Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sanctification, Grace, and the Obedience of Faith.

"Stop being a theological nitpicker."  "What do you have against Elyse Fitzpatrick?"  "You MacArthur people are all truth and no grace."  "Don't you know doctrine needlessly divides.  Love conquers all (contra Ephesians 4:11f)." 

As many of you know I have taken some heat from friends for critical comments that I have made concerning Elyse Fitzpatrick and Pastor Tullian Tchividjian.  I am not alone here.  My specific concerns have been echoed by many pastors who are much better scholars than I am (please check out my recommended resources below).  If you are new to this important discussion, the following article by Richard Phillips is a good place to start; Where the Sanctification Controversy Lies.

Having said that, I think it would be profitable if I clarified my theological position with an article rather than simply post lengthy comments on Facebook.  My passing reference to Elyse Fitzpatrick today has to do with the ongoing controversy surrounding Fitzpatrick's "hyper grace" sanctification paradigm (imperatives vs. indicatives; God's love of benevolence v. his love of complacency, law & gospel; faith & obedience, Jesus + Nothing equals everything, etc).

Elyse's ministry partner and close friend Tullian Tchividijian was removed from the Gospel Coalition (his ministry blog was removed anyways) for issues related to sanctification, grace, and the obedience of faith.  On this point Phillips adds, "This is not a small number of angry men who are 'attacking' Tullian. Rather, a large body of Reformed scholars and leaders, including The Gospel Coalition but extending far beyond it, are gravely concerned that Christians are being told that they cannot pursue holiness and that their pastors should not tell them to do so."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Letters of Commendation

To whom it may concern, 

Pastor Caleb Kolstad has been our Senior Pastor for almost seven years now.  When Caleb and his family arrived here in 2008 they inherited a very challenging revitalization work.  Over the past six years Caleb has made every effort to help return First Baptist Church back to its founding commitments.  By God’s grace we are once again a Word-centered Church. 
The most important thing our Pastor has done is to faithfully preach and teach the Word of God each and every Sunday.  True expository preaching is a rare thing these days and we are blessed to have an approved workman that is wholeheartedly committed to rightly handling the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

Caleb has also invested much effort trying to disciple and train laymen (2 Timothy 2:2).  It is our Pastor’s conviction that godly laymen are the backbone of the church.  Caleb’s leadership training and development classes have pushed our men to develop strong biblical convictions as they seek to be God’s kind of leaders at home, in the community, and in the church.

Pastor Kolstad is also committed to being a faithful shepherd-leader.  Caleb and Andrea have had almost every new visitor into their home as well as many of our regular members.  Caleb also visits our sick and our ministry shut-ins.  Over the past many years Caleb has officiated over twenty-eight funerals.  Our Pastor loves his children and is one of our main teachers in our weekly Awana ministry.  

Finally, our Pastor and his wife are very active in our church’s biblical counseling ministry.  Caleb’s wife Andrea has her Master’s in Biblical Counseling and is a NANC certified counselor.  This too has been a tremendous blessing to our entire church family and to our community at large.

Pastor Caleb is biblically qualified according to God’s standards for the office of elder/pastor (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).  He has been in pastoral ministry for close to ten years now. 

It is my privilege to recommend Caleb Kolstad for your doctoral of ministry program.  If God works out all of the details it is our Pastor’s desire to complete this program in four years.


Chairman of the deacon board at First Baptist Church, Freeport

Letters of Commendation

Proverbs 27:2, Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.

It is my privilege to recommend Caleb Kolstad (with his wife, Andrea) as a faithful and gifted man of God who has, through the years, given evidence of a true pastoral call, a heart for shepherding, and an unswerving commitment to expository preaching.

I’ve known Caleb and his family for many years, and I’ve enjoyed a long-standing friendship with his parents for 25+ years. I watched Caleb grow up, get married, get his training, serve in an internship in our ministry early on, and become a seasoned shepherd and preacher. I’ve had ample opportunity to observe Caleb’s character and diligence to learn. He has served the Lord with humility and wisdom, and continues to demonstrate careful attention to his doctrine and personal holiness. He’s a dedicated father who has an obvious rapport with his children and the respect of his wife. Caleb and Andrea are always eager to open their home and their lives to the body of Christ, meeting needs with a sacrificial heart without complaint. Their steadfast and proven faithfulness to serve, in any capacity God chooses, is a quality that, I am confident, will result in much fruit for any church.

Caleb is a warm and winsome shepherd with a proven love for the flock of God. I’ve always appreciated his diligent study of God’s word and ardent defense of its truth. Through the years Caleb has engaged the challenges of feeding and leading the sheep, speaking the truth with conviction and in love. He’s called me many times to discuss the current issues within evangelicalism, and he’s always on the right side of the issues with insight and fervency. He and Andrea have a healthy, happy marriage, and Andrea has always fully supported Caleb in the ministry callings given by the Lord. I believe that Caleb’s life and priorities are such that bring honor to the Lord, and I would encourage you to prayerfully consider having him serve with you in the pastoral capacity best suited to your needs. I highly commend their lives to you as exemplary and worthy of your serious interest.

For the Sake of His Name,

Jerry Wragg

Grace Immanuel Bible Church
Chairman of the Expositors Seminary