An interview with Phil Johnson by Rob Ventura

Guest Post by Rob Ventura

Phil, please tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been saved? How long have you been married? Do you have children, grandchildren? What do you enjoy doing outside of ministry?

phil johnson

Phil Johnson


My family were Methodists for several generations before me, so I spent my formative years going to Sunday school every week in a theologically and politically liberal church where if we ever heard anything about doctrine, it had a left-leaning Wesleyan Arminian slant. I don’t remember ever hearing the gospel declared plainly. We did sing some of the classic hymns of Christianity, and there were responsive readings whose words were drawn from Scripture, but those things made very little conscious impact on me.

When I was in junior high school or thereabout, just old enough to form discriminating thoughts of my own about what we were being taught, I realized that the Sunday school teachers were constantly telling us that we shouldn’t take the Bible literally; Jesus didn’t really say what Scripture attributes to him; and this or that miracle didn’t really happen. And it occurred to me that no one in that church really believed the Bible is true, so I was mystified about why they would want to spend an hour or two every Sunday talking about it. I finally raised that question in class, and the pastor of the church summoned me to his office to straighten me out. He told me if I didn’t change my way of thinking, I might grow up to be a fundamentalist.

          So in high school, once I was permitted to make my own decision about whether to attend church or not, I quit going and took up watching the NFL pregame show on TV instead.

          A few years later, in my final year of high school (barely a month before graduation), a friend of mine became a Christian. He changed overnight from being the class comedian to being the school conscience. Watching the change in his life and character, I began to realize how devoid my own life was of anything holy. I still believed in God, but you’d hardly know it from my pastimes or my reading list. My time and energies were almost totally devoted to politics. I believed good and evil were divided along party lines, and my goal was to gain political power and use it to change the world for good. I believed that by striving to be a knowledgeable, wise, and noble person, I could earn the favor of God.

          But one night the weight of my own guilt prompted me to pick up my Bible and read it. I opened it randomly, intending to read no more than a few (hopefully serendipitous) verses. My Bible fell open to the first page of 1 Corinthians. So I thought it might be a good exercise to read the whole epistle. I had never read that much of the Bible at once.

          The first three chapters of 1 Corinthians are an all-out assault on human wisdom, and by the time I finished those three chapters, I knew I was totally lost, and I cried out to the Lord for help. I kept reading, and while I didn’t understand everything I read, by the time I got to 1 Corinthians 12:3, I understood that I needed to confess Jesus as Lord—and instinctively understood that meant yielding to Him as my Lord. I understood that I needed to become a disciple of Jesus with the same kind of total commitment I had devoted to politics.

          Over the following week, a series of remarkable events kept confronting me with gospel truth. The very next day, I was handed a tract that explained the doctrine of justification. The day after that, a friend invited me to an evangelistic meeting where the preacher preached on the crucifixion from Isaiah 53. When I heard that sermon, I realized for the first time that the Old Testament was pointing to Christ—and from that night until now, I have never had any doubt about the truth of God’s Word. At some point during the course of that week, the Lord opened my heart to believe. That was April of 1971.

          A few weeks later, I found a church in my neighborhood where the Bible was taught and the gospel believed. The pastor of that church heard my testimony and baptized me. In the course of giving him my testimony, I mentioned that I needed to learn the Bible, and that I wanted to serve the Lord in some way with my life. He recommended that I attend Moody Bible Institute, so I filled out an application and was accepted.

          In my final semester at Moody, I took a part-time job proofreading for Moody Press. I loved the work and decided after graduation to stay on and become a book editor. I met my wife, Darlene, exactly 40 years ago, in 1977, when she came to work at Moody Press. We got married a year later and started our family a year after that. We have three sons, all adults now. All of them are believers and still attend Grace Church. (One is a writer for Grace to You online; one is a tax accountant; and one is a police officer with the LAPD.) They are all three married and have given us seven grandchildren. The Lord has greatly blessed us.


How long have you been working at Grace to You and what particularly attracted you to Dr. John MacArthur’s ministry?

This is my 35th year at Grace to You. I first heard John MacArthur speak in 1977, shortly after I met Darlene. He came to Moody to speak at a student chapel, and I was in awe of the clarity and biblical content of his preaching. I’d never heard of him before. He had not yet published any major books. And my first thought as a book editor was He needs a literary assistant to help him get his material organized and edited for publication.

          The “Grace to You” radio broadcast debuted in 1978, and I began to listen to John every day. Every time I heard him, I lamented that he wasn’t publishing books. I found his expositions of 1 John especially instructive, because I was wresting with some things Charles Ryrie had written that didn’t sound quite right to me—namely, a chapter titled “Must Christ be Lord to be Savior?” in Ryrie’s Moody Press book Balancing the Christian Life. John brought far more clarity and biblical weight to that question than Ryrie did, I thought.

          Then in 1981 I met John for the first time. He visited the Moody Press offices for an initial discussion about The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series. It was the largest academic-book project Moody had ever initiated, and the meeting was to discuss editorial strategy. A dozen people were involved in that discussion, mostly book editors. I didn’t say much if anything at all during the meeting, but when it was over, I had a moment to talk one-on-one to John. I explained that I was a regular listener, and I suggested he should consider writing a book on the lordship issue. He brightened immediately and said, “I intend to do that. I even have a title in mind: The Gospel According to Jesus.

          That was the start of our relationship. Over the course of the next year, I more or less became the main contact between John and Moody Press. I was intrigued by some material he had preached on worship from John 4:23: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” I took verbatim transcripts of his sermons on worship and edited them for a book titled The Ultimate Priority.

          When my work on The Ultimate Priority was finished, John came to Chicago for some meetings. For some reason, he came via train, and I volunteered to meet him at Union Station and drive him to his hotel near the airport. When we were about halfway to O’Hare and in the middle of a conversation about Robert Schuller and his Self-Esteem doctrine, John suddenly changed the subject. Out of the blue, he said, “You should quit your job at Moody Press and come to work at Grace to You. You could help me with my writing projects.”

          I said, “OK.”

          He said, “No, I’m serious.”

          I said, “So am I.” And within a few weeks, I had moved to Los Angeles, and I have been working at Grace to You ever since.


Could you please tell us what you do for Grace to You and what is your favorite part of the work there?

I’m the executive director. There are more than 50 paid employees who work under me, so I have the luxury of being able to delegate virtually all the hands-on duties. We have a team of very competent people, and my main duty is to keep them on task, establish and maintain our policies and procedures, and make sure everything we do is done with excellence in a way that honors the Lord.

The most important part of my job is still the work I do as a book editor—translating John MacArthur’s material from sermonic form to book form. My favorite part is when a major book project is finished. A famous author once said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I’d say the same thing about editing.


What are some of your favorite books by John MacArthur and why?

  1. The Gospel According to Jesus. People tell me all the time that their lives were changed completely when they read that book. It shatters the false assurance of people who are trusting in something they have done—walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or whatever. It gives a solid, biblical answer to the question of what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow Me.”
  2. The Vanishing Conscience—editing this book reshaped my understanding of sanctification.
  3. Ashamed of the Gospel—this is the book that first sparked my interest in Spurgeon and helped me understand that all the fads and ministry philosophies that today’s evangelicals hail as “new” and “revolutionary” are really just recycled mistakes from the past.
  4. The Jesus You Can’t Ignore—this is a vastly underrated book, in my opinion. It refutes postmodern efforts to reinvent Jesus as a politically-correct, quietly reserved self-help guru.


Who are some of your all-time favorite preachers and authors besides Dr. MacArthur?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, Andrew Fuller, Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, R. L. Dabney.


What are some of the dangers that you see in the church today, both in Reformed and non-Reformed circles?

Number one on my list would be a fleshly craving for social and academic esteem, political clout, and the world’s admiration that permeates the evangelical culture. Elite evangelical leaders in particular seem to have a pathological fear of being critical of popular trends and majority opinions, and as a result, the conservative evangelical movement today is neither conservative nor evangelical in the true and historic sense of that term.

I actually have a much longer list of concerns than that, but I blogged about all those issues for nearly a decade, and all that material is still online and searchable via Google, so in the interests of not sounding totally negative, I’ll refer anyone who is interested in hearing more to my now-nearly-defunct blog at


Phil, on the weekend of May 5th & 6th 2017, you will be speaking at the Southern New England Reformation Conference in North Providence, R.I., on the topic of Answering the Skepticism of an Unbelieving Generation. Please tell us why you think this topic is particularly relevant and how you plan to address it.

          The Internet has given rise to a hostile, aggressively outspoken brand of militant atheism that seems to be growing and assimilating students from Christian backgrounds who grew up in youth groups that existed to entertain them rather than instruct them. Christian apologists need to be more diligent than ever to answer the barrage of skepticism that is being blasted to the world via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and every other popular social medium. The Bible does answer skeptics, and Christians need to have those answers.

For more information about the Southern New England Reformation Conference please go to: or call (401) 826-3121.

Grace to You Interview John MacArthur Phil Johnson

An Interview with Adam McClendon about his book Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians

Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians: A Critique of Contemporary Christian Spiritualities. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015, 208 pp., paperback.     

Brother, congratulations on your well-researched book. I read it with delight.  Here are some of my questions for you about your book:


1. What do you think is your book’s unique contribution to the study of spirituality? Also, can you please briefly define the term spirituality and explain how your definition differs from the other definitions that you critique in your book?   

One of the more unique contributions this book provides is a merging of formal theological study, resulting in practical theological corrections, all based primarily on Galatians 2:20.  The real heart of the book rests in addressing the issue of the basis of Christian spirituality.  As Christians, our spiritual life should be based on the firm foundation of God’s Word as our primary rule for faith and living.

This point naturally leads into the question concerning what “spirituality” means.  A brief history of the use of that term is provided in the book.  “Spirituality” on the most basic level in today’s society should be understood as the life one lives in light of one’s understanding of and experience with god.  Notice “god” and not “God” is referenced here. Everyone is spiritual on some level and the “god” that has influenced a person’s understanding and experience is that standard that drives the values of his/her life.  Christian spirituality, however, is that process of spirituality brought under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  So, when Christians refers to “spirituality,” they are meaning the life that is “spiritual” or influenced by the Holy Spirit in their lives.  The problem today then becomes two-fold.  First, that which has traditionally been categorized as Christian continues to be broadened to included non-Christian beliefs that directly contradict the fundamental tenant of faith in Christ alone.  Second, it is becoming increasingly common to hear of non-biblical, extra-biblical, or just strange teachings and behavior being attributed to the “Spirit” in some vague context without any biblical justification.  This book then seeks to reorient the spiritual life as necessarily being grounded upon the clear revelation the Spirit gave us in the Bible.

In reference to the last part of your question, this book doesn’t necessarily critique other definitions of “spirituality” but challenges the foundation upon which the convictions of various Protestant traditions are based.  The point pressed throughout the book is that for Christian spirituality, the Bible should serve as the supreme foundation for Christian living versus being set along side or even subject to one’s own experience, one’s religious traditions, and/or one’s cultural sense of morality.  Key staple positions within various protestant traditions are taken and contextually examined in light of Galatians 2:20 to show how a proper understanding of that verse can help correct certain teachings within that particular movement.


2. You call your first two chapters (1) The Centrality of the Cross and (2) The Centrality of Christ. In the context of Pauline spirituality, is there really a difference between the word cross and the word Christ? Does not Paul sometimes use these two terms indistinguishably (see Gal. 6:14, “boast…in the cross” & 1 Cor. 1:31, “boast in the Lord”).    

Paul certainly does use them interchangeably at times, just as Paul does the idea of the cross and the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17-18, 23); however, the interchangeable use of the terms in some contexts does not mean that in other contexts distinctions do not exists especially as it relates to the believer’s justification and sanctification.  Paul in Galatians 2:20 utilizes the necessity of the cross in reference to the believer’s justification, particularly in dying to the law.  So the cross involves a death while the focus on Christ as a whole emphasizes the life that flows out of this death.  The text explains that as a result of being crucified with Christ, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  The phrase “Centrality of Christ” is used to emphasize the specific means by which Christ lives in the believer while “Centrality of the Cross” emphasizes the specific means by which the believer dies to the law and the nature of the flesh (Gal. 2:19; 5:24).


3. In your book you examine Paul’s spirituality by specially focusing on Galatians 2:20. Why did you choose this verse?

Galatians 2:20 has always been a special verse in my life going back to high school, and I’ve spent considerable time meditating on the implications of the truths it conveys in my own life.  So, it’s a very personal verse for me, but the nature of the verse also worked well for the approach of this book for several reasons.  First, it comes at the end of an incredible section in Galatians where Paul condenses much of the overall argument for the entire book.  Within that context, the verse provides an intensely concise statement regarding both the believer’s justification in Christ and the sanctified life to be lived.  Second, Galatians 2:20 is important to the approach presented in the book because it frequently appears within various writings on Christian living without any clear explanation concerning the meaning of the verse itself.  Within more critical works, it has long been used to promote the mysticism of Paul or, as more often than not, the verse finds itself tucked away within the huge theological discussions surrounding the context of Galatians 2:15-19 without being given specific consideration.


4. What do you think are some advantages and disadvantages of the kind of approach that you use in your book to study Paul’s spirituality?

The greatest advantage to this approach is that it drives us to examine the biblical evidence and highlights our predisposition to rely on emotion, tradition, and culture to shape our religious ideologies, convictions, and lifestyles.

The disadvantage to this approach is that it is critical.  The book is designed to be a critique of modern theological expression.  While I approached this task as graciously as I could acknowledging my own tendency to read Scripture in a manner that most naturally fits my theological tradition, it is still a critical approach.  Such approaches are often not as well received in a culture that overemphasizes a false understanding of relativistic tolerance.


5. What projects are you currently working on?

In addition to the normal projects involved in pastoring a church, I’m currently working on a book I plan to call “Square One” on the basics of the Christian faith.  The book is specifically designed for people who are interested in Christianity or spiritually young believers; however, it will also be a great resource for reminding mature believers of the essence of the call to follow Christ.  Our church plans on using this work as a means for discipling new believers. Lastly, I’m also working on a parental prayer guide to help parents in praying for their children.


 Note: This post also appears on To purchase the book, click here.


Book Interview Spirituality

An Interview with Paul M. Smalley about his co-authored book Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Ordinary Way of Leading Sinners to Christ.

Brother, congratulations on your well-researched co-authored book with Dr. Joel Beeke. I am confident that Prepared by Grace, for Grace is destined to be a standard work on the subject.index

Paul Smalley: Thank you, Pastor Najapfour. We hope that by God’s grace the book will be useful.

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

1. Could you please briefly define the following terms as used in your book? I think defining these terms will help the readers of this interview better understand your discourse.

a. Reformed, Puritan, & evangelical

Reformed refers to the stream of Christianity beginning with sixteenth-century Reformers such as Zwingli and Calvin, and defined by adherence to confessions such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Standards.

Puritanism was a movement of British Christians from the 1560s through about 1700 that emphasized applying the biblical doctrines rediscovered in the Reformation to one’s personal life, family, church, and nation.

The Reformers (including Reformed and Lutheran Christians) called themselves “evangelicals” in the sixteenth century because God has restored to the church the biblical gospel (“evangel”) of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone for the glory of God alone. The term continues to be used today.

b. Doctrine of preparation (Is this doctrine biblical? How is it different from the so-called preparationism?)

The doctrine of preparation is the idea that God’s general way of bringing sinners to Christ is to awaken them to a sense of their spiritual need before they trust in Christ to save them. Preparationism is really a term used to accuse someone of legalism based on the idea that sinners can (or must) work themselves up to a level of spirituality in order to be prepared for salvation. The doctrine of preparation is biblical, as long as we remember that God works in a variety of ways with various people. Christ came not to save people who think that they are righteous, but people who by the Holy Spirit’s conviction know they are sinners (Luke 5:32). Preparationism is unbiblical, for sinners are born again by grace alone, and justified by faith alone (Gal. 2:16).

c. Conversion (Is it a one-time event or a process? How is it distinct from regeneration?)

Regeneration is the miraculous event where God brings a person from spiritual death to spiritual life by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:5; Titus 3:5). Conversion is the experience and process of change where a person turns from his former beliefs and practices that were against God towards the Lord. Conversion can be viewed narrowly to refer to the first motions of faith and repentance, or more broadly as a process, and in its broadest sense it includes a lifelong process of change. Regeneration takes place in a moment, but that moment may not be easily recognized by a person for the Spirit’s work is mysterious (John 3:8).

d. Legal repentance & evangelical repentance

Legal repentance is the outward change of behavior based on guilt over sin and fear of God’s punishment. Evangelical repentance is a saving grace from God, in which a sinner out of a true sense of the evil of his sin, taking hold of God’s promise of mercy in Jesus Christ, does with grief and hatred of his sin turn from it to God, with sincere intention and working to perform a new obedience.

e. Legalism & antinomianism

Legalism is resistance against Christ the only Mediator by putting something in his place as our Prophet, Priest, and King. It has many forms. It can involve adding anything to Christ’s Word as the standard for true belief, obedience, or worship (against Christ as our Prophet), adding anything to Christ’s obedience and death as our justification and righteousness before God (against Christ as our Priest), or adding anything to Christ’s power as the effective cause of our sanctification (against Christ as our King).

Antinomianism, which means being against God’s law, is actually a form of legalism. It may replace obedience to Christ’s laws with an unbiblical mysticism. Or it may reject Christ’s power to save all in union with him not only from the condemnation of their sins, but also the reigning power of their sins. Either way, Antinomianism tries to use Christ as an excuse not to follow Christ’s Word by Christ’s power.


2. In the minds of the Puritans what is God’s ordinary way of causing sinners to come to the point of believing in Christ alone for salvation? Were the Puritans united in their view of the doctrine of preparation for saving grace?

After researching the views of many theologians on this subject, Dr. Beeke and I concluded that the Puritan tradition in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was united around a belief in preparation for conversion. In every case we examined, the Puritans taught that before God brings a person to saving faith in Christ, he works a conviction of sin and humbling sense of one’s inability to save himself. Even when a Puritan writer critiqued another Puritan’s view of preparation, the difference was in the details, not the core doctrine. We also discovered that in cases where scholars have thought a Reformed writer was attacking preparation, in fact the writer was attacking the Roman Catholic view, not that shared among the Puritans.


3. Why do you think pastors should spend time studying the doctrine of preparation? How is this doctrine important to the ministry?

I would not make this doctrine central to pastoral ministry and the life of the church, for that place belongs to the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, the doctrine of preparation is important, especially for those called to preach, teach, and counsel the Word. If you are planning to preach a message especially to the lost, should you speak only of God’s love and Christ’s grace, or should you also speak of God’s law and man’s violation of the commandments? If a person comes to you for counsel because he is experiencing a sense of guilt and fear of damnation, what do you say to him? Do you tell him to brush it off as unhealthy or inconsistent with God’s love? Do you tell him that if he feels guilty and cleans up his life then he must already be saved? These are the kinds of practical questions that the doctrine of preparation addresses, for it teaches us that the condemning power of the law to produce guilt and fear is helpful in evangelism, but in itself cannot save. Only the gospel is the instrument of saving faith. Preparation also helps us to appreciate (and pray for) the work of the Holy Spirit even before regeneration, for it is the Spirit who convicts of sin (John 16:8). Thus the doctrine honors the triune God.


4. On page 7, you state with your co-author, “Though we affirm the fundamentals of the Puritan doctrine of preparation, we do not always agree with the details of each Puritan’s way of working out the implications of this doctrine.” In what areas do you disagree with the Puritan doctrine of preparation? And please name some Puritans with whom you are not comfortable as far as this doctrine is concerned.

The most significant area of disagreement would be the idea that a person must experience such a level of humbling over his sins that he is content to be damned by God if God so chooses. It seems that Thomas Hooker and Thomas Shepard taught this, but it was rejected by the mainstream of Puritanism. The Bible nowhere teaches such a thing. We must acknowledge that God could in all justice damn us to hell for our sins, but that is far from being content to be damned. Rather, we should long for salvation. Another concern is that some Puritans such as Hooker may have become imbalanced in their preaching, emphasizing the guilt and fear of preparation so strongly and so long that they temporarily obscured the free offer of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We always want to urge sinners to come to Christ immediately and not seek any other qualification than the gospel call itself. There are also other theological caveats and qualifications that we make about the Puritan view of preparation in the last chapter of the book. However, we were encouraged to find that most Puritans had a very biblical and balanced approach to evangelism. Hooker himself said, “The Lord proclaims his mercy openly, freely offers it, heartily intends it, waits to communicate [share] it, lays siege to the soul by his long sufferance: there is enough to procure all good, distrust it not: he freely invites, fear it not, thou mayest be bold to go: he intends it heartily, question it not: yet he is waiting and wooing, delay it not therefore, but hearken to his voice.”


5. What projects are you currently working on?

I am editing the second volume of The Works of William Perkins, his exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. That is a very satisfying project, for it is full of gospel truth and was written by a premier Reformed and Puritan author. I am also working with Dr. Beeke on another co-authored book, The Holy Fear of John Bunyan. Bunyan’s life and teaching on the fear of the Lord are remarkably beautiful and God-honoring, and so the research has strengthened my soul, and I hope it will do the same for others.



Paul Smalley is a member of Grace Immanuel Reformed Baptist Church. He served as a pastor for twelve years, and presently works as a teaching assistant to Dr. Joel Beeke at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

Interview Puritan Reformer

An Interview with Rob Ventura about his co-authored book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective

Brother, congratulations on your new co-authored book which I enjoyed reading.        Biblical_Warfare_front_2_2__55272.1378573386.315.315

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


1. Given the numerous volumes written on the subject of spiritual warfare, what do you think is the unique contribution of your book to this subject?  

Dear brother, thank you for taking the time to read the book. I am glad you enjoyed it. Regarding your first question I would say that the unique contribution of this work is that it is a contemporary, concise, and scriptural treatment of this subject written by two Reformed authors. If you were to Google the stated topic you would find that there are dozens of books that treat this theme in a downright nutty way. However, what we have done is open up the central New Testament passage that addresses this issue (Ephesians 6:10-20) dealing with it historically, contextually, exegetically, and practically. As we have done this we have kept Christ our great champion central in all things since at the cross he defeated Satan, our great foe.

Brian, one reason why I am particularly excited about this new book is that it gives Christians from all different theological backgrounds a solid treatment of this subject in just 124 pages. Typically I would recommend to people who want to learn about this topic William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour but due to the sheer size of that volume, unfortunately many do not make their way through it. However our book can be read in a just few hours and the reader would be able to get the gist of the matter and be helped to stand strong in this great fight of all fights.


2. In Steven J. Lawson’s foreword to your book, he mentions that the flesh, our old nature, is one of our enemies, because it is “opposed to God and can do nothing to please Him” (vii). Lawson’s statement seems to imply that a believer in Christ has two natures: old & new. Does a believer have two natures: one that is opposed to God and one that is not?

Concerning your question, and I believe Dr. Lawson would agree, regeneration is an act of God whereby He quickens a dead sinner and implants a new nature in the believer so that he or she is now a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Cor. 5:17). The Christian does not have two natures per se so that there is a kind of Yin and Yang, Jekyll and Hyde dualism going on in them. No, rather the old man has been crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6). Nonetheless as Spurgeon rightly said; “though the old man was crucified he sure is a slow dying.” To state the matter another way, although Paul says in Colossians 3:9, “you have put off the old man with his deeds,” he could also say in Colossians 3:5 “put to death your members which are on the earth.” See also Ephesians 4:22-24.


3. Your book addresses Satan as our great foe in spiritual warfare. Is Satan present everywhere at the same time? If he is not, does it mean that he tempts us indirectly through his demons? Also, can Satan read all our thoughts and foretell what we are going to do?

Satan is a great foe and according to the Apostle Peter he walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8b). We must never minimize this fact. We must be balanced in our perspective concerning our great opponent. However having said this, Satan is absolutely not omnipresent nor is he omnipotent as God alone is. Satan can tempt us through a variety of means, yes, even through his cohorts the demons and this is why it is vital that according to Paul we give no opportunity to him (Eph. 4.27).

Concerning our thought life, since Satan is not God he cannot read our minds or foretell what we are going to do. However we must never forget that the mind is a major battlefield in spiritual warfare and such passages as 2 Cor. 4:4; 10:1-6; and 11:3 highlight this truth. This being so, Paul calls us to “take up the helmet of salvation” for in doing this we will be greatly protected in this regard.


4. It is said that without Christ you cannot resist Satan. Does an unbeliever have the power to resist the Devil? Please answer this question in light of two men, one who is a Christian and one who is not. Both were tempted to commit adultery. The Christian husband yielded to the temptation, whereas the unbelieving husband did not.

Without Christ we are the devil’s spiritual property. He is our spiritual father (John 8:44), we walk according to his power (Eph. 2.2) and are part of his kingdom (Col. 1:13). When God makes us spiritually alive all of these things change — praise God for this! Because of our spiritual condition before we are converted we absolutely cannot resist the devil. However regarding the scenario you stated above, regardless of who did what, the devil is never to blame for our sin because he cannot make us sin. As Christians we sin because our hearts are not yet perfected and so in the case of the believer falling into adultery and the unbeliever not falling, it seems that the one had less self-control than the other (sadly).


5. What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently editing a new book entitled Going Beyond the Five Points: Perusing a More Comprehensive Reformation that I am excited about. I am also hoping to start writing a new booklet with my co-elder Jack Buckley in a series entitled Cultivating Biblical Godliness for Reformation Heritage Books, the Lord willing.


Note: To read or print this interview in a PDF file, click here. To purchase the book, click here.


Interview Satan Spiritual Warfare

An Interview with Brian Croft about his book The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013, 171 pp., paperback.

It was a joy to meet you at the 2013 Puritan Reformed Conference. I enjoyed reading your practical and gospel-centered book. I especially appreciated its humble and honest tone.

Here are some of my questions for you about your book:9780310495093_30

1. How would you respond to a pastor who says that his ministry is his priority over his family? You may also want to comment on William Carey’s conviction that ministry work must come first before family responsibility.

I would tell him that he is disobeying the Word of God and the biblical calling of a pastor.  A pastor’s calling in 1 Timothy 3 is to first manage his household before the church.  I would also say that a pastor will give an account for souls (Heb. 13:17) not just in the church, but those in his family.  I would argue the account will be given first to those in his household.  A pastor’s first ministry is to his family, then the church.  Lose your family, you will lose your ministry.  

2. On page 41 you state, “Being a pastor and the wife of a pastor can indeed be a very lonely position.” Can you please elaborate your thoughts on this statement?

Most think the pastor and his wife would be the ones with the most friends in the church.  The opposite is usually the case.  Because of the position of the pastor in a church, it is hard to be transparent and open with certain folks not knowing what might later be used against him.  Many relationships are based upon those wanting to get close to the pastor for personal gain, not simply friendship.  This makes it hard for the pastor and his wife to find meaningful friendships and most pastors do not make the effort to find them outside their church.

3. What do you think is a pastor’s main problem as far as balancing his family and ministry responsibility is concerned?

The pastor’s main problem is not what he thinks it is.  It is not the demands and pressures put upon him.  The pastor’s main problem that causes an imbalance is his own sinful heart.  It is his heart that makes him desire things that would cause the ministry to become an idol to him, thus neglecting his family.  The pastor has to apply the power of the gospel to his heart struggles in the ministry to prevent family neglect.

4. What is the biblical solution to the problem mentioned in question # 3?

The power of the gospel not only saves us from our sins, but it also empowers us to overcome the sins of our hearts that affect our daily lives.  The pastor must identify the sinful struggles in his heart that pull him away from his family, and repent.  Then, he must turn to the Scriptures as the guide to how a pastor must conduct his life.  Scripture gives us the blueprint to the calling of a pastor (1 Timothy 3:4-5), what the pastor should be doing with his time (Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4), and how essential it is for a pastor to care for his wife (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7) and shepherd his children (Eph. 6:1-4) in the midst of his life and ministry.  As the pastor ministers God’s Word, he must himself walk in it to counter the sinful temptations that lead to neglect of the family.

5. This question is for your wife Cara: In what way can a pastor’s wife best help her husband in the ministry?  

Each ministry is different, therefore what each husband needs will be different.  I can not give you a specific answer except this, ask them.  If you really want to know what your husband needs for you to do, ask him, and then be willing to hear whatever his answer may be.  I know it sounds simple, but we as women tend to think we know what our husbands need and how they need us to serve.  The truth is there may be a way that they are desiring for us to serve and we have never taken the time to ask them.

The second answer I would give is to pray for husbands.  Our husbands need our prayers.  And we need to not only pray for them but we need to tell them we are praying for them and ask in what specific ways we can pray for them better.  This does two things.  First it encourages our husbands by letting them know that we are thinking and interceding on their behalf.  Second, it allows us to see into our husbands’ hearts a bit deeper and to know more of the burdens they are carrying.  We need to be lifting them before God daily and seeking ways to encourage them as they labor both for the church and for our families.  Notice I said “we”.  That is because this is a lesson I am still learning.

6. What projects are you currently working on?

I have several books I am working on.  There is a companion with the Pastor’s Family that will be about, “The Pastor’s Ministry” which will be focused on the top 10 biblical priorities of every pastor’s ministry.  Then I am writing, co-writing, and editing 6 more books for our Practical Shepherding series, all to be published in the next two years.  Practical books on administration, caring for widows, planning and leading worship, praying for the flock, and how to comfort the grieving are some of the topics of these books.  We are very excited about all the Lord is doing with Practical Shepherding and the books that will be the foundation for our ministry for year to come, Lord willing.

Note: You can buy the book here.

Family Interview Ministry Pastor

An Interview with Joel R. Beeke about his book Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage. Cruciform Press, 2012, 96 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your book that is filled with godly wisdom. As a newly married husband, I read this volume with great profit. I especially liked the biblical, pastoral, practical, honest, and balanced tone of your book.

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

  1. Can you please briefly explain why friendship and sexual intimacy are “two key ingredients in a vital marriage” (p. 8)?

From the beginning God designed marriage to be a bond of personal and sexual unity. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Cleaving (or clinging) expresses the commitment or bond of a shared life. One flesh expresses sexual intimacy. It is interesting that the desires of women tend to major on the bond of friendship, and the desires of men on the sexual bond. In reality we need both to make a vibrant marriage. There is something inexpressibly beautiful about making love with your spouse as your best friend, and sharing life with your lover.


  1. You say that “[f]ew books on marriage include even one chapter on friendship” (p. 13). Why do you think this is so?    

That’s a hard question to answer with certainty. Perhaps part of the reason is that we have become a culture obsessed with skills, but awkward about relationships. There are lots of books about how to find your dream mate, how to communicate well, how to make love well, how to avoid tragedy well, etc. But as a culture North Americans don’t seem to know how to “be together” well.

Another factor may be the negative influence of communications media. We have traded real friendships for superficial forms of intimacy flashing on screens both large and small. Social media allow people to network and share information at an unprecedented rate. These are useful tools for work and business. But they are no substitute to eating dinner together every night, talking about what’s going on in your hearts and lives, reading and discussing the Bible, and praying hand-in-hand in the presence of the living triune God.


To continue reading the interview, click here

Note: Friends and Lovers can be obtained from Reformation Heritage Books for the discount price of $7.00 plus postage.

Interview Marriage Piety Puritan

An Interview with Gerald M. Bilkes about his book Glory Veiled and Unveiled: A Heart-Searching Look at Christ’s Parables. Reformation Heritage Books, 2012, 229 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your Christ-centered book which I enjoyed reading. I especially liked your writing style—clear, concise, and practical.

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

  1. Can you please briefly define the word parable? And, what is the unique contribution of your book to the study of Christ’s parables?

A parable is a shorter or longer word-picture to zero in on a certain truth and affect hearts with it. The prophet Nathan told the parable of the rich man who took a poor man’s only lamb to uncover David to his adultery with Bathsheba. In my book I am looking not only at what the parables of Christ mean, but how they search our hearts.

  1. You say that “[i]n the parables, Christ is intentionally veiling or concealing His glory and the glory of His kingdom” (p. 10). Can you please explain more to us what you mean by this thought-provoking assertion?   

When the disciples asked Christ why he taught in parables, Christ made clear that he had a dual aim in his parables. For example, in Matthew 13:10-17 he showed that people will respond to the parables either in a way that shows that they have faith, and thus understand (at least in principle) the significance of the parable; others, however, will not truly receive the parable, because of unbelief. It is not just so that this is an unfortunate result of the parables, but the intended purpose of the parable.

Many people have difficulty with this idea that God would actually hide his truth from someone. Some scholars have done some theological gymnastics to get around this point. There is a problem if we decide upfront that the parables are different than what Christ has said that they are. Should it surprise us that the parables of the kingdom should be spoken in a way that has all the hallmarks of glorious sovereignty?

I give the example in my book of a force infiltrating enemy territory like the allied forces did at the end of World War II in Western Europe. They dropped messages “in-code” in order to communicate with their allies and win over others, all the while concealing their true purposes to their enemies. This may help us understand why the parables are like messages “in-code,” both concealing and revealing.


To keep reading the interview, click here.

Christ's Parables Interview