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Leviticus 13     Psalm 15-16     Proverbs 27     2 Thessalonians 1


Leviticus 13

Laws About Leprosy

Leviticus 13:1 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, 3 and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. And if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a case of leprous disease. When the priest has examined him, he shall pronounce him unclean. 4 But if the spot is white in the skin of his body and appears no deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall shut up the diseased person for seven days. 5 And the priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the disease is checked and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall shut him up for another seven days. 6 And the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the diseased area has faded and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only an eruption. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean. 7 But if the eruption spreads in the skin, after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again before the priest. 8 And the priest shall look, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a leprous disease.

9 “When a man is afflicted with a leprous disease, he shall be brought to the priest, 10 and the priest shall look. And if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white, and there is raw flesh in the swelling, 11 it is a chronic leprous disease in the skin of his body, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean. He shall not shut him up, for he is unclean. 12 And if the leprous disease breaks out in the skin, so that the leprous disease covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, 13 then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean. 14 But when raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean. 15 And the priest shall examine the raw flesh and pronounce him unclean. Raw flesh is unclean, for it is a leprous disease. 16 But if the raw flesh recovers and turns white again, then he shall come to the priest, 17 and the priest shall examine him, and if the disease has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce the diseased person clean; he is clean.

18 “If there is in the skin of one’s body a boil and it heals, 19 and in the place of the boil there comes a white swelling or a reddish-white spot, then it shall be shown to the priest. 20 And the priest shall look, and if it appears deeper than the skin and its hair has turned white, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is a case of leprous disease that has broken out in the boil. 21 But if the priest examines it and there is no white hair in it and it is not deeper than the skin, but has faded, then the priest shall shut him up seven days. 22 And if it spreads in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a disease. 23 But if the spot remains in one place and does not spread, it is the scar of the boil, and the priest shall pronounce him clean.

24 “Or, when the body has a burn on its skin and the raw flesh of the burn becomes a spot, reddish-white or white, 25 the priest shall examine it, and if the hair in the spot has turned white and it appears deeper than the skin, then it is a leprous disease. It has broken out in the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a case of leprous disease. 26 But if the priest examines it and there is no white hair in the spot and it is no deeper than the skin, but has faded, the priest shall shut him up seven days, 27 and the priest shall examine him the seventh day. If it is spreading in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a case of leprous disease. 28 But if the spot remains in one place and does not spread in the skin, but has faded, it is a swelling from the burn, and the priest shall pronounce him clean, for it is the scar of the burn.

29 “When a man or woman has a disease on the head or the beard, 30 the priest shall examine the disease. And if it appears deeper than the skin, and the hair in it is yellow and thin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is an itch, a leprous disease of the head or the beard. 31 And if the priest examines the itching disease and it appears no deeper than the skin and there is no black hair in it, then the priest shall shut up the person with the itching disease for seven days, 32 and on the seventh day the priest shall examine the disease. If the itch has not spread, and there is in it no yellow hair, and the itch appears to be no deeper than the skin, 33 then he shall shave himself, but the itch he shall not shave; and the priest shall shut up the person with the itching disease for another seven days. 34 And on the seventh day the priest shall examine the itch, and if the itch has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean. 35 But if the itch spreads in the skin after his cleansing, 36 then the priest shall examine him, and if the itch has spread in the skin, the priest need not seek for the yellow hair; he is unclean. 37 But if in his eyes the itch is unchanged and black hair has grown in it, the itch is healed and he is clean, and the priest shall pronounce him clean.

38 “When a man or a woman has spots on the skin of the body, white spots, 39 the priest shall look, and if the spots on the skin of the body are of a dull white, it is leukoderma that has broken out in the skin; he is clean.

40 “If a man’s hair falls out from his head, he is bald; he is clean. 41 And if a man’s hair falls out from his forehead, he has baldness of the forehead; he is clean. 42 But if there is on the bald head or the bald forehead a reddish-white diseased area, it is a leprous disease breaking out on his bald head or his bald forehead. 43 Then the priest shall examine him, and if the diseased swelling is reddish-white on his bald head or on his bald forehead, like the appearance of leprous disease in the skin of the body, 44 he is a leprous man, he is unclean. The priest must pronounce him unclean; his disease is on his head.

45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

47 “When there is a case of leprous disease in a garment, whether a woolen or a linen garment, 48 in warp or woof of linen or wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin, 49 if the disease is greenish or reddish in the garment, or in the skin or in the warp or the woof or in any article made of skin, it is a case of leprous disease, and it shall be shown to the priest. 50 And the priest shall examine the disease and shut up that which has the disease for seven days. 51 Then he shall examine the disease on the seventh day. If the disease has spread in the garment, in the warp or the woof, or in the skin, whatever be the use of the skin, the disease is a persistent leprous disease; it is unclean. 52 And he shall burn the garment, or the warp or the woof, the wool or the linen, or any article made of skin that is diseased, for it is a persistent leprous disease. It shall be burned in the fire.

53 “And if the priest examines, and if the disease has not spread in the garment, in the warp or the woof or in any article made of skin, 54 then the priest shall command that they wash the thing in which is the disease, and he shall shut it up for another seven days. 55 And the priest shall examine the diseased thing after it has been washed. And if the appearance of the diseased area has not changed, though the disease has not spread, it is unclean. You shall burn it in the fire, whether the rot is on the back or on the front.

56 “But if the priest examines, and if the diseased area has faded after it has been washed, he shall tear it out of the garment or the skin or the warp or the woof. 57 Then if it appears again in the garment, in the warp or the woof, or in any article made of skin, it is spreading. You shall burn with fire whatever has the disease. 58 But the garment, or the warp or the woof, or any article made of skin from which the disease departs when you have washed it, shall then be washed a second time, and be clean.” 59 This is the law for a case of leprous disease in a garment of wool or linen, either in the warp or the woof, or in any article made of skin, to determine whether it is clean or unclean.


Psalm 15

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?

Psalm 15:1 A Psalm Of David.

1  O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

2  He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3  who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4  in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5  who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.


Psalm 16

You Will Not Abandon My Soul

Psalm 16:1 A Miktam of David.

1  Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2  I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

3  As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

4  The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

5  The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

7  I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8  I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

9  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

11  You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


Proverbs 27

The Fool Says, There Is No God

Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
2  Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.
3  A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
4  Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
5  Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
7  One who is full loathes honey,
but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.
8  Like a bird that strays from its nest
is a man who strays from his home.
9  Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
10  Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is near
than a brother who is far away.
11  Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,
that I may answer him who reproaches me.
12  The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
13  Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.
14  Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice,
rising early in the morning,
will be counted as cursing.
15  A continual dripping on a rainy day
and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
16  to restrain her is to restrain the wind
or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.
17  Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
18  Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and he who guards his master will be honored.
19  As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.
20  Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
and never satisfied are the eyes of man.
21  The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and a man is tested by his praise.
22  Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle
along with crushed grain,
yet his folly will not depart from him.

23  Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds,
24  for riches do not last forever;
and does a crown endure to all generations?
25  When the grass is gone and the new growth appears
and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered,
26  the lambs will provide your clothing,
and the goats the price of a field.
27  There will be enough goats’ milk for your food,
for the food of your household
and maintenance for your girls.


2 Thessalonians 1

Greeting

2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving

3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

The Judgment at Christ’s Coming

5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Our Father…

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2003

     My first class at the Free University of Amsterdam shattered my academic complacency. It was cultural shock, an exercise in contrasts. It started the moment the professor, Dr. G.C. Berkouwer, entered the room. At his appearance, every student stood at attention until he mounted the podium steps, opened his notebook, and silently nodded for the students to be seated. He then began his lecture, and the students, in a holy hush, dutifully listened and wrote notes for the hour. No one ever dared to interrupt or distract the master by presuming to raise his hand. The session was dominated by a single voice—the voice we were all paying to hear.

     When the lecture ended, the professor closed his notebook, stepped down from the podium, and hastily left the room, but not before the students once more rose in his honor. There was no dialogue, no student appointments, no gabfest. No student ever spoke to the professor—except during privately scheduled oral exams.

     My first such exam was an exercise in terror. I went to the professor’s house expecting an ordeal. But as rigorous as the exam was, it was not an ordeal. Dr. Berkouwer was warm and kind. In avuncular fashion, he asked about my family. He showed great concern for my well-being and invited me to ask him questions.

     In a sense, this experience was a taste of heaven. Professor Berkouwer was, of course, mortal. But he was a man of titanic intellect and encyclopedic knowledge. I was not in his home to instruct him or to debate him— I was the student and he was the master. There was hardly anything in the realm of theology he could learn from me. And yet, he listened to me as if he really thought he could learn something from me. He took my answers to his probing questions seriously. It was as if I were a son being questioned by a caring father.

     This event is the best human analogy I can come up with to answer the age-old query, “If God is sovereign, why pray?” However, I must confess that this analogy is frail. Though Berkouwer towered above me in knowledge, his knowledge was finite and limited. He was by no means omniscient.

     By contrast, when I converse with God, I am not merely talking to a Great Professor in the Sky. I’m talking to one who has all knowledge, one who cannot possibly learn anything from me that He doesn’t already know. He knows everything there is to know, including what’s on my mind. He knows what I’m going to say to Him before I say it. He knows what He’s going to do before He does it. His knowledge is sovereign, as He is sovereign. His knowledge is perfect, immutably so.

     Though the Bible at times limps with human language expressing the idea that God changes His mind, relents, or repents of His plans, it elsewhere reminds us that these human-form expressions are just that, and that God is not a man that He should repent. In Him there is no shadow of turning. His counsel is from everlasting. He has no plan B. Plan Bs are “contingency plans,” but though God knows all contingencies, He Himself knows nothing contingently.

     People ask, “Does prayer change God’s mind?” To ask such a question is to answer it. What kind of God could be influenced by my prayers? What could my prayers do to induce Him to change His plans? Could I possibly give God any information about anything that He doesn’t already have? Or could I persuade Him toward a more excellent way by my superior wisdom? Of course not. I am completely unqualified to be God’s mentor or His guidance counselor. So the simple answer is that prayer does not change God’s mind.

     But suppose we ask the question of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and our prayers in a slightly different way: “Does prayer change things?” Now the answer is an emphatic “Yes!” The Scriptures tell us that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). This text declares that prayer is effectual. It is not a pious exercise in futility. That which is futile avails nothing. Prayer, however, avails much. That which avails much is never futile.

     What does prayer avail? What does it change? In the first place, my prayers change me. The purpose of prayer is not to change God. He doesn’t change because He doesn’t need changing. But I do. Just as Dr. Berkouwer’s questions to me were not for his benefit but for mine, so my time with God is for my edification, not His. Prayer is one of the great privileges given to us along with our justification. A consequence of our justification is that we have access to God. We have been adopted into His family and given the right to address Him as Father. We are encouraged to come boldly into His presence. (Of course, there is a difference between boldness and arrogance.)

     But prayer also changes things. In practical terms, we say that prayer works. That which is effectual is that which causes or produces effects. In theology, we distinguish between primary and secondary causality. Primary causality is the power source of all causes. When the Bible says that “ ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’ ” (Acts 17:28), it indicates that apart from God’s sustaining providence we would be powerless to live, move, or exist. All power that we have is secondary. It always depends upon God for its ultimate efficacy. Yet, it is real. Prayer is one of the means God uses to bring about the ends He ordains. That is, God not only ordains ends, He ordains the means He uses to bring about those ends.

     God doesn’t need our preaching to save His people. Yet He has chosen to work through our preaching. He empowers our human preaching with His own power. In like manner, He has chosen to work through our prayers. He empowers our prayers so that after we pray we can step back and watch Him unleash His power in and through our prayers.

     We pray expectantly and confidently, not in spite of the sovereignty of God, but because of it. What would be a waste of time and breath would be praying to a god who is not sovereign.

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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:

They Devoted Themselves to Prayer

By Edmund Clowney 4/1/2003

     From the Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples went to a prayer meeting. They met in a familiar upstairs room in Jerusalem. All 11 apostles and the women who had been with Jesus were there.

     They prayed in the name of Jesus Christ, who had disappeared in the clouds as they watched. Their prayer was addressed to the sovereign God, Master and Ruler. They knew that Jesus was at His right hand and would send His Spirit. He had charged them to ” ‘be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ ” (Acts 1:8). After Pentecost, thousands of believers devoted themselves to ‘the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, … the breaking of bread, and … prayers” (Acts 2:42). The apostles taught Gospel doctrine in the setting of worship. They prayed in the temple courts, in the upper room, and in the homes of disciples.

     The apostles were not sectarian. They continued to pray in Solomon’s Porch of the temple, worshiping the one true God through His incarnate Son (Acts 2:46; 3:1). They also met in other places in Jerusalem. Thousands of new believers crowded their praying assemblies. Houses in Jerusalem became places of prayer and worship where the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. Sharing of food and goods united the praying community.

     They devoted themselves to prayer because they had devoted themselves to the Lord Jesus. They wanted to reflect Him, and they desired to serve Him. His resurrection and ascension lifted their praise to the Father’s throne. Luke gives us a taste of their prayer when Peter and John were released after they healed a lame beggar: ” ‘Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus’ ” (Acts 4:29–30). They persevered in prayer because they knew that God heard them. They knew that God’s sovereign will had been accomplished at the Cross. Their prayer, like Peter’s preaching, had been transformed by their understanding of the Cross.

     Apostolic prayer was kingdom prayer, addressed to the Creator and Sovereign of the world and its nations. The threats of the Sanhedrin against the apostles’ witness showed the futile rage of earthly rulers against the Sovereign God (Ps. 2; Acts 4:24–27). The apostles prayed for kingdom boldness, and the Lord answered their prayer in earthquake power (Acts 4:31). He filled them with His Spirit. They spoke the word with boldness: in the temple, before the Sanhedrin, and to the world. Signs and wonders attested the apostolic witness (2 Cor. 12:12).

     Prayer continued to mark apostolic ministry. Burdened with administering relief for widows, the apostles declared they must not leave the ministry of the word and prayer to serve tables. They asked the church to choose seven men. They appointed them to lead this mercy ministry and ordained them in prayer.

     Peter and the other apostles were called by Jesus to be the foundation of the church. He commissioned them to carry the Gospel to the world. When Philip, one of the seven, took the Gospel to Samaria, Peter and John came to recognize this work. With prayer and the laying on of their hands, the gift of the Spirit was given.

     Prayer continued in the mission of the apostles. Peter opened the door of the Gospel to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, a praying Gentile believer. God had heard this Gentile’s prayers and cleansed him through faith. Later, when Peter was freed from prison by an angel, he knew where to find the Christians. They were praying in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark.

     The prophets and teaching elders at Antioch, meeting for fasting and prayer, were directed by the Holy Spirit to set apart Saul and Barnabas for the mission to which God had called them. After more fasting and prayer, they laid their hands on them and sent them off. As Paul established churches, he appointed elders, again with prayer and fasting.

     Paul’s own ministry was centered in prayer, as we know from his epistles. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Phil. 1:3). In countless trials, Paul’s refuge was prayer and praise. Paul and Silas, sitting in stocks at Philippi, ignored their bleeding backs. They sang God’s praises and prayed. An earthquake was the Lord’s response, freeing them and saving their jailer.

     On the way to Jerusalem, Paul stopped to meet the gathered Ephesian elders. He knelt on the beach and prayed. He knew the warnings of prophets who foretold what suffering waited for him in Jerusalem, but his purpose, shaped in prayer, drove him on. In Jerusalem, Paul’s arrest by the Romans saved his life from a mob of Jews in the temple court. He appealed his case to Caesar, and was shipped to Rome—praying for his shipmates in the storm, and for those in Malta where the ship was wrecked.

     Read Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14–21 and hear him afresh as he knelt on the beach at Miletus with the Ephesian elders. You will see the intersection of Paul’s prayer life and his public ministry. The two are always bound together. Jesus was in large part the person He was because of His prayers. Paul was the same. As are we all.

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     Dr. Edmund P. Clowney was a pastor and professor for many years, and he served most notably as president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and theologian-in-residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, VA.

Reckless Fervor

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/2003

     One of the oddest things to hinder our prayers is fear. Many of us are reluctant to pray in front of others. We fear, I suppose, that those who are listening might be critiquing our prayers. That fear is both sensible and foolish. It is sensible in the sense that people actually do, as they listen to others pray, make mental critiques. I know people do this because I have been known to do it myself. I have run the prayers of hundreds through my own systematic theology grid, looking to filter out the folly. It is foolish, however, because there is someone far more discerning than me who listens to our prayers, and He manages not to critique them. That is, we ought to fear saying foolish things to the object of our prayers rather than to the bystanders. On the other hand, we probably really have nothing to fear.

     When we pray, if we pray rightly, we pray in Jesus’ name. That little formula is important. It is good that we almost always remember to pray this way; it is bad that we hardly ever remember what we mean. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we acknowledge that we are, in ourselves, not worthy to come into God’s presence. Our entrance into the royal throne room is made possible only by the imputed righteousness of Christ. We can pray because we are covered by the blood of Christ. This means, of course, that our sins, including our sinfully foolish thoughts, do not make it past the ceiling.

     Dr. John Gerstner once explained this phenomenon. He invited us to imagine a young boy gleefully entering his home, a mixture of flowers and weeds clutched in his muddy hand. He explained to his father that he wished to honor his mother with this bouquet. The father suggested, “Perhaps I could give them to her for you.” The son handed over the bouquet, and the father surreptitiously removed the weeds, leaving only flowers. In like manner, when we pray to our Father in heaven, when we come coram Deo, before His face, the Holy Spirit sanctifies our very prayers. Because He does this, we can pray with boldness, not as those who seek the approval of men, “Our Father, who art in heaven.…” See how much our heavenly Father loves us, that He allows His children to pray. And so, trusting as children, may we pray with care, but also with a reckless fervor.

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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

Perseverance of the Saints

By John de Witt 1/1/2004

     What are we to make of the stunning words of Hebrews 6:4–6 with their fearful warning against apostasy, a falling away from the faith and from the Lord? They have often been a source of puzzlement and dread to Christian believers across the centuries. A connection has frequently been drawn between this passage and other pronouncements in the New Testament that speak of unpardonable sin: the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28–30; Matt. 12:31–32) and the “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16–17). Differences are to be noted, but also striking similarities. I have known people who were convinced that they had committed this sin and for whom the candle of hope had flickered and died away.

     The truth is that the Christian must live in a careful balance between the poles of presumption and despair.

     The first of these poles is presumption. I have met many people over the years whose besetting sin was presumption. One example stands out in my memory, perhaps because the woman involved has a place at the head of a long list to come. When I was a theological student I did some door-to-door canvassing for a church whose constituency was moving to the suburbs and whose minister was determined to do what he could to reach people in the neighborhood. I rang the doorbell of a certain house. After a short wait an elderly woman appeared. Our conversation was brief. I asked her whether she was a Christian, whether she had placed her trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Her response was immediate. “O yes,” she assured me, “I am a Christian.” I then asked her where she went to church. That proved to be another matter entirely. She claimed to be a Christian, but for years she had not darkened the door of a church. Her thinking struck me then as peculiar and skewed. The ground on which she claimed to be a believer was her action in the remote past when she responded to a gospel invitation given by Billy Sunday during an evangelistic crusade in her native city. She had been “saved” once. Nothing more could be required.

     Perhaps this older woman was putting a young man in his place. That interpretation of our brief exchange has occurred to me. I rather think, however, that she meant exactly what she said. In the third century of the Christian era Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, wrote: “Outside the church there is no salvation.” With this dictum the Protestant Reformers, among them John Calvin, emphatically concurred. The Westminster Confession of Faith modifies this language a little, without compromising the sense: Outside the church “there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” What about the thief on the cross next to Jesus?

     This is not the place, nor is Hebrews 6:4–6 the platform, for a discussion of “eternal security.” Those who hold that no believer ultimately falls from grace have said that when a person has once been “saved,” nothing more can be required. Expressions such as “eternal security” and “once saved always saved” are seriously deficient. I say that for several reasons, but chiefly because they violate biblical teaching. Another description is far more dependable and profound: it is “the perseverance of the saints” with its clear implication that the believer is one who leads a life of disciplined obedience by the grace of God. Christians should be able to gather around the term “perseverance” and make common confession of it.

     The solemn words of Hebrews 6:4–6 are a chilling and profound warning against presumption, of such spiritual carelessness as may lead to the death of the soul.

     The second pole — and this is of great importance as well — is despair. Those who know and love Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations. by John Bunyan will remember some of the experiences of Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Desired Country, the heavenly City of God. Especially memorable are Doubting Castle and its proprietor the Giant Despair. It was only when Christian awakened from his torpor in the dungeon and discovered in his bosom the key called Promise that he and his companion Hopeful were able to escape what had seemed to them inevitable disaster.

     Some professing Christians — whose character gives no reason to doubt the authenticity of their faith — live in a constant state of anxiety. They may not question the mercy of God, but they doubt that His mercy extends to them. Their daily walk is often in the darkness rather than in the light. They seem unable to lay hold of the bright promises of God because to do so, in their view, is to draw unwarranted conclusions with respect to their standing before Him. Our passage, Hebrews 6:4-6, strikes fear in their very souls.

     It is essential to understand that the writer of this grand epistle has a very specific end in view. The objective is not to leave believers bereft of comfort and hope. It is in no sense to induce an unremitting sense of foreboding, as though at any point along the way the ground can crumble under a believer’s feet. It is rather to summon all who trust in Christ and follow Him to press on with all diligence and care. The way of faith is obedience. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1–2).

     To those who doubt the power of preaching, I can offer an illustration to the contrary. I was a mere lad when I heard a sermon, but in the course of more than fifty-five years it has never left me. Perhaps part of the reason for its lingering influence was the currency then of interest in and concern about the “sin unto death.” A single sentence from that long ago discourse has helped me, and helped me to help others along the way. In the sermon, the pastor said: “The unpardonable sin is constant, willful, and persistent impenitence.” That definition, I have long thought, is exactly right. I do not know how it could be made better.

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     Dr. John R. de Witt, after having served various pulpits since 1959, is now retired and living in Columbia, S.C. He also served as associate editor of The Banner of Truth magazine and translated Herman Ridderbos’ Paul: An Outline of His Theology.

The Supremacy of Christ

By R.C. Sproul 1/1/2004

     I wonder if it is proper to have a “favorite” book of the Bible. The idea scratches like fingernails on a chalk-board. What would induce us to prefer one portion of the Word of God to another? It would seem that to hear God say anything would be such a delight to the soul that every word that proceeds from His mouth would excite the soul to the same degree. Perhaps when we reach glory, our delight in Him and in His Word will be such that it will know no comparative degrees.

     In the meantime we are left with our varied inclinations. When I think of “favorite” books of the Bible, I always place Hebrews near the very top. Why? In the first instance, this book masterfully connects the Old Testament and the New Testament. What Augustine said is true: “The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.” The bridge between the two is Hebrews.

     Hebrews is a book of comparisons and contrasts. The New Covenant is seen against the backdrop of the Old. The New is seen as being better. “Better” is the operative word. The New Covenant is better because it is more inclusive (it includes Gentiles); it has a better Mediator; a better High Priest; a better King; and a better revelation of God.

     What the New Covenant has that the Old Covenant lacked is the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. In a word, we have Jesus — the Word made flesh.

     Indeed, as the author of Hebrews (whom I believe was Paul, possibly through an amanuensis) describes the person and work of Jesus, the comparative quickly changes to the superlative. It is not enough to see Jesus as simply being “better” than what came before. He is more than better; He is the best.

     In this regard, Hebrews focuses on the supremacy of Christ. To speak of “supremacy” is to speak of that which is “above” or “over” others. It reaches the level of the “super.” In our language it refers to that which (or who) is greatest in power, authority, or rank. It is also used to describe that which (or who) is greatest in importance, significance, character, or achievement — the “ultimate.”

     In all these areas of consideration, Jesus ranks as the ultimate or supreme — supreme in power, rank, glory, authority, importance, etc.

     The high Christology of Hebrews is set against the background of the Old Testament. Hebrews begins with the attestation of Christ as the supreme revelation of God: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Heb. 1:1­–3a NKJV).

     Here the supremacy of Christ is His preeminence over the Old Testament prophets. Those prophets spoke the Word of God — but Christ is the Word of God. He is not merely a prophet in a long line of prophets. He is the Prophet par excellence. This supreme revelation comes from Him, the One who is more than a prophet — the very Son of God. In this opening passage of Hebrews there is enough weighty Christology to occupy the most astute theologians for their entire lives without exhausting its richness. Here Christ is seen as the Creator of the world and the One who upholds it by His power. He is the Creator of all things and the Heir of all things. He is the very brightness of the glory of God. Again, it is not enough to say that He is the supreme reflection of divine glory. Nay, He is the brightness of that glory. He is the express image of God’s person, the one who bears the imago dei supremely.

     Next, Hebrews sets forth the contrast between the person and function of angels to Jesus. No angel rises to the level of the only begotten Son of God. Angels are not to be worshiped — yet the angels are commanded to worship Christ. The Kingdom is not given to angels; it is given to Christ who alone is seated at the right hand of God the Father in the position of cosmic authority. In every way Christ has supremacy over the angels and is not to be confused as being one of them.

     Then the author of Hebrews details the supremacy of Christ over Moses. Surely Moses is the most exalted person of the Old Testament in his role of Mediator of the Law. We read, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, … but Christ as a son over His own house, whose house we are… .” (Heb. 3:1–6a NKJV).

     The contrasts here are among the servant of the house, the builder of the house, and the owner of the house. The builder and owner are supreme over the servant of the house. Moses could lead the people to the earthly promised land but could not lead them into their eternal rest.

     Next, Christ is seen as the supreme High Priest. The high priests of old offered shadows of the reality to come. The sacrifices of old were offered regularly — Christ offers the true sacrifice, once for all. The old priests offered objects different from themselves. The Supreme High Priest offers Himself — a perfect sacrifice. He is both the subject and object of the supreme atoning sacrifice.

     Finally, Christ’s priesthood differs from the old in that Christ serves both as High Priest and as King. In the Old Covenant, the king was ultimately to come from the tribe of Judah. The priests were to be consecrated from the tribe of Levi (following Aaron). But Jesus was not a Levite. His was a different priesthood from a different order — the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek makes a strange appearance to Abraham as both king and priest to whom Abraham gives obeisance. Hebrews argues that as Abraham is greater than Levi, and Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, then manifestly Melchizedek is greater than Levi. The eternal high priesthood and kingship is given to Christ in fulfillment of Psalm 110.

     These references are but a few of the riches set forth in Hebrews that declare the supremacy of Christ.

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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 13; Psalms 15-16; Proverbs 27; 2 Thess. 1

By Don Carson 4/9/2018

     Observe the pattern of capital letters: “I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing’” (Ps. 16:2). In other words, addressing Yahweh (“LORD”), David confesses him “Lord,” his Master; then he adds, “Apart from you I have no good thing.”

     (1) Looked at one way, these words delimit what is good, and thereby almost define the good. Nothing is ultimately good if it is abstracted from God. It may be good in a relative sense, of course. The Lord made the sun and pronounced it good, and good it is: it provides all of this world’s energy. Yet abstracted from the knowledge of God, it became an object of worship among many ancient peoples (called Ra in Egypt — and the covenant community itself could get caught up in syncretistic sun worship, Ezek. 8:16), and attracts a different kind of sun worshiper today. We may enjoy reasonably good health; surely that is a good thing. But suppose we use our energy to do what is selfish or evil, or deploy the blessings the Lord entrusts to us simply to order our lives as autonomously as possible? Apart from the Lord, we “have no good thing.”

     (2) Looked at another way, the text is literally true. Since God is the Creator of all, then no good thing that we enjoy has come to us apart from him. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” James writes (1:17). Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor. 4:7). So our first order of business ought to be gratitude. Apart from the Lord, we “have no good thing.”

     (3) Yet the text is certainly more visceral than that. Its tone is closer to the words of Asaph: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25-26). In comparison with knowledge of our Maker and Redeemer, nothing else is worth very much, whether in this life or in the life to come. Apart from the Lord, we “have no good thing.”

     (4) The text will trigger in some minds other “apart from” passages. Perhaps the best known is John 15:5, where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. Apart from the vine, we branches bear no fruit; and apart from him we “have no good thing.”

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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).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 37

He Will Not Forsake His Saints
37 Of David.

27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 16.

REFUTATION OF THE CALUMNIES BY WHICH IT IS ATTEMPTED TO THROW ODIUM ON THIS DOCTRINE.

The divisions of this chapter are,--I. The calumnies of the Papists against the orthodox doctrine of Justification by Faith are reduced to two classes. The first class, with its consequences, refuted, sec. 1-3. II. The second class, which is dependent on the first, refuted in the last section.

Sections.

1. Calumnies of the Papists. 1. That we destroy good works, and give encouragement to sin. Refutation of the first calumny. 1. Character of those who censure us. 2. Justification by faith establishes the necessity of good works.

2. Refutation of a consequent of the former calumny--viz. that men are dissuaded from well-doing when we destroy merit. Two modes of refutation. First mode confirmed by many invincible arguments.

3. The Apostles make no mention of merit, when they exhort us to good works. On the contrary, excluding merit, they refer us entirely to the mercy of God. Another mode of refutation.

4. Refutation of the second calumny and of an inference from it,--viz. that the obtaining righteousness is made too easy, when it is made to consist in the free remission of sins.

1. Our last sentence may refute the impudent calumny of certain ungodly men, who charge us, first, with destroying good works and leading men away from the study of them, when we say, that men are not justified, and do not merit salvation by works; and, secondly, with making the means of justification too easy, when we say that it consists in the free remission of sins, and thus alluring men to sin to which they are already too much inclined. These calumnies, I say, are sufficiently refuted by that one sentence; however, I will briefly reply to both. The allegation is that justification by faith destroys good works. I will not describe what kind of zealots for good works the persons are who thus charge us. We leave them as much liberty to bring the charge, as they take license to taint the whole world with the pollution of their lives. [436] They pretend to lament [437] that when faith is so highly extolled, works are deprived of their proper place. But what if they are rather ennobled and established? We dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a justification which can exist without them: the only difference is, that while we acknowledge that faith and works are necessarily connected, we, however, place justification in faith, not in works. How this is done is easily explained, if we turn to Christ only, to whom our faith is directed and from whom it derives all its power. Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because by faith we apprehend the righteousness of Christ, which alone reconciles us to God. This faith, however, you cannot apprehend without at the same time apprehending sanctification; for Christ "is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ, therefore, justifies no man without also sanctifying him. These blessings are conjoined by a perpetual and inseparable tie. Those whom he enlightens by his wisdom he redeems; whom he redeems he justifies; whom he justifies he sanctifies. But as the question relates only to justification and sanctification, to them let us confine ourselves. Though we distinguish between them, they are both inseparably comprehended in Christ. Would ye then obtain justification in Christ? You must previously possess Christ. But you cannot possess him without being made a partaker of his sanctification: for Christ cannot be divided. Since the Lord, therefore, does not grant us the enjoyment of these blessings without bestowing himself, he bestows both at once but never the one without the other. Thus it appears how true it is that we are justified not without, and yet not by works, since in the participation of Christ, by which we are justified, is contained not less sanctification than justification.

2. It is also most untrue that men's minds are withdrawn from the desire of well-doing when we deprive them of the idea of merit. Here, by the way, the reader must be told that those men absurdly infer merit from reward, as I will afterwards more clearly explain. They thus infer, because ignorant of the principle that God gives no less a display of his liberality when he assigns reward to works, than when he bestows the faculty of well-doing. This topic it will be better to defer to its own place. At present, let it be sufficient merely to advert to the weakness of their objection. This may be done in two ways. [438] For, first, they are altogether in error when they say that, unless a hope of reward is held forth, no regard will be had to the right conduct of life. For if all that men do when they serve God is to look to the reward, and hire out or sell their labour to him, little is gained: he desires to be freely worshipped, freely loved: I say he approves the worshipper who, even if all hope of reward were cut off, would cease not to worship him. Moreover, when men are to be urged, there cannot be a stronger stimulus than that derived from the end of our redemption and calling, such as the word of God employs when it says, that it were the height of impiety and ingratitude not to "love him who first loved us;" that by "the blood of Christ" our conscience is purged "from dead works to serve the living God;" that it were impious sacrilege in any one to count "the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing;" that we have been "delivered out of the hands of our enemies," that we "might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life;" that being "made free from sin," we "become the servants of righteousness;" "that our old man is crucified with him," in order that we might rise to newness of life. Again, "if ye then be risen with Christ (as becomes his members), seek those things which are above," living as pilgrims in the world, and aspiring to heaven, where our treasure is. "The grace of God has appeared to all men, bringing salvation, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." "For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." "Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Spirit," which it were impious to profane? "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as the children of light." "God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain" from all illicit desires: ours is a "holy calling," and we respond not to it except by purity of life. "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Can there be a stronger argument in eliciting us to charity than that of John? "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." Similar is the argument of Paul, "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" "For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body being many, are one body, so also is Christ." Can there be a stronger incentive to holiness than when we are told by John, "Every man that has this hope in him purifieth himself; even as he is pure?" and by Paul, "Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit;" or when we hear our Savior hold forth himself as an example to us that we should follow his steps? [439]

3. I have given these few passages merely as a specimen; for were I to go over them all, I should form a large volume. All the Apostles abound in exhortations, admonitions and rebukes, for the purpose of training the man of God to every good work, and that without any mention of merit. Nay, rather their chief exhortations are founded on the fact, that without any merit of ours, our salvation depends entirely on the mercy of God. Thus Paul, who during a whole Epistle had maintained that there was no hope of life for us save in the righteousness of Christ, when he comes to exhortations beseeches us by the mercy which God has bestowed upon us (Rom. 12:1). Andy indeed this one reason ought to have been sufficient, that God may be glorified in us. But if any are not so ardently desirous to promote the glory of God, still the remembrance of his kindness is most sufficient to incite them to do good (see Chrysost. Homily. in Genes). But those men, [440] because, by introducing the idea of merit, they perhaps extract some forced and servile obedience of the Law, falsely allege, that as we do not adopt the same course, we have no means of exhorting to good works. As if God were well pleased with such services when he declares that he loves a cheerful giver, and forbids any thing to be given him grudgingly or of necessity (2 Cor. 9:7). I say not that I would reject that or omit any kind of exhortation which Scripture employs, its object being not to leave any method of animating us untried. For it states, that the recompense which God will render to every one is according to his deeds; but, first, I deny that that is the only, or, in many instances, the principal motive; and, secondly, I admit not that it is the motive with which we are to begin. Moreover, I maintain that it gives not the least countenance to those merits which these men are always preaching. This will afterwards be seen. Lastly, there is no use in this recompense, unless we have previously embraced the doctrine that we are justified solely by the merits of Christ as apprehended by faith, and not by any merit of works; because the study of piety can be fitly prosecuted only by those by whom this doctrine has been previously imbibed. This is beautifully intimated by the Psalmist when he thus addresses God, "There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared," (Ps. 130:4). For he shows that the worship of God cannot exist without acknowledging his mercy, on which it is founded and established. This is specially deserving of notice, as showing us not only that the beginning of the due worship of God is confidence in his mercy; but that the fear of God (which Papists will have to be meritorious) cannot be entitled to the name of merit, for this reason, that it is founded on the pardon and remission of sins.

4. But the most futile calumny of all is, that men are invited to sin when we affirm that the pardon in which we hold that justification consists is gratuitous. Our doctrine is, that justification is a thing of such value, that it cannot be put into the balance with any good quality of ours; and, therefore, could never be obtained unless it were gratuitous: moreover, that it is gratuitous to us, but not also to Christ, who paid so dearly for it; namely his own most sacred blood, out of which there was no price of sufficient value to pay what was due to the justice of God. When men are thus taught they are reminded that it is owing to no merit of theirs that the shedding of that most sacred blood is not repeated every time they sin. Moreover, we say that our pollution is so great, that it can never be washed away save in the fountain of his pure blood. Must not those who are thus addressed conceive a greater horror of sin than if it were said to be wiped off by a sprinkling of good works? If they have any reverence for God, how can they, after being once purified, avoid shuddering at the thought of again wallowing in the mire, and as much as in them lies troubling and polluting the purity of this fountain? "I have washed my feet," (says the believing soul in the Song of Solomon, 5:3), "how shall I defile them?" It is now plain which of the two makes the forgiveness of sins of less value, and derogates from the dignity of justification. They pretend that God is appeased by their frivolous satisfactions; in other words, by mere dross. We maintain that the guilt of sin is too heinous to be so frivolously expiated; that the offense is too grave to be forgiven to such valueless satisfactions; and, therefore, that forgiveness is the prerogative of Christ's blood alone. They say that righteousness, wherever it is defective, is renewed and repaired by works of satisfaction. We think it too precious to be balanced by any compensation of works, and, therefore, in order to restore it, recourse must be had solely to the mercy of God. For the other points relating to the forgiveness of sins, see the following chapter.

__________________________________________________________________

[436] This sentence is wholly ommitted in the French.

[437] Latin, "Dolere sibi simulant."--French, "Ils alleguent;"--they allege.

[438] All the previous sentences of this section, except the first , are omitted in the French.

[439] 1 John 5:10, 19; Heb. 9:14; 10 29; Luke 1:74, 75; Rom. 6:18; Col. 3:1; Tit. 2:11; 1 Thess. 5:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph 2:21; 5:8; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Thess. 4:3, 7; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 6:18; 1 John 4:10; 3:11; 1 Cor. 6:15, 17; 12:12; 1 John 3:3; 2 Cor. 7:1; John 15:10.

[440] French, "ces Pharisiens;"--those Pharisees.

__________________________________________________________________

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



  • W. Robert Godfrey
  • R.C. Sproul
  • R.C. Sproul Jr.

#1 Do Not Love the World | Ligonier

 

#2 The End & Purpose of the World | Ligonier

 

#3 Suffering & the Sovereignty of God Q&A | Ligonier

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     1/1/2008    A Mind Captivated by God

     I have journeyed through the land of Narnia. Nearly ten years ago, I had the privilege to stay at Rathvinden House, located in the beautiful rolling-green countryside of County Carlow, Ireland. At that time, the Rathvinden estate was owned and operated by Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis.

     Late one afternoon, as I was walking on the grounds of the estate with a friend, we came across a lush, green pasture that was simply breathtaking. As we stood atop that pasture and beheld its majesty, one of our hosts turned to us and said, “We call this the land of Narnia.” It was as if we had entered a different world. And knowing that we were not too far from Lewis’ birthplace, I felt as if I had entered the very world of C.S. Lewis himself.

     Although he was not a professed Calvinist, Lewis was indeed a professed Christian, and his professed atheism the Lord sovereignly overcame by taking him from his own dark, atheistic world, where it is always winter but never Christmas, and placing him in the world of Jesus Christ, who is on the move to destroy every stronghold, argument, and lofty opinion raised against God so that we might take every thought captive to obey Christ and live coram Deo, before His face and in His realm, forever.

     By His grace, the Lord took captive the mind of C.S. Lewis, and Lewis, in turn, captivated the minds of Christians throughout the world as he penned words such as these: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

     click here for article source

     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 Civil War ended this day, April 9, 1865, as General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the courthouse of Appomattox, Virginia. Lee took off his sword and handed it to General Grant, and Grant handed it back. The next day, General Lee issued his final order: “After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude…. I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes.” Robert E. Lee concluded: “I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams


A life without a purpose is a languid, drifting thing. Every day we ought to renew our purpose, saying to ourselves: This day let us make a sound beginning, for what we have hitherto done is nought.
--- Thomas A Kempis
The Imitation Of Christ

When you and I hurt deeply, what we really need is not an explanation from God but a revelation of God. We need to see how great God is; we need to recover our lost perspective on life., Things get out of proportion when we are suffering, and it takes a vision of something bigger than ourselves to get life's dimensions adjusted again.
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
Looking Up When Life Gets You Down

The earth has grown old with its burden of care, but at Christmas it always is young, the heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair, and its soul full of music breaks the air, when the song of angels is sung.
--- Phillips Brooks
Sermons Preached in English Churches

That which is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.
--- Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche: The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols: And Other Writings (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy)

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 4/9
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Sixteenth of sixth month. -- Wind for several days past often high, what the sailors call squally, with a rough sea and frequent rains. This last night has been a very trying one to the poor seamen, the water the most part of the night running over the main-deck, and sometimes breaking waves came on the quarter-deck. The latter part of the night, as I lay in bed, my mind was humbled under the power of Divine love; and resignedness to the great Creator of the earth and the seas was renewedly wrought in me, and his fatherly care over his children felt precious to my soul. I was now desirous to embrace every opportunity of being inwardly acquainted with the hardships and difficulties of my fellow-creatures, and to labor in his love for the spreading of pure righteousness on the earth. Opportunities were frequent of hearing conversation among the sailors respecting the voyages to Africa and the manner of bringing the deeply oppressed slaves into our islands. They are frequently brought on board the vessels in chains and fetters, with hearts loaded with grief under the apprehension of miserable slavery; so that my mind was frequently engaged to meditate on these things.

     Seventeenth of fifth month and first of the week. -- We had a meeting in the cabin, to which the seamen generally came. My spirit was contrite before the Lord, whose love at this time affected my heart. In the afternoon I felt a tender sympathy of soul with my poor wife and family left behind, in which state my heart was enlarged in desires that they may walk in that humble obedience wherein the everlasting Father may be their guide and support through all their difficulties in this world; and a sense of that gracious assistance, through which my mind hath been strengthened to take up the cross and leave them to travel in the love of truth, hath begotten thankfulness in my heart to our great Helper.

     Twenty-fourth of fifth month. -- A clear, pleasant morning. As I sat on deck I felt a reviving in my nature, which had been weakened through much rainy weather and high winds and being shut up in a close, unhealthy air. Several nights of late I have felt my breathing difficult; and a little after the rising of the second watch, which is about midnight, I have got up and stood near an hour with my face near the hatchway, to get the fresh air at the small vacancy under the hatch door, which is commonly shut down, partly to keep out rain and sometimes to keep the breaking waves from dashing into the steerage. I may with thankfulness to the Father of Mercies acknowledge that in my present weak state my mind hath been supported to bear this affliction with patience; and I have looked at the present dispensation as a kindness from the great Father of mankind, who, in this my floating pilgrimage, is in some degree bringing me to feel what many thousands of my fellow-creatures often suffer in a greater degree.

     My appetite failing, the trial hath been the heavier; and I have felt tender breathings in my soul after God, the fountain of comfort, whose inward help hath supplied at times the want of outward convenience; and strong desires have attended me that his family, who are acquainted with the movings of his Holy Spirit, may be so redeemed from the love of money and from that spirit in which men seek honor one of another, that in all business, by sea or land, they may constantly keep in view the coming of his kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, and, by faithfully following this safe guide, may show forth examples tending to lead out of that under which the creation groans. This day we had a meeting in the cabin, in which I was favored in some degree to experience the fulfilling of that saying of the prophet, "The Lord hath been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in their distress"; for which my heart is bowed in thankfulness before him.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Thirty-First Chapter / To Find The Creator, Forsake All Creatures

     The Disciple

     O LORD, I am in sore need still of greater grace if I am to arrive at the point where no man and no created thing can be an obstacle to me. For as long as anything holds me back, I cannot freely fly to You. He that said “Oh that I had wings like a dove, that I might fly away and be at rest!”35 desired to fly freely to You. Who is more at rest than he who aims at nothing but God? And who more free than the man who desires nothing on earth?

     It is well, then, to pass over all creation, perfectly to abandon self, and to see in ecstasy of mind that You, the Creator of all, have no likeness among all Your creatures, and that unless a man be freed from all creatures, he cannot attend freely to the Divine. The reason why so few contemplative persons are found, is that so few know how to separate themselves entirely from what is transitory and created.

     For this, indeed, great grace is needed, grace that will raise the soul and lift it up above itself. Unless a man be elevated in spirit, free from all creatures, and completely united to God, all his knowledge and possessions are of little moment. He who considers anything great except the one, immense, eternal good will long be little and lie groveling on the earth. Whatever is not God is nothing and must be accounted as nothing.

     There is great difference between the wisdom of an enlightened and devout man and the learning of a well-read and brilliant scholar, for the knowledge which flows down from divine sources is much nobler than that laboriously acquired by human industry.

     Many there are who desire contemplation, but who do not care to do the things which contemplation requires. It is also a great obstacle to be satisfied with externals and sensible things, and to have so little of perfect mortification. I know not what it is, or by what spirit we are led, or to what we pretend—we who wish to be called spiritual—that we spend so much labor and even more anxiety on things that are transitory and mean, while we seldom or never advert with full consciousness to our interior concerns.

     Alas, after very little recollection we falter, not weighing our deeds by strict examination. We pay no attention to where our affections lie, nor do we deplore the fact that our actions are impure.

     Remember that because all flesh had corrupted its course, the great deluge followed. Since, then, our interior affection is corrupt, it must be that the action which follows from it, the index as it were of our lack of inward strength, is also corrupt. Out of a pure heart come the fruits of a good life.

     People are wont to ask how much a man has done, but they think little of the virtue with which he acts. They ask: Is he strong? rich? handsome? a good writer? a good singer? or a good worker? They say little, however, about how poor he is in spirit, how patient and meek, how devout and spiritual. Nature looks to his outward appearance; grace turns to his inward being. The one often errs, the other trusts in God and is not deceived.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     I hardly know a more solemn warning in God's Word than that which we find in the third chapter of Galatians, where Paul asked:

     "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3).

     Do you understand what that means? A terrible danger in Christian work, just as in a Christian life that is begun with much prayer, begun in the Holy Spirit, is that it may be gradually shunted off on to the lines of the flesh; and the word comes: "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" In the time of our first perplexity and helplessness we prayed much to God, and God answered and God blessed, and our organization became perfected, and our band of workers became large; but gradually the organization and the work and the rush have so taken possession of us that the power of the Spirit, in which we began when we were a small company, has almost been lost. Oh, I pray you, note it well! It was with new prayer and fasting, with more prayer and fasting, that this company of disciples carried out the command of the Holy Spirit, "My soul, wait thou only upon God." That is our highest and most important work. The Holy Spirit comes in answer to believing prayer.

     You know when the exalted Jesus had ascended to the throne, for ten days the footstool of the throne was the place where His waiting disciples cried to Him. And that is the law of the kingdom--the King upon the throne, the servants upon the footstool. May God find us there unceasingly!

     Then comes the last thought--What a wonderful blessing comes when the Holy Spirit is allowed to lead and to direct the work, and when it is carried on in obedience to Him!

     You know the story of the mission on which Barnabas and Saul were sent out. You know what power there was with them. The Holy Spirit sent them, and they went on from place to place with large blessing. The Holy Spirit was their leader further on. You recollect how it was by the Spirit that Paul was hindered from going again into Asia, and was led away over to Europe. Oh, the blessing that rested upon that little company of men, and upon their ministry unto the Lord!

     I pray you, let us learn to believe that God has a blessing for us. The Holy Spirit, into whose hands God has put the work, has been called "the executive of the Holy Trinity." The Holy Spirit has not only power, but He has the Spirit of love. He is brooding over this dark world and every sphere of work in it, and He is willing to bless. And why is there not more blessing? There can be but one answer. We have not honored the Holy Spirit as we should have done. Is there one who can say that that is not true? Is not every thoughtful heart ready to cry: "God forgive me that I have not honored the Holy Spirit as I should have done, that I have grieved Him, that I have allowed self and the flesh and my own will to work where the Holy Spirit should have been honored! May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the flesh and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy Spirit to have."

     Oh, the sin is greater than we know! No wonder that there is so much feebleness and failure in the Church of Christ!


Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 14:18-19
     by D.H. Stern

18     Thoughtless people inherit folly,
but the cautious are crowned with knowledge.

19     The evil bow down before the good,
and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.


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

     ‘Of course they didn’t care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.’

     ‘You’re wrong. No man ever felt his son’s death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn’t against Michael they revolted: it was against you—against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past: and not really even Michael’s past, but your past.’

     ‘You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.’

     ‘It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian—like embalming a dead body.’

     ‘Oh, of course. I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.’

     ‘But of course!’ said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. ‘That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.’

     ‘How dare you laugh about it? Give me my boy. Do you hear? I don’t care about all your rules and regulations. I don’t believe in a God who keeps mother and son apart. I believe in a God of love. No one had a right to come between me and my son. Not even God. Tell Him that to His face. I want my boy, and I mean to have him. He is mine, do you understand? Mine, mine, mine, for ever and ever.’

     ‘He will be, Pam. Everything will be yours. God Himself will be yours. But not that way. Nothing can be yours by nature.’

     ‘What? Not my own son, born out of my own body?’

     ‘And where is your own body now? Didn’t you know that Nature draws to an end? Look! The sun is coming, over the mountains there: it will be up any moment now.’

     ‘Michael is mine.’

     ‘How yours? You didn’t make him. Nature made him to grow in your body without your will. Even against your will … you sometimes forget that you didn’t intend to have a baby then at all. Michael was originally an Accident.’

     ‘Who told you that?’ said the Ghost: and then, recovering itself, ‘It’s a lie. It’s not true. And it’s no business of yours. I hate your religion and I hate and despise your God. I believe in a God of Love.’

     ‘And yet, Pam, you have no love at this moment for your own mother or for me.’

     ‘Oh, I see! That’s the trouble, is it? Really, Reginald! The idea of your being hurt because …’

     ‘Lord love you!’ said the Spirit with a great laugh. ‘You needn’t bother about that! Don’t you know that you can’t hurt anyone in this country?’

     The Ghost was silent and open-mouthed for a moment; more wilted, I thought, by this re-assurance than by anything else that had been said.

     ‘Come. We will go a bit further,’ said my Teacher, laying his hand on my arm.

The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Have I seen Him?

     After that He appeared in another form unto two of them. ---
Mark 16:12.

     Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many are partakers of God’s grace who have never seen Jesus. When once you have seen Jesus, you can never be the same, other things do not appeal as they used to do:

     Always distinguish between what you see Jesus to be, and what He has done for you. If you only know what He has done for you, you have not a big enough God; but if you have had a vision of Jesus as He is, experiences can come and go, you will endure, “as seeing Him Who is invisible.” The man blind from his birth did not know Who Jesus was until He appeared and revealed Himself to him. Jesus appears to those for whom he has done something; but we cannot dictate when He will come. Suddenly at any turn He may come—‘Now I see Him!’

     Jesus must appear to your friend as well as to you; no one can see Jesus with your eyes. Severance takes place where one and not the other has seen Jesus. You cannot bring your friend unless God brings him. Have you seen Jesus? Then you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it unto the residue, neither believed they them.” You must tell, although they do not believe.

  ‘O could I tell, ye surely would believe it!
  O could I only say what I have seen!
  How should I tell or how can ye receive it,
  How, till He bringeth you where I have been?’


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

The Dance
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           The Dance

She is young. Have I the right
Even to name her? Child,
It is not love I offer
Your quick limbs, your eyes;
Only the barren homage
Of an old man whom time
Crucifies. Take my hand
A moment in the dance,
Ignoring its sly pressure,
The dry rut of age,
And lead me under the boughs
Of innocence. Let me smell
My youth again in your hair.

R.S. Thomas

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Megillah 6b

     D’RASH

     Our story highlights the paradox that weakness and strength are not always what we expect them to be: The teacher, it turns out, is the one who needs to learn the lesson; the one presumed least worthy of instructing us is the one who has the most to teach. The mighty, tall cedar tree is the first to be toppled by the wind, while the small, meager reed is able to survive almost any assault.

     Strength is often not defined in the conventional terms of size, might, power, resolve, or immutability. The classic Jewish story to show this is, of course, that of David and Goliath. The Israelite shepherd boy is too young, he is too small, he comes without armor, and with no battle experience—and yet he walks away the victor. His courage, his agility, his resourcefulness, and his faith in God are enough to enable him to defeat the giant warrior. In many ways, that has also been a recurrent theme of Jewish history: Time and time again, the Jewish people were outnumbered by a more powerful enemy, yet they managed to survive and prevail, while the enemy was ultimately vanquished and disappeared. The nation of Israel was able to outlast the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Babylonians, and the Syrian-Greeks; the Rabbis of the Talmud believed, correctly so, that the Romans, too, would eventually go the same way.

     Our tale reminds us that what was true on a national scale is also true on a personal level, as well. Real strength is not measured by how big someone’s muscles are and not by how many people one has beaten up or killed. Ben Zoma asks the question: “Who is mighty?” and gives an unexpected answer: “One who controls his own impulses” (Avot 4:1). A man has been insulted to his face, but instead of striking the offender, he chooses to teach him the meaning of dignity and Godliness. The Rabbi has had a lapse of moral judgement. Instead of trying to make excuses or look for someone else to blame, he steps forward and says: “I did a terrible thing to you. Please forgive me.” These are examples of strength, at least as the Rabbis defined it. Often, we try to resist, to stand up to pressure, to remain steadfast. At times, those are admirable qualities. However, if we became inflexible in the hope that we can remain unmovable, we may find ourselves knocked down and even uprooted. From a law of nature, the Rabbis derive a law of human relations: Learn when to bend, or you will break.

     If a person says to you: “I have labored but did not find,” do not believe it!

     Text / Rabbi Yitzḥak said: If a person says to you: “I have labored but did not find,” do not believe it! “I did not labor and I found,” do not believe it! “I labored and found,” believe it! These words refer to matters of Torah. But in matters of business, help is from Heaven! And in matters of Torah, this refers only to acumen, but for maintaining learning, help is from Heaven!

     Context / The Rabbis of the Talmud, Rabbi Yitzḥak among them, were well aware that good things happen to bad people and that the righteous sometimes struggle while the wicked not only avoid suffering but even thrive. There are numerous discussions and debates in the Gemara on how to deal with wickedness and the wicked, both from a philosophical viewpoint (Why does it even exist in God’s world?) to very practical concerns (How should we respond to the wicked?). Elsewhere in the Talmud (Berakhot 7b), Rabbi Yitzḥak is involved in one such debate. Rabbi Yoḥanan, his teacher, quotes a verse from
Proverbs as proof that we should fight the wicked: “Those who forsake instruction [Torah] praise the wicked, but those who heed instruction [Torah] fight them” (Proverbs 28:4). However, Rabbi Yitzḥak takes a different approach, teaching: “If you see the wicked having his hour, do not argue with him, as it says: ‘His ways prosper at all times’ (Psalms 10:5); and even more so, he may win in court, as it says: ‘Your judgments are far beyond him’ (ibid); and even more so, he may see his enemies’ defeat, as it says: ‘He snorts at all his foes’ (ibid).” The Talmud solves the contradiction between the view of Rabbi Yitzḥak (to leave the wicked alone) and that of Rabbi Yoḥanan (to fight the wicked): One (the view of Rabbi Yitzḥak) refers to personal matters like commerce, while the other (the view of Rabbi Yoḥanan) refers to “matters of Heaven,” that is, religious issues. Jews have been arguing over such questions ever since.

     Rabbi Yitzḥak’s words are a straightforward attempt on the part of one Talmudic sage to define the rabbinic approach to success. In the eyes of Rabbi Yitzḥak, success in life is, plain and simple, the result of hard work. One who claims to have succeeded effortlessly should not be believed. And one who claims to have worked diligently without achieving is probably not telling the truth either. All this, of course, is the view of one sage, Rabbi Yitzḥak. He seems to be teaching about life in general, since the Hebrew word matzati, “I found,” can refer to many different realms and have various different meanings.

     As is usually the case in the Gemara, when a generalized statement like this is made, a clarification is necessary. Can this really be saying that hard work always produces success? Is life as black-and-white as Rabbi Yitzḥak would paint it to be? The later discussion will limit and qualify the earlier generalization (earlier both in the order of the text and chronologically). Thus, the Gemara says that Rabbi Yitzḥak is correct that work produces results but (and this is the limitation) only in the area of study. In other areas of our lives, it is, in rabbinic terms, “in the hands of Heaven,” beyond our control. And in matters of Torah, effort pays off only relative to comprehension. One who studies hard will ultimately understand. However, that person may soon forget what was learned, for memory is beyond our control and is from Heaven.

     Some later commentators ask: Are there not times when we do not see results, even if we work hard in studying and trying to understand? They answer that even partial results in study have a reinforcing effect; it sharpens our minds. Just trying to understand text is worthwhile, even if we think we are not successful. We are laying the foundation to build on later. Despite this, the simple explanation of Rabbi Yitzḥak’s view is a very general rule that hard work is the key to success.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Teacher's Commentary
     Loved and Loving: Deuteronomy 5–6

     In Deuteronomy 4, Moses explained God’s deliverance of this generation’s parents from Egypt this way: “Because He loved your forefathers [referring to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] and chose their descendants after them, He brought you out of Egypt by His presence, and His great strength”
(
4:37). The love God had for these men, who lived on in their descendants, led to a deep commitment on God’s part that extended across the centuries.

     But in chapter
5 we see a new and striking emphasis. Moses moved from history to Israel’s now. He insisted that God sought relationship “not with our fathers” with whom the Law covenant was made, “but with us, with all of us who are alive here today” (v. 3). It is this relationship that these next chapters of Scripture help us understand.

     The nature of the relationship (
Deut. 5). Several elements of relationship with God are defined.

     (1) Love is personal (
5:1–3). The relationship is between “us, who are … alive here,” and Yahweh, who is also here and living. Often a person grows up in a home where the Lord is God of his parents. His relationship with God is through Mom and Dad; he goes to church because they do. This falls short of a love relationship. One who cares for us wants to reach out and touch us personally, not through others. God wants to know and to love us personally, warmly, intimately—with nothing and no one between.

     (2) Love is urgent (
5:4–14). The urgency of the relationship is emphasized in the first four of the Ten Commandments, all of which are repeated here from Exodus 20. God wants our eyes fixed on Him. As any lover, God is unwilling to share our affection with competitors.

     It’s hard to imagine a husband who truly loves his wife unaffected by her unfaithfulness, or encouraging her to date around. Truly intimate love is to be exclusive. God wants and helps us to love other people (even as a good husband/wife relationship enriches the context of the home for their children). But God will not share us with other gods—whether they be idols of the ancient world or the financial success of the modern.

     (3) Love is demonstrated (
5:15). Love that lets us feel our belongingness must be demonstrated. How clearly God had demonstrated to this generation His personal and practical involvement with them: “God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

     Christ is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for us. But each of us can find many other special ways in which God has acted in our lives to show His love.

     (4) Love is expressive (
5:16–20). It is hard to feel loved when we don’t really know what is going on inside a person who claims to love us. In this restatement of the Ten Commandments, we see God’s willingness to communicate His expectations. This communication was first heard at Sinai with fear, but also with a certain responsiveness that pleased the Lord. “All that the Lord our God will speak to you,” the people told Moses, “we will hear and do” (Deut. 5:27).

     Love communicates and expresses; love desires a response. What is even more significant for us in our relationship with God is this: God wants to help us grow in our own capacity to love. As we saw earlier, these manward commandments are rooted in God’s own concern for men. As we listen to Him and respond to His Law, we grow in our ability to love others.

     This is an important thing to see. A person who loves another desires to see him grow. We can be utterly sure that God loves us because His every word to us is designed to help us grow to our full potentials.

     (5) Love is unselfish (
5:21–33). This last element of real love is affirmed in these verses. God enters into relationship with us, and speaks to us “that it might go well with” us. As verse 33 summarizes, you shall “walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”

     People who come into personal relationship with God are not pawns in some cosmic game. We are not His playthings. No, God’s love for us is unselfish. He honestly has our best interests at heart.

     All this helped Israel realize that it did have a personal relationship with the Lord, and that God truly did care. This people was loved. And so are we.

     Perhaps your parents, or your spouse, have never let you know how deeply you are loved. Perhaps they haven’t truly cared. But through Christ you can have a personal relationship with God Himself, in which you are loved and do belong. Personally, urgently, practically, expressively, unselfishly, God Himself says to you and to me today: “You are loved.”

     The communication of relationship (
Deut. 6). The people of Israel who stood on the plains across the Jordan and heard Moses’ words knew they were true. They knew from personal experience.

     Many of them had as children seen God’s acts of judgment on Egypt. They had all eaten the manna, all followed the fiery cloud, all participated in the victory over Moab. Every one had evidence of God’s presence and of His concern.

     But when this generation crossed the River Jordan, many things would change. The manna would cease, and they would begin to eat the corn of that land. The cloud that guided them would be gone. There would be victories, but the daily evidence of God’s supernatural presence would be removed. This generation knew from direct, personal experience, that they truly were special to God. But how could they communicate to the generation to come the specialness of their relationship with God? How do we, who know God now, share His reality with others, and help them to experience Him as real?


The Teacher's Commentary

Deut 11
     Pulpit Commentary

     Vers. 2–9.—The voice of God in passing events to be heeded, interpreted, and obeyed. As in former paragraphs, we have here much repetition of the same teachings which had been already given. We therefore select for homiletic treatment the one distinctive feature which marks it. The people of God are now on the verge of Canaan. Multitudes of them had been born since the march through the wilderness had begun forty years before. They could not have seen the wonders in Egypt, nor could they know, except by report, of the manifestations of the Divine displeasure at the rebellious spirit manifested by the people during the first years of their course. But there are still some seniors left who had seen all. To these Moses makes his appeal, ere the discourse in which he exhorts to obedience is brought to a close. And he urges them anew, from a consideration of the deep meaning of the events which their own eyes have seen, to learn to be faithful and obedient. We by no means understand Moses as intending to say that the children are not before him to hear his words, but rather that the argument he is now using is specially for the sires rather than the sons. It is in effect this: “You, the seniors among the people now, have seen all these things. God has spoken in them directly to you; therefore, it is incumbent upon you to assign to these events their true meaning, and to give them their rightful power over you.” Whence we get the topic named above for our Homily: “The voice of God in passing events to be needed, understood, and obeyed.”

     I. HERE ARE STIRRING EVENTS WHICH HAD OCCURRED UNDER ISRAEL’S OWN EYES. Three of them are specially named. 1. The plagues brought on Pharaoh and the land of Egypt. 2. The overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. 3. The overthrow of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

     II. HERE IS A SPECIFIC MEANING GIVEN TO THESE EVENTS. They are all called “chastisement” (ver.
2). They are not only referred to as works of greatness, deeds of power and of terror, but their moral meaning (which is infinitely more important) is given in the word “chastisement.” It is of very much more consequence to understand the meaning of an event, than to merely have the event stored up in memory as a piece of history. In fact, it may fairly be questioned whether the latter is of any value at all. Of what value is it to a student to know that King John signed Magna Charts, unless he knows the meaning thereof, as related to the rise and growth of the British Constitution? Even so it is not of the slightest service to know of Red Sea wonders, nor of the plagues in Egypt, unless their place and meaning in history are known. This is the case likewise with events of much greater moment. Not even the wonders of Gethsemane and Calvary are exempted. If regarded only as incidents in history, apart from their spiritual, redemptive meaning, they will serve us nothing. “As the body without the spirit is dead,” so facts without their significance are dead also. Hence it is that the attention of Israel is recalled to these olden wonders as “chastisements” from the Lord their God.

     III. THESE EVENTS MAY BE DIVIDED INTO TWO CLASSES; In each class a like principle is illustrated, though in a different form. 1. The first two were the chastisement of Egypt on behalf of God’s oppressed people, showing them the strength of his arm and the value of his convenant love. 2. The third was the chastisement of the chosen people themselves, when they rebelled against the divinely appointed order with reference to the priesthood. In the former cases, God’s jealous love on behalf of his people was proven; in the latter case, God’s jealousy for his own honour, in maintaining his appointed order and ordinances unimpaired. In the former, that jealousy chastised Egypt for Israel’s sake; in the latter, Israel for Jehovah’s sake. Thus Israel would have before them the lesson that, as God in his love would snap the fetters that bound them, so in his purity he would remove the stains that disfigured them; that as they rejoiced in the love of God which was round them as a mighty guard, so they might also cherish a holy fear of that purity which would mark its displeasure at their waywardness and sins.

     IV. SUCH EVENTS, SO FULL OF MEANING, SHOULD HAVE A CONSTANT EFFECT IN IMPELLING TO OBEDIENCE, AND IN QUICKENING AND SUSTAINING A REVERENT FEAR AND LOVE. God meant much in bringing them to pass, and they should mean much in the use they made of them (vers.
8, 9). If they laid them to heart, and acted out the lessons they were designed to teach, they would continue in the land which God had assigned to them. The reference in the phrase, “that ye may prolong your days in the land,” is rather to Israel’s continuance as a nation, than to the long life of the individual. National continuance dependent on national obedience, is the one truth most frequently named in the exhortations of Israel’s lawgiver.

     V. ALL THIS HAS A PRESENT-DAY APPLICATION TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD NOW. Forms change; but principles never. There are few passages, even in the grand old Book, that open up a wider scope or a sublimer field for the preacher’s efforts than the one before us. The following enumeration of the successive links of thought may be helpful. Our pages give no space for more. 1. At the background of the Christian dispensation there are solid and substantial historical facts on which we can ever fall back. 2. Though the facts, comprised in the birth, cross-bearing, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, did not occur in our times, yet the evidence thereof has come down to us in unbroken line, and with unimpaired force. 3. The meaning of these facts is even better known now than it was at the moment of their occurrence; for their significance has been recorded for us in books which have survived fire and flood, and have reached us in all their integrity. 4. There are other sets of facts connected therewith of which we are witnesses, viz. that the gospel of Christ has been the power of God unto salvation to those who believe it, and that believers therein are the guardians of it, holding it in trust for others. 5. Those thus guarding the faith, of Christ are the present “commonwealth of Israel;” taking the place in this economy of the Israel of old. They are not indeed visible one now as in ancient days. But they form a host a hundredfold more numerous, ranged under differing names, yet guarding the ancient faith. 6. Those Churches which are faithful to their acknowledged mission, prolong their days in the land; while those which, either in faith or life, are less loyal and true to their God, die out, and “the candlestick is removed out of its place.” 7. This law of Church life is a perpetual declaration of God’s jealousy for his honour. “In proportion to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness,” says a modern writer, “particular Chruches overcome the world, or are overcome by the Chruches, “Thus God shows his care for these supreme facts of our faith, by saying to Churches, “If you guard them, you live; if you guard them not, you die.” In the great redemption which is in Christ Jesus, God has broken the fetters which bound man. In his watchful jealousy, he will bring honour to the Church which holds forth and acts out his redemption, and will bring shame to one which represses it, weakens it, or turns the grace of God into lasciviousness. Just as our God cared not for Israel to remain a nation unless they preserved his honour unimpaired, so he cares not for the continued existence of any Church, unless it is “earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.” 8. While, however, the claim and demand of God upon the fidelity of his Israel now is as strong as ever, yea stronger, the mode in which that claim is presented is vastly more tender than in ancient days. In the Epistles to the seven Chruches we have a kind of appeal to the Christian Israel, analogous to this of Moses to the Hebrew Israel. But, in lieu of the thunder, trembling, and flame of Sinai, we have the pathos and love of Gethsemane and Calvary. Can we resist such appeals as those which Christ presents? Can we consent to keep back from man the cross, with all its fullness of meaning; or fail to respond to it by interest love and closest obedience? May our once suffering and now glorified Lord make us faithful, and keep us so till death!

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Interpretations outside the Bible
     JAMES L. KUGEL / The Mode of Restoration

     Biblical scholars have been diligent in uncovering little spots of interpretation such as these within the Hebrew Bible itself: later versions of earlier laws sometimes modify their wording or reconfigure their application; original biblical prophecies are sometimes supplemented or rearranged to stress the new interpretation now given to them; later editors sometimes inserted phrases that glossed earlier texts whose wording was no longer understood. But considered as a whole, these inner-biblical interpretations pale before the great body of ancient interpretation that has been preserved outside of the Jewish Bible, in works composed from about the third century B.C.E. to the second century C.E. and beyond. This was the golden age of biblical interpretation, the period in which various groups of (largely anonymous) interpreters put their stamp on the Hebrew Bible and determined the basic way in which the Bible would be interpreted for the next 2,000 years.

     The writings in which their interpretations are attested are quite varied. Some of them are originally Jewish compositions included in Christian Bibles—identified there as “Deuterocanonical Books” or “Old Testament Apocrypha”—works such as the Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sira (second century B.C.E.) and the Wisdom of Solomon (first century B.C.E. or C.E.). Others are categorized as “pseudepigrapha,” compositions falsely ascribed to ancient figures from the Bible but actually written in a later period—works such as the book of Jubilees (early second century B.C.E.) or the Testament of Abraham (first century B.C.E. or C.E.). Much ancient biblical interpretation is also preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls; some of these texts go back to the third century B.C.E. or earlier. Ancient translations, such as the Old Greek (Septuagint) translation of the Pentateuch (third century B.C.E.) or various targums, translations of the Bible into Aramaic (probably originating in the first century C.E. or earlier, though later material was often added in the process of transmission), also contain reflections of ancient biblical interpretation. Hellenistic Jewish writers such as Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.E.–ca. 50 C.E.) or Josephus (ca. 37 C.E.–100 C.E.) also present a great deal of biblical interpretation—part of it entirely of their own fashioning, but much else gathered from or influenced by the work of earlier interpreters. Christian writings of the first two centuries C.E., including the New Testament and other early compositions, also contain a good deal of biblical interpretation—much of it rooted in the pre-Christian exegesis. Finally, later Jewish writings such as the Mishnah (put in its final form around 200 C.E.), along with the Tosefta and the tannaitic midrashim (both from roughly the same period), contain a great deal of exegetical material, much of it continuing the line of earlier biblical interpretation. Considered together, this is a vast body of writings, many times greater than the Hebrew Bible itself. In studying it, scholars are able to piece together a developmental history of how the Bible was understood starting early in the second B.C.E. or so and continuing through the next three or four hundred years—a crucial period in the Bible’s history.

     A note about the form of biblical interpretation: relatively few of the above-mentioned texts are written in the form of actual commentaries, that is, writings that cite a biblical verse and then explain what the interpreter thinks the verse means. Such commentaries did exist—they were the preferred genre of Philo of Alexandria, and commentary-like texts have been found as well among the Dead Sea Scrolls. But the favorite form for transmitting biblical interpretation in writing was the retelling. Most writers simply assumed that their readers would be familiar with the biblical text, indeed, familiar with the exegetical problems associated with this or that verse. So he or she would retell the text with little interpretive insertions: a word no longer understood would be glossed or replaced with a word whose meaning everyone knew; an apparent contradiction would be resolved through the insertion of an explicative detail; the retelling would take the trouble to explain why A or B had done what they did, or how they did it, thereby answering a question left open in the laconic biblical version of the same story. Such retellings are a common phenomenon in ancient interpretation: the book of Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon from Qumran, and Pseudo-Philo’s Book of Biblical Antiquities are good examples of compositions that are, from start to finish, interpretive retellings. So, in a sense, are Aramaic targums such as that of Pseudo-Jonathan or Neofiti; they “translate” the Pentateuch into Aramaic, but with so many interpolations that they are actually more like retellings than real translations.


The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     April 9

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

     This is the kind of crushed spirit I mean. ( Twelve Sermons for the Troubled and Tried ) When a soul is under a deep and terrible sense of sin—when the notion of what guilt is first comes clearly home, and the soul sees that God must be as certainly just as he is good, then discovers that it has angered infinite love, has provoked almighty grace, and has made its best Friend to be, necessarily, its most terrible foe. A person in such a condition will have a crushed spirit such as none can bear.

     Sometimes the spirit is crushed by the fierce temptations of Satan. I hope that you do not at all understand what this means, but there are some who do. Satan tempts them to doubt, tempts them to sin, to blasphemy, even to curse God and die. That temptation brings a crushed spirit. God save you from it, if you have fallen under its terrible power!

     A crushed spirit may also come through desertion by God. The believer has not walked carefully and has fallen into sin, and God has hidden his face. A true child of God has played with sin and has been brought back to the Lord but goes on with an aching heart and limping limbs. Some who were once very bright stars who have been for a while eclipsed will never be able to escape from a certain sense of darkness that is still on them. Therefore, beloved, be very careful that you do not backslide, for if you do, you will have a crushed spirit that you will not know how to bear.

     I believe that some of God’s children have crushed spirits entirely through mistake. I am always afraid of those who get certain wild notions into their heads, ideas that are not true, I mean. They are very happy while they hold those high notions, and they look down on others who do not go kite-flying or balloon-sailing as they do. I think to myself, sometimes, How will they come down when their precious balloon bursts? I have seen them believe this and believe that, which they were not warranted by the Scriptures to believe. But when you come down again, you will begin to condemn yourself for things that you need not condemn, and you will be distressed and miserable in your spirit because of a disappointment that you need never have had if you had walked humbly with your God. For my own part, I am content to abide in the old way, myself ever a poor, needy, helpless sinner, finding everything I need in Christ.
--- C. H. Spurgeon


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

On This Day
     The Azusa Street Revival  April 9

     “Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk,” warns Ephesians 5:18, “but let the Spirit fill your life.” That’s a divine command, but just how do we let the Spirit fill us? That question has occasioned a century of debate.

     From rural Iowa, Rev. Charles Fox Parham brought a message of holiness to midwestern towns at the close of the 1800s. In October of 1900, spurred by his success as a preacher and healer, Parham opened a small Bible school in Topeka. He was intrigued by the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” In December he left for meetings in Kansas City, instructing his students to investigate the subject in his absence. Upon his return, December 31, his 40 pupils had unanimously concluded from their studies that speaking in tongues was the “indisputable proof” of spiritual baptism.

     That night as they gathered for New Year’s Eve services, the students began to pray. The next day, January 1, 1901, student Agnes Ozman began speaking in tongues, and a sense of revival swept through the group.

     The school soon closed as its professor and students fanned out as evangelists of their new discovery. In Texas, Parham’s message reached a Baptist Holiness minister named William Seymour, a one-eyed descendant of African slaves. Seymour traveled to Los Angeles and set up shop at 312 Azusa Street in an abandoned livery stable. There he began preaching. On April 9, 1906 Seymour and several others had an experience they claimed as the “baptism of the Spirit.” Excitement spread, and a Los Angeles Times reporter visited their meeting, writing, “The night is made hideous … by the howlings of the worshipers.”

     Large crowds came from across the nation and around the world, and three years of nonstop prayer meetings followed. Seymour usually sat at the front of the room behind two empty boxes, one on top of the other. During meetings, he kept his head inside the boxes, earnestly praying.

     The Azusa Street Revival is commonly regarded as the beginning of modern Pentecostalism, which has mushroomed into one of the largest Christian movements of the twentieth century.

     Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life. When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart. Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to thank God the Father for everything.
--- Ephesians 5:18-20.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - April 9

     "And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him."
--- Luke 23:27.

     Amid the rabble rout which hounded the Redeemer to his doom, there were some gracious souls whose bitter anguish sought vent in wailing and lamentations—fit music to accompany that march of woe. When my soul can, in imagination, see the Saviour bearing his cross to Calvary, she joins the godly women and weeps with them; for, indeed, there is true cause for grief—cause lying deeper than those mourning women thought. They bewailed innocence maltreated, goodness persecuted, love bleeding, meekness about to die; but my heart has a deeper and more bitter cause to mourn. My sins were the scourges which lacerated those blessed shoulders, and crowned with thorn those bleeding brows: my sins cried “Crucify him! crucify him!” and laid the cross upon his gracious shoulders. His being led forth to die is sorrow enough for one eternity: but my having been his murderer, is more, infinitely more, grief than one poor fountain of tears can express.

     Why those women loved and wept it were not hard to guess: but they could not have had greater reasons for love and grief than my heart has. Nain’s widow saw her son restored—but I myself have been raised to newness of life. Peter’s wife’s mother was cured of the fever—but I of the greater plague of sin. Out of Magdalene seven devils were cast—but a whole legion out of me. Mary and Martha were favoured with visits—but he dwells with me. His mother bare his body—but he is formed in me the hope of glory. In nothing behind the holy women in debt, let me not be behind them in gratitude or sorrow.

     “Love and grief my heart dividing,
     With my tears his feet I’ll lave—
     Constant still in heart abiding,
     Weep for him who died to save.”



          Evening - April 9

     "thy gentleness hath made me great." Psalm 18:35.

     The words are capable of being translated, “thy goodness hath made me great.” David gratefully ascribed all his greatness not to his own goodness, but the goodness of God. “Thy providence,” is another reading; and providence is nothing more than goodness in action. Goodness is the bud of which providence is the flower, or goodness is the seed of which providence is the harvest. Some render it, “thy help,” which is but another word for providence; providence being the firm ally of the saints, aiding them in the service of their Lord. Or again, “thy humility hath made me great.” “Thy condescension” may, perhaps, serve as a comprehensive reading, combining the ideas mentioned, including that of humility. It is God’s making himself little which is the cause of our being made great. We are so little, that if God should manifest his greatness without condescension, we should be trampled under his feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies, and bow to see what angels do, turns his eye yet lower, and looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great. There are yet other readings, as for instance, the Septuagint, which reads, “thy discipline”—thy fatherly correction—“hath made me great;” while the Chaldee paraphrase reads, “thy word hath increased me.” Still the idea is the same. David ascribes all his own greatness to the condescending goodness of his Father in heaven. May this sentiment be echoed in our hearts this evening while we cast our crowns at Jesus’ feet, and cry, “thy gentleness hath made me great.” How marvellous has been our experience of God’s gentleness! How gentle have been his corrections! How gentle his forbearance! How gentle his teachings! How gentle his drawings! Meditate upon this theme, O believer. Let gratitude be awakened; let humility be deepened; let love be quickened ere thou fallest asleep to-night.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     April 9

          THE OLD RUGGED CROSS

     Words and Music by George Bennard, 1873–1958

     He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

     The author and composer of this beloved hymn, George Bennard, began his Christian ministry in the ranks of the Salvation Army. Eight years later he was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal church, where his devoted ministry as an evangelist was highly esteemed for many years.

     One time, after returning to his home in Albion, Michigan, Bennard passed through a particularly trying experience, one that caused him to reflect seriously about the significance of the cross and what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke of entering into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10). George Bennard began to spend long hours in study, prayer, and meditation until one day he could say:

     I saw the Christ of the cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out the meaning of redemption. The more I contemplated these truths the more convinced I became that the cross was far more than just a religious symbol but rather the very heart of the gospel.

     During these days of spiritual struggle, the theme for “The Old Rugged Cross” began to formulate itself in Bennard’s mind. But an inner voice seemed to keep telling him to “wait.” Finally, however, after returning to Michigan, he began to concentrate anew on his project. This time the words and melody began to flow easily from his heart. Shortly thereafter, Bennard sent a manuscript copy to Charles Gabriel, one of the leading gospel hymn writers of that time. Gabriel’s prophetic words, “You will certainly hear from this song, Mr. Bennard,” were soon realized as the hymn became one of the most widely published songs, either sacred or secular, throughout America.

     On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
     the emblem of suff’ring and shame;
     and I love that old cross
     where the dearest and best
     for a world of lost sinners was slain.
     O that old rugged cross,
     so despised by the world,
     has a wondrous attraction for me;
     for the dear Lamb of God
     left His glory above
     to bear it to dark Calvary.
     To the old rugged cross
     I will ever be true,
     its shame and reproach gladly bear;
     then He’ll call me some day
     to my home far away,
     where His glory forever I’ll share.
     Chorus: So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
     till my trophies at last I lay down;
     I will cling to the old rugged cross,
     and exchange it some day for a crown.


     For Today: Isaiah 53:3–12; John 19:17–25; Romans 5:6–11; Hebrews 9:27, 28.

     Ponder the significance of Christ’s cross in your salvation. Sing this musical testimony---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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


          Chapter 10 2 Peter 1:2, 3

     No thorough study of the prayers of the apostles, or of the prayers of the Bible as a whole, would be complete without an examination of the benedictions with which the apostles (James excepted), prefaced their Epistles. Those opening salutations were very different from a mere act of politeness, as when the chief captain of the Roman soldiers at Jerusalem wrote a letter after this manner: “Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting” (Acts 23:26). Far more than a courteous formality were their introductory addresses, yea, even than the expressions of a kindly wish. Their “grace be unto you and peace” was a prayer, an act of worship, in which Christ was always addressed in union with the Father. It signifies that a request for these blessings had been made before the throne. Such benedictions evinced the warm affection in which the apostles held those to whom they wrote, and breathed forth their spiritual desires on their behalf. By putting these words of blessing at the very beginning of his Epistle, the Apostle Peter made manifest how powerfully his own heart was affected by the goodness of God toward his brethren.

     That which is now to engage our attention may be considered under the following heads. First we shall look at the substance of the prayer: “grace and peace”—these are the blessings besought of God. Secondly, we shall ponder the desired measure of their bestowal: “be multiplied unto you.” Thirdly, we shall contemplate the medium of their conveyance: “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” Fourthly, we shall examine the motive prompting the request: “According as his Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (v. 3). Before filling in that outline or giving an exposition of those verses, let us point out (especially for the benefit of young preachers, for whom it is especially vital to learn how a text should be pondered) what is implied by this prayer.

          The Vital Implications of This Benediction

     In the apostle's seeking from God such blessings as these for the saints the following vital lessons are taught by implication: (1) that none can merit anything at the hands of God, for grace and merit are opposites; (2) that there can be no real peace apart from Divine grace—“There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isa. 57:21); (3) that even the regenerate stand in need, constant need, of grace from God; and (4) the regenerate, therefore, should be vile in their own eyes. If we would receive more from God, then we must present our hearts to Him as empty vessels. When Abraham was about to make request of the Lord, he demeaned himself as “dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27); and Jacob acknowledged that he was not worthy of the least of His mercies (Gen. 32:10). (5) Such a request as Peter is here making is a tacit confession of the utter dependence of believers upon God's bounty, that He alone is able to supply their need. (6) In asking for grace and peace to be multiplied to them, acknowledgment is made that not only the beginning and continuance of them, but also their increase proceeds from the good pleasure of God. (7) Intimation is hereby given that we may “open thy [our] mouth wide” (Ps. 81:10, brackets mine) to God. Yea, it is an ill sign to be contented with a little grace. “He was never good that doth not desire to grow better,” says Manton*.

* Thomas Manton (1620-1677) Manton was a Calvinist in his theology. He held the very doctrine which is so admirably set forth in the seventeenth Article of the Church of England. He held the same views which were held by nine-tenths of the English Reformers, and four-fifths of all the leading divines of the Church of England down to the accession of James I. He maintained and taught personal election, the perseverance of the saints, the absolute necessity of a regeneration evidenced by its fruits, as well as salvation by free grace, justification by faith alone, and the uselessness of ceremonial observances without true and vital religion. As an expositor of Scripture, I regard Manton with unmingled admiration. Here, at any rate, he is 'facile princeps' among the divines of the Puritan school. --- J.C. Ryle

          The Special Character of the Second Epistles

     A word needs also to be said upon the character of the book in which this particular prayer is found. Like all second Epistles, this one treats of a state of affairs where false teaching and apostasy had a more or less prominent place. One of the principal differences between his two Epistles is this: whereas in his first Epistle Peter's main design was to strengthen and comfort his brethren amid the suffering to which they were exposed from the profane (heathen) world (see chapter 4), and he now graciously warns (2 Peter 2:1; 3:1-4) and confirms (2 Peter 1:5-11; 3:14) them against a worse peril from the professing world, from those within Christendom who menaced them. In his first Epistle Peter had represented their great adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). But here, without directly naming him, he depicts Satan as an angel of light (but in reality the subtle serpent), who is no longer persecuting, but seeking to corrupt and poison them through false teaching. In the second chapter those false teachers are denounced (1) as men who had denied the Lord that bought them (v. 1), and (2) as licentious (vv. 10-14, 19), giving free play to their carnal appetites.

     The Apostle Peter addresses his Epistle “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of our God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1; word order here is according to the Greek text and KJV marginal note). The word faith here refers to that act of the soul whereby Divinely revealed truth is savingly apprehended. Their faith is declared to be “precious,” for it is one of God's choicest gifts and the immediate fruit of His Spirit's regenerating power. This is emphasized in the expression “have obtained” (lagchanō, no. 2975 in Strong and Thayer). It is the same Greek word found in Luke 1:9: “his lot was to burn incense”. It appears again in John 19:14: “Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it”. Thus these saints were reminded that they owed their saving faith not to any superior sagacity of theirs, but solely to the allotments of grace. It had been with them as with Peter himself. A revelation had been made to them: not by flesh and blood, but by the heavenly Father (Matthew 16:17). In the dispensing of God's favors a blessed portion had fallen to them, even “the faith of God's elect” (Titus 1:1). The them whom Peter addresses are the Gentiles, and the us in which he includes himself are the Jews. Their faith had for its object the perfect righteousness of Christ their Surety, for the words “through the righteousness of” are probably better translated and understood “in the righteousness of” the Divine Savior.

          The Substance of Peter's Benediction

     Having thus described his readers by their spiritual standing, Peter adds his apostolic benediction: “grace and peace be multiplied unto you.” The combined apostolic benediction and greeting (which contains the elements grace and peace) is essentially the same as that employed by Paul in ten of his Epistles as well as by Peter in 1 Peter. In 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul added the element mercy, as did John in 2 John. Jude used the elements mercy, peace, and love. Thus we learn that the apostles, in pronouncing Spirit-indited blessings upon the believers to whom they wrote, combined grace, the watchword of the New Covenant age (John 1:14, 17) with peace, the distinctive Hebrew blessing. Those who have read the Old Testament attentively will remember how frequently the salutation “peace be unto thee” or something similar is found (Gen. 43:23; Judges 6:23; 18:6; etc.). “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces” (Ps. 122:7), cries David, as he expectantly contemplates the spiritual and temporal blessings that he desires for Jerusalem and thus for Israel (cf. vv. 6, 8, as well as the whole Psalm). This text shows that the word peace was a general term to denote welfare. From its use by the risen Savior in John 20:19, we gather that it was an all-inclusive summary of blessing. In the Epistles and the Book of Revelation (which was meant by Christ, the great Head of the Church, to circulate after the fashion of an Epistle), the terms grace and/or peace are frequently used in closing salutations and benedictions. The word peace is used in various ways eight times (Rom. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 6:23; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:16; Heb. 13:20; 1 Peter 5:14; 3 John 14), six of those times in greater or lesser proximity to the word grace, which is used eighteen times (Rom. 16:20, 24; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 6:18; Eph. 6:24; Phil. 4:23; Col. 4:18; 1 Thess. 5:28; 2 Thess. 3:18; 1 Tim. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:22; Titus 3:15; Philemon 24; Heb. 13:25; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 3:18; Rev. 22:21). Obviously, the clause “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” or some variation upon it, is the most characteristic benedictory close employed by the apostles. In light of his grasp of the glorious realities of the Gospel age (Acts 10, 11, especially vv. 1-18), it is evident by this benediction that the Apostle Peter sees and embraces both believing Jews and believing Gentiles as united in sharing the full blessing of God's great salvation.

     Having an earnest desire for their welfare, Peter sought for the saints the choicest bounties that could be conferred upon them, that they might be morally and spiritually enriched, both inwardly and outwardly. “Grace and peace” contain the sum of Gospel bestowals and the supply of our every need. Together they include all manner of blessings, and therefore they are the most comprehensive things that can be requested of God. They are the choicest favors we can desire for ourselves, and for our brethren! They are to be sought by faith from God our Father in reliance upon the mediation and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Grace and peace” are the very essence, as well as the whole, of a believer's true happiness in this life, which explains the apostle's longing that his brethren in Christ might abundantly partake of them.

          Peter Prays for Growth in Grace in His Brethren

     Grace is not to be understood in the sense of God's distinguishing, redeeming favor, for these saints were already the objects thereof; nor is it to be taken as an inward spiritual principle of nature, for that was imparted to them at the new birth. Rather, it refers to a greater manifestation of the spiritual nature and Divine likeness that one has received from God and a greater and more cheerful dependence upon the Giver (2 Cor. 12:9). It also refers to the Divine gifts that induce such growth. Speaking of Christ, the Apostle John declares, “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for [“upon,” ASV margin] grace” (John 1:16, brackets mine). Matthew Poole comments as follows:

     And grace for grace: nor have we received drops, but grace upon grace; not only knowledge and instruction, but the love and favour of God, and spiritual habits, in proportion to the favour and grace which Christ hath (allowing for our short capacities); we have received grace freely and plentifully, all from Christ, and for His sake; which lets us see how much the grace-receiving soul is bound to acknowledge and adore Christ, and may be confirmed in the receiving of further grace, and the hopes of eternal life.”

     It is evident from 1 Peter 4:10 that God's grace is manifold, being dispensed to His saints in various forms and amounts according to their needs, yet for the edification not only of the individual but of the Body of Christ as a whole (Eph. 4:7-16). At the very end of this Epistle Peter commands his readers, saying, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18; cf. Eph. 4:15). Thus we see the propriety of Peter's prayer, that God would further exercise His benignity toward them. We also see the necessity of our praying in the same way for ourselves and for each other.

     Thus we see that though the fundamental meaning and reference of grace is to the freely bestowed, redeeming favor of God, yet the term is often used in a wider sense to include all those blessings that flow from His sovereign kindness. In this way is it to be so understood in the apostolic benedictions: a prayer for the continued and increased expression and manifestation of the good work that He has already begun (Phil. 1:6). “Grace and peace.” The two benefits are fitly joined together, for the one is never found without the other. Without reconciling grace there can be no solid and durable peace. The former is God's good will toward us; the latter is His grand work in us. In the proportion that grace is communicated, peace is enjoyed: grace to sanctify the heart; peace to comfort the soul.


A Guide to Fervent Prayer


Why the God Man?

Stephen Nichols | Ligonier






Christ Our Substitute

Steven Lawson | Sinclair Ferguson





Goligher, Lawson, Nichols, Sproul

2014 Regional Conference Q&A 2 | Ligonier






Christ Our Ransom

Stephen Nichols | Ligonier





For Whom Did Christ Die?

Steven Lawson | Ligonier






The Necessity of the Atonement

R.C. Sproul | Ligonier





To the World, Folly & a Stumbling Block

Steven Lawson | Ligonier






Out of This World

Albert Mohler | Ligonier





This is My Father's World

Sinclair Ferguson | Ligonier






Against the World

W. Robert Godfrey | R.C. Sproul





God So Loved the World

Sinclair Ferguson | Michael Horton






Saving the World

Derek Thomas | Ligonier





War of the Worldviews

R.C. Sproul Jr. | Ligonier






The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Voddie Baucham | Ligonier





How Then Should I Live in This World?

Derek Thomas | Ligonier






Jesus on Every Page

David Murray | Ligonier