Ask Ligonier with Sinclair Ferguson (April 2018)

Good evening and welcome to Ask Ligonier I’m your host, Nathan W. Bingham, and over the next sixty minutes our special guest will be answering your biblical and theological questions live If you’d like to ask a question this evening, you can send us a tweet using the hashtag #AskLigonier, you can send us a message on Facebook, or basically leave a comment wherever you’re watching this live stream this evening Our special guest tonight is a Ligonier teaching fellow He’s also a man I once heard R.C Sproul describe as his favorite theologian I’m speaking of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson Dr. Ferguson, thank you for joining us Thank you Nathan Glad to be with you Well, since we announced this event we have had many, many questions come in through social media To try and get to as many as possible tonight, would you be open to us beginning with a lightning round? Okay, let’s try Okay All right, so— Lightning is not my thing, you should know We’ll see Well for a lightning round let’s try and aim for sixty seconds or less Okay The first question we have here is from someone named Kevin on Facebook He’s asking, “What is the difference, if any, between godliness and holiness?” Okay, well they’re obviously different words godliness means likeness to God Holiness means a likeness to one particular attribute of God There is that linguistic distinction, but at the end of the day, I think the simplest answer is to say where do you see godliness most clearly, and the answer is you see it in Jesus Christ Where do you see holiness most clearly, you see it in Jesus Christ I think that answer is helpful because it personalizes the answer and teaches us that neither godliness or holiness are abstract commodities, but a development of a Christ-like character We also have Steve here on Facebook He wants to know, “When you’re thinking about the order of salvation, what comes first, faith or regeneration?” Okay Well, I think first of all what Jesus said in John chapter 3 when He said to Nicodemus that unless you’re born from above, which is regeneration, you’ll neither be able to see or enter the kingdom of God We enter the kingdom of God through faith So, in that conversation I think it’s very clear that in order to come to faith first of all God has to give us our new heart That’s really what John had said in the prologue to the gospel as well, that those who came to believe in Him were born not of the will of the flesh, or the will of man, but born of God When we’re thinking about it, we realize that logically regeneration grounds our faith But when we are regenerated, we come to believe There’s not a gap that we would be able to detect between being born again and coming to believe In fact, the way we would recognize that we had been born again was because that came to expression in our trust in Jesus Christ They’re very intimately related We have Zach here who’s asking us, “How can he know that he’s elect? How can he know that his faith is genuine?” Well, that’s a huge question I think the simple answer to it is that the way in which we come to know our election is through faith in Christ We must never try to bypass Jesus Christ because for example, as Paul says in Ephesians 1, we are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world So often I think we need to say to people instead of trying to go directly to your election, you need to go directly to Jesus Christ When you come to Christ, there is a kind of confidence that you find in Christ that He has embraced you, and that you are his Then I think another thing that’s obviously true is that if you have really been born again, then new family characteristics begin to display themselves in your life and also the Spirit, as Paul says in Romans 8, begins to work in our lives and witness with our spirits I think particularly there he seems to indicate that one of the evidences that God has really chosen us, that we really are His children, is that when the crisis comes we have this God given instinct to cry out at the Father That instinctive appeal to God as our heavenly Father is like the sense that we have inwardly that He has taken us into his family because He has adopted us, and in that sense chosen us as his children We have a person here called Ajit, on Facebook They’re asking a question about preaching

They want to know, “How should they preach the doctrines of grace?” Well, boy that’s a huge question as well I think pastorally one must always recognize that in some of these areas people do not have the paradigms to be able immediately to take in what scripture teaches, and sometimes they have been taught in a way that’s contrary to the doctrines of grace I usually say, at least I say it to younger man or men younger than myself, one of the best things to do with someone that you think that really is a Christian is sit down with them, or preach to them with this question in mind, how did Jesus think about this Sometimes people think they have intellectual difficulties that are really emotional difficulties, or difficulties because of what they have been taught in the past, but if they’re the Lord’s people then they trust Christ and they listen to his voice I think a very helpful thing to do is to show them what Jesus Himself believed A good illustration of that in one of the more difficult doctrines, the doctrine of election, is I find to take people to Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus evangelistic invitation, come to me all you who are weary and heave laden Then ask people to notice what immediately precedes it, where Jesus says, “Father I thank you, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise in understanding and revealed them to babes,” so that Jesus own evangelism has this background of his consciousness of the Father’s electing purposes If we know Christ and love Christ, and trust Christ, I think in a sense that reduces some of the emotional prejudice that I think we often find people have against the doctrines of grace The other thing I think I would really want to emphasize is you need to emphasize not the word doctrine, but the word grace We need to present the graciousness of the truth of the gospel Well one final question for this lighting round How do you know if you have been called to be a pastor? Well we’re getting the lightning questions Yeah Let me just give up a text really In II Timothy chapter 1, when Paul is reflecting on young Timothy who has been called to the ministry, he says to him, I think this is about verse 8 in II Timothy chapter 1, “Fan into flame the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands.” I think there are then three elements there that help us to recognize a call to the ministry A call to the ministry can come in very different ways One of them is that God has gifted us Another is that beginning to recognize those gifts, the church begins to make room for them, and so there is a recognition outside of ourselves I could have this conviction I’m called to the ministry and nobody else share that conviction because when I open my mouth I talk nonsense But when someone is called to the ministry and has been given gifts by God for that ministry, then God’s people will begin to encourage them I mean I know for myself that I don’t think I ever would have made it in the ministry would it not for the encouragement that God’s people have given to me, and given to me since I was a youngster Then the other thing is that Paul says fan into flame, which means that there is a willingness to commit yourself to Christ for that ministry, and also a commitment to love the Lord’s people I mean I think there are some people who think a call to the ministry is the same thing as I really love to teach, but really loving to teach is really loving to teach The real issue is do you really love the people whom God has called you to teach Just a starting place I would say go to II Timothy chapter 1 and reflect on these three things that Paul says Well you survived that lightning round Lightning round I promised it would be quick I wasn’t sure whether it was sixty seconds for the whole, or sixty seconds each, but anyway Well I didn’t promise it was going to be easy, but you survived Now the easy questions come Now tonight is a special occasion, but question and answers, and times of question and answer is nothing new to Ligonier Ministries No For more than forty-five years Christians look to Dr. Sproul as a place where they could find trusted answers, and continue to look to the Ligonier Ministries for that, which is why we were really excited to launch in January of this year a new biblical and theological

chat service called Ask Ligonier So twenty-four hours a day, six days a week, if you are studying scripture and have a biblical question, or perhaps an unbeliever ask you a question that you’re unsure how to answer, you can go to and click the little chat bubble on the bottom right hand corner, or ask us on social media, and a well-trained team of Christians who are positioned around the world will be able to answer those questions for you All of this built on Dr. Sproul’s decades of teaching, and of course the teaching of our Ligonier teaching fellows like yourself I encourage you, if you would like to know how to ask those theological questions outside of course of tonight’s event, you can go to That’s That service is available twenty-four hours a day, six days a week Speaking of our chat service, we do have someone actually on our chat service right now with a question They’re wanting to know, “Why should we pray if God has planned all things?” Well in a way that’s a form of a bigger question that sometimes people who ask that question don’t ask, which is, “If God has planned all things, why should we do anything?” We understand what we do as Christians we do for a variety of reasons One is because God has taught us to do it in his word The bargain basement level answer to the question is that we pray because God has told us to pray, even if we don’t understand how prayer works and how He employs our prayer That’s the first thing The second thing is to say that the sovereignty of God does not destroy human responsibility, but is actually the foundation for it The sovereignty of God never destroys secondary causes What we want to say is that God plans all things We pray because among other things, our prayers are part of the instrumentation God has planned in order that He would fulfill His purposes This is really, when you think about it, it’s a really wonderfully gracious thing that God has the power to do things without us, without our prayers, without our intercession, but he’s our Father and so He wants to catch us up into his purposes just like a father would do with his own children You could say, “Get out of my way, I’ll do that,” but a true human father doesn’t do that A true human father comes along and brings his children along, and brings them into his purposes, and delights to see them grow in fulfilling his aspirations for them That’s a simple and brief answer to the question It’s a good question We have Lisa on Twitter, and she is asking, “What are the essential qualities of a Christian?” Well, boy we’re really getting the big questions You can take a little bit more time with this if you like What are the essential qualities? Well, think for example about what Paul says in I Corinthians 13 Here is a church where certain gifts are being held up before the people as indications of a kind of super spirituality Basically what Paul says in I Corinthians 13 is you can have all of these gifts and actually be nothing in God’s kingdom What would be the sign? The sign would be that the presence of faith and hope and love Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in him Hope, remember how Peter speaks in I Peter about the hope that is given to us in Jesus Christ The third and most obvious one would be a love for Jesus Christ that produces first of all a love for his people, and then a love for those who don’t know him A good place to go and answer that question is in John’s first letter He wrote the gospel in order that people would come to faith and keep on in faith, but he tells us that he wrote the first epistle to help people to understand what the marks of being a Christian are That we trust in Christ, that we walk in the light, and that we walk in love

These are the three essentials Of course, we grow within that and it’s a bit like a tree isn’t it, branches grow out of that, but that’s a good place I think to begin In the past, that was often the place where Christians began their exposition of so what in practical terms does it mean for me to be a Christian We have Dennis on Facebook He wants to know, “How do we obey the moral law without being legalistic?” Well, we obey the moral law first of all by understanding what it’s for, and there are various ways of putting this I happen lifelong to be interested in the game of golf Golf is played according to rules I have never met a golfer who has said to me if I move my golf ball nearer the hole, never said that’s fine because the game ceases to work when you don’t play the game according to the rules One of the most important things for us to understand is that, take the Ten Commandments for example, the moral law The moral law given in Exodus chapter 20, is a written form and set in a negative cast for sinners of the basic way in which Adam and Eve functioned as human beings Of course it’s written now for sinners, and so it has a lot of negatives But what the law is telling us, this is the master plan for your life You only function as the image of God as you give expression to these principles in your life As we do that, trusting in the Lord, there really is, there’s no real danger that we will become legalistic I think it’s true that people, many people say just obedience to the law is legalistic because actually what they are irritated by is the notion that anybody would tell them what to do But if you are Christian, Jesus tells you what to do He says if you love me, keep my commandments So faith in Christ produces love for Christ Love for Christ produces a desire to be like Christ Christ fulfilled the law, and so being like Christ fulfills the law There are two other elements One is that’s the way we please our heavenly Father, and the other is that both the Old Testament prophecy of the new covenant and the letter to the Hebrews twice citing the words says that when you are born again what is written into your heart is the law So in a way it’s kind of surprising that so many Christians who believe in the Holy Spirit are apparently not well enough instructed to know what it is that the Holy Spirit comes to do—that is to work into our hearts an affection for an obedience to the law of God because of our love for and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ So long as we keep our loving heavenly Father in view, as long as we keep our savior in view, as long as we keep the Holy Spirit in view, we will be saved from any danger of falling into legalism no matter how much we may be accused of doing that because we think it’s important to be obedient to the law Usually that kind of accusation comes from people who are irritated about the notion that anybody would tell you what to do, and there’s a bundle of commands in the New Testament I think the answer is fairly straightforward The challenge is growing in grace so that that becomes a reality in our lives We have someone using the Ask Ligonier chat service They’re asking, “What is the meaning of propitiation?” Well the meaning … There are several words that describe what Jesus did on the cross Some of them come from the Old Testament background from the ceremonial law, from the sacrificial system In the sacrificial system, people will remember once a year on the Day of Atonement the high priest went into the presence of God with a sacrifice, took the blood, and He poured, sprinkled the blood over the mercy seat

When for example Paul says in Romans chapter 3 that God set forth Christ as a propitiation, in the background is that picture that Jesus is both the high priest and the sacrifice, and that that particular sacrifice was a sacrifice blood, which is an expression of the life given up in death That sacrifice was Christ taking our place, dying our death in order that the wrath of God, to which we are exposed by our sin, should actually fall upon Him and not upon us so that when we are united to him, in a sense we are under the mercy seat We know the forgiveness of God We know that God’s wrath is no longer directed against us because it’s directed against him In that sense, the idea of propitiation is quite simply Jesus bearing the wrath that I deserve in order that I might experience the welcome that He Himself has by nature and grace A really common question that Ligonier has been asked over the decades is: what is reform theology—and questions related to God’s sovereignty What I want to let those who are watching know is if you have not contacted Ligonier Ministries before, a really helpful resource is Dr. R.C Sproul’s book titled “What Is Reformed Theology?” Again, if you have not contacted us before, we would love to send you a free copy of “What Is Reformed Theology?” if you live in the U.S. or Canada Simply visit That’s to request your free copy of R.C Sproul’s book “What Is Reformed Theology?” If you live outside the U.S. or Canada, you can go to and search for “What Is Reformed Theology?” and you can watch Dr. Sproul’s video series by that same name for free Well we have Joe on Twitter, Dr. Ferguson, and he’s asking, “How would you use the apocryphal books as Reformed Protestants?” Well, I’m a Presbyterian, and the confession of faith that the denomination I’m in uses is the Westminster Confession of Faith In its first chapter it makes a comment on the apocryphal books, which basically is that they have no more value than any other piece of literature The reason that’s characteristic reformed teaching is because unlike say for example the prophecy of Isaiah or Jeremiah, the apocryphal books are not recognized by the apostles as part of the cannon of Old Testament scriptures, and so there is no reason that Christians should treat them in that way In the Anglican tradition, I think in the Thirty-nine Articles they’re kind of regarded as well pious reading In that sense, there’s lots of pious reading, but they do not carry the authority of God There is no reason that anyone would think they were in errant You can certainly get to Heaven, and 99.99% of Christians get to Heaven without even knowing there is a apocryphal I suspect We have Braden on Facebook He wants to know, “Will Christians who have been forgiven answer for their sins in judgment?” Well, first of all, let me try and put it this way When we are justified, we are justified with the righteousness of Jesus Christ I sometimes say what that means, if you can begin to take it in, is that when you stand before God you are able to say, “I am as righteous before you as your Son Jesus Christ.” Now that can sound very arrogant, but if you then say well how is that, the answer is because the only righteousness with which I’m justified is Jesus Christ’s righteousness There’s an absoluteness about the perfection of that righteousness There is an absoluteness about its completeness and finality So, we are all equal justified The New Testament also teaches that God assesses us as we actually are For example, Paul says in II Corinthians 5, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what is due to us for what we have done in the body.” A number of New Testament passages that indicate yes there will be an assessment of our lives

Paul, for example, looks forward to receiving the crown of righteousness He knows he is justified, but he’s looking forward to receiving the crown of righteousness I think one might say that every believer may look forward to the crown of righteousness, but each crown may be differently shaped I personally have found the parable that Jesus tells very helpful in this respect Here are these servants and their master gives them a certain sum of money, and they all do different things with them When they come to give account to the master, there is a relationship between the master’s assessment of their lives and the service they rendered him But say you’ve been given five miners, and you made five more, then so what’s the assessment Well, he says “Well how about me making you mayor of ten cities.” That’s the language Jesus uses, putting people in charge of ten cities The only relationship between the minors and the cities is the number That’s I think a little indication you need to connect these two things But what really strikes me is that the result of the assessment is out of all proportion to any service the individual renders So, I imagine standing, ourselves standing before the judgment seat of Christ, so there’s you and myself Nathan, and the Lord assesses our lives Then He puts you in charge of Adelaide and Sydney, and Melbourne, and Canberra You say, “Lord, what did I ever do? I mean I know I did great things for Ligonier, but what did I ever do to deserve this?” I envision him, theologically at least, saying, “Nathan will you never understand it is all entirely of my grace?” I would say especially to a Christian who we can be very nervous and fearful about that final assessment, that we should always remember that just as our justification is by grace, that assessment will also be by grace If there’s any moment of embarrassment I envision, I think I might be inclined to say, “Lord, if I’d really understood this, I would have wanted to serve you even better.” It’s grace from beginning to end But like the question about why then do we pray, remember what Paul says, “I worked harder than everyone else, but it was the grace of God working in me.” We never escape his graciousness in the way in which we fulfill our responsibilities You brought up one of the parables of Jesus, and we have someone on our Ask Ligonier chat service now asking the question, “Why did Jesus speak in parables?” Well He actually answers that question Himself, or gives one answer to it when, remember when He tells the parable of the sower and the soils, and his disciples don’t get it They come to Him and say what was that all about, and He explains it to them He says now these explanation, I’m giving these explanations to you because you’re my disciples, but one of the reasons I tell these parables is because when I tell the parables, it actually makes clear whether people really grasp the meaning of the kingdom or not I don’t know if it’s said so often these days, but there was a time when people constantly said to ministers you should tell more stories like Jesus so that we can understand But Jesus didn’t tell these parables so much so that people would understand, they were really test cases of whether they understood the gospel that He preached in other words When you think about it, that’s the case I mean think about the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector We all know what the answer to the question is which man went down justified, but that’s only because we don’t actually really grasp the parable Nobody listening to Jesus thought it would be the tax collector who went away from the temple justified I sometimes say to people well, just think about these two men You’re an evangelical Christian, which of these two men are you more like? Don’t you say to God, “I thank you that I’m not like other men

God I thank you that you’ve helped me to discipline my life I thank you that you’ve helped me to give away money rather than hoard money.” When you begin to think of those things, actually you sound more like the Pharisee, and that’s very, very uncomfortable to discover that even though you trust in Christ there’s a Pharisee deep down inside you Jesus tells these parables to probe inside us to see whether we really understand the gospel, and whether the gospel is really beginning to transform our lives They’re not just stories They’re weapons in spiritual warfare We have Ashley on Facebook She’d like to know, “How would you explain the doctrine of election to an unbeliever?” Well I think the first thing I would say is that is not the place to begin in talking to an unbeliever The second thing is that since the reality of election is grasped only by faith, that’s what we really need to emphasize I think the third thing, however, that I might say is the one thing that the doctrine of election does is underline that we are utterly helpless, and we need God to save us I think it’s true that people sing about that, and yet when you ask them about it they say, “No, I don’t really believe that.” I mean what’s the most common song of a religious or spiritual kind that people seem to sing with gusto in the United States It’s Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me But once those people stop singing wherever they’re singing it, on mass, and you say oh so you’re a wretch are you What the doctrine of election really says is you have no capacity to save yourself, God needs to save you In that sense, one of the things that the doctrine of election may do when a non-Christian hears about it is bring out their rebellion against God, bring out their sense of self-sufficiency, that then makes it possible to probe a little and to show them that such is their spiritual condition that they’re not capable of coming to faith in Christ without God, first of all, loving them and drawing them to Himself Sometimes people have said to me in response, “Well, I choose to follow Jesus Christ whenever I want.” I say to them I’m your friend and I really care about you, so that’s okay, but would you just do it just now to prove to me that you really can do it when you want If you know people well enough to press that a little on them, I think it may help them to realize they’re absolutely powerless to come to Christ themselves Before we go to another lightning round, if you’re so willing, I want to ask you this question Do you have any advice for new ministers in the Bible Belt surrounded by charismatic influence? Surrounded by charismatic influence, you know I think the one thing I would say in a local church situation is make sure your focus is on the person, ministry, and work of Christ I think, as we were saying earlier on an answer to the question about the doctrines of grace, if folks really are the Lord’s sheep, Jesus assures us that they’ll hear his voice I think as we do that, those prejudices, and often that focus on the Holy Spirit that actually diverts people away from what Christ has done and who Christ is, in the Lord’s people does begin to dissolve They realize that actually they’ve been doing almost the reverse of what Jesus says the Holy Spirit would come to do Jesus says when He comes He will glorify me What they’ve been doing is they’ve been taking their eyes off Christ often and focusing on gifts, and their experience, and not on Christ and all that He has done for us One of the ways we can probe that is by saying to people now let’s talk about Christ, how much do you know about Christ Tell me, give me the outline of Mark’s gospel Often if there is a kind of arrogance that we’ve got these spiritual gifs, that really

exposes that your interest in spiritual gifts may actually hide a real ignorance of the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ There are various ways in which one could go about that, but I really would say help people to be refocused on Christ and then other things will come out in the wash So are you ready for another lightning round? Another lightning round, okay Right All right, so sixty seconds or less Sixty seconds or less Okay well we have Monica on YouTube She’s asking, “In this day where the gospel is considered offensive and intolerant, how can I work without losing my job?” Well, that’s a question you need to go and ask your pastor or minister really That’s not the kind of question that can be answered just in a blanket way But one of the things I would say to people is please read through the New Testament, and now moving from the gospels also to the letters You will find in the New Testament a phenomenal amount of instruction about how to live in a world that’s antagonistic to the gospel If you think about it, the New Testament world was a pre-Christian world We are now living, certainly in the United Kingdom, we are really living in a post-Christian world People get angry when you speak about Christ and the gospel It’s very similar, and therefore in a way the exciting about it is that we’re really living in parallel times to the New Testament There’s a lot of council in the New Testament about how you live your life in a world like this I Peter is a great illustration of that I mean it’s interesting to me, a friend told me recently because he had been a servant of the Lord in a country that was very hostile to the gospel, he said Christians there found I Peter was the book that spoke to them in a very special way The other book I would really encourage people to get to know is the book of Proverbs The book of Proverbs is full of this is how you negotiate living a godly life in a ungodly world But if there are specific questions about a particular job or vocation, then I think that’s something to talk through with people who know you locally I do believe myself that certainly in the United Kingdom, given the present trajectory, it will not be too long before there are certain elements in important vocations that become closed to Christians If they follow through that vocation, they will be required by their employment clauses to engage in actions that Christians regard as unbiblical and ungodly, and ultimately also inhuman We have Luke on Facebook Another good question for a lightning round, but “What do you hope to see in ministers over the next twenty years? What advice would you give to them?” What do I hope to see? I think the answer to that has got to be, first of all, that we see a new generation of ministers who love and trust Christ, and who expound his word, who love his people One of the things I think obviously we very much would like to see is God raising up more and more ministers who have evangelistic gifts in communicating the gospel in the present age But having said that, I really mean evangelistic gifts in the context of really having a good grasp of what the gospel is That’s a great need, and I hope that will be the case twenty years Matt on Facebook would like to know, “What level of importance should church history have in his walk as a Christian?” Well, it’s helpful at many different levels First of all I think just at the ordinary level these folks are your family as a Christian, and it really is terrific to get to know them The second thing is that the more we know about the past, the more we are preserved from repeating the mistakes of the past The third thing is that we learn that even our heroes had feet of clay That’s a very important lesson for us to learn so that we don’t engage in a kind of guru idolatry in our time Then I think just speaking personally, I think ordinary Christians can best learn about the

history of the church by reading about different figures in church history That’s always a challenge It always involves instruction, and I think also it does two things One is it helps us to see that the gospel works in any culture, and to read a variety of biographies really encourages you to believe that It also, and this goes back to one of the earlier questions, it also shows you how Christians have negotiated an anti-Christian world in a way that hasn’t born much fruit It’s of tremendous value really, and it’s also very enjoyable On our Ask Ligonier chat service, someone is asking, “What is the greatest challenge in the church today?” You know I think the greatest challenge in the church today is probably no different from any day That is that if we really believe in God and his sovereignty, we’ll learn to pray together I think one of the things that has always burdened me is that in the life of the church it’s the prayerlessness of the church that stands out most of all Also, I think another challenge in the church is this, that in the Western world, especially in the Western world, life is becoming tremendously dysfunctional Families are becoming tremendously dysfunctional We can moan and groan and lament that, but one of the things I think that this oppresses upon us is that the church is God’s family I don’t think it’s always been true in the history of the church that Christians have realized we are family here One of the things I notice, certainly in our own land, is that the more the church is the family of the heavenly Father and those relationships of normality, and affection, and safety for the children, and youngsters with older people, and vice versa is manifested in the church, no matter how much people may hate the particularities of what we believe, when they encounter that they don’t see that anywhere else That’s a super natural reality I think it’s one of the things that in the future in churches will actually be the stepping stone to many people and many families becoming Christians I believe, for example, that young families in our church that the days are coming now when there are peer groups as parents will be turning to them and saying to them, “How do you do that because we really don’t know what we’re doing or why we’re doing it We’re all at sea We don’t know who to trust We don’t know how to bring our children But you actually seem quite normal.” In the midst of a difficult time, I think there are tremendous opportunities for us to serve Christ We have Puritan Wise on Twitter who is asking, “What book or resource would you recommend to a new believer?” To a new believer, again I think it depends who they are Some new believers are just not readers at all, and so the most important thing is just to encourage them to read the scriptures For that reason, you might want to find a book for them that would give them simple help The most obviously answer to that question in this culture is Tabletalk may be the best book A subscription to Tabletalk means that this new Christian will be led on day by day in the study of scripture, and also be able to read these short articles, there are short articles on different aspects of the Christian faith and different doctrines Sometimes when we ask the question what book, maybe book will not be the answer Something like Tabletalk might be If they’re intelligent students, one of the books I would really recommend to them is R.C.’s book on “Everybody’s a Theologian” because at a very accessible level it gives a real overview of the whole of the Christian gospel I think it’s a superb book for that purpose But again, I think you just need to know the individual, but those are two suggestions Well I appreciate the segue with mentioning Tabletalk If you have never read Tabletalk magazine before, you can try it free for three months Simply visit That’s, and you can request a free three month trial I promise that this was not planned You can also go to, and you can read the articles there as well Well a final question in this lightning round Dr. Ferguson, someone asking via our Ask Ligonier

chat service, “What is the best way to describe repentance to an unbeliever?” Well, I think actually the best way may be to use an illustration that you think of either from their life or from your own life I could think of just a … The Hebrew word for repentance means returning The prodigal son is a story like that He goes away from home, and he returns home I’ve sometimes used an illustration … One night when we were in Glasgow, I was driving down the freeway on my way to church, and going up the other direction I noticed the car of one of my elders I knew it was his car because it was the only elder who had a personalized number plate I thought “why is he not going to church?” Then I realized I was actually heading in the opposite direction No matter how fast I traveled or how far I went in that direction, I would never arrive at my proper destination, so I had to turn around and get there That’s the word picture of repentance It’s turning round It’s understanding you’ve been facing away from the Lord and you need to turn around in order to come and trust him Repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin Well a question related to repentance, and by the way congratulations on surviving another lightning round Okay, it’s over is it? Yes it is Okay good But another question related to repentance is, “Is suicide the unpardonable sin?” No, I think one can say absolutely definitely that the unpardonable sin is not suicide The reason for that is that Jesus speaks about the unpardonable sin in a very particular context It seems to be a combination of two things One is a resistance, an ongoing settled resistance to Jesus Christ that is simultaneously a rejection of the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit I think another thing to say is that many people become concerned that they have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit The best thing to do in these situations is I had a friend I remember saying when somebody asked him about that He said when someone comes to me and says, “I think I’ve committed the sin against the Holy Spirit,” the first thing I say is, “Well first of all let’s talk about the forgivable sins.” They’re coming and saying I’ve committed the unforgivable sin, and the real test of whether they want forgiveness is actually well let’s talk about the forgivable sins That really, I think, tests whether people are actually wanting forgiveness If they’re not wanting forgiveness, then it’s not possible to bring comfort, and peace, and assurance to them On the one hand, that I think helps us to deal with the situation of people who say they have committed the unforgivable sin But clearly in the gospels when Jesus speaks about it, it’s a permanent and irrevocable rejection of Jesus Christ, even although the Holy Spirit has given every evidence to you that Jesus Christ is the Son of God It really is in that sense, it’s not related per se to suicide, although, often perhaps in particular in the medieval tradition, that was actually what happened We have Carrie on Twitter asking, “What is the relationship between the Holy Spirit’s work and our effort in sanctification?” That’s a wee bit like the question of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility I think that the best place to go for a one sentence answer to that is Philippians 2:12-13 where Paul urges the Christians to work out their salvation, which is not working up their salvation, but working out the salvation that God has already worked in He says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling because it’s God who is at work in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” We fulfill all the responsibilities that God has given to us in his word as we trust in Jesus Christ and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to fulfill that There’s an integrated relationship, but we are never in a position where we can say, “Oh, that was the Holy Spirit,” and “Oh, that was me,” because what we do is always

the fruit of the spirit of the working in us Daniel on YouTube is asking, “If a new believer becomes paralyzed or brain dead and never shows ‘good works,’ how do they know that they are saved? How do we know that they are saved?” Well, I think if you unpack the question, in a sense you’ve already said here is a new believer, somebody who’s trusted in Christ If they go through some traumatic accident that makes us feel they are beyond our reach, then there’s no reason that we should doubt their faith any more than Jesus doubted the faith of the dying thief on the cross who from one point of view did not have long to produce the good works that are the fruit of faith I think that, you know I think the second thing to say is there are mysteries to human existence, and when that happens to somebody, something as catastrophic as that, we should be able to trust that if they have trusted in Jesus Christ, then they are resting in him I sometimes think in this connection of the 23rd Psalm because something interesting happens in the 23rd Psalm “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” Then the dialogue changes, and when the psalmist goes through the dark valley, the nature of the dialogue changes so that the person who is reading the Psalm, or listening to the Psalm, is actually hearing the Psalmist not giving testimony, but in this kind of hidden place where he’s engaged in fellowship with God, and where we are not able to see into that dark valley, but there’s an intimation that comes out of that dark valley that there is still fellowship with God I think that it’s actually really worth reading through Psalm 23 to notice that because I don’t think it is always noticed that you are now there over hearing something that is beyond your sight and beyond your reach I’ve sometimes thought of that in connection with believers who have begun to suffer from dementia, and Alzheimer’s, and those who have no capacity to communicate to us what is happening in the engagement of their soul with God I think that’s worth really reflecting on Rebecca on Twitter says, “Based on Acts 16:31, ‘Believe you will be saved, you and your household,’ can we ask God to save our families if we are believers?” Well we should, yes Now, the Philippian jailer is one context There you’ve got the head of the household who has come to faith in Christ I was brought up in a family that never went to church My mother and father never went to church until after I was converted I remember praying desperately the Lord would work in his heart, and kind of complaining to Him after six months He didn’t seem to be answering my prayers It was actually only years later when my folks, my dad started coming with me, and then my mom as well It was only years later I actually discovered how He had been working in my family I just didn’t have the discernment to understand what He was doing As a young Christian, I actually didn’t have the patience to wait I was so desperate that they would experience what I had experienced I think it is a great thing to understand that what happened in the fall, one of the things the serpent was aiming at was the destruction of the family He did that fairly successfully, Genesis 3, Adam and Eve falling out, and then Cain and Abel and the martyr So it seems to me that what we should actually expect, and therefore pray for, as God works the grace of salvation is, as Herman Bavinck says that the rivers of grace will run through the dried up water beds of our fractured lives, and that God will be pleased, and not just to work in us as individuals, but to work in us as families Among my mother’s last words were, and I was so desperate as a fifteen year old that she would know the Lord, and among her last words were I am trusting the Lord If this is a young person, do continue to be patient and look to the Lord to restore your family to Christ Joshua on Facebook would like to know, “How would you relate the doctrine of adoption

with the sacraments?” Well, that’s a good question What happens in baptism is we are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit I sometimes say the inner significance of baptism is that it’s a naming ceremony, and we are now being named for a new family Because people sometimes find that difficult, I say well at some point or another my mom and dad went along to some register’s office and the person said, “What is the child’s name?” They said, “His name is Sinclair Buchanan Ferguson.” That did nothing to me internally, absolutely I didn’t even know it was happening, but it certainly didn’t do anything to me internally But that naming has in another sense determined the whole of my life It’s who I am In the same way, baptism is saying to either an infant as that infant grows, you have been named for the family of God, or someone who is baptized on profession of faith, you need to understand this is saying much more about what God gives you than anything you have ever done, including coming to trust in Christ This is telling you who you are This is a naming ceremony In that sense, baptism is a sacrament of our adoption It gives us the new name, and we then are called to trust the significance of that new name and to live in fellowship with the Father When it comes to the Lord’s Supper, what does that have to do with adoption? Well, it’s the family meal, and it’s Christ as our elder brother As it were saying to us, I know these are small, this sip of wine, this piece of bread, but the really important thing about these gifts is who gives it to you This is a gift of your elder brother who has died for you This is a gift that I have brought to you from the Father’s heart of love This is a gift that the Holy Spirit will seal in your life, and He is the Spirit of adoption Since both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are sacraments of Christ and sacraments of the gospel, they remind us much about the adopting grace of God Well before we go to a couple of final questions, I just want to remind those that are watching live that if you live in the U.S. and Canada and have never contacted Ligonier Ministries before, we’d love to send you a copy of Dr R.C Sproul’s book What Is Reformed Theology? You can request your free copy by visiting That’s Well Dr. Ferguson, we have Damien here on Facebook He’s asking, “Are all Christians called to be missionaries and/or do the work of missionaries?” Well, we’re all called to serve Jesus Christ The word missionary just means somebody who is sent We’re all sent, we’re all drawn into Christ and we’re sent out by Christ to live in the world as witnesses to Christ In that sense, wherever God places us we are sent by Him with the gospel If there is a broader question, then that’s the question of where do we do that and in what context do we do that Now that’s a question, again, that someone would need to talk through with their elders, or with their minister, but the central thing is that wherever we are, wherever God places us, he’s sending us into the world to serve Him and to bear witness to him We do that with all of the gifts he’s given to us, and we do that also, and I think this is important, as part of the fellowship of the church, so we’re not lone wolf missionaries A final question for you Dr. Ferguson Mark on Facebook is asking, “What are the pros and cons of formal church membership?” Well, thank you Mark and all the other people who have asked questions They’ve been great questions The really important thing is that it’s by however a church does it, and churches do it in different ways, what we are actually doing is saying I’m committing myself to you I’m committing myself to the Lord, and I’m committing myself to you That brings together two really important elements in the Christian life, our faith and trust in Christ and our life for him, but also this, that we commit ourselves to all those in the fellowship to whom He has committed Himself Becoming a formal member of the church is very, very important because if you don’t

do it, in a sense you’re like a child in a family who’s saying well I don’t think I really want to play with you all When that happens, the parents know something’s gone wrong with the child So actually not formally, or informally, however a church does it, committing yourself to the church dishonors Christ, and I think grieves the Holy Spirit The other side of it is it’s only when we do that that elders and others will feel a responsibility for us It’s only when we give ourselves to their shepherding of us that they are really able to shepherd us It’s also only in that context when people know that we are committed to them If God has given us gifts, then the space will open up for us to exercise these gifts There’s no reason why the church should say, “Well you’re not committing yourself to us, but we really want you to exercise your gifts,” because that would be a denial of our commitment to them, and our denial of the love of the Lord Jesus in our hearts for them It’s really of supreme importance Well Dr. Ferguson thank you so much for your time this evening Thank you Nathan, I’ve really enjoyed being with you tonight And thank you to all those that watched live, and for all your questions Remember, when you have biblical or theological questions, you can always ask Ligonier To learn all the ways that we can answer those questions for you twenty-four hours a day, six days a week, you can visit Well I’m Nathan W. Bingham and I look forward to seeing you next time