And Pretending You Don’t Have a System Just Means It Is Biblically Ungoverned

“The need to speak biblically to the people of God is central . . . This means that there is a sense in which we must insist that the people of God can be divided into two groups — tares and wheat (Matt. 13:25ff), sheep and goats (Matt. 25:32, those who have the Spirit and those who do not not (1 John 4:13), and so on . . . And, at the same time, there is another sense (a different sense) in which we must insist that genuine branches can be cut out of the Vine which is Christ (John 15:1-6) or lopped off the olive tree of the new Israel (Rom. 11:17ff), or that wheat can fail to grow to fruition (Matt. 13:3ff) . . . We must not pit these metaphors against one another for the sake of a system; we must use them all in different circumstances, as appropriate. We do not juxtapose them and choose which set we want to preach on. We layer them, accepting them all” (Against the Church, pp. 151-152).

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

“So if there is a biblically defensible liturgy coupled with biblically indefensible lives, this is a routine maneuver by sinful men to try to put God into their debt by doing just what He told them to, as though it were a paint-by-numbers kit. And since that is how the sinful heart of man loves to think, in Scripture God takes their paint-by-numbers kit out of their hands, and pitches it away from Him in holy disgust. They are bewildered because He was the one who ordained it in the first place. And so Jesus said to them, ‘Go and find out what this means . . .’” (Against the Church, p. 149).

He’ll Never Think of Looking Here

“Scripture teaches us, and history shows us, that the very best hiding places [from the grace of God], at least for a brief time, are found in the things of God — the church, the Bible, the sacraments, the catechism, the ministry, the Internet theology debates, the church splits over a bunch of nothing, the mercy ministries, and of course, the venerable tradition of the fathers. Those fathers, incidentally, can be found both in the Jerusalem chamber at Westminster and in the Syrian desert. So here is the good news. So hear the good news — ugly dies, and loveliness rises” (Against the Church, p. 146).

The Action is in the Verb

Regeneration “is not a change from nature into grace; it is a change from broken nature to restored nature, and the change is accomplished by grace. We are not changed into grace, we are transformed by grace. When Jesus changed the water into wine, it was natural water and the result was natural wine. The miracle was in the verb, not in the resultant noun. Jesus didn’t turn water into ambrosia” (Against the Church, p. 141).

How God Fastens Things

“There can only be one fixed point in the created world, and that is the Word of God. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Pet. 1:24). But note what this does — the constant (considered as absolute) is the Word of God. But this Word fastens something in the created order. It is a secure truth, nailed down by God’s Word, that grass withers. That is the way it is — not because ultimate and autonomous witherdom resides within the grass, but rather because God spoke it that way” (Against the Church, p. 137).