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Leviticus 10     Psalm 11-12     Proverbs 25     1 Thessalonians 4


Leviticus 10

The Death of Nadab and Abihu

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.

4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near; carry your brothers away from the front of the sanctuary and out of the camp.” 5 So they came near and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, “Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. 7 And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.

8 And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

12 Moses spoke to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his surviving sons: “Take the grain offering that is left of the LORD’s food offerings, and eat it unleavened beside the altar, for it is most holy. 13 You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, from the LORD’s food offerings, for so I am commanded. 14 But the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed you shall eat in a clean place, you and your sons and your daughters with you, for they are given as your due and your sons’ due from the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the people of Israel. 15 The thigh that is contributed and the breast that is waved they shall bring with the food offerings of the fat pieces to wave for a wave offering before the LORD, and it shall be yours and your sons’ with you as a due forever, as the LORD has commanded.”

16 Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.” 19 And Aaron said to Moses, “Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?” 20 And when Moses heard that, he approved.


Psalm 11

The LORD Is in His Holy Temple

Psalm 11:1 To The Choirmaster. Of David.

1  In the LORD I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
2  for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
3  if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

4  The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5  The LORD tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6  Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7  For the LORD is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.


Psalm 12

The Faithful Have Vanished

Psalm 12:1 To The Choirmaster: According To The Sheminith. A Psalm Of David.

1  Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
2  Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

3  May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
4  those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

5  “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the LORD;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
6  The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

7  You, O LORD, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
8  On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.


Proverbs 25

More Proverbs of Solomon

Proverbs 25:1 These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.

2  It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out.
3  As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth,
so the heart of kings is unsearchable.
4  Take away the dross from the silver,
and the smith has material for a vessel;
5  take away the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness.
6  Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
or stand in the place of the great,
7  for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

What your eyes have seen
8  do not hastily bring into court,
for what will you do in the end,
when your neighbor puts you to shame?
9  Argue your case with your neighbor himself,
and do not reveal another’s secret,
10  lest he who hears you bring shame upon you,
and your ill repute have no end.

11  A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
12  Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
13  Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters.
14  Like clouds and wind without rain
is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

15  With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone.
16  If you have found honey, eat only enough for you,
lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
17  Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
18  A man who bears false witness against his neighbor
is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.
19  Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.
20  Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
and like vinegar on soda.
21  If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22  for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you.
23  The north wind brings forth rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24  It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
25  Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
26  Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain
is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
27  It is not good to eat much honey,
nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.
28  A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.


1 Thessalonians 4

A Life Pleasing to God

1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

The Coming of the Lord

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

ESV Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Living in the Tension

By Daniel Dunlap 5/1/1992

     “The Church is full of hypocrites!” Sadly, this statement is all too often true. Sometimes our actions betray our profession, leaving the spotless bride open to such charges. The presumptuous attitude of self-righteousness that we often convey to the world reveals our operational ignorance of a peculiar tension we find in the New Testament: The tension of the “already, but not yet.”

     “Already, but not yet” describes the tension between the benefits of redemption already experienced in this life and those benefits which await us at the consummation. Christians enjoy the “alreadyness” of the Atonement—remission of sins, adoption as children, the indwelling Holy Spirit, etc. However, there is a sense in which we will not see these realities in totality until the last day (1 John 3:2), and so they always remain objects of faith. For instance, the believer already has eternal life (John 5:24), but he is not yet physically resurrected. Likewise, the church is a fellowship of persons who are both new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and still imperfect sinners. We await our glorification and the destruction of our sinful natures in the last day.

     True, the believer is no longer living as one who is totally depraved; but he can never attain sinless perfection in this life either. The belief in “complete sanctification” in this life denies the already/not-yet tension. The believer is in a lifelong struggle with the flesh (Romans 8:13).

     Faith healers who promise that complete and universal healing is available today fail to distinguish between present benefits of the Atonement and future ones. Such teaching is proven erroneous by the fact that everyone eventually dies.

     The church enjoys the “alreadyness” of the community of the redeemed; but her “not yetness” reminds her to uphold her purity through discipline. She must guard against false teachers, immorality, and apostasy. Christians should be dealt with as forgiven sinners: neither above reproach, nor wholly incapable of any good.

     A pessimistic outlook for the future puts undue emphasis on the “not yetness” of Christ’s kingdom, implicitly denying its “alreadyness.” The citizens of the kingdom are to work, not in the expectation of defeat but in the confidence of victory. Satan’s defeat occurred two thousand years ago; his final doom is certain (Revelation 20:10). Yet our optimism should be tempered by remembering that the eradication of evil is reserved for the last day (Revelation 20:14).

(Re 20:10) 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.    ESV

(Re 20:14) 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.    ESV

     The already-not yet tension underlies the whole New Testament message. Understanding this tension provides us with the necessary balance for applying its teachings to every aspect of our Christian experience.

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     Rev. Dr. Dunlap served as Dean of the Faculty at HGST from 2004-2009, and Vice-President from 2008-2009, also teaching courses in worship. In 2009, he returned to pastoral ministry and served as Rector of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Tomball, Texas until his 2014 appointment as rector in Annapolis, MD. Dr. Dunlap received a BS degree from The Pennsylvania State University and MDiv and MA (New Testament) degrees from Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pennsylvania. After seminary, he studied liturgics at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, under the mentorship of Horton Davies. His PhD was awarded by Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University in association with Coventry University, where he studied under the renowned Anglican scholar, R. T. Beckwith. While at Oxford, Dr. Dunlap was a research assistant to Alister McGrath and contributed a number of biographical entries to The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (SPCK, 1996). Dr. Dunlap previously served as Dean and Principal of Cranmer Theological House, a seminary affiliated with the Reformed Episcopal Church. Dr. Dunlap has also served parishes in Philadelphia, Exeter (UK), Shreveport, and Houston. He and his wife Donna (a graduate from HGST) now reside in Annapolis, MD with their three children. Bio

In Season and Out of Season

By Douglas Wilson 4/1/1999

     Y2K has not always been on everyone’s lips, but it will be. For years, those who had taken the responsibility of warning others were pretty lonely. Now that we have little time left, we have mounting awareness—and mounting consternation.

     In the midst of this, many pastors are wondering about their duty to their people. A few pastors have attempted an extreme solution, trying (sometimes successfully) to get their people to run for the tall grass. Sadly, many others have remained relatively complacent, and probably will remain so until the secular media give them reason to be respectably concerned, followed soon after by the panic of the unprepared. But increasingly, many pastors want to know how to be biblically responsible right where they are. And even though this is America, we have no constitutional right to easy answers.

     When the center of a culture gives way, as it has in ours, we must learn to look past the obvious. For example, modern Americans tend to think that if God were to show His displeasure, it would be only through plagues, earthquakes, military disasters, or whatever. Or at least we think we know this. If asked about it, we would perhaps mutter something about biblical judgments and the four horsemen.

     But another, lesser-known biblical judgment should be kept in mind. God says that He can make the heart of a people so fearful that they flee from a windblown leaf (Lev. 26:36). They run though no one pursues (Lev. 26:37). They are filled with suspense and dread (Deut. 28:66), and terror reigns within their homes (Deut. 32:25). Because of the turmoil, confusion, madness, and a despairing heart are common (Deut. 28:20, 28, 65). All these are indications that God’s hand is upon a people, and not for blessing.

     Now it is crucial that we distinguish between scriptural injunctions not to panic (Phil. 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7) and the humanistic soothing that says we should not worry because nothing is wrong. Actually, plenty is wrong, but the teaching of the Bible here is that the chaos of panic is not a response to chastisement but is part of the chastisement itself. For the believer it is wrong to give way to fear, because a sovereign God is controlling all the details for His own glorious purposes.

     In light of this, what should a pastor do to prepare his people? The rule of thumb is that our duties do not change with the seasons; we should begin doing all those things we should have been doing anyway. In what follows, we should hope that we find nothing drastically new.

     First, the pastor must be well-informed; he should not be provincial in his reading. Too many pastors get caught up in the day-to-day administration of their churches, focused only on getting through the next Lord’s Day. But the duty of pastors in times of disorientation is to preach the Word in season and out of season. In order to do this, the pastor has to have some awareness of the nature of the disorientation. But in his political and cultural reading, he must remember that theology always comes out our fingertips. Social calamities, therefore, must not be understood as “random bad things”—our God is a God who keeps covenant, and this necessarily includes covenant blessings and curses. And this cannot be understood apart from a diligent study of Scripture and church history, up to the present. How many pastors are like the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12:32)?

     Second, a man’s preaching does not have to be “relevant” to be relevant. When current events appear with great frequency in the pulpit, along with multiple clippings from the major news magazines, something is seriously wrong. A pastor has a duty to have the pulse of the culture in which he preaches, but when he preaches, he ascends the pulpit in order to preach the Word. But what aspects of the Word? Which topics? Which books of the Bible? In times of social distress, the most appropriate thing a pastor could do would be to cease being a “whispering Calvinist.” If there is disaster, did not the Lord do it (Amos 3:6)? In times of cultural disintegration, the best gift the people can receive is that of scriptural understanding. But if God is not completely in control, such understanding is impossible. And such understanding does not happen unless … how will they hear without a preacher? In the face of a looming Y2K crisis, the pulpit should not be filled with the looming Y2K crisis, but rather with the majesty, glory, sovereignty, goodness, severity, and mercy of almighty God.

     In times of complacency, pastors too often are tempted to avoid anything that might excite “controversy.” But this is to heal the wounds of the people lightly, saying “Peace, peace” when there isn’t any. Samuel Johnson once commented that being hanged in a fortnight has a good side—it concentrates the mind wonderfully. In the same way, a social crisis like Y2K may have the salutary benefit of getting many pastors to discharge their office.

     Lastly, through God’s grace, a pastor should labor to establish covenant community within the congregation. In too many modern churches, the parishoners have the same ties to one another that fellow shoppers at Sears do, which is to say, next to none. But a church should be a place where trust, knowledge, and commitment are all cultivated. The church at Jerusalem in the first century had been told that the city would be leveled. In the face of this disaster, the records show that they truly loved one another (Acts 4:33–34).

     Let us hope God grants us the same gift, and that great grace will be upon us all.

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     Douglas Wilson (theologian)

One Day More?

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/1999

     I’ve never been a great science student. My interest in science is a byproduct of my interest in philosophy. I’ve noticed that the two often intersect, however unintentionally. Newton, with his fixed laws of motion, fueled, much to his chagrin, a deistic worldview. Darwin, who turned all the world into a living and changing organism, gave rise to social Darwinism and the dialectical view of history (which results clashed mightily in the eastern front of World War 11). Einstein came along with relativity, and, surprise, the culture is swimming in relativism.

     Newton, however, has not quite left us. You’ll remember his law of inertia, that objects at rest tend to remain at rest and objects in motion tend to remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Without this concept, science is impossible. If some apples fall and some apples float, for no reason, we just can’t be sure of anything.

     But the concept of inertia has, at least in the West, infected our view of history. Perhaps aided by some degree of stability in our recent past, we have jumped to the erroneous conclusion that tomorrow will be much like today. If a worldwide depression, two world wars, and genocide around the globe haven’t wiped the smiles off our faces, we are still Enlightenment optimists. Tomorrow will be like today, we seem to think, except better.

     But what if it is not? We live in an age when unstable atoms wait to be unleashed by unstable rulers and terrorists, when deadly viruses abound, both in nature and in the laboratories of madmen. We teeter on the edge of economic collapse as the wind rustles about our economic house of credit cards. And then there is that nasty bug everyone is talking about, the millennium bug. Oh, and don’t forget the all-powerful, jealous God, who must not be too pleased with us.

     Tomorrow may be another step up the mountain, or we may step off a cliff. History is in the hands not of potentates and scientists, but of God. It is not just Christians who live coram Deo—we all do. He is watching us, but not from a distance. Like the sparrows, we are not to worry. But like the ant, we are to prepare for tomorrow, whatever His providence may bring.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

More Than an Exit

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2000

     Death has been on my mind of late. As I write, it is just days after Ligonier Ministries lost a friend and board member, Robert Fraley, in the plane crash that took golfer Payne Stewart. And in the last three months, my wife, Denise, and I have lost two children to miscarriage. But resurrection is likewise on my mind. A few days ago, I received the best news I’ve heard in a long time. A dear friend who had ceased to be a friend, who had been judged as outside the kingdom, who had been excommunicated by her session, has repented. I feel like Mary and Martha must have felt when their beloved brother exited the grave.

     Death ought to do that to us, to move our minds to think on the future. Yes, there is a time for mourning, but not as the pagans who have no hope. Death without a view to the coming resurrection is, in a word, deadly. But death in our context, remembering and looking to resurrection, is gain. There is also a time for dancing.

     Our problem is that we miss both. We find ourselves caught up in the bustle of the world, that frenzied pursuit of distraction that helps us forget that the grave awaits. Rather than rejoice, we’d just prefer not to think about it.

     This simply evidences our unbelief. I’ve instructed my wife as to the nature of my wake — I want it to be a party. I’ve been coram Deo. I’ve tasted the presence of God. I’ve knelt at the Lord’s Table and quaked in His presence. And I want more. My appetite for life leads me to an appetite for death. And when my King calls me from the battle, I’ll be ready to go. It’s not just that the sting is gone. It’s not just that the grave holds no victory. Jesus didn’t come to secure a mere tie with the forces of darkness. He routed them, so much so that their greatest weapon, death, becomes our great reward.

     Paul’s struggle between the twin goods of serving Him on this earth and going to our — that is, His — reward is not some bizarre manifestation of super - godliness. Instead, we are called to cultivate the same attitude. We are to long to go home, to return to that country wherein we have our citizenship. If we don’t have that longing, I fear we might be just a little too much at home in this world we’re just passing through. But as one wise girl once told us, there’s no place like home.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

The Last Enemy

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2000

     “HALT! WHO GOES THERE?”

     Such might be the words of a sentry who confronts a mysterious stranger in the darkness. The sentry must discern the identity of the trespasser to determine whether he is a friend or foe. Armed to protect his territory, the vigilant guard wants to avoid two evils: 1) the entrance into the compound of an enemy bent on destruction and 2) the mistaken shooting of an ally stumbling about in the dark.

     There is an intruder in our garden — the one called death. Our task is to determine whether his grin is the fiendish mask of a mortal enemy or the benign smile of a friend come to rescue us from this vale of tears. Should we greet him with strident protests or with open arms?

     The Bible describes death as an enemy. It is not the only enemy of the Christian, but it is described as the “last enemy.” In 1 Corinthians, Paul affirms that Christ will reign until He has put all enemies under His feet, and the last of those enemies will be death (15:25–26). It should be a great comfort to the believer to know that the one in whom he places his trust is Christus Victor. We see this clearly in Hebrews, where the author describes Jesus as our archegos, or the “supreme champion” of His people.

     The champion motif is central not only to Hebrews but to the entire Bible. We think of the famous episode of the match between David and Goliath. The Israelites and Philistines had agreed that the outcome of their war would be determined not by a full confrontation of the armies but by a contest between champions who would represent each side. Goliath, the gigantic champion of the Philistines, struck terror into the hearts of the Jewish soldiers because he appeared invincible. No one volunteered to go up against him until the shepherd boy, David, stepped forward to assume the task. His conquest of Goliath was astonishing, but it pales into insignificance when placed alongside the victory of David’s greater Son, who was also David’s Lord and David’s champion. As David went up against the power of Goliath, Jesus went up against the power of Satan himself.

     Notice the link between Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15 and that found in Hebrews 2.

     1 Corinthians 15:26–28 says, “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

     Now note Hebrews 2:8ff: “For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we do not yet see all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

     Both 1 Corinthians and Hebrews harken back to Psalm 8, in which the “son of man” fulfills the destiny of the Second Adam and receives from the Father dominion over creation. This placing of all things in or under subjection to Christ has both a present and a future dimension. In His ascension, Christ was invested as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is already at the right hand of the Father and reigns over all creation. But the whole of creation is not yet in willing submission or subjection to Him. In short, Christ has rebellious subjects. Satan himself is still in rebellion.

     The connection between Satan and death is important: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14–15).

     Here it is declared that the devil had the power of death until that power was wrenched away from him by Christ. We must remember that any power or authority Satan ever has is a delegated authority, as the ultimate authority over death and everything else is God. But Satan’s delegated authority over death is taken from him by Christ. The irony is that Christ’s victory over the devil and the power of death is accomplished by means of death. In His death, Jesus is victorious over death. Death cannot hold Him.

     Yet there is still a future dimension to this victory, for Paul says that the last enemy that will be destroyed is death. He writes this years after the Cross. Thus, even though Christ dealt a mortal blow to Satan and death in His own death, there still remained a victory to be won.

     Something glorious and decisive did take place on the cross with respect to death. The sting of death was removed by the captain of our salvation. Paul writes: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54–57).

     Here is our “Champion Christology.” God gives to us a victory that we have not achieved for ourselves. It is won for us by another. Victory over Goliath is not worthy to be compared to victory over death.

     So is death now our friend? Or is it still our foe? For believers, death is a friend insofar as it ushers us into the immediate presence of Christ. But insofar as it is still coupled with much suffering, it remains the last enemy that must be totally vanquished. However, our problem with death is not with death itself but with the process that leads up to it. It is dying that is still feared by Christians. What Christian would be afraid of death if we could just shut our eyes and wake up in heaven? We know that the other side of death is glory and that death is but the portal or threshold to that glory.

     Paul knew the glory of death, as evidenced by his anguish and ambivalence regarding his possible departure from this life. He wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:21–24).

     Paul here makes a comparison between life and death. It is not a contrast between the good and the bad. Neither is it a comparison between the good and the better. It is a comparison between the good and the far better.

     Because of Christ’s conquest of death, we are called “hyper-conquerors” by Paul: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). “All these things” include life and death, and everything in between. Dominion over the curse of death is sealed for those who are beloved of Christ.

     In this same passage, Paul answers his own question about what shall separate us from the love of Christ: nothing can do that, not even death. Those of us who are approaching that deadly day have nothing to fear but God Himself.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:

Leviticus 10; Psalms 11-12; Proverbs 25; 1 Thess. 4

By Don Carson 4/7/2018

     In Leviticus 8 Aaron and his sons, under a ritual prescribed by God, are ordained as priests. In Leviticus 9, they begin their ministry. Here in Leviticus 10, still within the seven days of their ordination rites, two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, put coals in their censers and add incense, apparently thinking that they will add something to the ceremonies and rituals God laid down. But “fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (10:2). Before Aaron can protest, Moses pronounces an oracle from God: “‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’ Aaron remained silent” (10:3).

     That is not all. Moses insists that Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, must not break the sacred cycle of ordination to participate in the public mourning for Nadab and Abihu. They are not to leave the tabernacle while “the LORD’s anointing oil” is on them (10:7). First cousins once removed will look after the bodies and discharge family obligations (10:4-5).

     What are we to think? A cynic might say that this is elevating ritual above people. Isn’t God a bit insensitive when he cuts down two fine sons who are simply trying to jazz up the worship service a little?

     I cannot claim to know all the answers. But consider:

     (1) God has repeatedly said that everything connected with the service of the tabernacle must be done exactly according to the pattern provided on the mountain. He has already shown himself to be a God who brooks no rivals, and who expects to be obeyed. At issue is whether God is God.

     (2) Throughout the Bible, the closer the people are to times and situations of revelation or revival, the more immediate the divine sanction against those who defy him. Uzzah puts out his hand to steady the ark and is killed; Ananias and Sapphira are killed because of their lies. In colder, more rebellious times, God seems to let the people go to extraordinary lengths of evil before reining them in. Yet the former periods bring greater blessing: more of the immediate presence of God, more disciplined zeal among the people.

     (3) In context, Nadab and Abihu almost certainly had defiant, willful motives. For when Aaron makes a different adjustment in the ritual, with the best of motives, surprising flexibility is sanctioned (10:16-20).

     (4) This firm lesson prepared the priests for the other major component in their ministry: “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses” (10:10-11, italics added).

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 37

He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 15.

THE BOASTED MERIT OF WORKS SUBVERSIVE BOTH OF THE GLORY OF GOD, IN BESTOWING RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND OF THE CERTAINTY OF SALVATION.

The divisions of this chapter are,--I. To the doctrine of free justification is opposed the question, Whether or not works merit favor with God, sec. 1. This question answered, sec. 2 and 3. II. An exposition of certain passages of Scripture produced in support of the erroneous doctrine of merit, sec. 4 and 5. III. Sophisms of Semipelagian Schoolmen refuted, sec. 6 and 7. IV. Conclusion, proving the sufficiency of the orthodox doctrine, sec. 8.

Sections.

1. After a brief recapitulation, the question, Whether or not good works merit favor with God, considered.

2. First answer, fixing the meaning of the term Merit. This term improperly applied to works, but used in a good sense, as by Augustine, Chrysostom, Bernard.

3. A second answer to the question. First by a negative, then by a concession. In the rewarding of works what to be attributed to God, and what to man. Why good works please God, and are advantageous to those who do them. The ingratitude of seeking righteousness by works. This shown by a double similitude.

4. First objection taken from Ecclesiasticus. Second objection from the Epistle to the Hebrews. Two answers to both objections. A weak distinction refuted.

5. A third and most complete answer, calling us back to Christ as the only foundation of salvation. How Christ is our righteousness. Whence it is manifest that we have all things in Christ and he nothing in us.

6. We must abhor the sophistry which destroys the merit of Christ, in order to establish that of man. This impiety refuted by clear passages of Scripture.

7. Errors, of the younger Sophists extracted from Lombard. Refuted by Augustine. Also by Scripture.

8. Conclusion, showing that the foundation which has been laid is sufficient for doctrine, exhortation, and comfort. Summery of the orthodox doctrine of Justification.

1. The principal point in this subject has been now explained: as justifications if dependent upon works, cannot possibly stand in the sight of God, it must depend solely on the mercy of God and communion with Christ, and therefore on faith alone. But let us carefully attend to the point on which the whole subject hinges, lest we get entangled in the common delusion, not only of the vulgar, but of the learned. For the moment the question is raised as to the justification by faith or works, they run off to those passages which seem to ascribe some merit to works in the sight of God, just as if justification by works were proved whenever it is proved that works have any value with God. Above we have clearly shown that justification by works consists only in a perfect and absolute fulfillment of the law, and that, therefore, no man is justified by works unless he has reached the summit of perfection, and cannot be convicted of even the smallest transgression. But there is another and a separate question, Though works by no means suffice to justify, do they not merit favor with God?

2. First, I must premise with regard to the term Merit, that he, whoever he was, that first applied it to human works, viewed in reference to the divine tribunal, consulted very ill for the purity of the faith. I willingly abstain from disputes about words, but I could wish that Christian writers had always observed this soberness--that when there was no occasion for it, they had never thought of using terms foreign to the Scriptures--terms which might produce much offense, but very little fruit. I ask, what need was there to introduce the word Merit, when the value of works might have been fully expressed by another term, and without offense? The quantity of offense contained in it the world shows to its great loss. It is certain that, being a high sounding term, it can only obscure the grace of God, and inspire men with pernicious pride. I admit it was used by ancient ecclesiastical writers, and I wish they had not by the abuse of one term furnished posterity with matter of heresy, although in some passages they themselves show that they had no wish to injure the truth. For Augustine says, "Let human merits, which perished by Adam, here be silent, and let the grace of God reign by Jesus Christ," (August. de Prædest. Sanct). Again, "The saints ascribe nothing to their merits; every thing will they ascribe solely to thy mercy, O God," (August. in Psal. 139). Again, "And when a man sees that whatever good he has he has not of himself, but of his God, he sees that every thing in him which is praised is not of his own merits, but of the divine mercy," (August. in Psal. 88). You see how he denies man the power of acting aright, and thus lays merit prostrate. Chrysostom says, "If any works of ours follow the free calling of God, they are return and debt; but the gifts of God are grace, and beneficence, and great liberality." But to say nothing more of the name, let us attend to the thing. I formerly quoted a passage from Bernard: "As it is sufficient for merit not to presume on merit, so to be without merit is sufficient for condemnation," (Bernard in Cantic. Serm. 98). He immediately adds an explanation which softens the harshness of the expression, when he says, "Hence be careful to have merits; when you have them, know that they were given; hope for fruit from the divine mercy, and you have escaped all the perils of poverty, ingratitude, and presumption. Happy the Church which neither wants merit without presumption, nor presumption without merit." A little before he had abundantly shown that he used the words in a sound sense, saying, "Why is the Church anxious about merits? God has furnished her with a firmer and surer ground of boasting. God cannot deny himself; he will do what he has promised. Thus there is no reason for asking by what merits may we hope for blessings; especially when you hear, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake,' (Ezek. 36:22). It suffices for merit to know that merits suffice not."

3. What all our works can merit Scripture shows when it declares that they cannot stand the view of God, because they are full of impurity; it next shows what the perfect observance of the law (if it can any where be found) will merit when it enjoins, "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do," (Luke 17:10); because we make no free-offering to God, but only perform due service by which no favor is deserved. And yet those good works which the Lord has bestowed upon us he counts ours also, and declares, that they are not only acceptable to him, but that he will recompense them. It is ours in return to be animated by this great promise, and to keep up our courage, that we may not weary in well-doing, but feel duly grateful for the great kindness of God. There cannot be a doubt, that every thing in our works which deserves praise is owing to divine grace, and that there is not a particle of it which we can properly ascribe to ourselves. If we truly and seriously acknowledge this, not only confidence, but every idea of merit vanishes. I say we do not, like the Sophists share the praise of works between God and man, but we keep it entire and unimpaired for the Lord. All we assign to man is that, by his impurity he pollutes and contaminates the very works which were good. The most perfect thing which proceeds from man is always polluted by some stain. Should the Lord, therefore, bring to judgment the best of human works, he would indeed behold his own righteousness in them; but he would also behold man's dishonor and disgrace. Thus good works please God, and are not without fruit to their authors, since, by way of recompense, they obtain more ample blessings from God, not because they so deserve, but because the divine benignity is pleased of itself to set this value upon them. Such, however is our malignity, that not contented with this liberality on the part of God, which bestows rewards on works that do not at all deserve them, we with profane ambition maintain that that which is entirely due to the divine munificence is paid to the merit of works. Here I appeal to every man's common sense. If one who by another's liberality possesses the usufruct of a field, rear up a claim to the property of it, does he not by his ingratitude deserve to lose the possession formerly granted? In like manner, if a slave, who has been manumitted, conceals his humble condition of freedman, and gives out that he was free-born, does he not deserve to be reduced to his original slavery? A benefit can only be legitimately enjoyed when we neither arrogate more to our selves than has been given, nor defraud the author of it of his due praise; nay, rather when we so conduct ourselves as to make it appear that the benefit conferred still in a manner resides with him who conferred it. But if this is the moderation to be observed towards men, let every one reflect and consider for himself what is due to God.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion

We Shall Be Changed

By Michael Beates 4/1/2001

     I am a forty-something adult. I have arrived at that place in life where I am losing weight in my legs while my midsection seems to gain every bit of that lost weight and more. I upgraded (or downgraded) to bifocal glasses a year or two ago. I seem to be just as sore when I get up in the morning as when I went to bed the night before. That adolescent sense of immortality is fading. And I know the worst is yet to come, for as I watch my body slump into middle-agedness, I see my parents and other dearly beloved friends in much more precarious physical shape than I.

     Shame on me! I am slipping into the nearly ubiquitous American and evangelical belief that this body, despite all I strive to do, will someday wilt away and I will be released as a spirit into everlasting life with the Lord. How slow we are to believe all that has been written in the Scriptures. How easily we lapse into the nearly heretical gnostic view that our bodies are bad and our souls good, our bodies are dying forever and our souls living forever.

     Remember that God made us in His image, body and soul. Furthermore, Jesus Christ came in the flesh, rose bodily from the dead, and ascended bodily to the throne of heaven, where He reigns — in His immortal body. From the Resurrection accounts in the gospels, it is clear that His resurrected immortal body retained significant identification with His earthly body. Such a transformation awaits us, as well. As Paul said, “We also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body …” (Phil. 3:20b–21a). All these truths tell us that the body is a good thing.

     Our minds are too often too small, our imaginations and dreams too narrow, too confined by our experience of this world. Consider the metaphor Jesus used (Mark 4:26ff; John 12:23ff) and which Paul developed (1 Cor. 15:35ff): The body is like a seed that must die in order to produce a new (yet not completely new) and different (yet not wholly other) life.

     I remember the first time I grew sunflowers. We put a relatively small seed in the ground, and in days a plant sprouted that quickly passed me in height and produced a huge, heavy, beautiful flower. As we think of our resurrection bodies, the comparison of the sunflower seed to the sunflower is still a woefully inadequate image. But it is a start.

     A seed is a mere shell holding the potential of so much more life when it dies, and the Scriptures seem to say our earthly tents compare to our heavenly bodies in this way. Our bodies are shells containing our souls. When we die, as with seeds, the shells fall away, somehow, however minutely, contributing to the growth of the new life. What was a sunflower essentially in a small seed is still a sunflower as a 7-foot-tall plant. There is real, physical continuity, but oh, what a change!

     However, our glorification will not simply mean going from a size 12 to a size 2 heavenly body, or from being a 98-pound weakling to a brawny, buffed bruiser. Such dreams short-change the prospect of our heavenly bodies. Rather, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:40–45 that the change will mean going from perishable and corruptible to imperishable and incorruptible. It will mean going from dishonor to glory, from weakness and brokenness to strength and power, from temporal to eternal, from natural to spiritual.

     I believe that if we could ever begin, however little, to grasp the prospect of our eternal, embodied existence with Christ and His people … my, how such a hope would free us to live in a new vital fashion in these temporary seeds we call bodies!

     First, we would respect the dignity of our bodies as imaging God. This would impact our treatment of all people, especially those deemed by the world to be broken or not worth fixing or treating. Complex ethical decisions become surprisingly simple when one begins with the premise that every human being bears God’s image and is valuable simply in his or her being, not for what the person may be able to do later in life.

     Second, grasping the truth about our bodies should propel us to think more, and more often, about heaven. The Puritans thought about heaven, and we should learn from them. Jonathan Edwards said this in his diary (May 1, 1723): “Lord, grant that from thence I may fix [my thoughts, affections, desires, and expectations] upon the heavenly state; where there is fullness of joy; where reigns heavenly, sweet, calm, and delightful love without alloy; where there are continually the dearest expressions of their love, where there is the enjoyment of the persons loved, without ever parting: where those persons who appear so lovely in this world, will be inexpressibly more lovely, and full of love to us. How sweetly will the mutual lovers join together to sing the praises of God and the Lamb.”

     Now we ache, we weep from the brokenness and pain we experience. But the Christian hope is of a new body —imperishable and incorruptible; a new heart—given over fully to the love of God and His Christ; and a new mind—knowing as we are known, satisfied in our knowledge of Him. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

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Dr. Michael S. Beates, a former associate editor of Tabletalk, has taught at Reformed Theological Seminary, Florida Southern, and Belhaven College.

A Matter of Death and Life

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/2001

     We live in strange times. It used to be said that the only two things we could be certain of were death and taxes. You still can be pretty sure of taxes, but death recently has become rather more cloudy. With the advent of assorted technological wonders in the field of medicine, we can watch as a patient’s heart continues to beat even while his brain shows no activity. With the advent of widespread organ transplants, we are all the more eager to say that the recipient is dead in one sense, even while we keep him or her “alive” in another for as long as we can. Add to this the strange reports we read from those who claim to have “died” and “returned.” They say they were dead enough to be embraced by the light, but nevertheless they walk among us.

     Death has become for us more like dusk than that dark night. There are, however, limits to this lack of clarity. While dusk seeks to evade the question (is it night or is it day?), we know that midnight is night and noon is day. And while the comatose, brainwaveless, but still-breathing patient may confuse us, we know that the nurses who tend to the patient are alive and the bodies that have been in cold storage for days down in the morgue are dead. That the bridge across the chasm is shrouded in fog doesn’t change the reality that there are two distinct mountains.

     It’s important for us to understand this truth so that we are not drawn into the beard fallacy (in which one argues that the removal of one, then another, then another whisker will provide no definitive moment of change from beard to non-beard). It’s important because central to our faith is this conviction: Jesus died. We are not affirming that the brain-wave monitor went blank for a while. We’re not arguing that the Roman medical authorities broke their own rules and continued administering CPR for more than a half-hour. Jesus was all the way dead, midnight dead.

     God ordained that the Messiah should hang from a tree before anyone had heard of crucifixion. We now know what crucifixion does to a person, the slow suffocation that makes the nails seem like child’s play. God ordained that Jesus would be pierced on His side. We see the water and the blood flowing out, a sign of a burst heart, both literally and figuratively. And then, three days in the ground. That is the one that has always puzzled me. God didn’t need three days to put Jesus back together again, any more than He needed six days to make the universe and all that is in it. It doesn’t take three days for God to muster the strength for such a miracle. But it might take three days to prove that the Resurrection was a miracle, to make us see that this death was not just dusk, but midnight dark.

     Paul tells us, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:17). If there is no Resurrection, our faith is vanity. And if there is no death, there can be no Resurrection. The death and resurrection of Christ are inescapably bound together. You cannot have one without the other, and you have no Christianity without both. Our faith is a historical faith, grounded not in our own efforts, not in the mystical powers of an object-less faith, but in historical events. We have peace with God because of what we believe about events that happened on a particular hill and in a particular tomb outside Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

     We affirm first, contra the ancient docetists and their modern heirs, that Jesus was born a man. To die, one first must be alive. Jesus was no ghost, no phantom who only appeared as a man. Second, we affirm that this Jesus not only lived in complete obedience to the law of God, but that He did so in history and in full view of His enemies, who could lay no charge against Him. Next, we affirm that this Jesus wrought miracles in particular places and for particular people. The water was truly water, and it became truly wine. Jesus even brought life from death, most dramatically in the life of Lazarus, dead four days, decomposing, and not merely flatlined for a moment. Then He who had the power of life in Himself died, laying down His life for the sheep. He did not swoon. He did not fall into a coma. He died. There was only darkness.

     He did not, however, stay dead. Three days later, this same Jesus (having a glorified body, one that was in one sense continuous with His old body, but in another sense very different) threw off the bonds of death and emerged as the first fruit of the new creation. It was not that “hope” was raised, as too many unbelieving liberal wolves will proclaim on Resurrection Sunday. It was not some sort of spirit body, as gnostics both ancient and modern have claimed. As Thomas discovered, it was an altogether human body—once dead, but now alive.

     These historical truths also have soteriological meaning. The life He lived He lived vicariously for His elect. He obeyed so that we might have His righteousness. And He died for our sins, taking upon Himself the wrath of the Father for us. He was raised in vindication to prove His own innocence, to begin the new creation, and to ascend on high to put everything under His feet. When that work is complete, this same Jesus, with this same glorified body, will return to consummate His kingdom. The soteriological meaning not only does not undo the historical reality, but requires the historical reality in order to have meaning. This is the light of Resurrection Morning, a light so brilliant as to be unmistakable.

     A Jesus who did not die, a Jesus who was not raised, is a Jesus who cannot save. Such is a Jesus who is foreign to the inerrant Word of God. To negotiate with these truths is to negotiate with our own souls, with our own eternity. And that is neither right nor safe. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Here we stand. We can do no other.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

R.C. Sproul Jr. Books

Resurrection and Justification

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2001

     How is the resurrection of Christ linked to the idea of justification in the New Testament? To answer this question, we must first explore the use and meaning of the term justification in the New Testament. Confusion about this has provoked some of the fiercest controversies in the history of the church. The Protestant Reformation itself was fought over the issue of justification. In all its complications, the unreconciled and unreconcilable difference in the debate came down to the question of whether our justification before God is grounded in the infusion of Christ’s righteousness into us, by which we become inherently righteous, or in the imputation, or reckoning, of Christ’s righteousness to us while we are still sinners. The difference between these views makes all the difference in our understanding of the Gospel and of how we are saved.

     One of the problems that led to confusion was the meaning of the word justification. Our English word justification is derived from the Latin justificare. The literal meaning of the Latin is “to make righteous.” The Latin fathers of church history worked with the Latin text instead of the Greek text and were clearly influenced by it. By contrast, the Greek word for justification, dikaiosune, carries the meaning of “to count, reckon, or declare righteous.”

     But this variance between the Latin and the Greek is not enough to explain the debates over justification. Within the Greek text itself, there seem to be some problems. For example, Paul declares in Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Then James, in his epistle, writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar” (2:21) and “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (2:24).

     On the surface, it appears that we have a clear contradiction between Paul and James. The problem is exacerbated when we realize that both use the same Greek word for justification and both use Abraham to prove their arguments.

     This problem can be resolved when we see that the verb “to justify” and its noun form, “justification,” have shades of meaning in Greek. One of the meanings of the verb is “to vindicate” or “to demonstrate.”

     Jesus once said, “ ‘Wisdom is justified by all her children’ ” (Luke 7:35). He did not mean that wisdom has its sins remitted or is counted righteous by God by having children, but that a wise decision may be vindicated by its consequences.

     James and Paul were addressing different questions. James was answering the question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (2:14). He understood that anyone can profess to have faith, but true faith is demonstrated as authentic by its consequent works. The claim of faith is vindicated (justified) by works. Paul has Abraham justified in the theological sense in Genesis 15 before he does any works. James points to the vindication or demonstration of Abraham’s faith in obedience in Genesis 22.

     The Resurrection involves justification in both senses of the Greek term. First, the Resurrection justifies Christ Himself. Of course, He is not justified in the sense of having His sins remitted, because He had no sins, or in the sense of being declared righteous while still a sinner, or in the Latin sense of being “made righteous.” Rather, the Resurrection serves as the vindication or demonstration of the truth of His claims about Himself.

     In his encounter with the philosophers at Athens, Paul declared: “ ‘Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead’ ” (Acts 17:30–31).

     Here Paul points to the Resurrection as an act by which the Father universally vindicates the authenticity of His Son. In this sense, Christ is justified before the whole world by His resurrection.

     However, the New Testament also links Christ’s resurrection to our justification. Paul writes, “It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:24–25).

     It is clear that in His atoning death Christ suffered on our behalf, or for us. Likewise, His resurrection is seen not only as a vindication of or surety of Himself, but as a surety of our justification. Here justification does not refer to our vindication, but to the evidence that the atonement He made was accepted by the Father. By vindicating Christ in His resurrection, the Father declared His acceptance of Jesus’ work on our behalf. Our justification in this theological sense rests on the imputed righteousness of Christ, so the reality of that transaction is linked to Christ’s resurrection. Had Christ not been raised, we would have a mediator whose redeeming work in our behalf was not acceptable to God.

     However, Christ is risen indeed!

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

R.C. Sproul Books:



  • Steven Lawson
  • John MacArthur
  • R.C. Sproul

#1 Against Our Own Sin | Ligonier

 

#2 For the Exclusive Claims of Christ | Ligonier

 

#3 For Justification By Faith Alone | Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     12/1/2007    Two Kingdoms

     What is the kingdom of God? It’s a simple question, yet if I were to ask that same question to a hundred theologians I would likely get a hundred different answers. The kingdom of God is not some sort of ancient or obsolete doctrine that no one has ever heard of. Rather, it is something we hear about all the time as a fundamental component of Jesus’ teaching and a primary theme throughout sacred Scripture. Although few would admit it, when most Christians think about the kingdom of God, their minds are strained to conceive of anything beyond some ethereal notion of mustard seeds, lost coins, different soils, and undefined future bliss.

     However, when it comes right down to it, the kingdom of God should be more simple to define than just about any other theological term. It’s quite plain really: God reigns. Or, to say it another way: The kingdom of God is the omnipotent rule and sovereign reign of Almighty God over all things, the inauguration of which came with the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ Jesus and the fullness of which is yet to come.

     Nevertheless, while it is important to have a good, biblical answer to the question, what is the kingdom of God? it is just as important to have an honest answer to the question, whose kingdom do you serve? These are the questions that are at the very heart of the Sermon on the Mount: Are you the king of your own kingdom? Are you the self-appointed potentate of your own, private little empire? You may answer with a hearty no, but does your life demonstrate that you are a servant of God or a servant of self? We all certainly want to be part of the kingdom, but most Christians want to serve the kingdom on their own terms.

     As divinely appointed citizens of the kingdom of God we are foreigners in the kingdom of this world. We are real characters in the real story of redemptive history in real space and real time who have been summoned to follow the King of kings as servants, saints, and soldiers - coram Deo, before His face, in life and in death. Augustine understood this well: “We want to reach the kingdom of God, but we don’t want to travel by way of death. And yet there stands necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’ Do not hesitate, man, to go this way, when this is the way that God came to you.”

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     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The “Greatest Show on Earth” was a gigantic success, owned by American showman P.T. Barnum, who died this day, April 7, 1891. His biggest draw, selling 20 million tickets, was General Tom Thumb, a man only 25 inches tall. They were received by President Lincoln and even gave a command performance before Queen Victoria. The circus not being open Sundays, Barnum let his “Great Roman Hippodrome” in New York be used by D.L. Moody for major evangelistic campaigns. P.T. Barnum stated: “Most persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing too little, than by believing too much.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


We fail to see the place of suffering in the broader scheme of things. We fail to see that suffering is an inevitable dimension of life. Because we have lost perspective, we fail to see that unless one is willing to accept suffering properly, he or she is really refusing to continue in the quest for maturity. To refuse suffering is to refuse personal growth.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering but in being weary of joy.
--- Gilbert Keith G. K. Chesterton
The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume 2 : The Everlasting Man, St. Francis of Assisi, St Thomas Aquinas

We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it is not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person...... the one who accepts the call of God in Christ Jesus.
--- Oswald Chambers
The Oswald Chambers Devotional Reader: 52 Weekly Themes

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.
--- Dostoyevsky
Crime and Punishment: Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation (Vintage Classics)

... from here, there and everywhere


Journal of John Woolman 4/7
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Eighth of fifth month. -- This morning the clouds gathered, the wind blew strong from the southeast, and before noon so increased that sailing appeared dangerous. The seamen then bound up some of their sails and took down others, and the storm increasing they put the dead-lights, so called, into the cabin windows and lighted a lamp as at night. The wind now blew vehemently, and the sea wrought to that degree that an awful seriousness prevailed in the cabin, in which I spent, I believe, about seventeen hours, for the cabin passengers had given me frequent invitations, and I thought the poor wet toiling seamen had need of all the room in the crowded steerage. They now ceased from sailing and put the vessel in the posture called lying to.

     My mind during this tempest, through the gracious assistance of the Lord, was preserved in a good degree of resignation; and at times I expressed a few words in his love to my shipmates in regard to the all-sufficiency of Him who formed the great deep, and whose care is so extensive that a sparrow falls not without his notice; and thus in a tender frame of mind I spoke to them of the necessity of our yielding in true obedience to the instructions of our Heavenly Father, who sometimes through adversities intendeth our refinement.

     About eleven at night I went out on the deck. The sea wrought exceedingly, and the high, foaming waves round about had in some sort the appearance of fire, but did not give much if any light. The sailor at the helm said he lately saw a corposant at the head of the mast. I observed that the master of the ship ordered the carpenter to keep on the deck; and, though he said little, I apprehended his care was that the carpenter with his axe might be in readiness in case of any emergency. Soon after this the vehemency of the wind abated, and before morning they again put the ship under sail.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Twenty-Ninth Chapter / How We Must Call Upon And Bless The Lord When Trouble Presses

     The Disciple

     BLESSED be Your name forever, O Lord, Who have willed that this temptation and trouble come upon me. I cannot escape it, yet I must fly to You that You may help me and turn it to my good. Now I am troubled, Lord, and my heart is not at rest, for I am greatly afflicted by this present suffering.

     Beloved Father, what shall I say? I am straitened in harsh ways. Save me from this hour to which, however, I am come that You may be glorified when I am deeply humbled and freed by You. May it please You, then, to deliver me, Lord, for what can I, poor wretch that I am, do or where can I go without You? Give me patience, Lord, even now. Help me, my God, and I will not be afraid however much I may be distressed.

     But here, in the midst of these troubles, what shall I say? Your will be done, Lord. I have richly deserved to be troubled and distressed. But I must bear it. Would that I could do so patiently, until the storm passes and calm returns! Yet Your almighty hand can take this temptation from me, or lighten its attack so that I do not altogether sink beneath it, as You, my God, my Mercy, have very often done for me before. And the more difficult my plight, the easier for You is this change of the right hand of the Most High.

The Imitation Of Christ

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     What does that imply? You know that there are two spirits on earth. Christ said, when He spoke about the Holy Spirit: "The world cannot receive him" (John 14:17). Paul said: "We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is of God" (1 Cor. 2:12). That is the great want in every worker--the spirit of the world going out, and the Spirit of God coming in to take possession of the inner life and of the whole being.

     I am sure there are workers who often cry to God for the Holy Spirit to come upon them as a Spirit of power for their work, and when they feel that measure of power, and get blessing, they thank God for it. But God wants something more and something higher. God wants us to seek for the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of power in our own heart and life, to conquer self and cast out sin, and to work the blessed and beautiful image of Jesus into us.

     There is a difference between the power of the Spirit as a gift, and the power of the Spirit for the grace of a holy life. A man may often have a measure of the power of the Spirit, but if there is not a large measure of the Spirit as the Spirit of grace and holiness, the defect will be manifest in his work. He may be made the means of conversion, but he never will help people on to a higher standard of spiritual life, and when he passes away, a great deal of his work may pass away too. But a man who is separated unto the Holy Spirit is a man who is given up to say:

     Father, let the Holy Spirit have full dominion over me, in my home, in my temper, in every word of my tongue, in every thought of my heart, in every feeling toward my fellow men; let the Holy Spirit have entire possession."

     Is that what has been the longing and the covenant of your heart with your God--to be a man or a woman separated and given up unto the Holy Spirit? I pray you listen to the voice of Heaven. "Separate me," said the Holy Spirit. Yes, separated unto the Holy Spirit. May God grant that the Word may enter into the very depths of our being to search us, and if we discover that we have not come out from the world entirely, if God reveals to us that the self-life, self-will, self-exaltation are there, let us humble ourselves before Him.

     Man, woman, brother, sister, you are a worker separated unto the Holy Spirit. Is that true? Has that been your longing desire? Has that been your surrender? Has that been what you have expected through faith in the power of our risen and almighty Lord Jesus? If not, here is the call of faith, and here is the key of blessing--separated unto the Holy Spirit. God write the word in our hearts!

     I said the Holy Spirit spoke to that church as a church capable of doing that work. The Holy Spirit trusted them. God grant that our churches, our missionary societies, and our workers' unions, that all our directors and councils and committees may be men and women who are fit for the work of separating workers unto the Holy Spirit. We can ask God for that too.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:14-15
     by D.H. Stern

14     A backslider is filled up with his own ways,
but a good person gets satisfaction from himself.

15     One who doesn’t think believes every word,
but the cautious understands his steps.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis

          11

     One of the most painful meetings we witnessed was between a woman’s Ghost and a Bright Spirit who had apparently been her brother. They must have met only a moment before we ran across them, for the Ghost was just saying in a tone of unconcealed disappointment, ‘Oh … Reginald! It’s you, is it?’

     ‘Yes, dear,’ said the Spirit. ‘I know you expected someone else. Can you … I hope you can be a little glad to see even me; for the present.’

     ‘I did think Michael would have come,’ said the Ghost; and then, almost fiercely, ‘He is here, of course?’

     ‘He’s there—far up in the mountains.’

     ‘Why hasn’t he come to meet me? Didn’t he know?’

     ‘My dear (don’t worry, it will all come right presently) it wouldn’t have done. Not yet. He wouldn’t be able to see or hear you as you are at present. You’d be totally invisible to Michael. But we’ll soon build you up.’

     ‘I should have thought if you can see me, my own son could!’

     ‘It doesn’t always happen like that. You see, I have specialised in this sort of work.’

     ‘Oh, it’s work, is it?’ snapped the Ghost. Then, after a pause, ‘Well. When am I going to be allowed to see him?’

     ‘There’s no question of being allowed, Pam. As soon as it’s possible for him to see you, of course he will. You need to be thickened up a bit.’

     ‘How?’ said the Ghost. The monosyllable was hard and a little threatening.

     ‘I’m afraid the first step is a hard one,’ said the Spirit. ‘But after that you’ll go on like a house on fire. You will become solid enough for Michael to perceive you when you learn to want Someone Else besides Michael. I don’t say “more than Michael”, not as a beginning. That will come later. It’s only the little germ of a desire for God that we need to start the process.’

     ‘Oh, you mean religion and all that sort of thing? This is hardly the moment … and from you, of all people. Well, never mind. I’ll do whatever’s necessary. What do you want me to do? Come on. The sooner I begin it, the sooner they’ll let me see my boy. I’m quite ready.’

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Why are we not told plainly?

     He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. ---
Mark 9:9.

     Say nothing until the Son of man is risen in you—until the life of the risen Christ so dominates you that you understand what the historic Christ taught. When you get to the right state on the inside, the word which Jesus has spoken is so plain that you are amazed you did not see it before. You could not understand it before, you were not in the place in disposition where it could be borne.

     Our Lord does not hide these things; they are unbearable until we get into a fit condition of spiritual life. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” There must be communion with His risen life before a particular word can be borne by us. Do we know anything about the impartation of the risen life of Jesus? The evidence that we do is that His word is becoming interpretable to us. God cannot reveal anything to us if we have not His Spirit. An obstinate outlook will effectually hinder God from revealing anything to us. If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it. This obtuse stage will end immediately His resurrection life has its way with us.

     “Tell no man …”—so many do tell what they saw on the mount of transfiguration. They have had the vision and they testify to it, but the life does not tally with it, the Son of man is not yet risen in them. I wonder when He is going to be formed in you and in me?

My Utmost for His Highest

Death Of A Poet
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Death Of A Poet

Laid now on his smooth bed
For the last time, watching dully
Through heavy eyelids the day's colour
Widow the sky, what can he say
Worthy of record, the books all open,
Pens ready, the faces, sad,
Waiting gravely for the tired lips
To move once -- what can he say?

His tongue wrestles to force one word
Past the thick phlegm; no speech, no phrases
For the day's news, just the one word ‘sorry';
Sorry for the lies, for the long failure
In the poet's war; that he preferred
The easier rhythms of the heart
To the mind's scansion; that now he dies
Intestate, having nothing to leave
But a few songs, cold as stones
In the thin hands that asked for bread.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Ta’anit 16a

     D’RASH

     There are at least two different ways of looking at natural disasters. Some people may see them as the direct result of God’s decree, but most people today would likely have a different view of God’s control over nature, not seeing natural disasters as the specific work of the Creator. Such people, in a drought, would seed the clouds, dam the rivers, and desalinate ocean water. They would not call for a day of national fasting and prayer for rain.

     Nonetheless, the principle annunciated by Rabbi Ammi, that we do not overburden the community, does apply to our lives today, regardless of our theology of God and nature. In the synagogue, this ideal is seen in the way Torah scrolls are used. Rolling the Sefer Torah, the Torah scroll, to the correct place can take quite a bit of time. Doing so while the congregation sits and waits for the reading is considered a burden on the community. Thus, the Sefer Torah is rolled to the correct place for that day’s reading before the congregation arrives. Similarly, we often use two or even three Torah scrolls on special occasions so that the congregation does not have to wait while one Torah scroll is rolled from one reading to another.

     The principle that we should not overburden the community is also relevant in secular life. In Congress, the entire bill being voted on is supposed to be formally read. However, after the first few sentences, some member of Congress will usually make a motion that since everyone agrees on the bill as it was printed and distributed, the formal reading can be dispensed with. The members of Congress assent so that their precious time not be wasted.

     Just as we do not want to be overburdened by others, we must be careful not to cause the overburdening of others. In our jobs and in organizational work, we may create unnecessary paperwork and endless bureaucracy. Does the form really have to be filled out in triplicate? Would one sign, posted at the entrance, save overburdening workers with countless memoranda? With a little more trust in those who work under us, we could eliminate a large percentage of the countless repetitive exercises and drills that we require.

     There are times when even we overextend ourselves, causing or exacerbating our own burdens. With every good intention, we sign up for several different committees, even though we cannot possibly do the work involved, and do it well. Rather than being seen as helpful volunteers and good workers, we become “dead weight” or “the albatross.” As we try to establish, or to expand, our businesses and families, we may take on too many debts and burdens. In the end, these serve to thwart our very efforts and bring us less security, rather than more. The Rabbis’ injunction not to overburden the community is a reminder to be sensitive to the needs both of others and of ourselves, for the burdens we carry can often be eased.

     Text / Rav Ada bar Ahava said: “A person who committed a sin and then confesses it, but who does not stop sinning, to what can he be compared? To a person who holds a reptile in his hand, for even if he were to immerse in all the waters in the world, the immersion would not be effective. If he lets go, once he immerses in forty seahs, the immersion is immediately effective, as it says: ‘[He who covers up his faults will not succeed;] he who confesses and gives them up will find mercy’ [Proverbs 28:13]. And it says, ‘Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in heaven’ [Lamentations 3:41].”

     Context / A mikveh, literally “collection” of waters, is either a natural pool or an artificially constructed one built in a prescribed way and holding at least forty seahs of naturally accumulated water. (One interpretation calculates forty seahs as the equivalent of 151 gallons.) Following the immersion, the person was again ritually pure. A mikveh is still used today in the Jewish community by those converting to Judaism, by brides prior to their weddings, by Jewish women following their monthly menstrual cycle, and by many as a way of achieving spiritual purification.

     The Tractate Ta’anit deals with fasts that were undertaken by entire Jewish communities as a response to severe droughts. Many Jews believed that God was punishing the people for their sins by withholding the rains. During such a crisis, fasting, prayer, and acts of charity were considered the best ways to plead with God to relent and send rain.

     In our section, the Rabbis ponder the question of what constitutes true repentance. Rav Ada bar Ahava believes that while confessing one’s sins is an important first step in the process of repentance, it cannot be the only step. One must also stop committing the sin. Rashi, in his commentary to the Gemara, explains that the sin in question here is theft. Thus, merely admitting that one had stolen something would not be a sufficient act of repentance. The thief must also return the stolen item to its rightful owner.

     The Talmud drives this point home by reference to a graphic analogy connected to the ritual of immersion. A person had to be in a state of ritual purity in order to enter the Temple and participate in the sacrificial cult. One became ritually impure by contracting the skin disease known as tzara’at, through discharge from the sexual organs, through contact with the carcass of certain animals (such as reptiles, listed in Leviticus 11) or contact with a dead body. Someone who was impure had to go to the mikveh and immerse in water.

     The Rabbis then considered the theoretical case of a person who immersed in the mikveh while still holding a reptile. They concluded that until the reptile was released, all the water in the world would not make the immersion in the mikveh effective. Similarly, until a person stopped the sinful behavior, the act of confessing was, by itself, meaningless.

     Two verses from the Bible are brought to reinforce the dual aspect of true repentance. In the first one, from Proverbs, the Rabbis note that a person will find mercy (in other words, receive God’s forgiveness) by both “confessing” sins and “giving them up,” giving back the stolen property. Both acts—admitting one’s errors and then changing one’s ways—are required for repentance to be complete. In the second verse, the Rabbis interpret “lifting our hearts to God” as referring to prayer and confession; the “lifting of our hands,” a more physical activity, is understood to mean that we have given back anything our hands may have stolen from others.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Teacher's Commentary
     Spiritual Detours

     Luke emphasized the humanity of Jesus. It is only appropriate that many of the teachings of Jesus which Luke recorded show us how to live a human life in union with God.

     This portion of Luke contains some of the best-known stories about Jesus’ life. Here find the story of the Good Samaritan, the conflict between the sisters Mary and Martha, and the Lord’s Prayer. As you show how each of them is linked with Christian spirituality, you will be communicating a vital message to the members of your class or group.

     Here your group members can learn to recognize the false trails down which some believers are led, and to recognize spiritual reality from spiritual illusion.

     Spirituality. In the New Testament the adjective “spiritual” (pneumatikos) is contrasted with “soulish” (psychikos). The word “spiritual” is used to describe gifts, the law, the resurrection body, understanding, and the believing community, as well as a person. Thus a “spiritual” person or thing belongs to the realm of the Spirit. A spiritual person is, in essence, one who is not only indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but who also lives in obedience to the Spirit’s promptings.

     Christians have historically been uncertain about the nature of the truly “spiritual” life. Is it a life without sin? A life of prayer, or fasting? A life of withdrawal? In these paragraphs of Luke we begin to understand more of what spirituality is not—and how to live our lives in union with our God.

     Commentary / When I was 19, after two years of college, I joined the Navy. At Great Lakes Naval Training Station, I sat in a barber chair and became a “skinhead,” was issued my uniforms, and was introduced to Navy life.

     There I received the traditional misdirection given newcomers in any special group. Left-handed wrenches and lost firing lines, and toothbrushes to scrub cracks in the barracks floor, were just some of the things I was told to fetch. And, because at first I really didn’t know what was expected in this strange new life, I was often confused enough to follow false trails. It was all so new. And I wanted to do the right thing.

     In many ways it’s the same for us as Christians. To become a believer is to launch out toward a unique destiny: to become more and more like God the Father as the new life He has planted in us grows and matures. We are to learn to think and feel and be like Him.

     This godly way of life we’re to learn is distinctly different from the ways we have known. It’s far more than mere morality; it’s transformation. So it is easy to become confused about the road to personal spiritual renewal. It’s easy to wander away from God’s pathway, onto sidetracks that look promising but are really only dead ends.

     Luke 10 shows how Jesus began to train His followers in discipleship. He began to show them how to live a new life. His words and actions drew contrasts between the way men of the world live and the way His followers are to live. All that is reported in this section of Luke reveals both the straight and narrow path of discipleship, and the dangerous detours and illusions that keep us from our new life’s goal.

     What are the false trails down which Christians wander? Perhaps members of your group have been disappointed because they have wandered down one or more of them, and missed true spirituality.

The Teacher's Commentary

In The Pharisee's house
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 1–12.—An evil to be shunned, and a virtue to be cultivated. Jesus had been partaking of the light forenoon meal with a Pharisee. In this Pharisee’s house he proclaimed war to the death with the bigots who had been dogging his steps. A small fire may kindle much wood. For some reason unknown to us, he had omitted the washing of hands before sitting down to meat. Instantly the whole company turned on him with scowl and sneer and shrug. And the action of the Truth incarnate, in reply to this, was the utterance of the six “woes”—scathing thunderbolts—which St. Luke has recorded between vers. 42 and 52 of the previous chapter. His utterance was the signal for something like a riot (vers. 53, 54). Ah! thou Son of Mary, thou Meekest and Lowliest, the column has turned. Hitherto thy progress has been, not without contradiction of sinners, but for the most part one of sweet poetries—unbounded the wonder and generous the admiration of the people.Thine enemies have been kept back; they have been held in restraint by the lightning which has flashed from thee. But now thou must enter on a new phase of thy ministry; henceforth the issues towards which thou hast been looking will be hastened.

  “Ride on, ride on in majesty!
  The winged squadrons of the sky
  Look down with sad and wondering eyes
  To see the approaching sacrifice.”

     “In the mean time,” whilst the dinner with its tumultuous conversation is proceeding, the crowd has so accumulated that “many thousands are gathered together.” They are so eager to hear the Prophet that some persons are trodden down. To this seething mass Christ comes forth, his heart stirred by the controversy, vehement and provocative, which single-handed he had sustained. Most natural, in view of the circumstances related, is the discourse which follows, addressed immediately to his followers, but reaching the ear of “the many thousands.” 1. First, there is the word as to “the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (vers.
1–3). Hypocrisy was the evil which permeated and vitiated their action. What is meant by hypocrisy? The hypocrite is “the man who has to play a part, to maintain a reputation, to keep up a respectable position, to act consistently with the maxims of the party to which he is allied, or the profession to which he belongs.” As thus interpreted, is not the “beware!” of the afternoon long ago, a “beware!” for this day as well? “Pharisee” and “Sadducee” are words which no longer distinguish classes; but when the classes which they once designated are studied, it is found that, for what was most characteristic of each, there are correspondents among us. Let it not be supposed that the Pharisee was nothing else than a sanctimonious charlatan, a mere pretentious formalist. He was the representative of the more earnest religious spirit. The Sadducee was generally a wealthy man, one belonging to the ruling order. Content with easy and low standards, the worldly or rationalistic Jews belonged to the party comprehended by the name. The Pharisee disowned such a conception of religion. He would not have any fellowship with such latitudinarianism. To him the Law was the Law of God, and he was bent on keeping it to its minutest point. In over-zeal he even added, to the observances enjoined, observances which might be inferred or which had been added by rabbins. The traditions of the elders were, in his view, a supplement to the Law and the prophets. “It is needless,” as has well been observed, “to show that there was something in Pharisaism worthy of admiration, for this is implied in the charge brought against the Pharisees of our Lord’s time. They were accused of being hypocrites, of not being what they pretended to be; in which it is implied that, if they had really been what they seemed, they would have deserved the praise they claimed. And doubtless there were some whose goodness was more than outside show, both in the first original of the sect, and in those later times when Pharisaic culture prepared the soil on which the seeds of the gospel most readily flourished; for to this sect belonged the majority of the first converts, and the many thousands who believed are all described as ‘zealous for the Law.’ ”103 Any one playing the hypocrite will prefer the Pharisee type. The scanty clothing of the Sadducee will not suit; the fitting dress is the long robe and the well-phylacteried garment of the Pharisee. The devil’s homage to truth, which hypocrisy has been declared to be, is more becomingly rendered in such a garb. A part-actor! Ah! we need to be reminded that this is a character still to be found in the religious world. Bunyan introduces us to persons who are not mere fictions—My Lord Turn-about, my Lord Fair-speech, Mr. Smoothman, Facing-both-ways, the parson Mr. Two-tongues; the points in which all agree being “that they never strive against wind and tide, and that they are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers.” A part-actor! Almost unconsciously, we play a part which marks an excess of what we have ourselves verified—a part beyond, if not covering, the very thought of the soul. “Beware of the leaven!” Milton describes hypocrisy as “the only evil that walks invisible except to God alone.” To be real, not to be a Mr. Facing-both-ways, is one of the great lessons of the life of Christ. In any diagnosis of human nature, we must remember the mixture to be found in character. Few persons intend, deliberately and systematically, to lie to God and man. The Pharisees whom our Lord condemned were not—at least we may in charity so suppose—intentionally false. If they prayed to be seen of men, we need not imagine that they secretly mocked at and disbelieved in the duty of prayer. The leaven was the endeavour to maintain a reputation with which they were credited; so much had this endeavour gained on them, that they were far more anxious about it than about their possession of truth in the inward parts. And thus they became part-actors. Now, so with regard to ourselves and our fellow-men. A person is observed doing, in some directions or at some times, what is inconsistent with his conduct at other times or in other directions. And worldly minded people, always eager to scent blemishes, cry out, “Hypocrite!” This is a harsh, and may be a wrong, judgment. A lapse from the standard aimed at does not evidence insincerity. Nay, those who observe most closely the facts of life, can often trace what seems a twofoldness of self. The Apostle Paul in a most striking passage (Rom. 7) has described the struggle in his own heart, the contending laws, the spiritual and the carnal, the oppositions and thwartings of the sin that dwelt in him—oppositions so fierce that it seemed as if he were sold under sin. “O wretched man that I am!” he cries. His hope, his triumph, is, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Looking up to Jesus Christ, he saw his right and higher self; looking down on the evil ever present with him, on the body of death in which he appeared to be enslaved, he saw the lower and the wrong self. “I myself with the mind serve the Law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” The one feature in this portrait is the determination of the will. That was God’s; the deflections from it were the signs of an alien force from which he wished to be free. So long as this feature is predominant, the sanctification may be imperfect, but the life is true. What constitutes hypocrisy is appearing to be what one is not, concealing the want of piety in the heart under the cloke of piety in the action; such a study of outward effect that the conduct gradually becomes a tissue of dishonesties. This posing to be something and this anxiety about the pose rather than the truth, constitute the leaven of hypocrisy. “Be no part-actor,” says Christ (vers. 2, 3); “be no whisperer in darkness, be no mutterer in the ear in inner chambers. Be not one thing in secret, and another thing in public. Keep clear of pretences of all sorts. Remember, concealment cannot avail. Walls have ears. The universe has its libraries on which all that is whispered is written. And there is an Eternal Truth to whom ‘all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.’ ” 2. Next, there is the word as to courage. Is it not the word which we might expect from him who had defied the most compact order in the land? Listen to the Christian’s “Fear not,” and the Christian’s “Fear.” “Fear not man, having power only over the body” (ver. 4). Have the courage of your convictions. Trust in God and do the right. Fear God (ver. 5). Fear not to speak the truth; fear to tell the lie. “Yea, I say unto you, fear the Eternal Righteousness.” The lesson is enforced by three considerations. (1) The value to God of every true and honest life (vers. 6, 7). Not one sparrow is forgotten, not one of the tiniest and least valued of God’s creatures is outside his care. Every hair on your head is numbered. You are dear to God. He is waiting for you to work with him. The life of each of you is of value to him. Fear not. (2) The danger of trifling with conviction (vers. 8–10). Do not refuse, for some fear of man, to give effect to it. You may possibly, says the Lord, quench the Holy Spirit. This was the sin of the Pharisees. This is the unpardonable sin. A word against Jesus may be spoken “ignorantly in unbelief;”and the Redeemer says, “Father, forgive; for they know not what they do.” But to shut the eye to the light, to refuse to see light as light, to sophisticate the voice of God’s Spirit speaking through reason and conscience, this is to destroy the possibility of spiritual health. Christ says to the disciples, “To confess me before men, no matter what the consequences to yourselves, is to deliver your souls, is to realize the confession in heaven; to deny me is to lose the fellowship of the holy angels, is to approach the confines of the sin which shall not be forgiven.” (3) The support assured for all testimony to him (vers. 11, 12). God is ever on the side of the true. Christ bids those who confess him dismiss anxiety when brought to “synagogues, magistrates, and powers.” They are never alone. Moses, the stammering, had his Aaron with him when he went in unto Pharaoh. A Mightier than Aaron is with the most timid and stammering of the confessors of the kingdom of God. “The Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”

     Vers.
13–31.—Worldliness. To the earnest teacher nothing can be more irritating than a half-attentive attitude or a remark which indicates preoccupation of mind with other and inferior things. Think of Christ, towards the close of a day of controversy with the Pharisees, and in the midst of solemn speech as to the duty of a true man, invited on a sudden to decide in a family quarrel, to settle a dispute about some money or some acres of soil. We know nothing about the person who appealed to him (ver. 13)—“one out of the multitude.” But it is evident that, while the discourse proceeded, he had been engrossed with the consideration of his own rights and interests; like many who may be in the multitude thronging around Jesus, but are secretly busied with their own concerns—earth-grubs, intent only on getting all they can get from others for themselves. The abrupt reply (ver. 14) shows the displeasure of the Lord. It is a reply of reproof; it is a reply of instruction also. God has a great variety of spheres and ministries for men, and the Son of God will not contravene his Father’s ordering. The judge, the measurer, the arbiter as to property, is a Divine calling. Those who are entrusted with it are God’s servants. The State is no less sacred than the Church. Let each realize its own place, and each respect the other—the State looking to the Church as the expounder of the eternal principles, the Church looking to the State as charged with government and the settlement of the issues between man and man. “My kingdom,” says the Christ, “is not of this world.” The incident gives a new direction to the teaching of Jesus. It is a disclosure of the mind against which he must warn his followers. And then follows one of the most solemn and beautiful of expositions— that in which the Lord conveys his great lesson as to worldliness. Observe (1) the more public instruction between vers. 15 and 21; and (2) the more private instruction, specially addressed to the disciples, between vers. 21 and 32. The more public is the admonition concerning covetousness; the more private is the admonition concerning carefulness. The two types of the one spirit—worldliness.

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

The Rise of Biblical Interpreters
     JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration

     For all such reasons, Scripture came to be a major focus of attention in the Second Temple period. But Scripture needed to be interpreted in order to be understood. So it was that a new figure emerged in Judean society, the biblical interpreter, and he would soon become a central force in postexilic society.

     One of our first glimpses of this new figure at work is found in the biblical account of Ezra’s public reading of the Torah to the assembled returnees in Jerusalem:

     When the seventh month came—the people of Israel being settled in their towns—all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the Law. The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the purpose.… And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. So they read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (
Neh. 7:73b–8:8)

     A few things stand out in this account. It is not at Ezra’s initiative, but that of the people, that this great public reading is said to have taken place. Apparently, “all the people” knew that this great book of law (presumably our Pentateuch) existed, but they were still somewhat fuzzy about its contents. So they willingly stood for hours, “from early morning until midday,” in order to hear its words firsthand. It is remarkable that this assembly included “both men and women and all who could hear with understanding,” that is, children above a certain age: the Torah’s words were, according to this passage, not reserved for some elite, or even for the adult males of the population, but were intended for the whole people to learn and apply. But—most significantly for our subject—this public reading is accompanied by a public explanation of the text. The Levites “helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places”; thus, “they read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation.”

     Why should Scripture have needed interpreters? No doubt the need began with very down-to-earth matters. After all, every language changes over time, and by the Second Temple period some of the words and expressions used in preexilic texts were no longer understood. Even such basic concepts as get, take, need, want, time, and much were expressed with new terms by the end of the biblical period; the old words had either shifted their meaning or dropped out of the language entirely. Under such circumstances, some sort of interpreter would be necessary to make the meaning of the ancient text comprehensible. The same was true with regard to other things—names of places that no longer existed or historical figures or events long forgotten or social institutions that had ceased to be.

     In addition to such relatively mundane matters, however, interpreters ultimately came to address far broader and more consequential questions. As already discussed, the returning exiles had looked to texts from the ancient past in order to fashion their own present, and this way of approaching Scripture as prescriptive for the present went on long after the return from exile was an established fact; interpreters continued to look to these ancient writings for a message relevant to their own day. But at first glance, at least, much of Scripture must have seemed quite irrelevant. It talked about figures from the distant past: what importance could their stories have to a later day other than preserving some nostalgic memory of people and events long gone? Why should anyone care about laws forbidding things that no one did any more anyway, indeed, things that no one even understood anymore? Part of the interpreter’s task was thus to make the past relevant to the present—to find some practical lesson in ancient history, or to reinterpret an ancient law in such a way as to have it apply to present-day situations, sometimes at the price of completely distorting the text’s original meaning. It appears that interpreters only gradually assumed these functions, but as time went on, they became more daring in the way they went about things while, at the same time, settling into a more important and solid niche in Judean society.

     In the case of Ezra’s reading, we have no way of knowing what sort of interpretation was involved. Was it a matter of explaining an odd word or phrase here or there? Or were the interpreters (as one ancient Jewish tradition has it) actually translating the whole text word-for-word, presumably into Aramaic, then the lingua franca of the Near East? Or did they go beyond even this, explaining how this or that biblical law was to be applied—what was involved in “doing no work” on the Sabbath, for example?

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 7

     A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
--- Proverbs 18:14.

     This world is not the Garden of Eden, and you cannot make it to be so. ( Twelve Sermons for the Troubled and Tried ) It is like that garden in this respect, that the serpent is in it, and the trail of the serpent is over everything here.

     [Thus,] everyone will have to bear a weakness of some sort or other. To bear that weakness is not difficult when the spirit is sound and strong. The spirit that will best bear weakness is, first of all, a gracious spirit worked in us by the Spirit of God. If you want to bear your trouble without complaining, if you want to sustain your burden without fainting, you must have the life of God within you, you must be born again, you must be in living union with him who is the Strong One and who, by the life that he implants within you, can give you from his own strength. I do not believe that anything but that which is divine will stand the wear and tear of this world’s temptations and of this world’s trials and troubles.

     Further, I think that a sound spirit that can sustain weakness will be a spirit cleansed in the precious blood of Christ. “Conscience doth make cowards of us all” (Hamlet), and it is only when conscience is pacified by the application of the sprinkled blood that we are able to sustain our weaknesses. Haven’t you sometimes felt that if you had to spend the rest of your life in a dungeon and to lie there, as John Bunyan would have said, till the moss grew on your eyelids, yet, as long as you were sure that you were cleansed from sin by the precious blood of Christ, you could bear it all? Take sin away and give me a spirit washed in the fountain filled with blood, and I can patiently go through anything and everything, the Lord being my Helper.

     Next, a [sound] spirit exercises itself daily to a growing confidence in God. The spirit that is to sustain weakness is not a spirit of doubt and fear and mistrust. There is no power about such a spirit as that; it is like a body without bone or sinew or muscle. Strength lies in believing. Someone who can trust can work; someone who can trust can suffer.

     I must also add my belief that no spirit can so well endure sickness, loss, trial, sorrow, as a perfectly consecrated spirit. The person who lives only for God’s glory looks to see not how to comfort herself or himself but how to most successfully fight the Master’s battles.
--- C. H. Spurgeon

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     Ordeal by Fire  April 7

     How could the crowd that cheered Jesus on Palm Sunday have crucified him on Friday? How can public opinion turn so quickly? That’s what Jerome Savonarola asked on April 7, 1498. He lived in Florence during the height of the Italian Renaissance. His flashing dark eyes and blazing sermons electrified the city. Throngs waited for hours for cathedral doors to open, and thousands clung to his every word. “I preach the regeneration of the church,” he thundered, “taking the Scriptures as my sole guide.”

     Eventually Savonarola became city-manager and made Florence a republic. He initiated tax reforms, aided the poor, cleaned up the courts, and changed the city to a virtual monastery. He inspired the populace to build bonfires for burning pornographic books and gambling equipment. Having reformed Florence, he rebuked the clergy, denouncing papal corruptions. When Pope Alexander VI excommunicated him, he demanded the pope’s dismissal.

     A Franciscan proposed an “ordeal by fire” to settle the matter. In this medieval custom a man was forced to walk between walls of fire, and his survival or death was deemed to indicate God’s favor or disfavor. Savonarola’s close friend Fra Domenico agreed to walk through the fire, and the ordeal was set for April 7. Great preparations were made as the news spread across Italy. Two rows of wood, laid out for 60 feet, were soaked with oil. The two feet between them was just wide enough for a man to pass. The excitement was tremendous, and people began to arrive the night before. Windows and roofs adjoining the square overflowed with people. The ordeal was set for 11 A.M.

     But the hour came and went. The impatience of the crowds increased as Savonarola delayed sending Domenico out. A storm rose and fell. Evening came, and the crowd rioted when the ordeal was called off. Savonarola’s power was gone. He was arrested, tortured, and shortly afterward executed on the same public square where the ordeal was to have occurred. The crowd who honored him as a prophet and appointed him a statesman made him in the end a martyr.

     These unfaithful prophets claim that I have given them a dream. … Their dreams and my truth are as different as straw and wheat. But when prophets speak for me, they must say only what I have told them. My words are like a powerful fire; they are a hammer that shatters rocks.
--- Jeremiah 23:25a,28,29.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 7

     "O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?" --- Psalm 4:2.

     An instructive writer has made a mournful list of the honours which the blinded people of Israel awarded to their long expected King.

1.     They gave him a procession of honour, in which Roman legionaries, Jewish priests, men and women, took a part, he himself bearing his cross. This is the triumph which the world awards to him who comes to overthrow man’s direst foes. Derisive shouts are his only acclamations, and cruel taunts his only paeans of praise.

2.     They presented him with the wine of honour. Instead of a golden cup of generous wine they offered him the criminal’s stupefying death-draught, which he refused because he would preserve an uninjured taste wherewith to taste of death; and afterwards when he cried, “I thirst,” they gave him vinegar mixed with gall, thrust to his mouth upon a sponge. Oh! wretched, detestable inhospitality to the King’s Son.

3.     He was provided with a guard of honour, who showed their esteem of him by gambling over his garments, which they had seized as their booty. Such was the body-guard of the adored of heaven; a quaternion of brutal gamblers.

4.     A throne of honour was found for him upon the bloody tree; no easier place of rest would rebel men yield to their liege Lord. The cross was, in fact, the full expression of the world’s feeling towards him; “There,” they seemed to say, “thou Son of God, this is the manner in which God himself should be treated, could we reach him.”

5.     The title of honour was nominally “King of the Jews,” but that the blinded nation distinctly repudiated, and really called him “King of thieves,” by preferring Barabbas, and by placing Jesus in the place of highest shame between two thieves. His glory was thus in all things turned into shame by the sons of men, but it shall yet gladden the eyes of saints and angels, world without end.


          Evening - April 7

     "Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness."Psalm 51:14.

     In this SOLEMN CONFESSION, it is pleasing to observe that David plainly names his sin. He does not call it manslaughter, nor speak of it as an imprudence by which an unfortunate accident occurred to a worthy man, but he calls it by its true name, bloodguiltiness. He did not actually kill the husband of Bathsheba; but still it was planned in David’s heart that Uriah should be slain, and he was before the Lord his murderer. Learn in confession to be honest with God. Do not give fair names to foul sins; call them what you will, they will smell no sweeter. What God sees them to be, that do you labour to feel them to be; and with all openness of heart acknowledge their real character. Observe, that David was evidently oppressed with the heinousness of his sin. It is easy to use words, but it is difficult to feel their meaning. The fifty-first Psalm is the photograph of a contrite spirit. Let us seek after the like brokenness of heart; for however excellent our words may be, if our heart is not conscious of the hell-deservingness of sin, we cannot expect to find forgiveness.

     Our text has in it AN EARNEST PRAYER—it is addressed to the God of salvation. It is his prerogative to forgive; it is his very name and office to save those who seek his face. Better still, the text calls him the God of my salvation. Yes, blessed be his name, while I am yet going to him through Jesus’ blood, I can rejoice in the God of my salvation.

     The psalmist ends with A COMMENDABLE VOW: if God will deliver him he will sing—nay, more, he will “sing aloud.” Who can sing in any other style of such a mercy as this! But note the subject of the song—“THY RIGHTEOUSNESS.” We must sing of the finished work of a precious Saviour; and he who knows most of forgiving love will sing the loudest.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 7

          BLESSED REDEEMER

     Avis B. Christiansen, 1895–1985

     When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him, along with the criminals—one on His right, the other on His left. (Luke 23:33)

     A Hill with Three Crosses---
     One cross where a thief died IN SIN
     One cross where a thief died TO SIN
     A center cross where a Redeemer died FOR SIN

--- Unknown

     It is thought that the day we call “Good Friday” originated from the term “God’s Friday”—the day that Christ was led to the hill of Golgotha and crucified, assuring an eternal reconciliation for lost man. The Roman cross, intended to be an instrument of cruel death, instead became an instrument of new life and hope for the human race. God loved and valued each of us so highly that He was willing to pay the greatest price imaginable for our salvation.

     The composer of this hymn, Harry Dixon Loes, was a popular music teacher at the Moody Bible Institute from 1939 until his death in 1965. One day while listening to a sermon on the subject of Christ’s atonement entitled “Blessed Redeemer,” Mr. Loes was inspired to compose this tune. He then sent the melody with the suggested title to Mrs. Christiansen, a friend for many years, asking her to write the text. The completed hymn first appeared in the hymnal Songs of Redemption in 1920.

     Mrs. Avis Christiansen is to be ranked as one of the important gospel hymn writers of the 20th century. She has written hundreds of gospel hymn texts as well as several volumes of published poems. Throughout her long lifetime of 90 years, Mrs. Christiansen collaborated with many well-known gospel musicians to contribute several other choice hymns to our hymnals, including “Blessed Calvary” and “I Know I’ll See Jesus Some Day.”

     Up Calv’ry’s mountain, one dreadful morn,
     walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn;
     facing for sinners death on the cross,
     that He might save them from endless loss.
     “Father, forgive them!” thus did He pray,
     e’en while His life-blood flowed fast away;
     praying for sinners while in such woe—
     no one but Jesus ever loved so.
     O how I love Him, Savior and Friend!
     How can my praises ever find end!
     Thru years unnumbered on heaven’s shore,
     my tongue shall praise Him forevermore.
     Chorus: Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer!
     Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree,
     wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading—
     blind and unheeding—dying for me!


     For Today: Matthew 27:39–43; John 19:17, 18, 33, 34; Colossians 2:13–20.

     Since Christ has paid the price of our redemption in full, all we have to do is believe, receive, rejoice and represent Him. Reflect on this musical truth ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

A Guide to Fervent Prayer
     A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)


          Chapter 09 1 Peter 5:10, 11 – Part 3

     Having considered in the two previous chapters the supplicant, setting, Object, and plea of this prayer, let us now contemplate, fifthly, its petition: “the God of all grace make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” The proper force of the Greek grammar would make the petition read like this: “the God of all grace Himself make you perfect: Himself stablish you, Himself strengthen you, Himself settle you.” There is far more contained in these words than appears on their surface. The fullness of their meaning can be discovered only by a patient searching of the Scriptures, thereby ascertaining how the several terms are used in other passages. I regard the words “Himself make you perfect” as the principal thing requested. The three words that follow are in part an amplification and in part an explanation of the process by which the desired end is reached, though each of the four words requires to be considered separately. Ancient expositors, who went into things much more deeply and thoroughly than many of our modern expositors do, raised the question as to whether this prayer receives its fulfillment in the present life or in the life to come. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of their arguments, I have concluded — taking into view the remarkable scope of the Greek word katartizō (no. 2675 in Strong and Thayer), here rendered make perfect — that this petition is granted in a twofold answer: here and hereafter. I shall therefore take in both in my comments.

          Two Relevant Significations

     Katartizō signifies to make perfect (1) by adjusting or articulating so as to produce a flawless object; or (2) by restoring an object that has become imperfect. That you may be enabled to form your own judgment, I shall set before you the passages in which the Greek word is variously translated elsewhere. In each passage quoted the word or words placed in italics is the English rendering of the Greek word translated make perfect in our text. When the Savior says, “a body hast thou prepared me [or “thou hast fitted me,” margin]” (Heb. 10:5, brackets mine), we are to understand, as Goodwin said, that “that body was formed or articulated by the Holy Spirit, with the human soul, in all its parts, in one instant of its union with the Son of God,” and that it was immaculately holy, impeccable, and without spot or blemish. Katartizō is used again to express the finishing and perfect consummation of God's work of the first creation: “the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Heb. 11:3,). That is to say, they were so completed that nothing more was needed for their perfection; for as Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”

     But this same Greek word has a very different sense in other passages. In Matthew 4:21 it is found in the phrase “mending their nets,” in which it denotes the repairing of what had been damaged. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1,). In this text it signifies a restoring such as of a limb that is out of joint. No doubt this was one of the significations that the Apostle Peter had in mind when he wrote this prayer, for those for whom he prayed had been disjointed or scattered by persecutions (1 Peter 1:1, 6, 7). Paul also had this shade of meaning before him when he exhorted the divided Corinthians to “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10,). Again, the word is sometimes used to express the supply of a deficiency, as it does in 1 Thessalonians 3:10: “that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith”. The word lacking implies a deficiency. Once more, the word occurs in Hebrews 13:2 1: “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight.” Here the apostle prays that the saints might advance to further degrees of faith and holiness in this life.

          Our Being Made Perfect Has to Do with the Process of Sanctification

     It will thus appear, from its usage in other passages, that the Greek word rendered make perfect in 1 Peter 5:10 may yield a significance something like this: “The God of all grace Himself make you perfect in all these successive degrees of grace that are necessary in order for you to reach spiritual maturity.” This significance does not necessarily imply any personal fault or failure in those prayed for, just as a child is not to be blamed for not having yet reached the full stature of an adult or not having attained to the knowledge that comes with mature manhood. It is with this principle in mind that God has promised to bring to perfection the good work He has begun in the souls of His people (Phil. 1:6). A Christian may walk up to the measure of grace received from above without any willful divergence in his course, and still be imperfect. This was the case with the Apostle Paul, one of the most favored of God's children, who confessed, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” (Phil. 3:12). There have been, and are, some privileged souls who never left their first love, who have followed on swiftly in pursuing the knowledge of the Lord, and who (as to the general tenor of their lives) have carried themselves according to the light received. Yet even these have needed further additions of wisdom and holiness to make them more fruitful branches of the Vine and to move them ever in the direction of a consummation of holiness in heaven.

     An example of this appears in the case of the Thessalonian saints. Not only had they experienced a remarkable conversion (1 Thess. 1:9), but they conducted themselves in the most God-honoring and exemplary manner so that the apostle gave thanks to God always for them on account of their “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 2, 3). Not only were their inward graces healthy and vigorous, but in their outward conduct they were made “ensamples [patterns] to all that believe” (v. 7,). Nevertheless, Paul was most anxious to visit them again, that he might perfect that which was lacking in their faith (1 Thess. 3:10). He longed that they might be blessed with further supplies of knowledge and grace that would promote a closer walking with God and a greater resistance to and overcoming of temptations. To that faith which rests on Christ for pardon and acceptance with God, which He bestows at conversion, there is also a conscious faith that lays hold of our acceptance with God. Paul refers to this as the “full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2). With this blessed assurance God gives us the rich experience of “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) and the making of our calling and election sure, so that an abundant entrance into His kingdom is begun in this life (2 Peter 1:10, 11). Yet this perfecting also applies to the recovery and restoration of lapsed Christians, as is evident from Peter's own case.

          Peter Prays for the Establishing or Confirming of Their Faith

     But suppose that God should thus mend and restore those overtaken in a fault, yet might they not fall again? Yes indeed, and evidently Peter had such a contingency in view. Thus he adds the word “stablish.” Peter longed that they should be so confirmed in their faith that they would not fall away. For the fickle and vacillating it was a request that they should be no more tossed to and fro, but fixed in their beliefs. For the discouraged that, having put their hands to the plow, they should not look back because of the difficulties of the way. For those who were walking closely with the Lord, that they might be established in holiness before God (1 Thess. 3:13); for the most spiritual are daily in need of supporting grace. The Greek word (stērizō no. 4741 in Strong and Thayer) in a general way signifies to make firm or confirm. It occurs in Christ's words in Luke 16:26, “there is a great gulf fixed”. It is found again in connection with Christ and is translated, “he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51,). It is the word directed by the Lord to Peter himself: “and when thou art converted, strengthen [or “fix firmly”] thy brethren” (Luke 22:32, brackets mine). Our Lord was commissioning Peter in advance to reestablish those of his fellow disciples who also would yield to the temptation to deny their Master. Likewise, Paul desired to establish and comfort concerning their faith the Thessalonian saints, and that in relation to temptation or trial (1 Thess. 3: 1-5).

          Peter Prays that God Will Impart Moral Strength to Them

     But though we may be so confirmed by the grace of God that we cannot totally and finally fall away, yet we are weak and may be laboring under great infirmities. Therefore the apostle adds to his petition the word “strengthen.” This Greek verb (sthenoō, no. 4599 in Strong and Thayer) is not used elsewhere in the New Testament, but from its position here between “stablish” and “settle” it appears to have the force of invigorating against weakness and corruptions. I am reminded of the prayer that Paul offered on behalf of the Ephesians, that they would be “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). Paul employs a negative noun (asthenēs, no. 772 in Strong and Thayer), formed from the same root, in Romans 5:6: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly”. In our unregenerate state we were entirely devoid of ability and enablement to do those things that are pleasing to God. Not only is the state of spiritual impotency of an unregenerate soul called being “without strength,”but the state of the body when dead is expressed by a noun (astheneia, no. 769) derived from asthenēs (no. 772). “It is sown in weakness,”that is, it is lifeless, utterly devoid of any vigor. But, by contrast, “it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:43); that is, it is to be endued and furnished with all the abilities of rational creatures, even such as the angels have (Luke 20:36) who “excel in strength” (Ps. 103:20). Thus, this request for the strengthening of the saints is to be understood as supplies of grace that will energize weak hands and feeble knees and enable them to overcome every opposing force.

          Peter Prays that They May Be Settled In Faith, Love, and Hope

     Though we be confirmed so that we shall never be lost, and though we be strengthened to bear up against trials, yet we may become shaky and uncertain. Therefore Peter adds the word “settle” to his petition. He is concerned that they be unremitting in their faith in Christ, love toward God, and hope of eternal glory. The Greek verb (themelioō, no. 2311) is rendered founded in Matthew 7:2 5, lay the foundation of in Hebrews 1:10, and grounded in Ephesians 3:17. In our text it appears to be used as the opposite of waverings of spirit and doubtings of heart. Peter is saying something like this: I pray that you may be able confidently to say, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12), and that you turn not from the path of duty because of the opposition you encounter. No matter how good the tree, if it be not settled in the earth, but moved from place to place, it will bear little or no fruit. How many might trace the unfruitfulness of their lives to the unsettled state of their hearts and judgments! David could say, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed,” and therefore he added, “I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). This, too, is a blessing that God alone can impart. “Now to him that is of power to stablish you,” says Paul (Rom. 16:25). Yet, as Deuteronomy 28:9 and 2 Chronicles 20:20 show, we must use the appointed means.

     “Himself make you perfect: stablish, strengthen, settle you.” The ultimate object seems to be mentioned first, and then the steps by which it is to be reached. But whether regarded in conjunction or singly, they all have to do with our practical sanctification. The piling up of these emphatic terms indicates the difficulty of the Christian's task and his urgent need of constant supplies of Divine grace. The saint's warfare is one of no common difficulty, and his needs are deep and many; but he has to do with “the God of all grace”! Therefore, it is both our privilege and duty to draw upon Him by importunate supplication (2 Tim. 2:1; Heb. 4:16). God has provided grace answerable to our every need, yet it flows through the means He has appointed. God will “perfect: stablish, strengthen, settle” us in response to fervent prayer, by the instrumentality of His Word, by His blessing to us the various ministries of His servants, and by sanctifying to us the discipline of His providences. He who has given His people a sure hope will also give everything necessary to the realization of the thing hoped for (2 Peter 1:3); but it is uniquely our part to seek the desired and necessary blessing by prayer (Ezek. 36:37).

A Guide to Fervent Prayer


John Piper, R.C. Sproul: Ministry Reflections

2011 National Conference | Ligonier






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Pleasing God

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The Next Story

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Believing God

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The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

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Pillars of Grace

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An Unexpected Journey

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By Grace Alone

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For the Authority of Scripture

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