8 Reflections on Racism and Riots

I’m neither black nor white. I’m brown, or Asian American. And I’m a Christian; therefore, I will address racism and rioting from a biblical point of view. Here are my thoughts on these issues:

1) There’s only one race on earth and that is Adam’s race. Regardless of your skin color, your origin can be traced back to Adam (Genesis 1 & 2). We should therefore view ourselves as belonging to the same Adamic race. And having the same blood, we should love, and not hate, each other.

2) Since we have the same race, you can’t say that your race is better than other races. In fact, it doesn’t make sense to think that your race is superior to other races, since there’s only one race. Thus, to be a racist is inconsistent with the Bible. I think we see racism at its worst in the genocide of approximately six million Jews during Hitler’s time. Hitler thought that the Jews were an inferior group of people, “fit for enslavement, or even extermination.”

3) Whether you’re black, brown, red, white, or yellow, your life matters to God because He created you in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). So my life matters not because I’m brown but because I bear God’s image. Black lives matter not because of their color but because they are made in God’s image.

4) Since every life is created in God’s image, all lives (black, brown, red, white, and yellow) are equal. We should therefore treat every life with equal importance. George Floyd’s life was as important as the lives of those Nigerian Christians brutally murdered by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram.

According to genocidewatch.com, “350 Nigerian Christians were massacred in the first two months of 2020…Nigeria has become a killing field of defenseless Christians. Reliable sources show that between 11,500 and 12,000 Christians have been massacred since June 2015 when the Buhari Government of Nigeria came to power. Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen accounted for 7,400 murders of Christians. Boko Haram committed 4000 killings of Christians.”

Imagine since 2015 about 12,000 black lives were murdered in Nigeria! Right now there are demonstrations around the world, including England, Germany, and Canada, against the murder of George Floyd. Yet I can’t help but wonder why we also don’t hear an outcry regarding the mass killing of black lives in Nigeria? Is it because Nigerian lives are not as important as the lives of those living in the US? I’m not minimizing the horrible murder of Floyd, nor am I saying that police brutality should not be peacefully protested. However, if we really believe that all lives matter, we should treat every single life with equal worth. We should not pick and choose what life we want to value.

5) Since God’s image is sacred and since every life is made in God’s image, every life is not only important and equal, but also sacred. The murder of George Floyd was evil because it violated the sacredness of his life (Genesis 9:6). And the sacredness of one’s life doesn’t depend on who violates it. Floyd’s life was sacred not because it was violated by a white police officer. Even if he was murdered by a black police officer, his life was still sacred.

Sadly, if a black life was killed by another black person, or if a white life was killed by a black person, we don’t see the same degree of protest, as if black lives only matter when they are killed by a white person. When was the last time you heard a strong demonstration because a black man was killed by a black police officer? Every life matters because every life is sacred; and thus, I plead with the Black Lives Matter movement that they also protest against the murder of unborn innocent babies in the wombs of every black woman. The lives of these aborted unborn babies were as sacred as George Floyd’s life.

According to Grand Rapids Right to Life, “Abortion is not just a woman’s issue.  It’s a human rights issue.…Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abortion kills more black people than HIV, homicide, diabetes, accident, cancer, and heart disease … combined.”

6) God has gifted us in the US with the First Amendment, which guarantees “the freedom of speech” and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Constitutionally, you have all the right to protest against the injustice done to George Floyd. But according to the First Amendment, you must to do so “peaceably.” Therefore, you have no right to loot, hurt police officers and set their vehicles on fire, vandalize and ruin buildings. This is not your right! After all, what does looting have to do with the murder of Floyd? Do you think it will help solve the issue? The injustice done to Floyd does not license you to do lawlessness. My heart was grieved with what happened to Floyd but my heart was equally grieved with the riots caused by lawless protesters.

God says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17–21).

7) Racism is still very much alive in our country. We can either ignore this problem and pretend it doesn’t exist, or face and address it. Fellow Christians, we should deal with the issue of racism with the same equal force that we give to the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. To my fellow pastors, we should also be preaching against the sin of racism.

8) The only remedy for racism is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Racism says, “I’m ethnically superior to you.” The gospel says, “We equally matter before God because both of us are created in His image.” Racism violates the sanctity of life. The gospel treats every life as sacred. Racism begets hatred and violence. The gospel begets love and peace. Racism divides. The gospel brings reconciliation not only between you and God but also between you and your enemies. Racism harms and kills. The gospel heals and gives everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Racism resents. The gospel forgives.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

What we therefore desperately need today in our country is the gospel.

8 Reflections on Racism & Riots by Brian G. Najapfour


Abortion Anger Favoritism Gospel Homosexuality Racism

“We Don’t Need God’s Law Anymore”

“We don’t need God’s law anymore,” said someone to me. “After all,” he added, “we are no longer under God’s law but under God’s grace.” To support his case, he cited Romans 6:14, “You are not under law but under grace.”

“You see,” he argued, “we are no longer under God’s law but under God’s grace. Therefore, there is no need for us to study, or even read the Ten Commandments.” Unfortunately, this erroneous thinking is prevalent in many churches today. Does the church that you attend still read the Ten Commandments regularly? When was the last time your pastor preached on the Ten Commandments?

In this post I will briefly clarify the meaning of Paul’s words in Romans 6:14—“You are not under law but under grace.”

The Bible can be divided into two main sections: before the fall of man (before Adam sinned) and after the fall of man (after Adam sinned). Before the fall, Adam was without sin. Yet, while Adam was morally perfect, he was capable of sinning. And if he sinned, he would die. What must he do then in order for him to live forever? The answer is found in Genesis 2:16-17: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” So, what must Adam do in order for him to live eternally? The answer is obey God.

Thus, before the fall, the requirement for obtaining eternal life was obedience to God: “Obey and you will live forever. Disobey and you will surely die.” Sadly, Adam failed to keep God’s commandment. He sinned and died. And here’s bad news: Because Adam was our head representative, when he sinned and died, we also sinned and died in him (Rom. 5:12). Thankfully, the story does not end here, because in Genesis 3:15 God proclaims the good news about the Messiah. This Messiah, the Second Adam, will both actively and passively obey God. Actively, Christ will fulfill the law’s perfect demand.  Passively, He will pay the sin’s penalty which is death.

Indeed, Jesus kept the law on behalf of sinners and died in their place, so that sinners who believe in Him will be justified on the basis of His perfect obedience, or righteousness. That is, they will be declared righteous as if they had never sinned before and as if they had perfectly obeyed God’s law (Rom. 5:19). Hence, after the fall, the requirement for receiving eternal life is no longer obedience to the law, but faith alone in Jesus Christ. As Paul writes, “We know that a person is not justified by works [or obedience] of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). So, what must we do to live eternally? The answer is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, this doctrine of justification by faith alone does not mean that we do not need to obey the moral law anymore. In fact, it is by our obedience to the law that we show that we have truly been justified. And so, elsewhere Paul adds, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Rom. 3:31). Those who claim to be believers in Christ and disregard His law make their claim questionable. In the words of James, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works [of the law], is dead” (James 2:17). The puritan pastor Samuel Bolton once said, “The law sends us to the gospel that we may be justified; and the gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty as those who are justified….The law sends us to the gospel for our justification; the gospel sends us to the law to frame our way of life.” The-law-sends-us-to-the (1)

In summary, when Paul says that we are not under law but under grace, what he means is that we are no longer under the moral law as a requirement for eternal life. Or we can put it this way: We are no longer under law in the sense that we are no longer under the covenant of works (obey the law and you will live forever) but under the covenant of grace (believe in Christ and you will have everlasting life).





God's Law Gospel

Who Crucified Jesus? The Romans, the Jews, You and I, or His Father?          

So, who really killed Jesus?

1. Was it the Romans?

Let’s find out the answer in God’s Word. In Matthew 27:35 we read, “And when they [that is, the Roman soldiers] had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.” From this verse we learn that the Romans crucified Jesus. In fact, crucifixion was a Roman way of punishing a criminal. In the eyes of the Romans, Jesus was a criminal. That’s why they crucified him.

The Romans led Jesus to a place called Golgotha which means Place of a Skull (Matt. 27:31–33). They set up the cross and hung Jesus there. They pounded the nails through his hands and feet. They pierced his side. They were the ones who murdered the Son of God.

2. Was it the Jews?

In Acts 2 Peter delivers a sermon on the day of Pentecost, addressing the people of Israel. And Peter says to them, “Men of Israel…Hear these words…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (vv. 22–23). In other words, Peter is telling the Jews that they were responsible for the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

Indeed, it was the Jews who put Jesus to death. As Paul confirms in 1 Thessalonians 2:14–15, “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets.”

3. Was it you and I?

Paul tells us that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  Thus you and I should have been the ones to be crucified on the cross, for we are the ones who sinned against God. Oh, but Jesus took our place!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Imagine, Jesus died in our place as a substitutionary sacrifice to make atonement for our sin, so that through him we might receive a complete remission of all our sins (Eph. 5:2; Heb. 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:18).

Nevertheless, let’s not forget that it was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. This truth is eloquently expressed in the modern hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”:

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

It is in this sense that we crucified Jesus. The German hymnodist Johann Heermann (1585–1647) puts it well in his hymn entitled “Ah, Dearest Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended”:  

Ah, dearest Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

4. Was it His Father?

Let’s read Acts 2:23 again, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite [determinate] plan  and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

Notice that Jesus died according to the determined and foreknown plan of God. That means that His death was not an accident but was part of God’s eternal decree. Jesus was not a victim in the hands of the Romans, or Jews, or in our hands. No! His death was planned by his Father from eternity past. Therefore, ultimately it was God the Father who delivered up Jesus to death, as Romans 8:32 explains, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all [or handed him over to death].”

So, who crucified Jesus? Who crushed him to death? His Father did! Listen to Prophet Isaiah,

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities…. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him (Isa. 53:4–5, 10).

One time a confused atheist said to me, “Do you really believe that it was God who killed His own Son?” “Yes” was my reply.  “Why would God do that to His Son?” he added. I simply answered, “He did not spare His Son, so that He could spare me.”

Commenting on Romans 8:32, John Piper states so beautifully, “Just as Abraham lifted the knife over the chest of his son Isaac, but then spared his son because there was a ram in the thicket, so God the Father lifted the knife over the chest of his own Son, Jesus — but did not spare him, because he was the ram; he was the substitute. God did not spare his own Son, because it was the only way he could spare us.”


So, who killed Jesus? The Romans did; the Jews did; you and I did; and, His Father did. Yet, while this is true, we can also say that no one really took His life, because He gave his life voluntarily. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd…and I lay down my life for the sheep…I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:14–18).

Yes, it was God the Father who ultimately brought His Son to Calvary, but His Son went there voluntarily. The Son of God willingly agreed to die on the cross for the salvation of those whom God had chosen from eternity past (Eph. 1:4–5).

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Oh, what a love! Jesus lay down his life for us, so that we might live with Him forever. My fellow believers in Christ, if you ever doubt whether Jesus loves you or not, look back to Calvary and survey the wondrous cross, and don’t stop surveying it until you exclaim,

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Who Killed Jesus



Cross Death Gospel

Six Ways in Which Noah’s Ark Is a Type of Christ

Noah’s ark is a type of Christ. It points us to some of the truths about the person and work of Jesus. How then is Noah’s ark a type of Christ?ark-of-jesus

1. Just as the ark was graciously provided by God for sinners, so is salvation in Christ graciously provided by God for sinners (Gen. 6:13-14).

Noah by nature deserved to be destroyed because of his sin against God. “But Noah found favor [or grace] in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). God graciously provided him and his family the ark—a means through which they could escape from the flood of God’s judgment against sin. Likewise, in our natural condition we deserved to perish in hell, but God graciously provided us a savior in the person of His Son through whom we can escape from the fire of God’s wrath in hell. Noah and his family did not deserve the ark. We did not deserve Christ either. We did not deserve heaven; we deserved hell. God gave us the exact opposite of what we deserved. Amazing grace!

2. Just as the ark was planned by God, so is salvation in Christ planned by God (Gen. 6:14-15).

Noah did not design the ark. God did. Noah did not plan for his deliverance. God did. In the same manner, God was the one who planned for our deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. God gave us his Son, so that through faith in him we might be saved from sin. And God planned this provision of salvation before the creation of the universe (Eph. 1:4). Imagine this: God was already planning for our salvation even before we were born. He was already thinking of you, before you were even able to think of him. You think of him because he first thought of you.

3. Just as the ark was a place of safety, so is Christ a place of safety (Gen. 6:17).

The ark was a place of safety for Noah and his family. It sheltered them from the flood of God’s judgment. Similarly, Jesus is our shelter against the storm of God’s wrath. Those who are in Christ are protected but those who are outside Christ are perishing. Those who are in Christ are saved; they are “safe and secure from all alarms.” Those of you, however, who are struggling with assurance of salvation may say, “I believe in Jesus but I don’t feel like I am saved.” Let me respond to you with this story that I read:

A man once came to D. L. Moody and said he was worried because he didn’t feel saved. Moody asked, “Was Noah safe in the ark?” “Certainly he was,” the man replied. “Well, what made him safe, his feeling or the ark?” The inquirer got the point. “How foolish I’ve been!” he said. “It is not my feeling; it is Christ who saves!”


4. Just as Noah and his family must come into the ark for their safety, so must we come to Christ for our salvation (Gen. 6:18).

God says to Noah, “You shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you” (v. 18). How shall they come into the ark?

First, they shall come into the ark in response to God’s command. In Genesis 7:1 God commands Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household.” To deliver them from the flood is God work but to enter the ark is their responsibility. If Noah and his family don’t come into the ark, they will perish. Jesus also commands us to come to him: “Come to me…and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). To give you rest is Christ’s work but to come to him is your responsibility. You must come to Jesus by faith, or else your soul will forever be restless!

Second, they shall come by faith in God’s promise. God’s promise is two-fold: to destroy those who don’t believe in him and to deliver those who believe in him. Noah and his family believed God’s promise and so they entered the ark (Heb. 11:7). In the gospel Jesus promises never to cast out those who come to him (John 6:37). He promises to save those who believe in him. Do you believe his promise?

Third, they shall come into the ark individually. Noah must enter the ark and so must his family. Noah cannot come on their behalf. They must come by themselves. In the context of salvation, no one can come to Christ on your behalf. You yourself must come to Jesus by faith. Salvation is personal.

5. Just as the call to come into the ark was a limited-time offer, so is God’s call to come to His Son a limited-time offer (Gen. 7:16).  

The door of the ark did not stay open all the time. God shut it in his appointed time. God shut the door for the protection of those inside and as a punishment for those outside.

Once the door has been shut, there is no more opportunity for people to come into the ark and be rescued from the flood of God’s punishment. Oh imagine those who were outside the ark when the flood came! “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6). Remember, the offer of the gospel is a limited-time offer. If you are still an unbeliever, I urge you to come to Jesus now for your salvation, while he may be found. Knock, while the door of heaven may be opened for you. Once the door is shut, there is no more hope for you. Oh, dear unbeliever, when will you repent of your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

6. Just as the coming of the flood was unexpected, so is the second coming of Christ unexpected.

The flood came down suddenly upon the ungodly in Noah’s day. Although they were informed and warned, they did not know the exact time of the coming of the flood. Jesus proclaims, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37-39). Jesus will come again and he will come unexpectedly! Do you prepare for his return?

Concluding thoughts:

At Calvary God poured his wrath upon his only begotten Son. The flood of God’s wrath came upon his Son. God the Father shut the door of heaven, as it were, and Jesus was locked out. This inexpressible feeling of being shut out caused Jesus to cry out loudly, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Imagine the cries of the people who were locked out in Noah’s days. But here’s the gospel: At Calvary God locked his Son out, so that he could open the door of heaven for sinners who will believe in his Son. Through faith in Christ, sinners can now enter into the joy of heaven (Matt. 25:21).

Note: This post is based on my sermon entitled “Noah’s Ark: A Type of Christ.”

Amazing Grace, a part of the series called “Stories behind Favorite Hymns for Ages 3 to 6, is now available through Reformation Heritage Book.

Amazing Grace (front cover)

Gospel Noah's Ark Salvation

The Cross, the Gospel, & Christ

As a technical term, the word cross has a deeper meaning. It represents the gospel of Christ, particularly His atoning death. In fact, sometimes the word cross and the word Christ are used indistinguishably. For example, Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now you might say to Paul, “Remember it is not about the cross but about Him on the cross. Don’t boast in the cross but in Christ.” What do you think Paul would say to you? He might say, “I know that. But you seem to have missed my point. I am using the word cross here metonymically.” It is helpful to understand that in Paul’s mind to glory in the cross and to glory in the Lord Jesus Christ are equivalent in meaning. Why? Well, because Paul also writes in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”     cross

Observe also that for Paul the preaching of the cross and the preaching of the gospel are one. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 we read, “For the word [or the preaching] of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” According to this verse, the cross is “the power of God,” and according to Romans 1:16, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  Hence, here the cross and the gospel are the same.

What is the gospel? Interestingly, in Mark 1:15 Jesus speaks, “[R]epent and believe in the gospel” and you will be saved. Then when the Philippian Jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31). Notice that Paul and Silas did not say, “Believe in the gospel,” but instead “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” Note also that Jesus says, “[B]elieve in the gospel,” and not “believe in me.” Here then we see that the gospel and Jesus Christ are essentially synonymous. The gospel is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the gospel.

Here’s the key: in the Bible the terms cross, gospel, and Christ are sometimes used interchangeably.

Here are some of my favorite cross-centered hymns:

1. “It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Gates Spafford (1828–1888)

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


2. “Old Rugged Cross” by George Bennard (1873–1958)

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.


3. “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts (1674–1748)

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.


Cross Gospel Hymns

Dedication, Doubt, & Declaration: A Message Delivered at the Grave-side Service for My Dear Mother-in-law Joan Jacoba Elshout

Dedication, Doubt, & Declaration

Note: This is a revised version of the message I delivered on May 13, 2013 at the grave-side service for my dear mother-in-law Joan Jacoba Elshout.  To read or print this message in a PDF file, click here. mom


Before I proceed to the reading of God’s Word, allow me to first commend my dear father-in-law for his forty years of faithful and patient love for his wife. Dad, thank you for the godly example that you have left to us your children. You kept the vow that you had made to mom on your wedding day: to love her in sickness and in health. I understand that without God’s grace, you would not have been able to love mom in this way. Therefore, I praise God for His grace upon you.

Let’s now read our text for this short meditation—John 20:24-28.

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to    him, “My Lord and my God!”

Sadly, we remember Thomas as “Doubting Thomas.” But as Joshua Harris asserted, “God didn’t give the name ‘Doubting Thomas’, we did. God never defines us by our failures. He defines us by the perfection of his Son.” In the gospel God defines us not according to our sin, but according to His Son’s righteousness. You might ask, “What is the gospel?” Interestingly, in Mark 1:15 Jesus says, “repent and believe in the gospel” and you will be saved. Then when the Philippian Jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31). Notice that Paul and Silas did not say, “Believe in the gospel,” but instead “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” Observe also that Jesus says, “believe in the gospel,” and not “believe in me.” Here then we see that the gospel and Jesus Christ are essentially synonymous. The gospel is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the good news. He “came to seek and to save the lost” (John 19:10).

This afternoon, upon my mother-in-law’s request, I would like to proclaim this gospel to you. And I can only preach the gospel if I preach Christ to you. My mother-in-law would have agreed with Charles Spurgeon who rebuked ministers that did not preach Christ: “Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.”

What I will do in this brief message is present the gospel by looking at Thomas’s life under three headings: (1) his dedication, (2) his doubt, & (3) his declaration. Let’s consider our first point.


I. His Dedication

In John 11 Lazarus whom Jesus loves is sick. Actually, as the story progresses we discover that Lazarus eventually dies. Jesus wants to go to Judea to revive Lazarus, but listen to what His disciples tell Him:

Then after this he [Jesus] said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”16 So Thomas, called the Twin,said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Please note Thomas’s remarkable dedication to his Master here. He is courageously willing to die with Jesus. He is loyal to the Lord’s work. To some extent my mother-in-law was like Thomas. She was also committed to the service of the Lord. Her passion was to serve others. In fact, even when she was sick, she was still thinking of how she could minister to others. When she became severely ill, she was greatly disappointed that she could no longer help others, especially Mrs. Lynn Krul from British Columbia who became like a mother to her. Everyone who knew my mother-in-law would not question her dedication to the Lord’s work. She evidently loved the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, like Thomas, although she had a strong commitment to Jesus, her faith in Him was weak. Like Thomas, she also struggled with doubt. This brings us to our second point.


II. His Doubt

In our passage the dedicated Thomas shows his doubt to the testimony of his fellow disciples concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas tells them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (v. 25). Before Jesus died, He Himself had informed Thomas of His resurrection (Mark 8:31). Thus we learn that you can be dedicated to the Lord’s work and at the same time doubt His word.  Are you like Thomas—dedicated and yet doubting? You actively serve God, but doubt His promises. You faithfully attend church services every Sunday, but you doubt the gospel promise that if you believe in Jesus you will be saved.

Nevertheless, despite his doubt, Thomas is an honest seeker of truth. He does not want to remain in his state of doubt. He eagerly looks for the truth. Do you recall his dialogue with Jesus in John 14:5-6? In this passage the confused Thomas asks Jesus about the way to His Father’s house—the way to heaven:

“Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Thomas doubts, but he is not content to remain doubting. He wants to be certain, especially of matters pertaining to eternal life. Sadly, some Christians seem to be content to stay in the place of doubt or unbelief. They don’t seek the truth. Perhaps you are struggling with assurance of salvation. Well, seek the truth that will set you free from the bondage of doubt. Read books about assurance of salvation. Attend bible study where your faith can be strengthened. Learn more about the gospel promises. Attend a church where the gospel is preached faithfully. Charles Spurgeon once mentioned, “Many a believer lives in the cottage of doubt when he might live in the mansion of faith.” My friend, you do not need to live in the cottage of doubt. Leave that place and live in the mansion of faith. You might ask, “Can I really know if I am saved?” Oh, yes, my friend, you can! As John the Beloved articulates, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Take note, the Bible has been written in order for believers to have absolute knowledge of their salvation in Christ. Can you honestly sing with Fanny J. Crosby?

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.

Now I am not saying that once you become a Christian, you will never experience doubt. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains in his book Spiritual Depression, “Doubts are not incompatible with faith…. Some people seem to think that once you become a Christian you should never be assailed by doubts. But that is not so, Peter still had faith (as he panicked in the storm in Matthew 14)…. His faith was not gone, but because it was weak, doubt mastered him and overwhelmed him and he was shaken…. Doubts will attack us, but that does not mean that we are to allow them to master us.”

With love let me challenge then those of you who are like Thomas. Are you allowing your doubt to rob you of the joy of assurance of salvation? Are you allowing your doubt to keep you from growing in your faith in Jesus? Are you making an effort to stay away from the cottage of doubt? Again like Thomas, my mother-in-law struggled with doubt, but she strove for assurance. She wanted to be certain of her salvation. Thankfully, after a long struggle, she experienced full assurance of salvation and could echo Thomas’s declaration which we will consider in our final point.


III. His Declaration

Thomas doubted. But look what he declares in our text after he has been confronted by Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). This confession is the clearest confession on the deity of Christ. Of all the Twelve Disciples, only Thomas explicitly calls Jesus God. In this sense, Thomas has surpassed his fellow disciples.

Notice the personal and possessive pronoun “my” in Thomas’s declaration: “My Lord and my God.” What Thomas is saying here is this: “Jesus is my Lord and my God, and I am His. Jesus belongs to me, and I belong to Him.” There is no more doubt here but assurance. I remember two days before my mother-in-law died, my wife and I skyped with her and sang for her the famous hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Despite her extreme fatigue, my mother-in-law still sang with us:

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

For many years my mother-in-law had struggled to call God her Father. Now by God’s grace she could prayerfully sing with full confidence, “O God my Father!” What a confession! What an assurance! Can you say by God’s grace that God is your Father, too? John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Oh, I urge you, my dear friend, to receive Jesus by faith and you will be given the right to become a child of God. Are you His child, or the Devil’s? Remember what Jesus says to the proud and self-righteous Pharisees in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil.” They belong to Satan because they have not received Jesus. Have you received Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior? Think of the message that we have heard this morning—“Jesus receives sinners” (Luke 15:2), but you must receive Him, too.

On her death bed shortly before she died, my mother-in-law prayed with her hands lifted up toward heaven, “Lord Jesus…..please come quickly!” My aunt Beth (the only sister of my mother-in-law) and Mrs. Jackie Mol (best friend of my mother-in-law for over 40 years) personally heard these words. Unquestionably, my mother-in-law borrowed her prayer from John the Beloved who pleads in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus!” This is a prayer of a true believer who longs to be with Jesus Christ. This was my mother-in-law’s last prayer.

Amazingly, my mother-in-law had a calendar that provides her a daily verse. And the verse that she was supposed to read on the day she died was John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans [or comfortless]; I will come to you.” Indeed, Jesus heard my mother-in-law’s request. He came quickly and gently to take her home to be with Him. What a comfort and joy to know that she is now with her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! She is now free from sin and sickness. Also, it is a comfort to know that Christ bought not only her soul but also her body. As the Heidelberg Catechism so beautifully states in response to the question: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”

That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil….Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

This body then in the coffin that we are about to bury is Christ’s. He purchased it and it will someday be changed into an immortal one (1 Cor. 15:51-54). On the great day of the resurrection of the saints, this mortal body will be raised from this cemetery to be with the Lord forever and ever and ever. It is with this glorious doctrine of the resurrection that the Apostle Paul exhorts us to comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18). Hence as we bury my mother-in-law’s body, we do not need to say goodbye but only good night to her, for we believers shall see her again in heaven. May the precious reality also that her soul is now in heaven sweeten our sorrow! She is now in a far better place than we can imagine (Phil. 1:23).



Let me close this message by simply asking you: Do you belong to Jesus? Does He belong to you? Is He your Lord and Savior? If not, I regret to tell you that if you die today you will go to hell and be there for eternity. Oh, once again I beg you to come to Jesus by faith and be saved. Jesus promises, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Therefore, with the words of the hymn writer Joseph Hart, I plead with you:

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready waits to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r:
He is able, He is able,
He is willing, doubt no more.

Jesus says, “Stop doubting and believe” (v. 27).



Death Funeral Gospel Sermon

My Resolution: “Though no one joins me, still I will follow”

“I have decided to follow Jesus”

“Though no one joins me, still I will follow.”

“The cross before me, the world behind me.”


These words are taken from the hymn titled “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” But, actually, the words came out of the mouth of the martyr who lived in India many years ago.

More than 150 years ago in a pagan village known for headhunting in northeast India, a family became followers of the Lord Jesus Christ under the ministry of a Welsh missionary. When the village chief had heard about this family’s conversion to Christianity, he asked the father of the home to recant his faith in Christ. With boldness, however, the Christian father responded, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” To force him to forsake Christ, a decree was made to kill his wife and two children. But, by God’s grace, the man proclaimed, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.” The persecutors murdered his wife, but he remained faithful to his Lord and Savior. Finally, they killed him, but even his death did not shake his faith. In fact, during his execution, the persecutors found him saying, “The cross before me, the world behind me.” Deeply touched by this man’s life, the chief announced, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” Eventually, the whole pagan village was converted to Christianity.

Sadly, many people do not appreciate “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” because of its mistaken association with Arminianism. I encourage you therefore to sing this precious hymn with the inspiring story above in mind. In doing so, you will appreciate the original meaning of the song. Thank God for enabling this Christian Indian father to be willing to die for the sake of Christ.

When the time of persecution comes to you, will you be able to sing by God’s grace?

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus–
no turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me–
no turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, I still will follow,
though none go with me, I still will follow,
though none go with me, I still will follow,
no turning back, no turning back.

May the words of this song be our resolution!




Arminianism Gospel Hymns Martyr

Where Are You Going?

By Pete VanStrien

“Where are you going?” This is a common question we ask or hear everyday. Most of the answers to this question are easy, but the one in the following story was not so easy to answer.

A young mother and her four-year old daughter were in a horrible car accident. Thankfully, the young girl was not hurt too badly. But the mother was critically injured and had only moments to live by the time the paramedics reached her. While still pinned in the car, the mother knew she had only a few breaths left, so she clung to her daughter’s hand and whispered, “Good-bye.” With tears streaming down her dirty and bloodied face, the young child looked puzzledly into her mother’s eyes and asked, “But mommy, where are you going?” Her mom searched for words but did not know what to say and then she died and passed into eternity.

Will you know what your answer will be the last time you are asked “Where are you going?” Perhaps you think nowhere. Perhaps you think you are good enough to go to heaven.  Perhaps you do not even care if you go to hell. My dear friend, you must have an answer to this question before you go any further in life. You do not know when you will be asked this question for the last time.

The Bible tells us that the moment we die, we will go immediately to either heaven or hell. There is no middle ground. There is no turning back. Who will go to hell? Revelation 20:15 states, “Anyone not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire [Hell].” In March 2003 I was in one of the lead units in “The March to Bagdad.”  Along the way we were engaged in some fierce and horrific battles. Afterwards I overheard a news reporter ask some soldiers to describe the battles. All they could do was shake their heads and say, “It was hell, just hell.” I could not help but wonder if they had any idea what hell would be like. My friend, it is beyond anything we could ever imagine. It is a thousand times worse than the most horrific acts of any war.  It is described as “a lake of fire,” a place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” a place of darkness and torment—not just for a day, but for eternity.

Here is our problem: we are not good enough to go to heaven. If we have sinned just once that is enough for a just and holy God to condemn us to hell. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Whether we are a serial killer or a good person, we must be completely righteous before God, or we will face everlasting death. And there is no other way for us to be righteous before God but to have the righteousness of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

My friend, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Now once you see that it was your sin that nailed Him to the cross, you will loathe sin and you will desire to live a life of service to Christ out of thankfulness for all that He has done for you.

Therefore, please consider your answer to this question, “Where are you going?”



A wife to Lisa and father to three children, Pete VanStrien is a member of the Free Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Death Gospel

Children of God and Children of the Devil Celebrating Christmas

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)


There is a popular Christmas song that we do not sing in our churches because we believe its message is unbiblical:

Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

This song describes Santa Claus as a giver of gifts. However, Santa only brings gifts to people (to children in particular) who are nice and good. He does not present gifts to naughty and bad children. Thankfully, our God is not like the fabricated Santa Claus, because according to our text, God offers His Son—the greatest gift of all—to sinners such as you and I:

 For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,

Who is the “us” here? Well, looking at the immediate context, this pronoun “us” refers to the people of Israel who at this time were living in utter darkness of sin. They were very naughty and bad. Yet, the Prophet Isaiah says, “For unto us [sinners] a child is born, unto us [sinners] a son is given.” This is good news!

Observe the following:

1. God’s gift is a person: “a child,” not a thing or an animal. This gift is so precious and unique, and worthy of all acceptation.

2. God’s gift is particular: “a son.” This is God’s only Son—the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to save sinners from the power and penalty of sin.

3. God’s gift is presented: “given to us.” God is graciously giving His only Son to us sinners for our salvation. And John the Beloved tells us that all who receive His Son and believe in His name will be given the right to become God’s children (John 1:12).

Have you received God’s Son? If not, you remain a child of the devil. Remember what Jesus says of those who do not receive Him as Lord and Savior, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). Sadly, many people around the globe celebrate Christmas without Christ. Ironically, they celebrate Christmas as children of the devil. Are you one of them?

Christmas Gospel Santa Claus

An Interview with William VanDoodeward about his book The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition: Atonement, Saving Faith, and the Gospel Offer in Scotland (1718-1799). Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 313 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As a lover of historical theology, I enjoyed reading your well researched book—the best on the subject.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. Can you please briefly explain to us the terms “Marrow controversy” and “Seceder tradition”? Also, how are these two subjects connected to each other?

The “Marrow controversy” refers to a theological and ecclesiastical controversy in Scottish Presbyterianism between the years 1718-1726, centering on the republication of The Marrow of Modern Divinity by a gospel-hearted minister, James Hog of Carnock, in response to what he and others saw as a growing tendency towards legalism. A decade later, over a different issue in the life of the church, patronage (which allowed local nobles a key hand in the calling of ministers) several of the ministers who had been involved in the Marrow controversy (including Ebenezer Erskine) became instrumental in forming the Associate Presbytery (the beginning of the Scottish Secession churches). In my work I sought to evaluate whether the theology of the Marrow supporters in the window of the controversy was similar to the theology characterizing the Secession churches during the following century.


  1. What are the issues central to the Marrow controversy and why are these issues important to us today?      

Issues of legalism and antinomianism were key to the English and Scottish contexts of the Marrow of Modern Divinity, through in the Scottish context it appears the key challenge was error on the side of legalism – particularly a legal preparationism. As Sinclair Ferguson notes in his lectures, legalism and antinomianism are perennial issues of the sinful human heart. We try to establish our own righteousness before God apart from Christ, and we pursue sin and treat his costly grace as through it were a cheap thing, or act as through his holiness, expressed to us by his law, has no claims on us. These two errors often go hand in hand. It is the faithful preaching of the gospel which unmasks the ugly reality of both and graciously provides the divine answer in Christ.


To keep reading the interview, click here.

Gospel Marrow Controversy Puritan Scottish Presbyterianism Seceder Tradition