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Deuteronomy 8     Psalm 91     Isaiah 36     Revelation 6


Deuteronomy 8

Remember the LORD Your God

Deuteronomy 8:1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.

11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.


Psalm 91

My Refuge and My Fortress

Psalm 91 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

3  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4  He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5  You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6  nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7  A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8  You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

9  Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10  no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

11  For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12  On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13  You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

14  “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15  When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16  With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”


Isaiah 36

Sennacherib Invades Judah

Isaiah 36:1 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. 2 And the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. 3 And there came out to him Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder.

4 And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? 5 Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me? 6 Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. 7 But if you say to me, “We trust in the LORD our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”? 8 Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 9 How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you trust in Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 10 Moreover, is it without the LORD that I have come up against this land to destroy it? The LORD said to me, “Go up against this land and destroy it.” ’ ”

11 Then Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 12 But the Rabshakeh said, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”

13 Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14 Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. 15 Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 16 Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 18 Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20 Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’ ”

21 But they were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.” 22 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.


Revelation 6

The Seven Seals

Revelation 6 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. 3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Faith and Reason

By R.C. Sproul 8/1/2008

     In this postmodern culture we have witnessed a fascinating revival of ancient Gnosticism. The Gnostics of antiquity were called by that name because they asserted that they had a superior type of knowledge that surpassed the insights found even in the apostles of the New Testament. They maintained that the insights of the apostles were limited by the natural limitations suffered by human beings tied to rationality. True knowledge, according to these heretics, was found not through reason or sense perception, but through a highly developed mystical intuition. In like manner, in this postmodern world we’ve seen a wide spread rejection of rationality. This rejection of rationality has infiltrated the church with a vengeance. We see frequent attempts to remove the Christian faith from all considerations of rationality. It is being argued today that biblical revelation is only intelligible by intuition or by a particularly sensitive poetic imagination. This carries with it the idea that biblical revelation is unintelligible through reason.

     For good cause, the church in recent centuries has had to reject rationalism in its many faceted forms. There is no monolithic philosophy of rationalism; rather, rationalism wears various faces. On the one hand, we think of rationalism as distinct from empiricism with respect to how we come to know what we know. Second, Enlightenment rationalism contrasts reason not with sense perception but with revelation, arguing that revelation is unreasonable and the only truth that can be known is that which can be known by natural reason. The third and most complex form of rationalism is Hegelian rationalism, which defines reason with a capital R, and reality is the unfolding in space and time of ultimate reason. None of these philosophies represents historic Christianity.

     Christianity is not based on rationalism. However, the rejection of rationalism in the modern church often carries with it the rejection of rationality. This rejection is itself irrational. When we reject humanism, we don’t reject being human. If we reject existentialism, we don’t reject existence. So, if we reject an “ism” attached to reason, it does not mean that we are to reject reason itself.

     Any discussion of faith and reason has to ask the question, “What is faith?” The biblical answer, according to the author of Hebrews, is that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The author goes on to say that by faith we understand that the world was formed by the Word of God. The first thing we notice in this assertion is that faith is something that is substantial, not ephemeral. Secondly, faith represents a type of evidence. It is the evidence of the unseen. At the heart of the concept of New Testament faith is the idea of trust, namely, that faith involves placing one’s trust in something. In this regard all human creatures are subject to depending at one point or another on faith. I am not an expert in medicine, so I must give a certain trust to the diagnoses offered to me by experts in the field. That trust may be provisional until I find that it is not based in substance or evidence. But in the meantime, to trust what we do not see is not necessarily a matter of being irrational. Without reason, the content of biblical faith would be unintelligible and meaningless. So we say that biblical faith is not the same as reason, but that faith is rational and reasonable. The first assertion that faith is rational means that faith is intelligible. It is not absurd or illogical. If biblical revelation were absurd and irrational, it would be utterly unintelligible and meaningless. The content of the Bible cannot pierce the soul of a sentient creature without first going through the mind. It was Augustine who declared that faith without evidence is credulity. At this point we understand that though faith is rational, it is also reasonable. Biblical faith does not call people to crucify their intellect or take irrational leaps of faith into the darkness with the hope that Christ will catch us. Rather we are called to leap out of the darkness and into the light.

     When the Scriptures say that faith is the evidence of things not seen, what are we to understand that to mean? The example given is that by faith we understand the world was formed by the Word of God. None of us was an eyewitness of the action of God in creation. Yet we trust that the universe has come into being by the act of God’s divine work of creation because we have come on reasonable grounds to believe that God’s Word is trustworthy. Because we are convinced that God’s Word is trustworthy and that that conviction is a reasonable conviction, we can trust God’s Word even for those things that we cannot see. John Calvin also argued the point that true faith is not believing against evidence. Rather, true faith involves trusting in the evidence that God has amply provided in and through His Word. That faith is not without what Calvin called evidences; rather, it is a faith that surrenders to or acquiesces to the evidences.

     We must be on our guard and vigilant at every moment against the intrusion of irrationality coming from existential philosophy, neo-orthodox theology, and the resurgence of mysticism set forth in neo-Gnosticism. What is at stake is the coherence and intelligibility of God’s divine work.

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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:

A Different Kind of Power

By John Hutchinson 9/1/2008

     I had just moved to the Washington D.C. area when the call came from a Christian organization on Capitol Hill, asking if I would be the evangelical along with a Jewish rabbi, Roman Catholic priest, and members of Congress in a press conference intended to foster support for a bill coming before the Senate. I thought that if ever there were an issue to which I should speak, surely this was it. I said “yes!” But then I thought that it might be wise to get counsel from one of our church members, who at the time was a sitting senator. He called back immediately and said, “John, I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I share your convictions on a subject that is very important. But as you pray about your decision, remember that you will have no control over how the press will quote you, and you will be labeled as a conservative advocate. You have been called here to be a minister of the Gospel of the kingdom that transcends political conservatism or liberalism. And as a minister you will have the opportunity over the years to give that Gospel to both conservatives and liberals.” Now, ten years later, I realize how wise his counsel was.

     Our calling to preach and teach the Gospel of the kingdom from the whole counsel of God to a complex and broken world, especially to the world of politics, involves living and ministering in the tension of a difficult and delicate balance. We must teach and preach that we live in two kingdoms. Augustine described it as living in two cities — the city of God and the city of man. As Christians we are citizens of the kingdom of God (Phil. 3:20) but are also called to be responsible citizens in our native countries (Rom. 13:1–7). Accordingly, we live in the often painful reality of the imperfect and broken present world, while longing for and looking forward to the perfect and blessed future world of the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21: 1–5). This balanced tension of two-kingdom living should make Christians both passionately hopeful for their certain future and practically helpful in their present context. One day there will be “heaven on earth” but not now — not yet.

     So, in the meantime, we must faithfully teach Christians to be helpfully involved in the public square without becoming over-involved and intoxicated with the political power. There is no question but that our Savior expects us to be “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt 5:13–14). Thus, it would be unfaithful and disastrous for Christians to be absent from the public square. But on the other hand, we must resist the temptation to become obsessed with the power of politics and begin to think that we can usher in the king’s kingdom. Though politics is a worthy pursuit, Christ’s kingdom is not dependent upon who’s elected and/or which laws are passed or repealed. In Washington D.C. it’s easy to catch “Potomac Fever,” and Christians are not immune to such a distorted view of power. The power of the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven, though weak in this world’s eyes (Matt 13:31–32; 1 Cor. 1:27) is more powerful than the power of any nation. It’s a different kind of power — the power of the Spirit of God through the Word of God in the people of God. As a pastor in D.C. over the years I have been “lobbied” by Christian interest groups to support their worthy causes. But often I have concluded, that though I may personally share their convictions, it would be imprudent and unbiblical for us as a church to join their cause. Sadly, I’ve gotten an “earful” from very disappointed Christians who even questioned my commitment and faithfulness to Christ.

     Certainly we must be bold and careful to teach the clear principles of the Word of God, but we dare not teach and preach what Scripture does not teach. We must teach and preach the absolute truth of the Word, though we may not be absolutely clear about how those principles apply in the complex world of political platforms and public policy. Recently as I was preaching through the Sermon on the Mount, I was on the text: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil” (Matt. 5:38–39). I explained in my exposition that Jesus was addressing individuals, not institutions. The lex talionis was not intended to justify personal retaliation. As I was greeting worshipers after the service one said to me, “Thanks so much for the sermon, now I just need to go figure out how it applies to the war on terrorism.” So, we urge our people as responsible citizens of this earthly kingdom to vote and become involved in the public square with biblically informed conviction.

     Finally, as a pastor I must realize that I wear “two hats.” I’m an individual Christian and a leader of a congregation that includes the full political spectrum. Thankfully, faithfulness in preaching the gracious Gospel of the kingdom of heaven enables me to minister to both, which is why I’m now glad I called back and declined to participate in that press conference ten years ago.

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     Dr. John R. Hutchinson is senior minister of McLean Presbyterian Church inside the Capital Beltway in McLean, Virginia.

Respectable Sins

By Keith Mathison 9/1/2008

     Have you ever found yourself so caught up and concerned with the rampant sinfulness of our culture that you forget about the subtle sins in your own heart? If so, Jerry Bridges has written a book for you. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate takes aim at the sins many Christians consciously or unconsciously consider “acceptable” behavior. For those who take the lordship of Jesus Christ seriously and seek to be like Him, this book is required reading.  By the way, this web page has several video messages by Jerry Bridges.

     The first chapters of the book set the stage by describing the true nature of sin as God sees it. Tragically, the idea of sin has disappeared in many churches, and where the concept remains, it is sometimes deflected. In other words, we readily condemn those outside of the church for flagrant sins, all the while silently condoning our own sins such as gossip, envy, and discontentment. We do not realize that sin, all sin, is a malignant spiritual cancer that, left unchecked, will destroy us and corrupt those around us.

     Bridges, however, does not leave it at this. He does not stop with the bad news. He places his discussion of sin in the context of the Gospel of Christ — the only remedy for sin. He reminds us that the reason Christ died on the cross was in order to atone for the sins of His people. In order to deal effectively with sin, whether flagrant or “respectable,” Christians need to preach this Gospel to themselves every day. Bridges also reminds us that in order to deal with sin, we must depend on the Holy Spirit. This does not mean taking a quietistic “let go and let God” approach, because our action is still required, but our action apart from the work of the Holy Spirit will be ineffective.

     After dealing with these necessary introductory matters, Bridges moves to a chapter-by-chapter analysis of “respectable sins.” Bridges considers the root sin to be ungodliness: “living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on God.” Christians often live in this way, as if God is essentially irrelevant in their day-to-day lives. Bridges turns next to the common sins of anxiety and worry. Both are sin because both betray a basic lack of trust in God.

     Another sin that is widespread among Christians is the sin of discontentment, which arises from unchanging circumstances that we can do nothing about. Unthankfulness is also persistent among Christians, who sometimes do not realize how serious a sin it is. Bridges suggests that one reason for the decadence of our culture may be the judgment of God for our failure to honor and thank Him. An entire chapter is devoted to the sin of pride. Bridges focuses on four specific kinds of pride: moral self-righteousness, theological self-righteousness, pride of achievement, and the pride of an independent spirit. He then examines the sin of selfishness, which can also manifest itself in different ways. We can be selfish about our interests in conversation, about money, about time, and we can demonstrate selfishness by simply being inconsiderate.

     Self-control, as Bridges explains, is “a governance or prudent control of one’s desires, cravings, impulses, emotions, and passions.” Lack of self-control is another common sin among Christians. Bridges offers as examples our lack of self control in regard to food, tempers, personal finances, and activities such as watching television. Bridges then looks at those sins closely related to anger, sins such as irritability, resentment, and bitterness. Sadly, these sins are often directed at those whom we should love the most, including our spouses and our children.

     The final chapters deal with the “respectable sins” of judgmentalism, envy, gossip, slander, lying, and worldliness. Gossip is among the most prevalent “respectable sins” while at the same time being among the most destructive. Worldliness may require definition. It may be defined as “being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life.” Bridges deals with three types of worldliness: a worldly attitude toward money, vicarious immorality, and idolatry of the heart.

     A word of warning is required when reading this book. If while reading you catch yourself thinking, “I really wish so-and-so would read this book,” then it is especially for you. We are all guilty of at least some of these sins some of the time. We all need reminding that every time we sin, we despise God (2 Sam. 12:9–10). Most of all, we all need reminding that Jesus died on the cross that all of our sins might be forgiven.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

Sweet Land of Liberty

By Gene Edward Veith 9/1/2008

     America is mad for liberty. Ours is a free country. We enjoy freedom of speech and of religion, the freedom of the press, and the freedom to bear arms. And rightly so. But though Americans love freedom, many of them have forgotten what it means.

     Today many of us assume that freedom means getting to do whatever we want. Any restrictions on our behavior — whether from the state, the church, or some other person — violate our freedom. And, for many of us, freedom above all means the liberty to sin.

     But, according to the Bible, this is the opposite of freedom. Sin has nothing to do with liberty. Sin destroys freedom. Sin enslaves.

     Jesus Himself makes that point: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). The apostle Paul also talks about how sin turns us into slaves (Rom. 6:16–22).

     If we are honest, we can see this truth in our own experience. An alcoholic may want to be free to get drunk. A drug addict may demand his liberty to take drugs. But alcoholics and drug addicts are not free. Their appetites enslave them. The same is true of people addicted to pornography or in thrall to some other sexual compulsion. As the sin takes away the sinner’s self-respect, his money, and his happiness, the sinner may even want to stop doing what he has been doing. But he cannot.

     On some level, all sins are like this. Anger takes us over. Pride prevents us from treating others as we should. Stealing, lying, disrespect, hate — you name it — they all enslave us.

     Though we might learn to control our worst impulses through external constraints — whether of shame, fear of discovery, or self-discipline — sin continues to lurk deep inside. We try to exert our will power. But what if the problem is precisely with our will?

     Luther wrote a book entitled The Bondage of the Will.   Note, this book is on this web site. It starts here, April 19, and there is a short daily reading every day after to the conclusion.  His point was that our will is in bondage to sin. What we want to do, if we give in to our primal desires, is to sin. The laws of church and state, our rational awareness of consequences, our conscience and other restrictions on our external conduct can make possible a social order made up of sinful human beings. But morally and also spiritually, we are slaves to sin.

     But after Jesus talked about how sinners are enslaved, He gives the good news: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

     Jesus, through the power of His sacrificial death and resurrection, frees sinners from the bondage of sin. By the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, we are set free. Though while we are still in the flesh we may still struggle with sin, we are free from sin’s dominion. To the extent we are in Christ, through faith, we no longer even need the external Law to keep us in line. We voluntarily — freely — do God’s will, not out of compulsion or threats, but because we really want to please Him, and, because we are in God’s love, we really do love our neighbors.

     Luther also wrote a book entitled The Freedom of a Christian. “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none,” he wrote. At the same time, “a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”

     In the Gospel, the Christian is spiritually free: “As regards kingship, every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that, in spiritual power, he is completely lord of all things, so that nothing whatever can do him any hurt; yea, all things are subject to him, and are compelled to be subservient to his salvation.” And yet, in the Christian life, the man of faith voluntarily makes himself a servant to his neighbors:

     “Here is the truly Christian life, here is faith really working by love, when a man applies himself with joy and love to the works of that freest servitude in which he serves others voluntarily and for nought, himself abundantly satisfied in the fullness and riches of his own faith…. And as our heavenly Father has freely helped us in Christ, so ought we freely to help our neighbor by our body and works, and each should become to other a sort of Christ, so that we may be mutually Christ’s, and that the same Christ may be in all of us; that is, that we may be truly Christians.”

     The Bible exalts freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free,” says the apostle Paul. “Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). Notice that He has set us free “for freedom.” Freedom is an end in itself. Furthermore, freedom is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).

     People who are slaves of sin require laws, authorities, police officers, and government control to prevent them from harming other people. But people who have been freed from sin do not need external controls on their behavior. They internalize the moral law. They voluntarily — of their own free will — do what they should. They govern themselves, freely directing their own behavior; therefore, they are capable of governing themselves in a free political order.

     That free political order is not just for Christians, of course, and others who can, by whatever external means, govern their desires can also enjoy its liberties. But laws — and prisons — will still be necessary for those who refuse to govern themselves. Meanwhile, those who wish to preserve their freedom must be on guard against both tyrants and their own sin.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

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Elders for the Church

By Phil Newton 9/1/2008

     Over the past decade I’ve engaged a wide-range of Christians on the subject of elders. Some, in desperation, want to change dysfunctional church leadership structures. Others have grown tired of side-stepping the biblical teaching on elders. Some long to adopt elder leadership yet realize many of their congregants would resist change. A mission leader told me that elder plurality was a major issue in his region; nationals, unfamiliar with traditions and arguments against elder plurality, saw it in Scripture and wanted to obey.

     Christ gave elder leadership to the church for its growth, development, and unity. Yet tradition often tugs stronger than biblical order for those refusing elder leadership. Others have elders but neglect applying biblical standards to them. Paul’s letter to Titus offers great help for both cases (Titus 1:5-9).

     First, plural leadership is the norm for every church: “appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” “Elders” is plural and “in every town” is singular. It indicates multiple elders serving each church on Crete (1:5). Each reference to local church elders demonstrates plurality as the New Testament practice (see Acts 14:23; 15:22; 20:17 that show this same pattern of plurality). Paul’s reason for plurality within even small congregations makes sense. It provides accountability, support, and encouragement, increased wisdom, and diversity of gifts to increase ministry effectiveness.

     Second, elders are necessary for the proper ordering of the church. Titus was to “put what remained into order” (Titus 1:5). He would begin by appointing “elders in every town.” Elders would engage in the work of ongoing church reformation. What needed reforming? Slick teachers whom Paul called “empty talkers and deceivers,” undermined families “by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (vv. 10–11). Elders must correct the false teaching, remove the false teachers, and reiterate the sufficiency of the Gospel. Some Cretan Christians were acting like “Cretans,” not Christians! “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (v. 12); elders must teach the right application of law and gospel to daily life, exemplify Christian living, and lead in discipline when necessary. Still others were turning away from the truth by “devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people,” defiling themselves in mind and conscience (vv. 14–15). Again, the elders must be the means of putting what remained into the order of sound teaching and godly practice.

     Third, elders set an example for the church at home, in personal conduct, and in relationships (vv. 6–8). An elder is to be “the husband of one wife,” singularly devoted to his wife, seeking to love her as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:25). His children are to be “faithful” (nasb; pistos seems best translated as “faithful” or “trustworthy,” see 1 Tim. 1:12, 15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11, 13; Titus 1:9; 3:8), “and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.”

     In personal conduct, an elder is to be “above reproach” because he is “God’s steward” or manager over God’s flock. He is to be conscientious in conduct with no dangling areas discrediting Christ or the Gospel. Further, “he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered,” so he guards against trampling others with attitude or outbursts. He must not be “a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,” so he exercises self-restraint in appetites, self-control in responses, and self-discipline in finances (v. 7).

     The elder also sets an example in relationships by being “hospitable” through accepting and befriending others; “a lover of good” by affirming what’s best; and “self-controlled” by keeping his head when life comes unraveled. In his dealings with others he is to be “upright,” in his personal piety — “holy,” and in his natural impulses — “disciplined” (v. 8). He keeps in mind that he is an “overseer,” not an owner, a servant not a lord (v. 7). Just as Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), even so must God’s steward be in the church.

     Finally, the shepherding role of elders is distinguished from deacons by requiring elders to be able to teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:1–13). Elders must be steadfast in knowing and applying the Word personally: “he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught.” They live and breathe Gospel, delight in digging into Scripture, and test their grasp of doctrine by the Word. Elders must be committed to doctrinal teaching: “so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine.” Doctrine matters to elders. They recognize “sound doctrine” as the heart of biblical understanding, essential to the vitality of the church. Neglect it, and the church might still have an outward form of Christianity but inwardly dies, breeding all manner of deceit and sin. Elders must be ready and willing to reprove those opposing sound doctrine: “also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Anyone that enjoys confrontation has to be a little demented! Yet when the Gospel is at stake, when the health and unity of the church hangs in the balance, and when someone totters on the brink of spiritual or moral ruin, elders must rise to the challenge. Like a S.W.A.T. team, elders must remain doctrinally alert, ready to engage any that would threaten to divide or damage the body of Christ (Titus 1:9).

     As Christ’s gift to the church, elders value character as they focus on the church’s maturity and unity. Whether by denial or misuse, neglecting Christ’s design for elder leadership deprives the church of this priceless asset for its spiritual health.

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     Dr. Phil Newton is senior minister of South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and is author of Elders in Congregational Life.

Deut. 8; Psalm 91; Isaiah 36; Revelation 6

By Don Carson 6/4/2018

     Deuteronomy 8 provides an important theological perspective on the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Because God is a personal God, one can tell the story of those years in terms of the interaction between God and his people: he meets their need, they rebel, he responds in judgment, they repent — and then the cycle repeats itself. On the other hand, one can look at the whole account from the perspective of God’s transcendent and faithful sovereignty. He remains in charge. That is the vantage offered here.

     Of course, God could have given them everything they wanted before they had even bothered to articulate their desires. He could have spoiled them rotten. Instead, his intention was to humble them, to test them, even to let them hunger before eventually feeding them with manna (Deut. 8:2-3). The purpose of this latter exercise, Moses insists, was that God might teach them “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3). More generally: “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you” (Deut. 8:5).

     Why all this discipline? The sad reality is that fallen people like you and me readily fixate on God’s gifts and ignore their Giver. At some point, this degenerates into worshiping the created thing rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25). God knows that is Israel’s danger. He is bringing them into a land with agricultural promise, adequate water, and mineral wealth (Deut. 8:6-9). What likelihood would there be at that point of learning that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD”?

     Even after these forty years of discipline, the dangers will prove enormous. So Moses spells the lessons out to them. Once the people have settled in the Promised Land and are enjoying its considerable wealth, the dangers will begin. “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees” (Deut. 8:11). With wealth will come the temptation to arrogance, prompting the people to forget the Lord who brought them out of slavery (Deut. 8:12-14). In the end, not only will they value the wealth above the words of God, they may even justify themselves, proudly declaiming, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me” (Deut. 8:17) — conveniently forgetting that even the ability to produce wealth is a gracious gift from God (Deut. 8:18).

     In what ways does your life show you cherish every word that comes from the mouth of God, above all the blessings and even the necessities of this life?

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

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 59

Deliver Me from My Enemies
59 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David, When Saul Sent Men To Watch His House In Order To Kill Him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
2 deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.

3 For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!
5 You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     9. Accordingly, Peter, who was perfectly instructed by his Master as to the extent of what was permitted to him, leaves nothing more to himself or others than to dispense the doctrine delivered by God. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11); that is, not hesitatingly, as those are wont whose convictions are imperfect, but with the full confidence which becomes a servant of God, provided with a sure message. What else is this than to banish all the inventions of the human mind (whatever be the head which may have devised them), that the pure word of God may be taught and learned in the Church of the faithful,--than to discard the decrees, or rather fictions of men (whatever be their rank), that the decrees of God alone may remain steadfast? These are "the weapons of our warfare," which "are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Here is the supreme power with which pastors of the Church, by whatever name they are called, should be invested-- namely, to dare all boldly for the word of God, compelling all the virtue, glory, wisdom, and rank of the world to yield and obey its majesty; to command all from the highest to the lowest, trusting to its power to build up the house of Christ and overthrow the house of Satan; to feed the sheep and chase away the wolves; to instruct and exhort the docile, to accuse, rebuke, and subdue the rebellious and petulant, to bind and loose; in fine, if need be, to fire and fulminate, but all in the word of God. Although, as I have observed, there is this difference between the apostles and their successors, they were sure and authentic amanuenses of the Holy Spirit; [577] and, therefore, their writings are to be regarded as the oracles of God, whereas others have no other office than to teach what is delivered and sealed in the holy Scriptures. We conclude, therefore, that it does not now belong to faithful ministers to coin some new doctrine, but simply to adhere to the doctrine to which all, without exception, are made subject. When I say this, I mean to show not only what each individual, but what the whole Church, is bound to do. In regard to individuals, Paul certainly had been appointed an apostle to the Corinthians, and yet he declares that he has no dominion over their faith (2 Cor. 1:24). Who will now presume to arrogate a dominion to which the apostle declares that he himself was not competent? But if he had acknowledged such licence in teaching, that every pastor could justly demand implicit faith in whatever he delivered, he never would have laid it down as a rule to the Corinthians, that while two or three prophets spoke, the others should judge, and that, if anything was revealed to one sitting by, the first should be silent (1 Cor. 14:29, 30). Thus he spared none, but subjected the authority of all to the censure of the word of God. But it will be said, that with regard to the whole Church the case is different. I answer, that in another place Paul meets the objection also when he says, that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). In other words, if faith depends upon the word of God alone, if it regards and reclines on it alone, what place is left for any word of man? He who knows what faith is can never hesitate here, for it must possess a strength sufficient to stand intrepid and invincible against Satan, the machinations of hell, and the whole world. This strength can be found only in the word of God. Then the reason to which we ought here to have regard is universal: God deprives man of the power of producing any new doctrine, in order that he alone may be our master in spiritual teaching, as he alone is true, and can neither lie nor deceive. This reason applies not less to the whole Church than to every individual believer.

10. But if this power of the church which is here described be contrasted with that which spiritual tyrants, falsely styling themselves bishops and religious prelates, have now for several ages exercised among the people of God, there will be no more agreement than that of Christ with Belial. It is not my intention here to unfold the manner, the unworthy manner, in which they have used their tyranny; I will only state the doctrine which they maintain in the present day, first, in writing, and then, by fire and sword. Taking it for granted, that a universal council is a true representation of the Church, they set out with this principle, and, at the same time, lay it down as incontrovertible, that such councils are under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit, and therefore cannot err. But as they rule councils, nay, constitute them, they in fact claim for themselves whatever they maintain to be due to councils. Therefore, they will have our faith to stand and fall at their pleasure, so that whatever they have determined on either side must be firmly seated in our minds; what they approve must be approved by us without any doubt; what they condemn we also must hold to be justly condemned. Meanwhile, at their own caprice, and in contempt of the word of God, they coin doctrines to which they in this way demand our assent, declaring that no man can be a Christian unless he assent to all their dogmas, affirmative as well as negative, if not with explicit, yet with implicit faith, because it belongs to the Church to frame new articles of faith.

11. First, let us hear by what arguments they prove that this authority was given to the Church, and then we shall see how far their allegations concerning the Church avail them. The Church, they say, has the noble promise that she will never be deserted by Christ her spouse, but be guided by his Spirit into all truth. But of the promises which they are wont to allege, many were given not less to private believers than to the whole Church. For although the Lord spake to the twelve apostles, when he said, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20); and again, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16, 17), he made these promises not only to the twelve, but to each of them separately, nay, in like manner, to other disciples whom he already had received, or was afterwards to receive. When they interpret these promises, which are replete with consolation, in such a way as if they were not given to any particular Christian but to the whole Church together, what else is it but to deprive Christians of the confidence which they ought thence to have derived, to animate them in their course? I deny not that the whole body of the faithful is furnished with a manifold variety of gifts, and endued with a far larger and richer treasure of heavenly wisdom than each Christian apart; nor do I mean that this was said of believers in general, as implying that all possess the spirit of wisdom and knowledge in an equal degree: but we are not to give permission to the adversaries of Christ to defend a bad cause, by wresting Scripture from its proper meaning. Omitting this, however, I simply hold what is true--viz. that the Lord is always present with his people, and guides them by his Spirit. He is the Spirit, not of error, ignorance, falsehood, or darkness, but of sure revelation, wisdom, truth, and light, from whom they can, without deception, learn the things which have been given to them (1 Cor. 2:12); in other words, "what is the hope of their calling, and what the riches of the glory of their inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18). But while believers, even those of them who are endued with more excellent graces, obtain in the present life only the first-fruits, and, as it were, a foretaste of the Spirit, nothing better remains to them than, under a consciousness of their weakness, to confine themselves anxiously within the limits of the word of God, lest, in following their own sense too far, they forthwith stray from the right path, being left without that Spirit, by whose teaching alone truth is discerned from falsehood. For all confess with Paul, that "they have not yet reached the goal" (Phil. 3:12). Accordingly, they rather aim at daily progress than glory in perfection.

12. But it will be objected, that whatever is attributed in part to any of the saints, belongs in complete fulness to the Church. Although there is some semblance of truth in this, I deny that it is true. God, indeed, measures out the gifts of his Spirit to each of the members, so that nothing necessary to the whole body is wanting, since the gifts are bestowed for the common advantage. The riches of the Church, however, are always of such a nature, that much is wanting to that supreme perfection of which our opponents boast. Still the Church is not left destitute in any part, but always has as much as is sufficient, for the Lord knows what her necessities require. But to keep her in humility and pious modesty, he bestows no more on her than he knows to be expedient. I am aware, it is usual here to object, that Christ hath cleansed the Church "with the washing of water by the word: that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle" (Eph. 5:26, 27), and that it is therefore called the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). But the former passage rather shows what Christ daily performs in it, than what he has already perfected. For if he daily sanctifies all his people, purifies, refines them, and wipes away their stains, it is certain that they have still some spots and wrinkles, and that their sanctification is in some measure defective. How vain and fabulous is it to suppose that the Church, all whose members are somewhat spotted and impure, is completely holy and spotless in every part? It is true, therefore, that the Church is sanctified by Christ, but here the commencement of her sanctification only is seen; the end and entire completion will be effected when Christ, the Holy of holies, shall truly and completely fill her with his holiness. It is true also, that her stains and wrinkles have been effaced, but so that the process is continued every day, until Christ at his advent will entirely remove every remaining defect. For unless we admit this, we shall be constrained to hold with the Pelagians, that the righteousness of believers is perfected in this life: like the Cathari and Donatists we shall tolerate no infirmity in the Church. [578] The other passage, as we have elsewhere seen (chap. 1 sec. 10), has a very different meaning from what they put upon it. For when Paul instructed Timothy, and trained him to the office of a true bishop, he says, he did it in order that he might learn how to behave himself in the Church of God. And to make him devote himself to the work with greater seriousness and zeal, he adds, that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. And what else do these words mean, than just that the truth of God is preserved in the Church, and preserved by the instrumentality of preaching; as he elsewhere says, that Christ "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" "that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ"? (Eph. 4:11, 14, 15) The reason, therefore, why the truth, instead of being extinguished in the world, remains unimpaired, is, because he has the Church as a faithful guardian, by whose aid and ministry it is maintained. But if this guardianship consists in the ministry of the Prophets and Apostles, it follows, that the whole depends upon this--viz. that the word of the Lord is faithfully preserved and maintained in purity.

13. And that my readers may the better understand the hinge on which the question chiefly turns, I will briefly explain what our opponents demand, and what we resist. When they deny that the Church can err, their end and meaning are to this effect: Since the Church is governed by the Spirit of God, she can walk safely without the word; in whatever direction she moves, she cannot think or speak anything but the truth, and hence, if she determines anything without or beside the word of God, it must be regarded in no other light than if it were a divine oracle. If we grant the first point--viz. that the Church cannot err in things necessary to salvation--our meaning is, that she cannot err, because she has altogether discarded her own wisdom, and submits to the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the word of God. Here then is the difference. They place the authority of the Church without the word of God; we annex it to the word, and allow it not to be separated from it. And is it strange if the spouse and pupil of Christ is so subject to her lord and master as to hang carefully and constantly on his lips? In every well-ordered house the wife obeys the command of her husband, in every well-regulated school the doctrine of the master only is listened to. Wherefore, let not the Church be wise in herself, nor think any thing of herself, but let her consider her wisdom terminated when he ceases to speak. In this way she will distrust all the inventions of her own reason; and when she leans on the word of God, will not waver in diffidence or hesitation but rest in full assurance and unwavering constancy. Trusting to the liberal promises which she has received, she will have the means of nobly maintaining her faith, never doubting that the Holy Spirit is always present with her to be the perfect guide of her path. At the same time, she will remember the use which God wishes to be derived from his Spirit. "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). How? "He shall bring to your remembrance all things whatsoever I have said unto you." He declares, therefore, that nothing more is to be expected of his Spirit than to enlighten our minds to perceive the truth of his doctrine. Hence Chrysostom most shrewdly observes, "Many boast of the Holy Spirit, but with those who speak their own it is a false pretence. As Christ declared that he spoke not of himself (John 12:50; 14:10), because he spoke according to the Law and the Prophets; so, if anything contrary to the Gospel is obtruded under the name of the Holy Spirit, let us not believe it. For as Christ is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets, so is the Spirit the fulfilment of the Gospel" (Chrysost. Serm. de Sancto et Adorando Spiritu.) Thus far Chrysostom. We may now easily infer how erroneously our opponents act in vaunting of the Holy Spirit, for no other end than to give the credit of his name to strange doctrines, extraneous to the word of God, whereas he himself desires to be inseparably connected with the word of God; and Christ declares the same thing of him, when he promises him to the Church. And so indeed it is. The soberness which our Lord once prescribed to his Church, he wishes to be perpetually observed. He forbade that anything should be added to his word, and that anything should be taken from it. This is the inviolable decree of God and the Holy Spirit, a decree which our opponents endeavour to annul when they pretend that the Church is guided by the Spirit without the word.

14. Here again they mutter that the Church behoved to add something to the writings of the apostles, or that the apostles themselves behoved orally to supply what they had less clearly taught, since Christ said to them, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12), and that these are the points which have been received, without writing, merely by use and custom. But what effrontery is this? The disciples, I admit, were ignorant and almost indocile when our Lord thus addressed them, but were they still in this condition when they committed his doctrine to writing, so as afterwards to be under the necessity of supplying orally that which, through ignorance, they had omitted to write? If they were guided by the Spirit of truth unto all truth when they published their writings, what prevented them from embracing a full knowledge of the Gospel, and consigning it therein? But let us grant them what they ask, provided they point out the things which behoved to be revealed without writing. Should they presume to attempt this, I will address, them in the words of Augustine, "When the Lord is silent, who of us may say, this is, or that is? or if we should presume to say it, how do we prove it?" (August. in Joann. 96) But why do I contend superfluously? Every child knows that in the writings of the apostles, which these men represent as mutilated and incomplete, is contained the result of that revelation which the Lord then promised to them.

15. What, say they, did not Christ declare that nothing which the Church teaches and decrees can be gainsayed, when he enjoined that every one who presumes to contradict should be regarded as a heathen man and a publican? (Mt. 18:17.) First, there is here no mention of doctrine, but her authority to censure, for correction is asserted, in order that none who had been admonished or reprimanded might oppose her judgment. But to say nothing of this, it is very strange that those men are so lost to all sense of shame, that they hesitate not to plume themselves on this declaration. For what, pray, will they make of it, but just that the consent of the Church, a consent never given but to the word of God, is not to be despised? The Church is to be heard, say they. Who denies this? since she decides nothing but according to the word of God. If they demand more than this, let them know that the words of Christ give them no countenance. I ought not to seem contentious when I so vehemently insist that we cannot concede to the Church any new doctrine; in other words, allow her to teach and oracularly deliver more than the Lord has revealed in his word. Men of sense see how great the danger is if so much authority is once conceded to men. They see also how wide a door is opened for the jeers and cavils of the ungodly, if we admit that Christians are to receive the opinions of men as if they were oracles. We may add, that our Saviour, speaking according to the circumstances of his times, gave the name of Church to the Sanhedrim, that the disciples might learn afterwards to revere the sacred meetings of the Church. Hence it would follow, that single cities and districts would have equal liberty in coining dogmas.

16. The examples which they bring do not avail them. They say that pædobaptism proceeds not so much on a plain command of Scripture, as on a decree of the Church. It would be a miserable asylum if, in defence of pædobaptism, we were obliged to betake ourselves to the bare authority of the Church; but it will be made plain enough elsewhere (chap. 16) that it is far otherwise. In like manner, when they object that we nowhere find in the Scriptures what was declared in the Council of Nice--viz. that the Son is consubstantial with the Father (see August. Ep. 178)--they do a grievous injustice to the Fathers, as if they had rashly condemned Arius for not swearing to their words, though professing the whole of that doctrine which is contained in the writings of the Apostles and Prophets. I admit that the expression does not exist in Scripture, but seeing it is there so often declared that there is one God, and Christ is so often called true and eternal God, one with the Father, what do the Nicene Fathers do when they affirm that he is of one essence, than simply declare the genuine meaning of Scripture? Theodoret relates that Constantine, in opening their meeting, spoke as follows: "In the discussion of divine matters, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit stands recorded. The Gospels and apostolical writings, with the oracles of the prophets, fully show us the meaning of the Deity. Therefore, laying aside discord, let us take the exposition of questions from the words of the Spirit" (Theodoret. Hist. Eccles. Lib. 1 c. 5). There was none who opposed this sound advice; none who objected that the Church could add something of her own, that the Spirit did not reveal all things to the apostles, or at least that they did not deliver them to posterity, and so forth. If the point on which our opponents insist is true, Constantine, first, was in error in robbing the Church of her power; and, secondly, when none of the bishops rose to vindicate it, their silence was a kind of perfidy, and made them traitors to Ecclesiastical law. But since Theodoret relates that they readily embraced what the Emperor said, it is evident that this new dogma was then wholly unknown.

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[573] The French adds, "Vision receue du Seigneur; Le Seigneur des armees l'a dit,"--A vision received from the Lord; The Lord of hosts hath spoken it.

[574] 116 D116 This section admirably expresses Calvin's view concerning the centrality of Christ in divine revelation. From Creation to Consummation, Christ is God's only wisdom, light, and truth, the only mirror in which God has Himself as Redeemer, the only fountain of heavenly doctrine, and the only way by which man can come to know God. Here there is no room for the concept that Christ was completely concealed in the Old Testament, whereas He is completely revealed in the New; nor for the idea that Old Testament saints trusted in God, whereas New Testament saints trust in Christ.

[575] 117 D117 Although Calvin uses the term "dictated" in connection with this explanation of the manner in which the body of Old Testament Scripture was formed, this should not be taken to express the mode of Inspiration, but rather to call attention to the result of Inspiration. That this is his intention may be seen in the previous assertion that historical details "are also the composition of prophets," which assertion takes into account the human factor in the process of the inscripturation of revelation.

[576] 118 D118 This assertion that the Spirit of Christ "in a manner dictated words to them" implies at least three ideas: (1) The guidance of the Spirit in the inspiration of Scripture extends to the very words which the apostles and prophets employed; (2) The words of Scripture express the very thoughts which God wished expressed, so that the result of the Spirit's inspiration is, in regard to truth, the same as if the words had been dictated; (3) Yet the words of Scripture were only "in a manner" dictated, since the Spirit used the faculties peculiar to the human instruments, thereby ensuring a Scripture characterized by differences of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, literary style, historical setting, and theological approach.

[577] 119 D119 The expression, "sure and authentic amanuenses," would at first glance, seem to imply that the apostles were mere scribes and copyists, and that Inspiration should be defined as "infallible supernatural superintendence of mechanical human reproduction of divinely communicated words." But Calvin would have subscribed to such a "dictation theory" of Inspiration is abundantly clear from the many relevant portions of the Institutes. (See also notes on sections 6 and 8 of this chapter.)

[578] The French adds, "Or, nos adversaires mesmes tiennent tous ceux-la pour heretiques."--Now, our opponents themselves regard all those as heretics.

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     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     11/1/2010    Deus Pro Nobis

     As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, we have reached an all-time low in terms of our expectations for college students. Both parents and students seem to have ingested a lowest-common-denominator sedative that has led many to enter college with an overwhelming feeling of doubt and desperation. Many parents are content simply to see their children get through college without becoming dropouts, drunks, or drug addicts. In turn, students are content to graduate without their parents finding out how close they came to becoming all three.

     Although this is not true everywhere, many institutions have lowered their academic standards while we have been reducing our expectations for our students. But what is most disheartening is not the diminishing academic standards but the degree to which Christian parents and students have increasingly set their expectations on things below rather than things above.

     We have been besieged with doubt by the naturalistic, humanistic god of this world rather than trusting the supernatural, sovereign God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Christian parents and their covenant children, whether enrolled at Christian colleges or secular universities, Ivy League or state schools, have all but eliminated their great expectations by failing to trust the Author and Finisher of our faith to protect the hearts and minds of those who have been His from before the foundation of the earth.

     Although Christ has declared victory over the Enemy and has declared us more than conquerors in Him, we have become a retreating, defensive, overpowered, and frightened religious splinter group rather than the gospel-advancing, Spiritempowered, God-fearing, and valiant church of Christ against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. While the Devil’s professors are on a religious crusade to demythologize and deconstruct the beliefs of Christian students, we must not forget that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world, remembering always this ancient and eternal truth: Deus pro nobis — “God is for us.” If our reigning and ever-present God is for us, then who can ever truly be against us?

     Let us not fear man but trust God as we strive to equip humble Christians to be the best doctors and lawyers, the wisest CEOs, the finest governors and presidents, the most sacrificial missionaries, the most godly pastors, and the most faithful fathers and mothers the world, and the Devil, has ever seen — all by God’s grace.

     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 turning point in the Pacific War began today, June 4, 1942. American intelligence intercepted Japan's plans to capture Midway Island and from there Hawaii. The outnumbered U.S. Fleet ambushed the Japanese armada, but was losing badly. It was not until American dive bombers, navigating by guess and by God, sighted the Japanese carriers below at the precise moment their planes had left to attack the Yorktown. In just five minutes, the screeching dive bombers sank three Japanese carriers, and a fourth shortly after. This providential event turned the War, as Japan was never again able to go on the offensive.

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

How important the concept of God is,
and how instead of valuing what has been given us,
we with light hearts spurn it
because of absurdities
that have been attached to it.
--- Leo Tolstoy
Last Diaries by Leo Tolstoy

No pillow so soft as God's promise.
No skin, no hair;
No grace, no prayer.
--- Author Unknown
The Salt-Cellars: Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together with Homely Notes Theron, Volume 2 - Primary Source Edition

You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe,
as a living Christian that does not pray.
--- Matthew Henry
A Commentary Upon The Holy Bible, Volume 5 - Primary Source Edition (Afrikaans Edition)

The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.
--- Jacques Benigne Bossuel
So You're A Christian, Who Knew?

... from here, there and everywhere


The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 4 / “The Lord Is Our God”:
     Names Make a Difference Pt. 2


     On yet a higher level of abstraction is the distinction between the transcendent and the immanent dimensions of God. Elohim refers to the former; Hashem, the latter. Elohim, the attribute of din, God as a generic term, His universal qualities—all this points to a transcendental view of Divinity: God as aloof, beyond, remote. In contrast, Hashem—the attribute of raḥamim, of love and compassion, God’s specific relations with Israel, His functioning as the God of a singular nation as well as Sovereign of the cosmos and all humanity—points toward a more immanentist conception: God as available, close to us, involved with us, caught up in a web of relationships with us. Until the advent of human beings in the story of
Genesis, the Torah uses no Name other than Elohim; only with the appearance of Adam and his developing religious consciousness does the Name Hashem emerge—first in conjunction with Elohim and then standing by itself.

     Of course, all of this can be captured in a more familiar dichotomy: Hashem as a personal God, Elohim as an impersonal One. By virtue of all we have said about Elohim, it is obvious that, in this guise, God is impersonal (or beyond personality) in His role as Creator and in His relation to His non-human creation. At the same time, Hashem speaks of personal contact and involvement. God is never to be conceived of as a person, yet He does possess personality; who can deny Him the very attribute that distinguishes His creatures created in His image?

     Various attributes connected to divine acts change in nuance depending on the context of the divine Names. Thus, for instance, the word tov, “good,” means one thing when used in the context of the natural world created by Elohim, another in the context of the historical universe presided over by Hashem. The words ki tov, “it is good,” as they appear in the first chapter of
Genesis (e.g., 1:4, “and God saw the light that it was [or is] good”) refer to the perfection of the natural order, to God as the One who establishes the organizing principles of the cosmos—the orderly governance of the world, both the power and the limitations of the creation.

     (Maimonides defines tov in the scriptural context, as the realization of the divine will for the sake of the particular object so described, rather than as a means to some other created object; Guide for the Perplexed, 3:13.)

     Contrast this use of tov to its connotation in
Psalms: “The Lord (Hashem) is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). Here, Scripture alludes to God’s goodness in its aspect of raḥamim, “tender mercies.” Unlike its metaphysical connotation in the creation narrative, the word tov used in this Psalm is much more recognizable to us. We encounter here God’s moral goodness; significantly, the name Hashem is parallel to God’s “tender mercies.” This is God who is involved with His creatures, who cares for them, worries over them—in other words, this is the Lord of history whose goodness manifests itself in the affairs of humankind.

     (R. Yaakov Zevi Mecklenburg, in his Ha-Ketav ve’ha-Kabbalah, tries to synthesize these two dimensions of tov. For him, it signifies not that the creation was good—as if God were an artist stepping back in self-congratulating appreciation of his handiwork—but an explanation of why the Creator created, namely, because He (God) is good. This is based on the retranslation of va-yera not as “He saw,” but as “He brought into being.” Although, he maintains, the usual translation is “he saw,” the form of the verb is unusual—hif’il, causative—and therefore legitimately lends itself to “he made visible” or “he brought into being.” The effort, while admirable, is not totally successful. God’s tov as overflowing love, ḥesed or the effluence of “giving-ness,” is still metaphysical and not necessarily moral or personalistic. See my The Good Society: Jewish Ethics in Action (New York: Viking Press, 1974), pp. 3–9.)

     The two divine Names draw to themselves separate clusters of ideas and nuances, like a magnet attracting iron filings around its opposite poles. On the one hand, Elohim is God’s generic name. It represents din, judgment; His universal aspects; His transcendence; His impersonal attributes; His role as Creator; and His metaphysical goodness. Hashem, on the other hand, is God’s “Jewish name,” associated with mercy and love; His specific adoption by the Children of Israel as their own God; the particularistic dimensions of that relationship; His immanence; His personal and relational qualities; His role as the Lord of History; and the Source of moral goodness, the Revealer of Torah.

     These distinctions were never meant to imply different essences, that is, beings ontologically independent of each other, for that would border on idolatry. No, in the end “the Lord is One”; the distinctions are solely in the eyes of the human beholder and must never be ascribed to God. The two poles, however we define them, are complementary, never contradictory. The ancient world, however, often regarded these two poles as conflicting with each other rather than representing different aspects of one reality. In the cultures surrounding Israel, polytheistic and dualistic religions abounded. The Zoroastrians of Persia posited a god of light and goodness, and another of evil and darkness. It was in order to counter this form of paganism that the prophet Isaiah characterized Israel’s God as the One who proclaims “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil” (
Isa. 45:7). Early Christianity, too, had to contend with heretical sects such as the Manicheans, who saw life in starkly dualistic terms. In such heresies, “Satan” was regarded as a real and independent power over and against God, rather than as a symbol or metaphor of evil.

     This virus of dualism still infects humankind even today. Our metaphysical and psychological limitations incline us toward a fragmented philosophy in which the world is conceived of in over-against terms. This is, of course, not an altogether bad thing. It is the very stuff of analysis, without which neither philosophy nor science can make much headway. As the Sages put it, im ein da’at havdalah minayin; without understanding no distinctions can be made. And the converse is true as well: in the absence of distinctions there is a dearth of understanding. But when we impose this fractionated vision onto our religious quest and conceive of the duality as ontological, that is, as possessing ultimate reality, we flirt with paganism.

     (The tendency of primitive man to personalize the forces of Nature, and his internal drives as well, conceiving of them as independent and autonomous powers that he then apotheosized, comes to mind as we read of the rash of psychiatric cases of “multiple personalities” that have attracted public attention in recent years. It is a psychological illustration of the dangers of absolutizing the relative (which is really what idolatry is all about) in a pathological manner. In an ironic revival of the “possessions” and exorcisms of our recent superstitious past—the phenomenon of “the dybbuk” comes to mind—psychiatrists have identified more and more cases of people who not only develop different facets of personality (we all do that) but transform them into independent personalities which inhabit their body. (I am indebted to my son Joshua, which has been professionally involved with a number of such cases, for the information on the psychiatry of multiple personalities.) These “persons” are not a matter of metaphor or rhetoric; they are experienced by the patient as very real indeed. A patient may have a large number of such separate personalities inhabiting his—usually her—body and often be only dimly or sporadically or not at all aware of some or all of them. Like the gods who populated the theological universe of the ancient pagans, these personalities may form alliances with each other, strive with each other, and indeed often attempt to harm and even kill each other—and sometimes succeed, and the patient is lost. Though we are not in possession of an adequate scientific explanation for this phenomenon, it appears that the human mind proves to be a wonderful, awe-inspiring entity as it helps the individual survive inhuman assaults on the vulnerable ego by personalizing the various forces in life, both friendly and hostile, and conceiving of them as different people—with different names, genders, voices, handwriting, dispositions, etc. The old phylogeny-ontogeny scheme that used to be popular in embryology—that the developing human foetus and the evolution of the species parallel each other—seems to find its analogue here: the patient exhibits the psychiatric equivalent of the underlying theology of the primitive religions of mankind. The equation reads the other way as well: the tendency toward pagan dualism is the theological equivalent of the very serious disease called multiple personality disorder. And if so, manifestations of such dualism in our contemporary lives may also be understood as invalid and unauthentic responses to the pressures and threats of the world about us. To retain both our spiritual integrity and our mental health, it is important for us to recognize and affirm, regularly, that the various personalities we assume for different times and occasions are but masks we put on or take off in a socially acceptable manner (indeed, the word personality derives from the persona or mask that actors would don to represent different roles in the early history of drama); that the joys of life and its frustrations and disappointments, the bliss and the grief, are not merely chance events that buffet us arbitrarily, but that they, and all life, issue from one Source and are thus ultimately coherent. It is the limited native intelligence of our species that does not permit us to fully comprehend the details of that coherence. But it objectively exists. And it is this unifying coherence, originating in the oneness of existence itself, and the awareness that such oneness indeed exists that make life meaningful and valuable.)

     The Torah—recognizing that our reason inclines toward dualism even when contemplating our own Creator—affirms in the Shema that all such dichotomies and distinctions are purely subjective, expressive of our human limitations. Beyond all such divisions there is but one objective Reality: God is One.

     Finally, we come to still another shade of meaning pertaining to the Tetragrammaton in the first verse of the Shema: the element of divine lordship, God’s mastery and sovereignty in the world. The English translation of the Tetragrammaton as “Lord” is only approximate, representing a direct translation of the Hebrew euphemism Adonai, literally, “my Lord.” However, this substitute term has no necessary connection to the ineffable Tetragrammaton.

     But is it really so arbitrary a substitution? The Halakha offers us an interesting commentary on the matter: The Babylonian Talmud (Ḥagigah 4a) teaches that a slave is exempt from the law of re’iyah, that is, the requirement to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and attend the Holy Temple during the three major festivals. Why this exemption? Because the relevant verse in Scripture reads, “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God” (
Exod. 23:17). The word for “Lord” here is adon, which is quite literally “master” or “lord.” The Talmud adds, “This refers to one who has only one adon; but this one (i.e., the slave) has another adon.” Thus, only a free man—one who has but one Master, the Creator—is obligated to make the pilgrimage to the Temple. This sacred duty is reserved for those who acknowledge but one Master.

     The Jerusalem Talmud similarly interprets the first verse of the Shema:

     How do we know that a slave is exempt from the obligation to recite the Shema? For it is written, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one”—this refers to one who has no other adon other than the Holy One. This therefore excludes the slave who has more than one adon. (J. Berakhot 25a)6

     Therefore, the standard English translation of the Tetragrammaton as “Lord” is indeed quite apt. And so, the Shema can be seen as a clarion call for human freedom under God’s sovereignty. It is to be recited only by one “who has no master other than God.” And in reciting the first verse of the Shema, we thereby proclaim our spiritual dignity: we affirm the oneness of God as free men and free women, for God is our one and only adon.


  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 13.

     The Parthians Bring Antigonus Back Into Judea, And Cast Hyrcanus And Phasaelus Into Prison. The Flight Of Herod, And The Taking Of Jerusalem And What Hyrcanus And Phasaelus Suffered.

     1. Now two years afterward, when Barzapharnes, a governor among the Parthians, and Paeorus, the king's son, had possessed themselves of Syria, and when Lysanias had already succeeded upon the death of his father Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, in the government [of Chalcis], he prevailed with the governor, by a promise of a thousand talents, and five hundred women, to bring back Antigonus to his kingdom, and to turn Hyrcanus out of it. Pacorus was by these means induced so to do, and marched along the sea-coast, while he ordered Barzapharnes to fall upon the Jews as he went along the Mediterranean part of the country; but of the maritime people, the Tyrians would not receive Pacorus, although those of Ptolemais and Sidon had received him; so he committed a troop of his horse to a certain cup-bearer belonging to the royal family, of his own name [Pacorus], and gave him orders to march into Judea, in order to learn the state of affairs among their enemies, and to help Antigonus when he should want his assistance.

     2. Now as these men were ravaging Carmel, many of the Jews ran together to Antigonus, and showed themselves ready to make an incursion into the country; so he sent them before into that place called Drymus, [the woodland 18 ] to seize upon the place; whereupon a battle was fought between them, and they drove the enemy away, and pursued them, and ran after them as far as Jerusalem, and as their numbers increased, they proceeded as far as the king's palace; but as Hyrcanus and Phasaelus received them with a strong body of men, there happened a battle in the market-place, in which Herod's party beat the enemy, and shut them up in the temple, and set sixty men in the houses adjoining as a guard to them. But the people that were tumultuous against the brethren came in, and burnt those men; while Herod, in his rage for killing them, attacked and slew many of the people, till one party made incursions on the other by turns, day by day, in the way of ambushes, and slaughters were made continually among them.

     3. Now when that festival which we call Pentecost was at hand, all the places about the temple, and the whole city, was full of a multitude of people that were come out of the country, and which were the greatest part of them armed also, at which time Phasaelus guarded the wall, and Herod, with a few, guarded the royal palace; and when he made an assault upon his enemies, as they were out of their ranks, on the north quarter of the city, he slew a very great number of them, and put them all to flight; and some of them he shut up within the city, and others within the outward rampart. In the mean time, Antigonus desired that Pacorus might be admitted to be a reconciler between them; and Phasaelus was prevailed upon to admit the Parthian into the city with five hundred horse, and to treat him in an hospitable manner, who pretended that he came to quell the tumult, but in reality he came to assist Antigonus; however, he laid a plot for Phasaelus, and persuaded him to go as an ambassador to Barzapharnes, in order to put an end to the war, although Herod was very earnest with him to the contrary, and exhorted him to kill the plotter, but not expose himself to the snares he had laid for him, because the barbarians are naturally perfidious. However, Pacorus went out and took Hyrcanus with him, that he might be the less suspected; he also 19 left some of the horsemen, called the Freemen, with Herod, and conducted Phasaelus with the rest.

     4. But now, when they were come to Galilee, they found that the people of that country had revolted, and were in arms, who came very cunningly to their leader, and besought him to conceal his treacherous intentions by an obliging behavior to them; accordingly, he at first made them presents; and afterward, as they went away, laid ambushes for them; and when they were come to one of the maritime cities called Ecdippon, they perceived that a plot was laid for them; for they were there informed of the promise of a thousand talents, and how Antigonus had devoted the greatest number of the women that were there with them, among the five hundred, to the Parthians; they also perceived that an ambush was always laid for them by the barbarians in the night time; they had also been seized on before this, unless they had waited for the seizure of Herod first at Jerusalem, because if he were once informed of this treachery of theirs, he would take care of himself; nor was this a mere report, but they saw the guards already not far off them.

     5. Nor would Phasaelus think of forsaking Hyrcanus and flying away, although Ophellius earnestly persuaded him to it; for this man had learned the whole scheme of the plot from Saramalla, the richest of all the Syrians. But Phasaelus went up to the Parfilian governor, and reproached him to his face for laying this treacherous plot against them, and chiefly because he had done it for money; and he promised him that he would give him more money for their preservation, than Antigonus had promised to give for the kingdom. But the sly Parthian endeavored to remove all this suspicion by apologies and by oaths, and then went [to the other] Pacorus; immediately after which those Parthians who were left, and had it in charge, seized upon Phasaelus and Hyrcanus, who could do no more than curse their perfidiousness and their perjury.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 18:16-17
     by D.H. Stern

16     A person’s gift clears his way
and gives him access to the great.

17     The first to state his case seems right,
till the other one comes and cross-examines.


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

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The never-failing God

     For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. ---
Hebrews 13:5.

     What line does my thought take? Does it turn to what God says or to what I fear? Am I learning to say not what God says, but to say something after I have heard what He says? "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

     "I will in no wise fail thee"—not for all my sin and selfishness and stubbornness and waywardness. Have I really let God say to me that He will never fail me? If I have listened to this say-so of God's, then let me listen again.

     "Neither will I in any wise forsake thee." Sometimes it is not difficulty that makes me think God will forsake me, but drudgery. There is no Hill Difficulty to climb, no vision given, nothing wonderful or beautiful, just the commonplace day in and day out—can I hear God's say-so in these things?

     We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute. If we have God's say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways.


My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

Female
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


               Female

It was the other way round:
God waved his slow wand
And the creature became a woman,
Imperceptibly, retaining its body,
Nose, brow, lips, eyes,
And the face that was like a flower
On the neck's stem. The man turned to her
Crazy with the crushed smell
Of her hair; and her eyes warned him
To keep off. And she spoke to him with the voice
Of his own conscience, and rippled there
In the shade. So he put his hands
To his face, while her forked laughter
Played on him, and his leaves fell
Silently round him, and he hung there
On himself, waiting for the God to see.


H'm

Opening up Psalms
     Psalm 73

     Written by Asaph, a Levite musician appointed by David to serve in the tabernacle (1 Chron. 6:31–32, 39), this psalm deals with a problem that is just as up to date as when it was written, namely, the problem of the wicked flourishing while the righteous languish.

     The Prosperity Of The Wicked

     "Asaph says the wicked ‘are not in trouble as other men; nor are they plagued like other men’ (v.
5). It seemed to him that the wicked did not struggle in life. He says, ‘They have more than heart could wish’ (v. 7). And they did not even appear to struggle in death. Asaph notes that there were ‘no pangs in their death; but their strength is firm’ (v. 4).

     Perhaps most disconcerting to Asaph was the attitude of the wicked in all of this. One would at least expect them to realize something of the degree of their blessing and to show a smidgen of gratitude and a dash of humility. But such was not the case. They showed no appreciation for their blessings and no concern for those around them who were not so blessed. Instead, they went about brandishing pride as though it were a chain about their necks (v.
6). Further, they did not hesitate to speak ‘loftily’ (v. 8). Instead of thanking God for their tranquillity and affluence, they ‘set their mouth against the heavens’ (v. 9).

     The Difficulty Of The Righteous

     Asaph would have been satisfied if he had been able to see the people of God doing as well as the wicked. But he says that they were drinking all day and each day out of a full cup of affliction (vv.
10, 14).

     Caught in the vice of the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the righteous, Asaph finally gave way to this melancholy cry of despair: ‘Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence’ (v.
13). He had reached his lowest point.

     The Way Of Relief

     What Asaph refused to do

     Asaph refused to infect the people of God with his doubt and despair (v.
15). By writing this psalm, Asaph finally shared his despair with all future generations of believers, but only after he had worked through it. We might say he refrained from writing when he had only the first fourteen verses to write. He took up his pen only when he had the last fourteen verses.

     Our first conclusions regarding our problems are seldom our best, and if we quickly share those initial conclusions we may do considerable harm to the faith of others.

     What Asaph did

     Asaph says he ‘went into the sanctuary of God’ (v.
17). This was the decisive thing, the turning point, in this crisis. There he found what he needed.

     What was there about the house of God that helped Asaph? Was it the public reading of the Word of God? Was it the exposition of that Word? Was it something he heard in his conversation with other believers? It could have been one or more of these things. The important thing is that the answer came to him while he was engaged in the public worship of God.

     There in the Lord’s house, Asaph realized he had been content to look solely at the here and now. He had failed to consider all the facts. When he went to public worship, he began to think in terms of eternity. (The house of the Lord does have a wonderful way of bringing the eternal to bear upon the temporal.)

     As Asaph pondered the end of the wicked, he came to see that this is really the decisive thing. It is the end that makes the difference. It did not matter how happy and prosperous they appeared to be in this life. The immensely important matter was what lay ahead of them. Asaph began to understand that with all their care-free days and ways, the wicked were standing on a slippery slope and would ultimately be plunged into eternal destruction.

     Asaph’s experience should lead us to understand that the righteous on his worst day is far better off than the unrighteous on his best day.


Opening up Psalms (Opening up the Bible)

Opening up Psalms
     Psalm 77

     The first thing that we note about this psalm is that its author, Asaph, was a very unhappy man. In verse 2, he mentions the day of his trouble. In the same verse, he tells us that this trouble was so deep and serious that his soul refused to be comforted. In verse 3 he affirms that even the thought of God did not comfort him. He also describes himself as being ‘overwhelmed’ in that same verse.

     Verse
4 adds even more dark strokes to his description. His trouble was such that he could find no respite in sleep, and he found himself to be incapable of even talking about it. Most of us find relief from sharing our troubles with others, but Asaph could not even do this.

     "Why was he so deeply disturbed? It all came about from his considering the past (v.
5). And what was there about the past that caused him to be so despondent? Was there some glaring failure there? Surprisingly enough, the past was good. It was a time in which he had enjoyed ‘a song in the night’ (v. 6).

     This is puzzling. Why would a good past cause Asaph to be so exercised? And the answer is that it made him sharply conscious of how his present circumstances did not measure up. He could look at the past and see marvellous instances of God at work in his life and in the lives of those around him. But the present seemed to be utterly devoid of such instances. It was of such a nature that it appeared as if God had cast him off for ever (v.
7), had decided to be favourable no more (v. 7), had caused his mercy to cease for ever (v. 8), had failed to keep what he had promised
(v.
8), had forgotten to be gracious (v. 9) and had, in anger, locked up all his tender mercies and thrown away the key
(v.
9).

     The good news is that Asaph did not continue in his distress. In verse
10 he turns the corner and begins to come out of his misery and woe. As he reflected on the past, he began to realize that he had been looking at it in the wrong way. Instead of letting past glory depress him, he should have been letting it bless him. The fact that God had worked mightily in the past meant there was hope for the future. The God of the past had not changed! He is the same God. No matter how great the darkness of present circumstances, it is not greater than God.

     There are two phrases in this
psalm that never fail to catch my eye. One is in verse 13 and the other in verse 19. In the former, we are told that God’s way is in the sanctuary. In the latter, we are told that his way is in the sea. We have a tendency to want to track God through the sea. We want to know why he does this and why he doesn’t do that. We should rather focus on seeking him in the sanctuary. In public worship, we can so meet God that we become satisfied with the fact that he is God. When we are satisfied with God as he is, we will find ourselves no longer troubled by what he does.

Opening up Psalms (Opening up the Bible)

Chapter 3
     Accommodating Quotations

     It has been contended that writers of the New Testament make use of the Old Testament in order to accommodate the latter to the circumstances about which they were writing, or to suit the prejudices of the age in which they lived. Modern criticism, for instance, which, as we have stated, gives evidence of an effort to eliminate the supernatural character of Old Testament predictions, supposes that Matthew, who constantly refers in his Gospel to prophecy as having been fulfilled, was merely making use of the Old Testament in an arbitrary manner, and that really the Scripture he quotes did not refer to circumstances in the life and death of Christ as he states they did. For example, when Matthew states that the sojourn of Joseph and Mary to Egypt took place that the prophecy might be fulfilled “Out of Egypt have I called my son,” a Higher Critical Commentator remarks, “It looks as if Matthew made the incident fit the quotation.” If that were so, Matthew, instead of writing by divine inspiration, was under a misapprehension. The critic overlooks the fact that to accommodate Old Testament prophecies to incidents, in such a way as to carry conviction of the fulfillment of prophecy to those who were not easily to be convinced, would be far more incredible than that the incident should be the fulfillment of prophecy.

     As to the passage in
Matthew 2:15, there are many evidences in the New Testament that Christ takes up the history of Israel afresh ideally in His own Person, and embodied in Himself the fulfillment of much which that history foreshadowed. For instance, Israel is described in Isaiah 5:1–7 as the Vine brought out of Egypt, and Christ describes Himself as the true Vine (John 15:1). In
Isaiah 41:8, 9, Israel is the servant of Jehovah; in chapter 42 Messiah is so described. So again, while Israel is spoken of as God’s Son (Ex. 4:22, 23), in the New Testament the Son is Christ. In each case Christ is the “true,” the real, Vine, Servant, Son.

     "Everything goes to show that Matthew found in the past history of Israel, as referred to by Hosea, a prophetic import which had its fulfillment in the sojourn of Christ as a child in Egypt. There is certainly nothing in Matthew’s use of the passage from
Hosea, nor in any other of his quotations, that is inconsistent with divine inspiration. To consider him as having made an incident fit the quotation is an unwarranted assumption.

     If we were to look at the matter from the purely naturalistic point of view we might see in Matthew’s quotation nothing more than that he found certain words in
Hosea and appropriated them to Christ. But we cannot both accept the evidences of Scripture and adopt the naturalistic view.

     The suggestion has been made that Matthew, finding certain words in
Hosea, appropriated them to this use in the Gospel. We must judge of this in the light of the testimony of Scripture. Hosea himself was no doubt thinking of the historical event of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Now Scripture shows that in many cases the history of Israel was prophetically illustrative of future events. Paul states that certain things happened to Israel by way of example and were written for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:1–11). He shows again that there is far more in the history of the sons of Abraham than what would be gathered by the reader from the record in Genesis (Gal. 4:21–31). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear that the history of Melchizedek foreshadowed details of the priesthood of Christ, and conveyed teachings far beyond the mere statements of fact in the Genesis narrative. These are only a few of many instances showing that in the conception of the writers of the New Testament there was a wider range of meaning in Old Testament narratives than what could have been apprehended by the Old Testament writers themselves. At the same time there are intimations in the Old Testament that the writers, at all events in some cases, had this wider significance in view. Thus the writer of
Psalm 78 says, “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old: which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” Now what the Psalmist writes about consists of a simple narrative of events which took place in the history of Israel from the time of the Exodus till the reign of David, and he describes this history as “a parable” and speaks of himself as uttering dark sayings. This suggests that there was something more than history in what he was about to narrate.

     To this must be added Peter’s statement that Old Testament prophets searched into their own writings regarding events of the future which formed the subject of their testimony (
1 Pet. 1:10–12).

The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine- 5 Volume Set Complete

God As Host
     Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

     The Bible’s picture of God as a host is rooted in the actions of human hosts: as a divine host, God performs the same activities as human hosts do. The context for the biblical image of God as host is the extreme value that the ancient world placed on the obligations of hosts to their guests. The ancient Greeks made hospitality a mark of civilization itself, the Romans made it a sacred obligation, and the Hebrews evolved an elaborate code of hospitality in response to the conditions of nomadic life, where travel required a different type of accommodation from a stationary inn. Human hosts offered their guests protection, lodging and food. The actions of God that are described by the metaphor of the host follow the same pattern, with references to the provision of food being most numerous. The discussion that follows limits its focus to passages where God extends beneficence to his creatures, often issuing an invitation or command to accept the provision in such a way as to suggest the actions of a host.

     Physical Provision. God’s extension of food to his creatures begins with the creation of the world. The climax of
Genesis 1 is God’s statement that to all animals of the earth he has “given every green plant for food”
(
Gen 1:30 RSV). Later OT references picture God as a host who provides for animals (Ps 104:27–28; Job 38:39–41). But of course it is the human creature that is usually pictured as the recipient of God’s provision of food.

     Such provision begins in the garden.
Genesis 2 is governed by the motif of God’s wonderful provision for the human race, and the content of that provision is partly what a host provides-a secure and attractive place in which to live and rest, food and companionship. The first words that God speaks to Adam are “You may freely eat [or, more strongly, you shall eat] of every tree of the garden” (Gen 2:16 RSV).

     The metaphor of God as host is not overtly stated in the story of the exodus, but it is evoked as we read. With the nation of Israel utterly dependent on God for its survival in the wilderness, God provides both protection and food. Notable instances are manna and water from the rock
(
Ex 17:1–7), as well quail (Ex 16). Although the writer of Exodus does not use the image of God as host, the retrospective reflection of the psalmist comes closer to doing so: Psalm 78:19 pictures God as spreading a table in the wilderness, and Psalm 105:39–41 is even more specific in its references to hosting:

     He spread a cloud for a covering,
     and fire to give light by night.
     They asked, and he brought quails,
     and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
     He opened the rock, and water gushed forth;
     it flowed through the desert like a river. (RSV)

     This experience of special provision in the wilderness, however, was preparatory for life in the Promised Land, which typically carries the description land flowing with milk and honey (twenty times). Hardly limited to the abundance of cattle, goats and bees, this phrase pictures the whole experience of living in the Promised Land as eating a rich banquet from God’s own table (
Deut 6:3).

     The climax of OT references to God as host is without doubt
Psalm 23. This poem begins by comparing God’s provision to that of a shepherd for his sheep, but already here the provisions thus metaphorically portrayed remind one of what a human host provides for a guest. In the last two verses of the Psalm, moreover, the imagery becomes that of the host-guest relationship, with references to preparing a table, anointing a head for purposes of refreshment, providing an overflowing cup and dwelling in a house.

     In the NT Jesus is a literal host on several recorded occasions. He turned water into wine to keep festivities going at a wedding party (
Jn 2:1–10). Twice he miraculously fed thousands of people (Mt 14:15–21; 15:32–38), and he taught that he himself was the bread of life, the true manna sent from heaven (Jn 6:30–51). After his resurrection he served bread to disciples from Emmaus (Lk 24:30) and prepared a breakfast of bread and fish for Peter and the other disciples (Jn 21:9–14).

     Sacred Meals. Among the five offerings of the sacrificial system, the peace offering is unique in that the priest would burn a portion of it on the altar “as food” for the Lord
(
Lev 3:11, 16). The name of this particular offering is related to the Hebrew word for peace and well-being. These offerings were made in response to a vow or voluntarily, as well as in response to answered prayer (Lev 7:11, 16). At the heart of the ritual was a meal of celebration to be shared together by those who brought the sacrifice, the priests and the Lord. This communion prefigures the fellowship that Christians enjoy with Christ, who gives them his “flesh” and “blood” to consume (Jn 6:53–58).

     The fulfillment of this prefiguring sacrifice is the Lord’s Supper, instituted by Jesus. Here, surely, is the supreme instance of God as a host who provides the materials for a meal and invites people to participate. At the Last Supper itself (Mt 26:26–29) Jesus served his disciples bread and wine, using the host’s language of invitation: “Take, eat . . . drink of it.” The same terminology is picked up in the instructions for the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26. A leading motif that enters the picture at this point is the obligation of human guests to accept the divine host’s invitation.

     The Banquet of Salvation. The most numerous cluster of references to God as host are metaphoric ones in which the language of physical food and drink is used to portray spiritual salvation. The motif reaches back to the OT.
Isaiah portrays God as inviting people to help themselves free of charge to water, wine, milk and bread (Is 55:1–2) and as making “for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine” (Is 25:6 RSV). Equally evocative are the millennial pictures of the mountains dripping with wine and the hills flowing with milk (Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13). The composite picture evokes a sense of abundance, satisfaction and joyful celebration all made possible by the lavish generosity of God.

     The metaphoric feast of salvation to which God invites reaches its high point in parables and sayings of Jesus. One thinks at once of the parable of the banquet that God insists must be well attended (
Lk 14:15–24)—a parable occasioned by someone’s glib statement, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Lk 14:15). Twice we read about people who will “sit at table in the kingdom of heaven/God” (Mt 8:11; Lk 13:29), to which can be added Jesus’ statement about “those who have continued with me in my trials” being allowed to “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Lk 22:18–30). In the parable of the prodigal son, the forgiving father throws a lavish banquet to which he invites the neighborhood (Lk 15:22–24).

     Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that he can provide water that brings eternal life (
Jn 4:13–14) and invites the thirsty to come and drink from him (Jn 7:37–39). In washing the disciples’ feet Jesus performs a host’s function (Jn 13:1–17). In an eschatological saying Jesus compares the coming day to a marriage feast, picturing the reward of “those servants whom the master finds awake” as having the master “gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them” (Lk 12:36–37 RSV).

     As some of these passages show, it is impossible to separate the eschatological references from references to salvation. The heavenly banquet begins on earth at the moment of belief in Christ as savior, and it is consummated in a coming heavenly kingdom. The book of
Revelation brings the eschatological references to their culmination, with its pictures of a celestial “marriage supper of the Lamb,” to which the redeemed are invited (Rev 19:9), and an invitation to anyone who is thirsty to “take the water of life without price” (Rev 22:17).

     Summary. Throughout the Bible, God is clearly the one who provides food for all life. Beyond this comprehensive care for creation, God issues an invitation to enjoy the benefits of redemption that are often poetically depicted in terms of abundant food or a banquet. Actual food is a tangible blessing and is sometimes provided by miracles that reveal a facet of God’s nature, but words for food also stand as metaphors of the good life God grants to his own people. The fellowship and rich provision lost in Eden is fully restored only in the New Jerusalem, but the present experience of God’s goodness sustains his people who live according to the promise of a happy future.


Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

Surprising Texts
     from the Late Second Temple Period
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     Judges

     The oldest manuscript of the book of Judges (4QJudga), dating from about 50–25 B.C.E., survives in but a single small fragment. It contains
Judg. 6:2–6 followed directly by vv. 11–13. It lacks 6:7–10, a separate unit whose style differs from the preceding and following verses and appears to be a later theological insertion. Thus, again, the Qumran text of Judges exhibits an early, short form of Judges 6, and the MT has a secondary, theologically expanded version.

     
Samuel

     4QSama, dating from near the mid-first century B.C.E., contains a form of text that included a complete paragraph that is not present in the MT, the LXX, or any other extant version. It narrates the oppression by Nahash the Ammonite that introduces the material now found in
1 Sam. 11:1 in the MT and other texts. The fragment itself contains a case of a scribal skip of the eye (parablepsis), which lends support to the probability that the passage was lost in the MT tradition through the same kind of error. Parallel to Josephus’ agreement with 4QJosha, he also shows he used a text of Samuel like 4QSama, since he also narrates the content, details, and wording of that otherwise lost paragraph
(Ant. 6.68–69).

     
Isaiah

     The Great
Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) was the first and most dramatic biblical manuscript to gain widespread fame. Especially because the text displays multifaceted disagreement with the traditional MT, the assumption was made that it was a Qumran text of Isaiah, that is, that its unusual features were specifically due to the “sect” that lived at Qumran and copied it there. A second Isaiah scroll (1QIsab) was also found in Cave 1 and by contrast was nearly identical with the MT. It did indeed show that the medieval MT of Isaiah had been copied with great accuracy over the intervening thousand years. But whereas the two scrolls were first categorized as one authentic text and one “vulgar” Qumran text, in fact they demonstrated—though scholars could not yet realize it—the two principal lessons for the biblical text from the new discoveries. The MT is, for the most part, an accurate copy of some ancient text for each book; but importantly, there were also valuable variant editions of many books in antiquity that had been lost, discarded, or rejected. Though the linguistic and orthographic profile of 1QIsaa is generally secondary to that of the MT, its textual profile is earlier in numerous cases. 1QIsaa demonstrates that the MT displays a recurring pattern of a sentence or more added to the text; in seven instances the MT inserts secondary expansions of up to four verses where 1QIsaa preserves the earlier short text.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 4

     “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).
--- John 1:42. NKJV

     I [can] not discover a more beautiful illustration of the charity and hopefulness of our blessed Lord than I find in his first words to Peter. (Classic RS Thomas on the Apostle Peter (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series)) For when Simon came to him that day he was anything but a rock. He was a man of sand that day and for many a day after that. It took a lifetime to turn Simon into Peter—to turn the man of sand into the man of rock.

     It is the man of sand who ran away in the garden and who denied Christ. But in the book of the Acts, on the day of Pentecost, at the temple gate called Beautiful, before the Sanhedrin—he is Peter, the Rock.

     And this first I get from Simon Peter’s history: a new and subduing idea of the forgiving grace of Christ. Friends may cast you off, parents may disown you, but there is mercy with Jesus Christ. Men and women laden with iniquities, sinning and sinning and sinning again, I know of One who has not despaired of you; I know of One whose patience has not failed. Come to Peter’s Savior.

     And this second thing I learn from Peter’s story. I get a new idea of the restoring power of Christ. To turn Simon—the unstable, unreliable, vacillating Simon—into a rock! What a work was that! There is not a person, however wicked and broken and helpless, that Jesus cannot restore.

     And Peter’s chief virtue, his saving grace, was his love. Peter loved the Lord with all the strength of his eager, impetuous heart. It was love that made him leave all and follow him at the first. It was mistaken love—but still love—that would have saved Christ from the Via Dolorosa. It was love that made him say at the supper, in his own impulsive way, “You shall never wash my feet,” and then, when he knew what the act signified, “Not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Yes, whatever charges may be brought against Peter, this at any rate may be said in his favor: he loved his Lord with a deep, passionate, enthusiastic love.

     Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Can you say as did Peter, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you”? Then blessed are you and when you leave this earth the gates of the city will open to welcome you and the trumpets will sound for you on the other side.
---J. D. Jones


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

On This Day
     Wireless Witness  June 4

     Invisible beams of evangelism flash day and night across sky and sea, penetrating nations and hearts where missionaries cannot go. Such are the shortwave ministries of ventures like HCJB, TransWorld Radio, and Far East Broadcasting Company.

     The FEBC began in 1945 when three Christians pooled their resources and formed a nonprofit corporation to broadcast the Gospel through the Orient. One of the men, John Broger, set out for Shanghai searching for a spot for a transmitter. He sailed to Manila to explore the possibility of locating the transmitter in the Philippines.

     While completing paperwork for the Philippine government, Broger requested permission for 10,000 watts. Imagine his thrill when officials marked out the amount and wrote: “Unlimited Power.”

     But the Philippine government insisted the station go on the air by June 4 or not at all. Meanwhile in the U.hair., the founders frantically tried to raise funds as bills came due. One delay after another tore at the project, but government officials refused to extend the timetable. Nail-biting difficulties arose, and three days before the deadline, transmission problems developed. When June 4 dawned, high-voltage wires crisscrossed the station and workers stepped through ankle-deep water from heavy rains. Broger rushed downtown to make a final plea for an extension. He was refused.

     He had no choice but to rush back through cart-congested streets, weaving through traffic jams, racing against the clock. He came to a screeching halt in front of the station, rushed in and shouted, “We’ll test on the air.” The switch was flipped, the transmitters hummed with power, and the winded staff began singing All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. It was 6 P.M., June 4, 1948, and FEBC was on the air. Almost immediately reports arrived of barbers, atheists, thieves, housewives, and teenagers being saved. Today FEBC is still on the air, serving every country in Asia with local and/or international services in more than 150 languages.

     Praise God! He can make you strong by means of my good news, which is the message about Jesus Christ. For ages and ages this message was kept secret, but now at last it has been told. … And now, because of Jesus Christ, we can praise the only wise God forever! Amen.
--- Romans 16:25,27.


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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 4

     “The kindness and love of God our Saviour.” --- Titus 3:4.

     How sweet it is to behold the Saviour communing with his own beloved people! There can be nothing more delightful than, by the Divine Spirit, to be led into this fertile field of delight. Let the mind for an instant consider the history of the Redeemer’s love, and a thousand enchanting acts of affection will suggest themselves, all of which have had for their design the weaving of the heart into Christ, and the intertwisting of the thoughts and emotions of the renewed soul with the mind of Jesus. When we meditate upon this amazing love, and behold the all-glorious Kinsman of the Church endowing her with all his ancient wealth, our souls may well faint for joy. Who is he that can endure such a weight of love? That partial sense of it which the Holy Spirit is sometimes pleased to afford, is more than the soul can contain; how transporting must be a complete view of it! When the soul shall have understanding to discern all the Saviour’s gifts, wisdom wherewith to estimate them, and time in which to meditate upon them, such as the world to come will afford us, we shall then commune with Jesus in a nearer manner than at present. But who can imagine the sweetness of such fellowship? It must be one of the things which have not entered into the heart of man, but which God hath prepared for them that love him. Oh, to burst open the door of our Joseph’s granaries, and see the plenty which he hath stored up for us! This will overwhelm us with love. By faith we see, as in a glass darkly, the reflected image of his unbounded treasures, but when we shall actually see the heavenly things themselves, with our own eyes, how deep will be the stream of fellowship in which our soul shall bathe itself! Till then our loudest sonnets shall be reserved for our loving benefactor, Jesus Christ our Lord, whose love to us is wonderful, passing the love of women.


          Evening - June 4

     “Received up into glory.” --- 1 Timothy 3:16.

     We have seen our well-beloved Lord in the days of his flesh, humiliated and sore vexed; for he was “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He whose brightness is as the Morning, wore the sackcloth of sorrow as his daily dress: shame was his mantle, and reproach was his vesture. Yet now, inasmuch as he has triumphed over all the powers of darkness upon the bloody tree, our faith beholds our King returning with dyed garments from Edom, robed in the splendour of victory. How glorious must he have been in the eyes of seraphs, when a cloud received him out of mortal sight, and he ascended up to heaven! Now he wears the glory which he had with God or ever the earth was, and yet another glory above all—that which he has well earned in the fight against sin, death, and hell. As victor he wears the illustrious crown. Hark how the song swells high! It is a new and sweeter song: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, for he hath redeemed us unto God by his blood!” He wears the glory of an Intercessor who can never fail, of a Prince who can never be defeated, of a Conqueror who has vanquished every foe, of a Lord who has the heart’s allegiance of every subject. Jesus wears all the glory which the pomp of heaven can bestow upon him, which ten thousand times ten thousand angels can minister to him. You cannot with your utmost stretch of imagination conceive his exceeding greatness; yet there will be a further revelation of it when he shall descend from heaven in great power, with all the holy angels—“Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” Oh, the splendour of that glory! It will ravish his people’s hearts. Nor is this the close, for eternity shall sound his praise, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever!” Reader, if you would joy in Christ’s glory hereafter, he must be glorious in your sight now. Is he so?

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 4

          GRACE! ’TIS A CHARMING SOUND

     Philip Doddridge, 1702–1751 (verses 1, 3)

     Augustus Toplady, 1740–1778 (verses 2, 4, 5)

     For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

     “Jesus died for all mankind”—every race and nation—and yet, He “died for me.” And now the benefits of that death, a personal salvation and restored fellowship with Almighty God, are available to all who respond in faith and appropriate that truth. With the author of this hymn we cry out with heartfelt gratitude, “Saved by grace alone! This is all my plea.”

     Grace is the gift of God freely given to those who never deserved it. No merit or goodness precedes the forgiving love of God. Not only does God’s grace relate to our eternal redemption, but it is a divine provision for our every daily need—spiritual, material, emotional, and physical.

     “Grace ! ’Tis a Charming Sound” is the work of two well-known 18th century English ministers, Philip Doddridge and Augustus Toplady. Doddridge was known as a man of great ability and learning, authoring almost 400 hymns. Toplady was known for his strong Calvinistic convictions. Although he was converted as a young man through the influence of John Wesley and his Methodist followers, Augustus Toplady in later life became an ardent critic of the Wesleys and their Arminian or “free will” theology. Yet today Toplady is best remembered for his hymns such as this and “Rock of Ages,” which transcend such theological barriers.

     Grace! tis a charming sound, harmonious to the ear; Heav’n with the echo shall resound and all the earth shall hear.

     ’Twas grace that wrote my name in life’s eternal book; ’twas grace that gave me to the Lamb, who all my sorrows took.

     Grace taught my wand’ring feet to tread the heav’nly road; and new supplies each hour I meet, while pressing on to God.

     Grace taught my soul to pray, and made mine eyes o’er-flow; ’twas grace which kept me to this day, and will not let me go.

     O let Thy grace inspire my soul with strength divine; may all my pow’rs to Thee aspire, and all my days be Thine.

     Chorus: Saved by grace alone! This is all my plea; Jesus died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me.


     For Today: Acts 15:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Peter 5:10.

     Go forth joyfully with this musical testimony ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. XLV. — DO you see, friend Erasmus, that by this definition, you (though unwittingly I presume,) betray yourself, and make it manifest that you either know nothing of these things whatever, or that, without any consideration, and in a mere air of contempt, you write upon the subject, not knowing what you say nor whereof you affirm? And as I said before, you say less about, and attribute more to “Free-will,” than all others put together; for you do not describe the whole of “Free-will,” and yet you assign unto it all things. The opinion of the Sophists, or at least of the father of them, Peter Lombard, is far more tolerable: he says, ‘“Free-will” is the faculty of discerning, and then choosing also good, if with grace, but evil if grace be wanting.’ He plainly agrees in sentiment with Augustine, that ‘“Freewill,” of its own power, cannot do any thing but fall, nor avail unto any thing but to sin.’ Wherefore Augustine also, Book ii., against Julian, calls “Free-will” ‘under bondage,’ rather than ‘free.’ — But you make the power of “Free-will” equal in both respects: that it can, by its own power, without grace, both apply itself unto good, and turn itself from evil. For you do not imagine how much you assign unto it, by this pronoun itself, and by itself, when you say ‘can apply itself:’ for you utterly exclude the Holy Spirit with all His power, as a thing superfluous and unnecessary. Your definition, therefore, is condemnable even by the Sophists; who, were they not so blinded by hatred and fury against me, would be enraged at your book rather than at mine. But now, as your intent is to oppose Luther, all that you say is holy and catholic, even though you speak against both yourself and them, — so great is the patience of holy men!

     Not that I say this, as approving the sentiments of the Sophists concerning “Free-will,” but because I consider them more tolerable, for they approach nearer to the truth. For though they do not say, as I do, that “Free-will” is nothing at all, yet since they say that it can of itself do nothing without grace, they militate against Erasmus, nay, they seem to militate against themselves, and to be tossed to and fro in a mere quarrel of words, being more earnest for contention than for the truth, which is just as Sophists should be. But now, let us suppose that a Sophist of no mean rank were brought before me, with whom I could speak upon these things apart, in familiar conversation, and should ask him for his liberal and candid judgment in this way: — ‘If any one should tell you, that that was free, which of its own power could only go one way, that is, the bad way, and which could go the other way indeed, that is, the right way, but not by its own power, nay, only by the help of another — could you refrain from laughing in his face, my friend?’ — For in this way, I will make it appear, that a stone, or a log of wood has “Freewill,” because it can go upwards and downwards; although, by its own power, it can go only downwards, but can go upwards only by the help of another. And, as I said before, by meaning at the same time the thing itself, and also something else which may be joined with it or added to it, I will say, consistently with the use of all words and languages — all men are no man, and all things are nothing!

     Thus, by a multiplicity of argumentation, they at last make “Free-will,” free by accident; as being that, which may at some time be set free by another. But our point in dispute is concerning the thing itself, concerning the reality of “Free-will.” If this be what is to be solved, there now remains nothing, let them say what they will, but the empty name of “Free-will.”

     The Sophists are deficient also in this — they assign to “Free-will,” the power of discerning good from evil. Moreover, they set light by regeneration, and the renewing of the Spirit, and give that other external aid, as it were, to “Freewill:” but of this hereafter. — Let this be sufficient concerning the definition. Now let us look into the arguments that are to exalt this empty thing of a TERM.


The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library



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