Thursday, January 24, 2013

God Equips Reviews "Hold Fast the Faith"

God according to their vision statement is a ministry that exists, "as an online Bible, doctrinal and topical study recommendation resource center. We seek out and review all sorts of Christian materials; then we recommend those that pass our rigorous criteria."

Because of their faithfulness to Scripture and the Reformed tradition, I was very excited to hear that their editorial staff chose to review my new book Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647.

Full Disclosure: is a ministry wing of the Presbyterian Lay Committee; the parent ministry of Reformation Press, the publisher of my book.

Nevertheless, here is part of their kindly review of my work:
We highly recommend this devotional commentary on The Westminster Confession by Matthew Everhard. This is a much-needed resource not only for pastors, but also for lay people who want to grow deeper in their understanding and love for the Sovereign God!

Everhard takes the majestic Westminster Confession of faith (1647) and builds a bridge to 21st century believers. It is neither an academic study, nor a watered-down piece with no punch. Rather, Everhard takes even the most difficult and controversial aspects of the WCF both in an easy-to-grasp historical sense, and in a manner that moves powerful truths into the hearts and minds of believers.
This is a not lightweight book, but neither is it too dense or inaccessible. It is, in this reviewer’s opinion, “just right” as a rich devotional tool.
You can read the full review here

Monday, January 21, 2013

'An Open Letter to the Beloved Opposition' on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

(Listen to this sermon online here).

To My Dearly Beloved Unbeliever, 

Greetings. First of all let me say how much I love you, and miss you. There should never be any question about my affection for you. You are and always will be held dearly in my heart, and I pray for you daily. Nothing I write in this letter will compromise my love.

I am writing today because it has been so long since we have spoken face to face, and I felt that some correspondence was urgent. Some real dialogue. So much of what you have to say to me, and what I have to say to you has been reduced to the lowest forms of modern communication—Facebook posts, YouTube clips, bumper stickers, and rally posters. 

The last time we talked you mentioned to me “how much I had changed” in recent years; that you hardly know me anymore. I think you are right, and part of my reason for writing is to explain how that change has happened and why even more is yet to come. If I could only explain to you how my experience with Christ has changed my life, my thinking, my worldview, my ethics then perhaps we could understand one another better.

Therefore I am writing this letter to you today to respond to a few of the misconceptions that it seems you may hold about our beliefs and convictions as Christians.  I hope (and beg you) to listen with the open-mindedness and the tolerance that you so often accuse me of lacking.

1. First of all, you said we are ‘growing apart’ and don’t have much in common anymore. It pains me to say it, but I completely agree. I’m noticing it too; the gap between us is widening daily! And I am not surprised that we both feel this way. My master the Lord Jesus Christ told us that this would happen. He said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34-35).

Now, before you go off again accusing us Christians of trying to establish some kind of ‘theocracy,’ –jamming our religion down people’s throats-- let me explain what Jesus meant when He spoke of 'peace' and 'the sword.'

Let's not take this verse in Matthew out of context. Jesus did come to bring a kind of peace. He came to bring the ultimate peace that can ever be had—peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins. The Apostle Paul said, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). 

I have that peace with God now that I am a believer, and it has totally renovated my entire life. I cannot tell you how freeing it is to have my guilt, my shame, my regrets, my pain all wiped away in His blood!

The division that Jesus speaks of here (the sword He came to bring, vs. 34) is a division of ultimate allegiances. A division of worldviews. A division of values. A division of convictions. Most of these differences run so deeply that—by way of analogy—it is as though we are on opposite sides of a war. Not a literal war, of course, but a cultural, spiritual, moral war. You might say that we are serving two different ‘kings’ with completely contrasting claims of sovereignty.

As one of our great writers J.C. Ryle once explained, “So long as one man believes and another remains unbelieving, so long as one is resolved to keep his sins and another to give them up, the result of the Gospel must needs be division. For this, the Gospel is not to blame, but the heart of man.”[i]

That “growing apart” that you described, is us both growing closer to our respective king.

2. And that leads me to answer the second question that you posed to me in your letter, i.e. to explain why it seems that I have become so radical these days. I think the exact words that you used were “religious nutcase.” Or was it “Bible thumper?”  I can’t exactly remember, and in any case, I’m getting used to it now. I’ve been hearing it more and more often lately.

Please let me explain that when Jesus saves a man—snatches him up by the power of His irresistible grace--He intends to redeem  the entire man, not just to make him “religious.”  In fact, Christ makes exhaustive claims over his life. Jesus said in this same chapter, 'And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it' (Matthew 10:38-39).

Do you see how all-encompassing His claims are over me? That I cannot just give Him a part of my life? He did not give us that option. If anything, to my own shame, I am not yet radical enough! 

So please don’t be astonished or startled when I choose to live my life in sharp contrast to yours. For instance, when I don’t laugh at your jokes, or enjoy the same films, or treat women as sexual objects to be used, or smirk at your porn addiction. I’ve “lost” those things (vs. 39).

Please don’t be offended when I refuse to go golfing or boating on the Lord’s Day anymore. It’s not that I don’t value our time together. I do. But I’ve found something so much greater in Christ.

And when I do unexplainable things that seem crazy to you—like give away a tenth of every paycheck before I even cash it, even if I have to drive this Chevy Prism for ten more years— it’s because I’ve come to see that I owe everything ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING to Christ!

In fact, the further I “carry the cross” of obedience, giving up the things of this world, the more joyful it becomes to me. This is the great paradox of obedience, and I can’t expect you to understand fully—yet.

And now, my Beloved Friend, let me take up a specific ethical issue that has deeply divided us. Jesus’ warning that 'A man’s enemies will be those of his own household' have proven true for us. It would seem that the chasm separating us cannot possibly be wider than here.

3. You asked me how I could possibly believe something as ‘judgmental,’ ‘narrow,’ and ‘backward’ as I do in regard to abortion.  To my great sadness, you even called me a ‘bigot,’ and alleged that I ‘just want to take away women’s rights to choose.’ Let's be honest: we both know that's a terrible lie.

Oh how I beg you to hear me out! How I plead with you to set aside the media’s caricature of Christians, and listen to our convictions for once!

If you would understand me at all, you must first see how highly we value the Word of God. Our position on this matter, is not our own. We believe it represents the very mind and heart of God as it is revealed in Scripture. And it is after all, God’s view alone that truly matters as Creator of Life.  

Everywhere we turn, we see the Bible underscoring the sanctity of human life. In fact, today is a day that we Christians call “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.” This principle, that God created, loves, and values human life is everywhere in the Bible:

  • "But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31-32). If God values my course, graying and receding hairline, does He not value the soft tender locks of the unborn child in the womb?
  • And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42). I ask you, is there any “little one” littler than the unborn child? More defenseless? Helpless?
  • For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).
  • So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
For millennia now (literally two thousand years) Christians have been the one people on this planet who have striven--often at the cost of our own lives--for the preciousness of human life. It was the early Christians who ended the cruel ancient Roman practice of infanticide by exposure. This was the terrible act of leaving newborn children to die because of their gender, appearance, or handicap. We Christians rescued thousands of abandoned Roman children and raised them and loved them as our own. This is hardly “judgmental.”

It was we Christians who helped to end the horror of African slavery in England and America. Can I remind you that William Wilberforce was an evangelical, as I am? That the Quakers and Moravians--fellow Christ followers--led the charge on our own shores to end slavery? That Martin Luther King himself was a Baptist pastor? I cannot imagine what this society would look like today without the constant witness of the “sanctify of human life” from the mouths of Christians.

And since you, Dear Unbeliever, have not been shy to point out our failures and inconsistencies (for we have regrettably given you many opportunities), would I be too bold to point out one inconsistency of your own? Why is it that you who so highly value the “god” of scientific inquiry and empirical science have so obviously abandoned the consensus of that same scientific community as it relates to the the tiny embryo in the womb having all the genetic wonder of a fully mature adult?

But please don’t be mistaken. Our greatest difference is not abortion, or homosexuality, or the films we enjoy. It is  in our view of Jesus Christ. Let me close this letter with one more quotation. 'So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven' (Matthew 10:32).

Let me remind you again how dearly I love you, my Enemy, my Friend. I have always insisted that I truly love you, and I will plead my case again with this ink. I have wept many tears for your soul. Would you do the same for me if you believed in such a thing? 

That peace that I described in having my sins wiped away can also be yours in Christ. The blood of Christ is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world (even yours). But I must remind you that it is efficient only for those who repent and believe.

Unbeliever, I can say without hesitation that I would walk through fire for you. I would walk over broken glass for you. I would swim the deepest sea for you if I could. But I can’t. And I don’t have to. Christ has done all for you already on the cross.  

In conclusion, if I ever stop loving you, Unbeliever, you have every right to question everything I claim to stand for.   

Sincerely and affectionately yours, 


Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville Fl.

[i] J.C. Ryle Commentary on Matthew 10:34.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mike Allen's Endorsement of "Hold Fast the Faith."

This one is by my friend, and fellow EPC teaching elder, Rev. Dr. Michael Allen Ph.D. (By the way, Mike is one of the fastest rising scholars in the Reformed community; recently named the D. James Kennedy Chair of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, the author of many fine books himself).

"In an age when confessions are often viewed as lifeless, many Christians and churches are rediscovering them as a lifeline. Even so, the church’s confessions are like a labyrinth, often unfamiliar and as yet unexplored. Pastor Matthew Everhard guides the uninitiated through the hallways and corridors of the Westminster Confession of Faith. His book is useful not only for introducing the lay of the land, but for showing what you should do in each room. Confessions are meant to spur on wonder, worship, and witness, and our guide helps us, time and again, to go deeper into the scriptures, to gaze upward to God, and to step out to our neighbors through the testimony of this confession.
– Michael Allen, Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Interested? See also the review by Dr. Jon Marko.

 Matthew Everhard, Senior Pastor, Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Brooksville FL.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review of 'Hold Fast the Faith.' By Jon Marko, PH.D.

Hold Fast the Faith by Matthew Everhard

Pastor Matthew Everhard’s Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647, has much to commend. His idea to write a commentary on the Westminster Confession a few years ago was interesting, but to go further and write it for use in devotions makes it all the more intriguing. His vision came to life and we are now blessed with an enriching devotional guide through the Westminster Confession.

This book’s readers will be edified by this wonderful devotional commentary. This book is nicely balanced, engaging both the heart and the mind and compelling us to act. The Westminster Confession was not just written to set theological boundaries, but primarily as a guide to help pious Christians glorify the holy Trinity and enjoy Him. It was for pilgrims on the journey with Christ. Hold Fast the Faith treats the confession for what it is and what it was intended to be. This book will prove theologically and historically orienting for not only Reformed and Presbyterian readers, but also for the innumerable “Calvinist” evangelicals that find many affinities with that tradition. 

Moreover, the book is well-organized, biblically grounded, and historically informed. Also, it is definitely accessible and will be edifying to the new and the old in the faith. And, although the aim of the book is personal devotion, it can easily be used in a variety of settings such as small groups. Its format and design makes it very manageable and each chapter is nicely a stand alone unit. The Christian community will be blessed to have another work of Everhard on their shelves.

Professor Jon Marko PH.D. Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Cornerstone University. 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Book-- Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647

Here is a little bit from the introduction to my new book. Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647.

Hold Fast the Faith
A commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith
This book is intended to be a guide to help you work through the Westminster Confession of Faith on a transformational level, not merely an intellectual level. In other words, my goal in this book is to help you to pray through this Confession in a way that fosters personal transformation and spiritual growth. Weighty matters of the Confession’s historical composition will not bog you down. Neither will you find yourself stumbling over the various changes, amendments, and alterations that have been imposed upon the text, as various denominations sought to make it more palatable. In the rare case that these discussions are necessary, notes will be provided for your convenience.

While this book is not intended to be academic, neither is it intended to be “easy.” The real work of the heart never is. My hope is that this book will be of primary importance to three groups of people. 1) Impassioned lay persons who are inflamed with a desire to go much deeper into theological truth than is possible in a typical Sunday School class, 2) seminary students from the Reformed tradition that are hoping to discover the power of this Confession, and 3) pastors and elders who would like to show their flocks the richness of our theological heritage in order to fan into flame a greater zeal for the glory of God.
The version of the Westminster Confession that you will be working through is essentially the 1647 version, with only minor updates to the language. For instance, I took the liberty of changing words like “dependeth” to “depends” and changed archaic language like “hath” to “has.” My intent is to make the Confession more readable without detracting from its theological content. …
My challenge to the reader is to “eat” this book in small sections, digesting each chapter of the Westminster in bite-sized portions. As a matter of course, one chapter of the Confession followed by its spiritual formation section will likely be enough for one sitting. Any more, and the mind may be overrun with too many thoughts! In any case, the suggested spiritual formation exercises, if honestly attempted, will lead the believer in such a direction of prayer as will be spiritually edifying to the soul. Please remember that even though the Westminster Confession has literally dozens of quotations of Scripture within, and allusions to many more, it is no substitute for reading Scripture itself.
While the Scriptures are the words of God, the Confession is nonetheless the words of men. For this reason, each section will be fortified by special readings of Scripture that are designed to be parallel to the segment of the Confession. The Confession itself acknowledges its human limitations (WCF 1.10). At the same time, it has served as an inspiration to countless souls, and it is my conviction that it will benefit you too “until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Follow on Twitter @matt_everhard.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: John Frame. The Doctrine of the Christian Life.

John Frame's The Doctrine of the Christian Life is a massive volume, at approximately one thousand pages, and weighing in at nearly half as many pounds! As the third installment of the Theology of Lordship Series, this volume written by the Reformed Theological Seminary stalwart is an extremely important contribution to the field of Christian ethical theory. After reading the entire volume--as well as its several appendices--this reviewer has found himself far more widely informed in the arena of ethics generally, and Reformed Christian ethical foundations specifically.

The volume unfolds in several significant parts. Frame opens the book by defining several key terms that will be used throughout. He distinguishes terms such as; ethics, morals, values, norms, and virtues so that the reader has a useful working understandings of the same. In these early pages, Frame lays the technical tools on the table, as it were, with which he will be working for the remainder of the volume. Those who have not read widely in the area of ethics will find themselves gradually dipped into the deeper concepts and terminology in the early stages of the work.

Next, Frame begins to unfold his typical tri-perspectival formulations that are key to understanding most of his works. Neophytes simply must have a working knowledge of his familiar rubric. This requires some brief explanation. In both theology and ethics, Frame sees reality from three primary angles, or perspectives. The normative (the objective, absolute standards of God), the situational (what is going on around us in our present context), and the existential (what is happening inside of us as human beings).

New readers or those already familiar with Professor Frame will be able to see a general connection to the Trinity here: The Father, all-powerful, reigning, ordaining and controlling all things (normative), Jesus Christ the Son incarnate who came into the world  to dwell among us (situational), and the Holy Spirit living and reigning in the hearts of believers (existential).

These three perspectives, are general and ought not to be pushed too far or held too rigidly, as Frame often reminds us. A basic understanding of John Frame's tri-perspectivalism, however, is crucial as these angels will be used throughout the work to analyze all things pertaining to ethics by this grid. The normative perspective will show what is expressly commanded by God's holy Law.  The situational  will seek to show how the Law is to be applied in our context today as Christian believers. And the existential will establish how we are to think, feel, and believe in the inner man. All three perspectives are each indispensable to ethics, he argues forcefully.

In the next major section, Frame delves into the major ethical systems held by non-believers. Here Frame reviews many of history's primary contributors to the field: Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, and Hume to name just a few. Frame sees some of these thinkers as helpful to a limited degree, but ultimately finds them all lacking, as none are founded upon God's infallible revelation, the Holy Scriptures.

As a Van Tillian presuppositionalist, Frame assumes (rightly I believe) that the Word of God is our ultimate epistemological foundation. What we know and believe must necessarily comport with revealed truth; and that which is contradicted by the Word must be rejected, no matter how compelling to the natural mind.

All other ethical systems, then, cannot discern or perceive a true normative perspective and are left to grope blindly in the dark through the situational or existential, often desperately near sighted. Thus, all non-Christian ethical systems will inevitably crumble and fail. Even those systems which claim to have a true "norm" are woefully inadequate, as Scripture alone is a sufficient plumb line for ethical truth.

Natural reason alone, he argues, is hopelessly unable to inform the human race as to our purpose and our duties. As with most Reformed theologians, Frame holds tightly to a high view of Scripture and seeks to relentlessly apply the Bible to all areas considered from this point onward. Thus he proceeds sola scripture, by Scripture alone. Those who share this view (as I do) will begin to find this volume more and more powerful. And thus begins the lengthiest section of this volume (and its greatest contribution in this writer's opinion), a significant and weighty exposition of the Ten Commandments.

Frame holds, with some minor exceptions, to the Westminster Confession's view of the Ten Commandments, by beginning with the narrow definition of each commandment (such as 'Do not murder') and then expanding to general applications of the Law (such as just war, abortion, capital punishment etc.).  As in the Confession, each commandment prohibits certain actions while mandating it opposite.

Each Commandment is treated in turn, often with several chapters for each. Frame begins each exposition with a brief grammatical and historical exegesis, showing the reader what the Commandment originally meant in the context of redemptive history. He does not leave it there however. Readers who are interested in contemporary issues will not be disappointed as Frame masterfully brings each commandment (normative perspective) into today's modern context (situational perspective).

For this writer, Frame's treatment of the Second Commandment and the regulative principle was greatly helpful. It is in this section that the Orlando Professor greatly helps the Church with regard to our corporate worship of our great God and Savior. His commentary here is both theoretical and practical.

Throughout DCL, Frame does not shy away from any topic, no matter how taboo to the Church at large. For instance on the Seventh Commandment, Frame treats on human sexuality, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, pornography, and masturbation.

Frame always upholds a conservative ethic that will frustrate progressives and fortify conservatives. His work on abortion, for instance, is particularly compelling and passionate as he defends the sanctity of human life, destroying all counter-arguments in so doing.

The book concludes with another major section related to Christ and culture. This portion would have more naturally been written as a separate, smaller work. But its inclusion here is appropriate as Frame seeks to show the ways that Christians ought to press for change and transformation within society.

Here, Frame enters into some of the intramural debates and in-house discussions common among Reformed thinkers today. Frame argues for a less sharp distinction between Law and Gospel, for example, suggesting that they are often intertwined, even within the same texts. Those who cut their teeth on the more sharply distinguished paradigm advanced by Michael Horton and others will find a congenial "second opinion" given by Frame.

Too, Frame has reservations about the increasingly influential Two Kingdoms view of culture which divides church and state, resisting their intermingling, by emphasizing the church's unique role in word and sacrament. Frame views this tendency as encouraging cultural disengagement rather than driving for real change in society. A Kuyperian (or more properly a Van Tillian), Frame sees Christ's Lordship as holding dominion over all spheres of life, and argues for a more intentional transformation of society on behalf of the church.

Readers of Modern Reformation, for instance, will find some of their convictions helpfully challenged as Frame presses some of these hard-and-fast distinctions to reckon whether they are truly airtight. Each reader, I imagine, must come to that conclusion for himself.

Appendices at the end of the book include reviews of some significant works in the area of ethics. Some are republications of essays Frame has put forward in other places. Their inclusion in the present volume is helpful, if unnecessary to the scope of the whole. Notable among them is Frame's evenhanded critique of Rushdoony's The Institutes of Biblical Law, a work advancing a somewhat radical Christian Reconstructionist view. Here as throughout the book, John Frame seems to give every argument a fair chance, even though he never shies from confessing his own protestations and reservations, often strenuously.

Overall, this work has greatly enhanced this reader's understanding of Christian ethical theory, Reformed applications of Biblical Law, and even non-christian worldviews. Pastors preaching through the Ten Commandments will likely find this work exceedingly helpful as they seek to apply the force of the Law of God to a contemporary context in desperate need of an authoritative normative perspective.

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. Follow on Twitter at @matt_everhard.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Time for Change

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
An old year has passed away.  A new year, 2013, is upon us.  This is the time of resolutions- with many that go unkept; a time to consider what the future might bring. We may decide to lose weight or to pick up a new hobby.  New Year's Day is often considered a time of change.

Many of us- especially those who tend toward rebellious attitudes (such as me)- reject the idea of making resolutions simply because we change calendars.  In fact, the only resolution I have ever made and kept was the one I made in 1997.  In 1997 I resolved to never make another New Year's resolution.  Ah, success! (I do not suggest this is the way to go, serious resolutions are often beneficial- but take them seriously!)

However, the emphasis on change at this time of the year (years?), leads me to think about a time of true change.  It is the time a person surrenders his or her will to Christ and inherits salvation.

This change is more extreme than a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly (hat tip: Greg Gunn, Pastor, Providence Church, Spring Hill, FL).  A wonderful example of this change is seen in dramatic fashion in Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament.  He said, 
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1.12-15 ESV)
Christians all have one thing in common: we are not who we once were.  In 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 Paul writes,
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (ESV)
Sometimes we may wonder why one Christian may show a dramatic change while another progresses more slowly.  Our dedication can be one major factor- are we studying God's Word faithfully? Are we seeking Him in prayer?  Surely, through God's Word and prayer we learn about Him and get to know His character.  We can be the sheep that know the voice of our Good Shepherd. As we devote ourselves to Him, we grow.  We change.  We are not who we were.  Though we might have been enslaved to sin (see Romans 6), we are now free and made into a new creation.

More important than an old year passing away with a new one rising up is the passing of who we were as we take on the image of Christ in our lives.

Pete Garbacki is a minister with Time for Truth Ministries and Mission.Brasil. Follow him on Twitter @mission_brasil or FaceBook at