The point of the ‘sheep and the goats’ passage is NOT that we should try harder to do good works

During his Olivet discourse, Jesus tells His disciples of the coming day of judgment when He shall separate the sheep from the goats:

31When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

Am I wasting my time studying 2,000 year-old texts?

Someone called Bill left a comment on my previous post. Bill asks a good question, namely this:

Is it worthwhile for us to spend significant amounts of time studying the Bible, the newest parts of which were written over 1,900 years ago?

Yes! In every way.

Why do I believe this?

An exercise in paying close attention to the text – should elders be married and have children?

I’m guessing that your church’s elders/pastors/shepherds/overseers/bishops – Biblically, all the same office – are not required to have children, right?

Given that opening question and the title of this article, you might be expecting me now to try and convince you that they should.

Nope, that’s not it.

I am going to make the argument that elders should have children. But not because I want to persuade you of this. No, rather because I hope my argument is wrong and I want you to show me why. I can’t see the flaw, but perhaps you can. And if so, please leave a comment and tell me what it is. I’d be very grateful, as I am rather uncomfortable with an interpretation that has been in the minority throughout much of church history. Think of this as a personal doctrinal loose-end that I’d like to tie up.

A listener’s guide to the pulpit

Most of the preachers were dynamic, engaging, interesting and even entertaining. Most of their sermons were terrible.

I’ve just come across this magnificent article, written by Pastor Todd Wilken of the Issues, Etc. radio program. It clearly shows the difference between a good and bad sermon.

Everyone who preaches, or listens to preachers, would benefit from reading this. Why not print a few copies and share them with friends?

How to diagnose a sermon

The excellent Issues, Etc* radio programme has this very handy diagnostic for reviewing sermons:

  1. How often is Jesus mentioned? Keep a simple running tally. It’s a problem if He is mentioned only a few times, or tucked in at the beginning or the end. If He is mentioned, even only once, go on to step 2.
  2. Is Jesus the subject of the verbs, the one doing the action? If He is, go on to step 3.
  3. What are the verbs? What is the preacher telling you what Jesus did, does, and will do for you? Is the Jesus that is presented one of pop therapeutic deism, who helps, inspires and gives examples? Or is He instead the Jesus of Scripture who lives, suffers, dies and rises again, all for you?

I find this to be a very helpful tool for evaluating the sermons that I hear week by week. Perhaps you will too.

* Disclaimer: the Issues, Etc programme has a Confessional Lutheran perspective. I am not a Confessional Lutheran and would differ from the show’s position on a number of important doctrinal points. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the hosts properly distinguish between Law and Gospel, and faithfully proclaim the true Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners and raised from the dead. I am therefore happy to commend the programme.

Does God have two wills?

If it is true that the Bible teaches that God unconditionally (i.e. not on the basis of foreseen faith) chooses those who are to be saved, and it does, does the Bible contradict itself when it says that God ‘desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:4)?

Put another way, if God really desires all men to be saved, why does He only choose some of them actually to be saved, while eternally condemning others?

In his article, Are There Two Wills in God? John Piper addresses this apparent problem head-on. He gives a cogent and coherent Bible-based explanation of how divine election and God’s desire for all to be saved are two harmonious and consistent truths.

Why ‘Better Than Sacrifice’?

In 1 Samuel 15, we read God’s instruction to King Saul to punish the city of Amalek by utterly destroying it. Not one man, woman, child, ox, sheep, camel or donkey was to be spared. Saul carries out the command – almost. But, he does not execute Agag, king of the Amalekites, and he spares the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs and ‘all that was good’.

The prophet Samuel confronts Saul with his sin, and pronounces God’s judgment with these words: