doddridge writes of this work: “The Reformed Pastor should be read by every young minister, before he takes a people under his stated care; and, I think, the practical part of it reviewed every three or four years; for nothing would have a greater tendency to awaken the spirit of a minister to that zeal in his work, for want of which many good men are but shadows of what they might be, if the maxims and measures laid down in that incomparable treatise were strenuously pursued.”

Reliquiae Baxterianae (RE; 312 pages; n.d.). This work contains considerably less than half of the original which first appeared in 1696 under the editorship of Matthew Sylvester. While the original, which has never been reprinted in its entirety, has been called “a confused and shapeless hulk,” it remains an important source for seventeenth-century history. Edmund Calamy (1671-1732) condensed Baxter’s work into a more readable edition and published it in 1702. In 1925, J. M. Lloyd Thomas edited an unsatisfactory abridgment, The Autobiography of Richard Baxter (London: Dent). The current edition, published in the 1990s, though uneven in quality, contains fascinating insights into Baxter’s life and offers valuable nuggets of wisdom, particularly for ministers.

The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (CFP; 704 pages; 1999). This is deservedly one of the most valued of Baxter’s practical works. He wrote most of the book when he was far from home and had no book but the Bible to consult. Being ill for many months and expecting to die, he fixed his thoughts on the believer’s eternal rest in Christ. After he recovered, Baxter preached these thoughts in his weekly lectures at Kidderminster. Thomas Doolittle, a native of Kidderminster who later became a well-known Puritan minister and author, dated his conversion to the time when he heard these lectures.

In 1650, Baxter published the substance of his lectures as the first of many practical writings. William Bates wrote of this book: “To allure our desires, he unveils the sanctuary above, and discovers the glories and joys of the blessed in the divine presence, by a light so strong and lively, that all the glittering vanities of this world vanish in the comparison, and a sincere believer will despise them, as one of mature age does the toys of children. To excite our fear, he removes the screen, and makes the everlasting fire of hell so visible, and represents the tormenting passions of the damned in such dreadful colors, as, if duly considered, would check and control the unbridled, licentious appetites of the most sensual wretches.”

The Puritan minister John Janeway said that his conversion was greatly influenced by reading Baxter’s book. Referring to the part of the book that explains heavenly contemplation, Janeway wrote to a friend, “There is a duty, which, if it were exercised, would dispel all cause of melancholy: I mean heavenly meditation and contemplation of the things to which the true Christian religion tends. If we did but walk closely with God one hour in a day in this duty, O what influence would it have upon the whole day besides, and, duly performed, upon the whole life! This duty, with its usefulness, manner, and directions, I knew in some measure before, but had it more pressed upon me by Mr. Baxter’s Saints’ Everlasting Rest, a book that can scarce be overvalued, and for which I have cause for ever to bless God.”

*Excerpt from Meet the Puritans 
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson.

Book Review: Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by Wayne Coffey and R.A. Dickey

Absolutely Inspiring: Review by Dr. David P. Craig

Words totally escape me to describe how good this book is. However, as a fellow baseball enthusiast, struggler of life’s ups and downs, and a person who is trying to figure out how to go beyond survival to making the most of life – this book was a total God send – it is real, authentic, intense, gut wrenching, and absolutely inspiring.

If you need hope to press on; need encouragement; need a shot in the arm; need inspiration; need a smile; need someone to root for; if you need to get out of the miry pit that you may find yourself in – this book will spur you on; encourage you; and give you hope to press on.

R.A. Dickey – thanks for pressing on when all the odds were against you; thanks for your example of endurance, perseverance, integrity, and hard work. I’ve never seen a professional athlete that is so worthy of every thing you are achieving and receiving as a result of your efforts.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I can almost guarantee that you will have a new favorite baseball player after reading this book – and a genuine hero that you can look up to in a society that needs more men and women like R.A. Dickey in all walks of life.

R.A. Dickey is a great example of someone who is not perfect – but has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through a personal relationship with his Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.

Book Review on John Stott: The Humble Leader by Julia Cameron

[The Humble Leader: John Stott was written by Julia Cameron. Published by Christian Focus Publications Ltd., Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland & Great Britan. I was furnished with an I-Book copy for review free of charge for an honest review – I was not required to provide a positive review]


A Nostalgic Review – By Dr. David P. Craig

I first met John Stott somewhere between 1986-1987 after he had given a message at a Chapel service at what was then called Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University) in Portland, Oregon. After he spoke he stayed for lunch and ate in the cafeteria. I was privileged to sit with him and hear his wisdom for over an hour. I was impressed with his humility, knowledge of the Scriptures, and genuine concern for us students. Two years later I was returning from spending two months in Spain on a missions trip and met up with my parents in London for a few days. While there we worshiped at All Souls Church in London and worshiped and listened intently as John Stott delivered a wonderful Christo-centric sermon from Isaiah. Afterwards while waiting in a very long line to greet “Uncle John” he said to me without hesitation, “Hello David, how is your ministry at Multnomah going?” I couldn’t believe that he remembered my name, my ministry (with junior highers at the time), and where I was going to school! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. I have always held Stott’s commentaries, books, and ministry in high regard – but what I loved most about Stott – was his genuine love for, and ability to shepherd like the Chief Shepherd – not just his local sheep, but around the world. I have taken random samples of tribute from Stott in this short article – many are from memorial services held for him around the globe, and some are from tributes in various venues. May John Stott’s tribe increase! We miss you Uncle John!

As I write this review it’s been one year since John Stott went to be with the Lord – July 27, 2011. A tremendous loss for the Church in the world – Heaven’s gain! I can’t recommend this book highly enough for would-be pastors; pastors; Bible scholars; missionaries; church leaders of all stripes; and world Christians across the globe. John Stott was absolutely brilliant; wholeheartedly dedicated to his flock as an under shepherd of Christ; a first rate Bible scholar; an expositor of the first order that was able to bridge the Biblical world with our own with total authority, sufficiency, and relevancy; and an unheralded disciple maker of leaders of all ethnic groups around the globe. He was a tireless worker with students, scholars, pastors, missionaries, and leaders for the furtherance of the gospel and the strengthening of the church around the globe. In my opinion – he was the model modern pastor – missional (he multiplied disciples, leaders, and multiplied movements for gospel multiplication) pastoral, loving, humble, scholarly, fully committed to the work and message of Christ.

I only hope that there will be more pastors like him until the return of Christ – pastors that don’t play politics; pastors that love and shepherd the flock whether they are rich or poor (he had a tremendous heart for the poor as recounted in this book); pastors who study hard to feed their flock the milk and meat of the Word; pastors who love and train young leaders; pastors who are humbled and submitted to the Lordship of Christ – and preaching nothing but the cross of Christ! I hope that many will read this book and be humbled and dedicated to the Chief Shepherd – as Stott was! I miss him terribly, and long for those of his ilk.

Warren W. Wiersbe on the Joys of Reading

Warren Wiersbe gives three reasons why he enjoys reading:

First, there’s the joy of meeting people I’ve always wanted to meet. If it were announced that Hudson Taylor or Charles Spurgeon or Campbell Morgan was speaking at a particular church, Christians from all over the world would show up. But we forget that when we open up a book by Hudson Taylor, for example, that man is speaking to us.

Another joy is visiting great periods of history. I would like to have lived in London from 1835 to about 1895, the Victorian era.… I could have traveled from place to place, hearing some of the greatest people who ever walked the face of God’s earth—F. B. Meyer, D. L. Moody, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Joseph Parker, Alexander Maclaren …

“A third joy I have in reading is grappling with great issues.… Everyone is a philosopher because everyone has some view of life.”

*Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe has been a pastor for many years, a teacher on the Back to the Bible Broadcast, and is best known as the author of over 100 practical books on the Christian life – most notably the “Be” Series of books covering the entire span of the Bible expositionally.


Dr. Roger Nicole – One of the Finest Theologians of the 20th Century You Probably Never Heard Of

A Mini-Biography of Dr. Roger Nicole (1915-2010) by Justin Taylor

December 10, 2010, was the 95th birthday of Roger Nicole, the great Reformed-Baptist theologian.

This evening was his homegoing to be with his Lord. He has completed his earthly race. Having fought the good fight of faith, he entered into the joy of his Master. And undoubtedly he heard the words we all long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

He was, by common consent, a theological giant. (See these brief reflections by Don Carson, Tim Keller, and Mark Dever.) But because he never wrote a book and didn’t travel the conference circuit, many evangelicals have not heard of him, to our detriment. As Timothy George has written:

Roger Nicole is one of European Christianity’s greatest gifts to the American church. His role in the shaping of American evangelical theology in the latter half of the twentieth century was enormous and deserves to be better known.

J. I. Packer has a gift not only for summarizing theological truth in a concise, compact way, but also for getting to the heart of a friend’s character and legacy. A few years ago he was able to summarize Roger Nicole in a sentence:

Awesome for brain power, learning, and wisdom; endlessly patient and courteous in his gentle geniality; and beloved by a multitude as pastor, mentor, and friend.

In his introduction to a biography of Dr. Nicole, Packer expands the tribute with regard to the man’s graciousness:

For a man of such power of mind, clarity of thought, range of knowledge and strength in argument, Roger’s patience and courtesy toward the less well favored is a marvel that has become a legend. He was said when first I knew him to have learned to greet people in something like fifty different languages so that he could always welcome overseas students and make them feel at home. Such sweet pastoral care in the conventional coolness of academia is also the stuff of legend, and deservedly so. No one could ever accuse Roger of throwing his weight about; very much a Swiss gentlemen in style, he is also a gentle man and a great encourager, overflowing with goodwill at all times. He has been a model for me in this, as in so much more. Roger stands at the head of my private list of persons worth celebrating, and I am sure I am not the only one who would say that.

Roger R. Nicole was born December 10, 1915, a natural-born Swiss citizen, in Charlottenburg (greater Berlin), Germany. His father was a pastor, and the family moved back to Switzerland when Roger was four and a half years old. He lived there until the age of twenty.

His education was extensive. He received a BA from Gymnase Classique in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1935 he moved to France and received an MA from the Sorbonne in Paris; and a diploma from the Bible Institute of Nogent Marne in France, where Roger’s older brother Jules was his principal and teacher.

In 1938 he moved to the United States and entered Gordon Divinity School in Boston and would earn three degrees from the school: BD in 1939; STM in 1940; ThD in 1943. In 1944, at the age of 29, he began teaching at Gordon and became professor of theology in 1949.

In the 1940s he met Annette Cyr. She had left home at the age of 16 due to family difficulties, worked in a factory until she was 26, and then became one of the first women to join the Coast Guard. She received her first Bible from Roger when he was pastoring a local church. They would marry in 1946, a union that would last for 61 years. An obituary of Mrs. Nicole would note:

The couple did not have biological children but there are 19 people in the U.S., Africa and Asia who call them Mama and Papa. “These are some of the students we sort of ‘adopted’ throughout my career who regard us as their parents,” Roger Nicole said.

John Piper has written that “One clear mark of Christlike tenderness is love for children,” and several of Roger Nicole’s friends have noted his love of children. David Bailey says, “He converses as effortlessly with a five-year old child as with an academic colleague.”

Timothy George writes of Roger and Annette, “For many decades they have modeled the graces of Christian hospitality. Several generations of students and colleagues have known the largesse of their table and the conviviality of their home.”

Packer recalls meeting the couple for the first time:

One of my cherished memories is of the day, nearly half a century ago, when they lunched in our home and Annette laid into me with passion for being an Anglican and not a Baptist while Roger, beaming all over his face (and how that man can beam!) sat silent enjoying the fun. They are two of the most warm-hearted, free-spirited, and altogether delightful believers that it has been my privilege to know.

In 1947 he gave his first lecture on the atonement, at Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Portland. He provided a biblical theology of the atonement from Genesis to Revelation, arguing for its centrality. His work on the atonement remains one of his lasting legacies today. He was still writing on the topic into his 90s. (For a classroom definition of the gospel, achieved by the atonement, click here.)

He was a founding member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), established in 1949. Dr. Nicole served as Vice President in 1955 and President in 1956.

In 1967 he would receive his second doctorate, a research PhD from Harvard University. Wheaton College would grant him the D.D. in 1978.

In the 1970s he served as an assistant translator for the New International Version, and as a founding member of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, which produced the Chicago Statement, among other documents.

In 1986, after 41 years of teaching at Gordon-Conwell, the Nicoles moved to Orlando where he continued teaching at Reformed Theological Seminary. They would spend their remaining decades in Central Florida.

In 1987 he worked with other egalitarians to form the organization Christians for Biblical Equality, to the disappointment of many and the delight of others.

During the 1980s he also served as an associate editor for the New Geneva Study Bible, which has today been revised as the Reformation Study Bible.

In 2001—at the age of 86—Dr. Nicole wrote a review of Greg Boyd’s God of the Possible, a defense of “open theism,” and in 2002 he presented charges against Clark Pinnock and John Sanders for their advocacy of “open theism,” saying, “I present this motion with a heavy heart.” In his correspondence with these men—whom he thought were undermining the very character of God as revealed in Holy Scripture—he would sign his letters with typical graciousnessness: simply, “Love, Roger.”

He was a collector by nature. As an avid stamp collector, he amassed over 1 million stamps throughout his lifetime. And as a bibliophile, his personal library consisted of over 26,000 volumes—not including 6,000 mystery novels! Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando now houses the Roger Nicole Collection, consisting of 25,000 theological works, including many rare volumes from the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 2004 his friends and colleagues honored him with a Festchrift: The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Historical & Practical Perspectives: Essays in Honor of Roger R. Nicole, edited by Charles Hill and Frank James. Keeping a Festchrift from an honoree is no easy task—and in this case it proved unsuccessful! When Dr. Nicole saw pre-publication mention of the book in IVP’s academic catalog, he boldly approached one of the editors asking if he could contribute, given that the book’s theme aligned so closely with one of his great passions! The editors confessed the nature of the project, and Dr. Nicole was able to include a brief post-script on penal substitution.

David W. Bailey, who took classes with Dr. Nicole at an extension site of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and would later write his authorized biography, recalls:

During his lectures, several of the students, on occasion, would weep. His keen mind (as an octogenerian!) was demonstrated in his total lack of notes (just an NIV Bible and a Greek New Testament!) and his ability to teach for nearly four hours solid at night (from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.) with only a 20-minute nap in between, from which he did not need to be awakened. He was gracious in handling questions from “difficult students.” We were deeply impressed by his complete transparency regarding his own Christian pilgrimage, his manifest godliness, his willingness to share with the students volumes from his own library due to the limitations of an extension center library. Such obvious brilliance was coupled with a love for stamp-collecting and mystery novels and an incredible knowledge of books. One feels both more intellectual and more Christ-like just spending time with Roger Nicole.

David Wells, his Gordon-Conwell colleague, dedicated a collection of essays on Reformed theology to Roger Nicole, and tried to get at the “center” of his theological vision:

The sovereignty of God, expressed in grace and in judgment, has always been at the center of Roger’s vision. It has led him to think globally. He has always been a strong supporter of missions because he is confident that God is great enough to accomplish his saving purposes worldwide. It has also led him to walk humbly because he knows that in our human fallenness resides no spiritual life. To know this is to be liberated from the clutches of that exaggerated and false sense of self-importance, which, in the end, undermines all human well-being. And it has given his life a serenity and stability that have been an example to his colleagues, students, and the administrators with whom he has worked. In times of crisis, he has been a source of wisdom; in turbulence, a source of strength. His unerring instinct for what is noble has touched those who have known him and has ever pointed to Jesus Christ, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

For an inspiring taste of the man’s careful, insightful thinking, take a look at John Muether’s interview with Dr. Nicole in 2008, when he was 92 years old (two weeks before his wife went to be with the Lord). They cover topics of atonement, inerrancy, New Perspective, and polemics.

One would be remiss not to highlight in particular a very important essay he wrote, originally delivered upon his 30th anniversary of teaching at Gordon-Conwell: “Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us.” (A slighter fuller version may be found at parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.) It remains a deeply relevant and timely piece for all of us to read and heed, and a model of grace.

Those interested in good, foundational essays—many of which helped to shape evangelical theology—to look at a copy of Standing Forth: Collected Writings of Roger Nicole, published in 2002 by Christian Focus.

For some sample lectures by Dr. Nicole, you can listen to this set of three talks online from the 1989 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, on the achievement of the cross.

Below are a few of his 100+ articles and reviews—some scholarly and some popular—which are available online. Note the number that were written in his 90s.

Don Sweeting, President of RTS-Orlando, was able to visit with Dr. Nicole a few weeks ago and wrote a blog post about it. The close of that post is a fitting tribute to a man who has entered glory, seeing his Savior face to face:

Dr. Nicole spoke of his own retrenchment, not with deep complaint, but with a proper sense of realism and lament that comes from any loss. There was melancholy in his voice as he reminisced about days gone by and noted what he no longer had.  But then he paused in the conversation. And with all the vigor of his French accented English emphatically exclaimed—“but I have joy.” And this, he said, could not be taken away! Not only that, but Dr. Nicole clearly understood that his present retrenchment is a season as well.

We ended our visit by opening up the Scriptures and reading together from Psalm 16. That great psalm begin—“Keep my safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. . . . I said to the LORD, ‘You are my LORD, apart from you I have no good thing. . . . You have assigned me my portion and my cup. . . . Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices.’”

It was with particular eagerness that Dr. Nicole recited from memory as I read the last part of the psalm.  “My body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. . . . You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Seeing beyond our seasons of accumulation and retrenchment, Dr. Nicole clearly had his eye on yet another season, which for him, seemed just around the corner.

This Article was written by Justin Taylor on December 11, 2010 @