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Exodus 27     John 6     Proverbs 3     Galatians 2

Exodus 27

The Bronze Altar

Exodus 27:1  “You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. 2 And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5 And you shall set it under the ledge of the altar so that the net extends halfway down the altar. 6 And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8 You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made.

The Court of the Tabernacle

9 “You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side the court shall have hangings of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. 10 Its twenty pillars and their twenty bases shall be of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 11 And likewise for its length on the north side there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, its pillars twenty and their bases twenty, of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side there shall be hangings for fifty cubits, with ten pillars and ten bases. 13 The breadth of the court on the front to the east shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 On the other side the hangings shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 16 For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. It shall have four pillars and with them four bases. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be filleted with silver. Their hooks shall be of silver, and their bases of bronze. 18 The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, the breadth fifty, and the height five cubits, with hangings of fine twined linen and bases of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle for every use, and all its pegs and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.

Oil for the Lamp

20 “You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.

John 6

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

John 6:1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

6:3 Jesus went up on the mountain. This detail may be intended to suggest a comparison of Jesus and Moses, who went up on Mount Sinai.
6:5–15 The feeding of the five thousand. Jesus brings food to a multitude, as Moses did in the wilderness (Num. 11).
6:5 that these may eat. Reminiscent of Num. 11:13, where Moses asks God a similar question.
6:7 Two hundred denarii. A denarius was about one day’s wage (Matt. 20:2).
6:10 five thousand. The figure does not include women and children (Matt. 14:21; cf. 2 Kin. 4:42–44).
6:14 the Prophet. That is, the Prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15).  ESV Reformation Study Bible
15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Jesus Walks on Water

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

I Am the Bread of Life

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

Proverbs 3

Trust in the LORD with All Your Heart

Proverbs 3:1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2  for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

3  Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4  So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.

5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6  In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7  Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
8  It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

9  Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10  then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.

11  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12  for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.

Blessed Is the One Who Finds Wisdom

13  Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
14  for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
15  She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16  Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17  Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18  She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.

19  The LORD by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
20  by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.

21  My son, do not lose sight of these—
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22  and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
23  Then you will walk on your way securely,
and your foot will not stumble.
24  If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25  Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
26  for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
27  Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.

28  Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
29  Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you.
30  Do not contend with a man for no reason,
when he has done you no harm.
31  Do not envy a man of violence
and do not choose any of his ways,
32  for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD,
but the upright are in his confidence.
33  The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34  Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he gives favor.
35  The wise will inherit honor,
but fools get disgrace.

Galatians 2

Paul Accepted by the Apostles

Galatians 2:1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Paul Opposes Peter

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Justified by Faith

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Why It’s Important to Inoculate (Rather Than Isolate) Our Young People

By J. Warner Wallace 3/8/2017

     One Sunday, after the morning church service, I picked my daughter up from the youth ministry where she was still visiting with her pastor, his wife and their two baby daughters. The twins were five months old and were sleeping peacefully in their strollers, even though the room was filled with activity. Students were running back and forth, laughing with one another and playing the worship instruments on the stage. Music was blaring through the PA system and one student was even pounding on the drum set. Through all of this, the babies seemed undeterred. They slept as though they were nestled in the corner of a quiet library. Their mother, Rachael, noticed my interest and said, “Don’t worry about them, they can sleep through anything, they’ve been in this group since the day they were born. They’re used to the noise.” I struck me that Rachael’s babies were a great example of our need to inoculate Christian students rather than isolate them from the noise of our culture.

     As a parent of teens, a former youth pastor and now a Christian Case Maker, I’ve given this issue a lot of thought over the years, especially after my first year as a youth leader. In my early years in youth ministry, I witnessed the spiritual exodus of many of my students once they graduated from our youth group. I had to make a decision about my strategy going forward. How could I best prepare young people to face the challenges of the secular culture? Should I equip them with strategies to isolate themselves from the influences they would ultimately face, or would it be better to expose them to the cultural challenges from the onset? Should we encourage isolation or embrace inoculation? I think you probably know my preference. Youth pastors need to think of themselves as “inoculators”; we possess the one true cure that can protect our students from the hazards of the culture. Have we been preparing them in our ministries or simply pacifying them? If we want to move from “entertaining” to “intentional training,” we’re going to need to become good inoculators:

     Inoculations are created from small quantities of the virus we are trying to treat. We expose patients to the virus in a limited, controlled way to allow their immune systems to develop the antibodies necessary to fight the virus should they encounter it more robustly in the future. If we are trying to help students resist the lies of the culture, we’re going to need to prepare an inoculation that exposes them to the secular worldview.

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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:

Cold Case Christianity

Eric Chabot - Southern Evangelical Seminary, M.A. Religious Studies 2010 - Cross Examined, Apologetics Instructors Academy, Graduate 2008 - Messianic Studies Institute, Scholars Symposium, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 - Memberships: The Evangelical Philosophical Society

5 Reasons To Believe Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John Wrote The Gospels

By Brian Chilton 3/7/2017

     The Four Gospels are the primary documents that describe the life and teachings of Jesus. Traditionally since the earliest times of the church, the Evangelists[1] have been ascribed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Modern critical scholarship has been more critical of the traditional authors.

     Many scholars will claim either that the Gospels were pieced together by various writers, or that the writings were pseudonymous but given the names of the Four Evangelists to propel their apostolic authority.

     Despite the cynicism of critical scholarship, good reasons exist to hold to the traditional view of authorship for the four canonical Gospels (that is, that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the Four Evangelists). This article will provide five such reasons.

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Pastor Brian Chilton is a graduate of Liberty University School of Divinity in 2015 with a Master of Divinity in Theological Studies. He is also a graduate of Gardner-Webb University with a Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy in 2011. Graduate of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in 1998 with an Associate in Religion/Church Ministry. He has also earned from Biola University the Certificate in Christian Apologetics in 2016. Beginning in early 2000, Pastor Brian left the ministry for 7 years and nearly became an agnostic due to doubts pertaining to the reliability of the Bible and the hypocritical behavior by some Christians that he knew. He came back to a strong, vibrant faith after encountering Josh McDowell’s book The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Evidence I & II Fully Updated in One Volume To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians in the 21st Century. and Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ Graduate Edition: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Case for ... Series for Students).

Isn’t there Slave Brutality in the Old Testament?

By Matthew Tingblad 3/6/2017

     I got an email from a student asking about something his humanities professor said. Apparently, this professor told his class that the Bible says you can beat your slave within an inch of his life and remain innocent as long as he doesn’t die within 48 hours. The student was rather troubled by this statement, and rightfully so.

     A Bible citation for this claim was never given. But I suspect the professor was referencing Exodus 21:20-21: “If a man beats his male or female slave with a club and the slave dies as a result, the owner must be punished. But if the slave recovers within a day or two, then the owner shall not be punished, since the slave is his property.”

     The text does not say “you can beat your slave to within an inch of his life.” It says “If you beat a slave…” So to say that the text endorses slave brutality is a very morbid and twisted way to look at it. We must be careful not to nuance this passage in a way that was never intended.

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Matthew is a former intern for Cru campus ministry in the Fargo/Moorhead area and traveling intern for Josh McDowell who is now attending Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in California. Matt enjoys speaking and writing on apologetics, identity, evangelism, and many other topics.

The Religious Roots of the Wilderness Act

By Michael Schulson 9/2/2014

     When Howard Zahniser was drafting the Wilderness Act—which marks its 50th anniversary today—he confided to a colleague that he wished he were writing poetry instead. “If I had to do this again,” he wrote, “I would much prefer to state all this in iambic rhyming couplets or even in the sequence of sonnets.”

     Zahniser drafted his bill in prose, of course, and its details, at least initially, seem prosaic. The Wilderness Act bans all kinds of motors, roads, and permanent structures from large tracts of American territory. It provides a legal definition of wilderness, as land that’s “untrammeled by man” with a “primeval character and influence.” Over the last half-century, the federal government has used the Act to preserve more than 100 million acres of land. It may be the most comprehensive, stringent land protection bill in legislative history.

     We take it for granted that wild, inhuman areas are beautiful, uplifting, and worthy of protection; that the natural is superior to the artificial; and that something pristine and untouched by human hands is better than something that’s been touched by human interference.

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     Michael Schulson is a freelance journalist covering religion, science, and technology. He lives in Durham, N.C.

2 Things to Know About Killing Sin

By Tim Challies 3/15/2012

     This is my once-monthly post on the Puritan John Owen. In this series of posts I am sharing some of what John Owen says about putting sin to death, or what he calls mortification. I have been going through John Owen’s book Overcoming Sin and Temptation and trying to distill each chapter to its essence—to a few choice quotes that capture the flavor of what Owen is trying to communicate.

     So far we’ve looked at The Foundation of Mortification, we’ve been encouraged to Daily Put Sin to Death, to understand that It Is the Holy Spirit Who Puts Sin to Death and to acknowledge that Your Spiritual Life Depends Upon Killing Sin. Then we saw What It Is Not to Put Sin to Death and What It Is to Put Sin to Death. He now moves on to the actual directions for how to put sin to death; first he deals with a couple of foundational issue (which is what I’m looking at today) and in the months that follow he’ll move on to very specific instructions.

     #1 – There Will Be No Mortification Unless a Man Be a Believer

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Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and have written five books:

I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 31

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
31 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
17 O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.

ESV Reformation Study

Exodus 27; John 6; Proverbs 3; Galatians 2

By Don Carson 3/16/2018

     Jesus declares himself to be “bread of life” (John 6:35), the “bread of God” (6:33).

     The language is metaphorical, of course. That is made clear by John 6:35, where the metaphor is unpacked just a little: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” One normally eats bread; one does not “come” to bread or “believe” in bread. Thus what Jesus means by eating this bread of life must be largely equivalent to what it means to come to Jesus and believe in him.

     This “bread of life discourse” (as it is called) follows the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-15). There Jesus provides bread and fish to the hungry masses. These were the staple foods of Galilee; he provided what was needed to sustain life. But in this gospel the evangelist points out that Jesus’ miracles are not mere events of power, they are significant: they point beyond themselves, like signs. This miracle points to the fact that Jesus not only provides bread, but rightly understood he is bread. He is the staple apart from which there is no real life at all.

     Further, he is the ultimate “manna” (6:30-33). His interlocutors remind him that Moses provided manna, “bread from heaven” (Ex. 16), and they want him to do the same. After all, he had done it the day before in the feeding of the five thousand. If Jesus has performed the miracle once, why not again — and again and again? Isn’t that what Moses did?

     But Jesus insists the ultimate source of the “bread from heaven” was not Moses but God, and the ultimate “bread from heaven” was not the manna of the wilderness years, but the One who came down from heaven — Jesus himself. After all, everyone who ate the manna in the wilderness died. Those who eat the ultimate bread from heaven, the antitype of the manna, never die.

     People in an agrarian culture understand that almost everything they eat is something that has died. We think of food as packaged things. The reality is that when you eat a hamburger, you are eating a dead cow, dead wheat, dead lettuce, dead tomatoes, dead onions, and so forth. The chief exception is the odd mineral, like salt. Jesus’ audience, and John’s readership, understood that other things die so that we may live; if those other things don’t die, we do. Jesus gives his life so that we may live; either he dies, or we do. He is the true bread from heaven who gives his life “for the life of the world” (6:51).

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

Don Carson Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     4. How maliciously they wrest the passage in which Paul says, that he supplies in his body that which was lacking in the sufferings of Christ! (Col. 1:24). That defect or supplement refers not to the work of redemption, satisfaction, or expiation, but to those afflictions with which the members of Christ, in other words, all believers, behave to be exercised, so long as they are in the flesh. He says, therefore, that part of the sufferings of Christ still remains--viz. that what he suffered in himself he daily suffers in his members. Christ so honors us as to regard and count our afflictions as his own. By the additional words--for the Church, Paul means not for the redemptions or reconciliations or satisfaction of the Church, but for edification and progress. As he elsewhere says, "I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10). He also writes to the Corinthians: "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer," (2 Cor. 1:6). In the same place he immediately explains his meaning by adding, that he was made a minister of the Church, not for redemption, but according to the dispensation which he received to preach the gospel of Christ. But if they still desire another interpreter, let them hear Augustine: "The sufferings of Christ are in Christ alone, as in the head; in Christ and the Church as in the whole body. Hence Paul, being one member says, I fill up in my body that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ.' Therefore O hearers whoever you be, if you are among the members of Christ, whatever you suffer from those who are not members of Christ, was lacking to the sufferings of Christ," (August. in Ps. 16). He elsewhere explains the end of the sufferings of the Apostles undertaken for Christ: "Christ is my door to you, because ye are the sheep of Christ purchased by his blood: acknowledge your price, which is not paid by me, but preached by me," (August. Tract. in Joann. 47). He afterwards adds, "As he laid down his life, so ought we to lay down our lives for the brethren, to build up peace and maintain faith." Thus far Augustine. Far be it from us to imagine that Paul thought any thing was wanting to the sufferings of Christ in regard to the complete fulness of righteousness, salvation, and life, or that he wished to make any addition to it, after showing so clearly and eloquently that the grace of Christ was poured out in such rich abundance as far to exceed all the power of sin (Rom. 5:15). All saints have been saved by it alone, not by the merit of their own life or death, as Peter distinctly testifies (Acts 15:11); so that it is an insult to God and his Anointed to place the worthiness of any saint in any thing save the mercy of God alone. But why dwell longer on this, as if the matter were obscure, when to mention these monstrous dogmas is to refute them?

5. Moreover, to say nothing of these abominations, who taught the Pope to enclose the grace of Jesus Christ in lead and parchment, grace which the Lord is pleased to dispense by the word of the Gospel? Undoubtedly either the Gospel of God or indulgences must be false. That Christ is offered to us in the Gospel with all the abundance of heavenly blessings, with all his merits, all his righteousness, wisdom, and grace, without exception, Paul bears witness when he says, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," (2 Cor. 5:20, 21). And what is meant by the fellowship (koinoni'a) of Christ, which according to the same Apostle (1 Cor. 1:9) is offered to us in the Gospel, all believers know. On the contrary, indulgences, bringing forth some portion of the grace of God from the armory of the Pope, fix it to lead, parchment, and a particular place, but dissever it from the word of God. When we inquire into the origin of this abuse, it appears to have arisen from this, that when in old times the satisfactions imposed on penitents were too severe to be borne, those who felt themselves burdened beyond measure by the penance imposed, petitioned the Church for relaxation. The remission so given was called indulgence. But as they transferred satisfactions to God, and called them compensations by which men redeem themselves from the justice of God, they in the same way transferred indulgences, representing them as expiatory remedies which free us from merited punishment. The blasphemies to which we have referred have been feigned with so much effrontery that there is not the least pretext for them.

6. Their purgatory cannot now give us much trouble, since with this ax we have struck it, thrown it down, and overturned it from its very foundations. I cannot agree with some who think that we ought to dissemble in this matter, and make no mention of purgatory, from which (as they say) fierce contests arise, and very little edification can be obtained. I myself would think it right to disregard their follies did they not tend to serious consequences. But since purgatory has been reared on many, and is daily propped up by new blasphemies; since it produces many grievous offenses, assuredly it is not to be connived at, however it might have been disguised for a time, that without any authority from the word of God, it was devised by prying audacious rashness, that credit was procured for it by fictitious revelations, the wiles of Satan, and that certain passages of Scripture were ignorantly wrested to its support. Although the Lord bears not that human presumption should thus force its way to the hidden recesses of his judgments; although he has issued a strict prohibition against neglecting his voice, and making inquiry at the dead (Deut. 18:11), and permits not his word to be so erroneously contaminated. Let us grant, however, that all this might have been tolerated for a time as a thing of no great moment; yet when the expiation of sins is sought elsewhere than in the blood of Christ, and satisfaction is transferred to others, silence were most perilous. We are bound, therefore, to raise our voice to its highest pitch, and cry aloud that purgatory is a deadly device of Satan; that it makes void the cross of Christ; that it offers intolerable insult to the divine mercy; that it undermines and overthrows our faith. For what is this purgatory but the satisfaction for sin paid after death by the souls of the dead? Hence when this idea of satisfaction is refuted, purgatory itself is forthwith completely overturned. [376] But if it is perfectly clear, from what was lately said, that the blood of Christ is the only satisfaction, expiation, and cleansing for the sins of believers, what remains but to hold that purgatory is mere blasphemy, horrid blasphemy against Christ? I say nothing of the sacrilege by which it is daily defended, the offenses which it begets in religion, and the other innumerable evils which we see teeming forth from that fountain of impiety.

7. Those passages of Scripture on which it is their wont falsely and iniquitously to fasten, it may be worth while to wrench out of their hands. [377] When the Lord declares that the sin against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven either in this world or the world to come, he thereby intimates (they say) that there is a remission of certain sins hereafter. But who sees not that the Lord there speaks of the guilt of sin? But if this is so, what has it to do with their purgatory, seeing they deny not that the guilt of those sins, the punishment of which is there expiated, is forgiven in the present life? Lest, however, they should still object, we shall give a plainer solution. Since it was the Lord's intention to cut off all hope of pardon from this flagitous wickedness, he did not consider it enough to say, that it would never be forgiven, but in the way of amplification employed a division by which he included both the judgment which every man's conscience pronounces in the present life, and the final judgment which will be publicly pronounced at the resurrection; as if he had said, Beware of this malignant rebellion, as you would of instant destruction; for he who of set purpose endeavors to extinguish the offered light of the Spirit, shall not obtain pardon either in this life, which has been given to sinners for conversion, or on the last day when the angels of God shall separate the sheep from the goats, and the heavenly kingdom shall be purged of all that offends. The next passage they produce is the parable in Matthew: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost earthing," (Mt. 5:25, 26). If in this passage the judge means God, the adversary the devil, the officer an angel, and the prison purgatory, I give in at once. But if every man sees that Christ there intended to show to how many perils and evils those expose themselves who obstinately insist on their utmost right, instead of being satisfied with what is fair and equitable, that he might thereby the more strongly exhort his followers to concord, where, I ask, are we to find their purgatory? [378]

8. They seek an argument in the passage in which Paul declares, that all things shall bow the knee to Christ, "things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth," (Phil. 2:10). They take it for granted, that by "things under the earth," cannot be meant those who are doomed to eternal damnation, and that the only remaining conclusion is, that they must be souls suffering in purgatory. They would not reason very ill if, by the bending of the knee, the Apostle designated true worship; but since he simply says that Christ has received a dominion to which all creatures are subject, what prevents us from understanding those "under the earth" to mean the devils, who shall certainly be sisted before the judgment-seat of God, there to recognize their Judge with fear and trembling? In this way Paul himself elsewhere interprets the same prophecy: "We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God," (Rom. 14:10, 11). But we cannot in this way interpret what is said in the Apocalypse: "Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever," (Rev. 5:13). This I readily admit; but what kinds of creatures do they suppose are here enumerated? It is absolutely certain, that both irrational and inanimate creatures are comprehended. All, then, which is affirmed is, that every part of the universe, from the highest pinnacle of heaven to the very centre of the earth, each in its own way proclaims the glory of the Creator.

To the passage which they produce from the history of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 12:43), I will not deign to reply, lest I should seem to include that work among the canonical books. But Augustine [379] holds it to be canonical. First, with what degree of confidence? "The Jews," says he, "do not hold the book of the Maccabees as they do the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, to which the Lord bears testimony as to his own witnesses, saying, Ought not all things which are written in the Law, and the Psalms, and the Prophets, concerning me be fulfilled? (Luke 24:44). But it has been received by the Church not uselessly, if it be read or heard with soberness." Jerome, however, unhesitatingly affirms, that it is of no authority in establishing doctrine; and from the ancient little book, De Expositione Symboli; which bears the name of Cyprian, it is plain that it was in no estimation in the ancient Church. And why do I here contend in vain? As if the author himself did not sufficiently show what degree of deference is to be paid him, when in the end he asks pardon for any thing less properly expressed (2 Macc. 15:38). He who confesses that his writings stand in need of pardon, certainly proclaims that they are not oracles of the Holy Spirit. We may add, that the piety of Judas is commended for no other reason than for having a firm hope of the final resurrection, in sending his oblation for the dead to Jerusalem. For the writer of the history does not represent what he did as furnishing the price of redemption, but merely that they might be partakers of eternal life, with the other saints who had fallen for their country and religion. The act, indeed, was not free from superstition and misguided zeal; but it is mere fatuity to extend the legal sacrifice to us, seeing we are assured that the sacrifices then in use ceased on the advent of Christ.

9. But, it seems, they find in Paul an invincible support, which cannot be so easily overthrown. His words are, "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire," (1 Cor. 3:12-15). What fire (they ask) can that be but the fire of purgatory, by which the defilements of sin are wiped away, in order that we may enter pure into the kingdom of God? But most of the Fathers [380] give it a different meaning--viz. the tribulation or cross by which the Lord tries his people, that they may not rest satisfied with the defilements of the flesh. This is much more probable than the fiction of a purgatory. I do not, however, agree with them, for I think I see a much surer and clearer meaning to the passage. But, before I produce it, I wish they would answer me, whether they think the Apostle and all the saints have to pass through this purgatorial fire? I am aware they will say, no; for it were too absurd to hold that purification is required by those whose superfluous merits they dream of as applicable to all the members of the Church. But this the Apostle affirms; for he says, not that the works of certain persons, but the works of all will be tried. [381] And this is not my argument, but that of Augustine, who thus impugns that interpretation. [382] And (what makes the thing more absurd) he says, not that they will pass through fire for certain works, but that even if they should have edified the Church with the greatest fidelity, they will receive their reward after their works shall have been tried by fire. First, we see that the Apostle used a metaphor when he gave the names of wood, hay, and stubble, to doctrines of man's device. The ground of the metaphor is obvious--viz. that as wood when it is put into the fire is consumed and destroyed, so neither will those doctrines be able to endure when they come to be tried. Moreover, every one sees that the trial is made by the Spirit of God. Therefore, in following out the thread of the metaphor, and adapting its parts properly to each other, he gave the name of fire to the examination of the Holy Spirit. For, just as silver and gold, the nearer they are brought to the fire, give stronger proof of their genuineness and purity, so the Lord's truth, the more thoroughly it is submitted to spiritual examination, has its authority the better confirmed. As hay, wood, and stubble, when the fire is applied to them, are suddenly consumed, so the inventions of man, not founded on the word of God, cannot stand the trial of the Holy Spirit, but forthwith give way and perish. In fine, if spurious doctrines are compared to wood, hay, and stubble, because, like wood, hay, and stubble, they are burned by fire and fitted for destruction, though the actual destruction is only completed by the Spirit of the Lord, it follows that the Spirit is that fire by which they will be proved. This proof Paul calls the day of the Lord; using a term common in Scripture. For the day of the Lord is said to take place whenever he in some way manifests his presence to men, his face being specially said to shine when his truth is manifested. It has now been proved, that Paul has no idea of any other fire than the trial of the Holy Spirit. But how are those who suffer the loss of their works saved by fire? This it will not be difficult to understand, if we consider of what kind of persons he speaks. For he designates them builders of the Church, who, retaining the proper foundation, build different materials upon it; that is, who, not abandoning the principal and necessary articles of faith, err in minor and less perilous matters, mingling their own fictions with the word of God. Such, I say, must suffer the loss of their work by the destruction of their fictions. They themselves, however, are saved, yet so as by fire; that is, not that their ignorance and delusions are approved by the Lord, but they are purified from them by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. All those, accordingly, who have tainted the golden purity of the divine word with the pollution of purgatory must necessarily suffer the loss of their work.

10. But the observance of it in the Church is of the highest antiquity. This objection is disposed of by Paul, when, including even his own age in the sentence, he declares, that all who in building the Church have laid upon it something not conformable to the foundation, must suffer the loss of their work. When, therefore, my opponents object, that it has been the practice for thirteen hundred years to offer prayers for the dead, I, in return, ask them, by what word of God, by what revelation, by what example it was done? For here not only are passages of Scripture wanting, but in the examples of all the saints of whom we read, nothing of the kind is seen. We have numerous, and sometimes long narratives, of their mourning and sepulchral rites, but not one word is said of prayers. [383] But the more important the matter was, the more they ought to have dwelt upon it. Even those who in ancient times offered prayers for the dead, saw that they were not supported by the command of God and legitimate example. Why then did they presume to do it? I hold that herein they suffered the common lot of man, and therefore maintain, that what they did is not to be imitated. Believers ought not to engage in any work without a firm conviction of its propriety, as Paul enjoins (Rom. 14:23); and this conviction is expressly requisite in prayer. It is to be presumed, however, that they were influenced by some reason; they sought a solace for their sorrow, and it seemed cruel not to give some attestation of their love to the dead, when in the presence of God. All know by experience how natural it is for the human mind thus to feel.

Received custom too was a kind of torch, by which the minds of many were inflamed. We know that among all the Gentiles, and in all ages, certain rites were paid to the dead, and that every year lustrations were performed for their manes. Although Satan deluded foolish mortals by these impostures, yet the means of deceiving were borrowed from a sound principle--viz. that death is not destruction, but a passages from this life to another. And there can be no doubt that superstition itself always left the Gentiles without excuse before the judgment-seat of God, because they neglected to prepare for that future life which they professed to believe. Thus, that Christians might not seem worse than heathens, they felt ashamed of paying no office to the dead, as if they had been utterly annihilated. Hence their ill advised assiduity; because they thought they would expose themselves to great disgrace, if they were slow in providing funeral feasts and oblations. What was thus introduced by perverse rivalship, ever and anon received new additions, until the highest holiness of the Papacy consisted in giving assistance to the suffering dead. But far better and more solid comfort is furnished by scripture when it declares, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord;" and adds the reason, "for they rest from their labors," (Rev. 14:13). We ought not to indulge our love so far as to set up a perverse mode of prayer in the Church. Surely every person possessed of the least prudence easily perceives, that whatever we meet with on this subject in ancient writers, was in deference to public custom and the ignorance of the vulgar. I admit they were themselves also carried away into error, the usual effect of rash credulity being to destroy the judgment. Meanwhile the passages themselves show, that when they recommended prayer for the dead it was with hesitation. Augustine relates in his Confessions, that his mother, Monica, earnestly entreated to be remembered when the solemn rites at the altar were performed; doubtless an old woman's wish, which her son did not bring to the test of Scripture, but from natural affection wished others to approve. His book, De Cura pro Mortals Agenda, On showing Care for the Dead, is so full of doubt, that its coldness may well extinguish the heat of a foolish zeal. Should any one, in pretending to be a patron of the dead, deal merely in probabilities, the only effect will be to make those indifferent who were formerly solicitous. [384]

The only support of this dogma is, that as a custom of praying for the dead prevailed, the duty ought not to be despised. But granting that ancient ecclesiastical writers deemed it a pious thing to assist the dead, the rule which can never deceive is always to be observed--viz. that we must not introduce anything of our own into our prayers, but must keep all our wishes in subordination to the word of God, because it belongs to Him to prescribe what he wishes us to ask. Now, since the whole Law and Gospel do not contain one syllable which countenances the right of praying for the dead, it is a profanation of prayer to go one step farther than God enjoins. But, lest our opponents boast of sharing their error with the ancient Church, I say, that there is a wide difference between the two. The latter made a commemoration of the dead, that they might not seem to have cast off all concern for them; but they, at the same time, acknowledged that they were doubtful as to their state; assuredly they made no such assertion concerning purgatory as implied that they did not hold it to be uncertain. The former insist, that their dream of purgatory shall be received without question as an article of faith. The latter sparingly and in a perfunctory manner only commended their dead to the Lord, in the communion of the holy supper. The former are constantly urging the care of the dead, and by their importunate preaching of it, make out that it is to be preferred to all the offices of charity. But it would not be difficult for us to produce some passages from ancient writers, [385] which clearly overturn all those prayers for the dead which were then in use. Such is the passage of Augustine, in which he shows that the resurrection of the flesh and eternal glory is expected by all, but that rest which follows death is received by every one who is worthy of it when he dies. Accordingly, he declares that all the righteous, not less than the Apostles, Prophets, and Martyrs, immediately after death enjoy blessed rest. If such is their condition, what, I ask, will our prayers contribute to them? [386] I say nothing of those grosser superstitions by which they have fascinated the minds of the simple; and yet they are innumerable, and most of them so monstrous, that they cannot cover them with any cloak of decency. I say nothing, moreover, of those most shameful traffickings, which they plied as they listed while the world was stupefied. For I would never come to an end; and, without enumerating them, the pious reader will here find enough to establish his conscience.


[375] French, "Il est expedient de monstrer ici non seulement quelles sont les indul grences, comme ils en usent; mais du tout que c'est, à les prendre en leur propre et meilleure nature, sans quelque qualité ou vice accidental;"--it is expedient here to show not only what indulgences are as in use, but in themselves, taking them in their proper and best form, without any qualification or accidental vice.

[376] French. "Tellement que si on ote la fantasie de satisfaire, leur purgatorie s'en va bas;"--so that if the fancy of satisfying is taken away, down goes their purgatory.

[377] Mt. 12:32; Mark 3:28; Luke 12:10; Mt. 5:25.

[378] The French adds the following sentence: "Brief, que le passage soit regardé et prins en sa simple intelligence, et il n'y sera rien trouvé de ce qu'ils pretendent;"--In short, let the passage be looked at and taken in its simple meaning, and there will be nothing found in it of what they pretend.

[379] See August. contra Secundum Gaudentii Epistolam, cap. 23.

[380] Chrysostom, Augustine, and others ; see August, Enchirid. ad Laurent. cap 68.

[381] The French adds, "auquel nombre universel sont enclos les Apostres;"--in which universal number the Apostles are included.

[382] French, "l'exposition que font aujourdhui nos adversaires;"--the exposition which our opponents give in the present day.

[383] French, "L'Escriture raconte souventesfois et bien au long, comment les fideles ont pleuré la mort de leurs parens, et comment ils les ont ensevelis; mais qu'ils ayent prié plour eux, il n'en est nouvelles;"--Scripture relates oftentimes and at great length, how the faithful lamented the death of their relations, and how they buried them: but that they prayed for them is never hinted at.

[384] French, "Le liure qu'il à composé tout expres de cest argument, et qu'il a intitule. Du soin pour les morts, est envellopée en tant de doutes, qu'il doit suffire pour refroidir ceux qui y auroyent devotion; pour le moins en voyant qu'il ne s'aide que de conjectures bien legeres et foibles, on verra qu'on ne se doit point fort empescher d'une chose o? il n'y a nulle importance;"--The book which he has composed expressly on this subject, and which he has entitled, Of Care for the Dead, is enveloped in so many doubts, that it should be sufficient to cool those who are devoted to it; at least, as he supports his view only by very slight and feeble conjectures, it will be seen, that we ought not to trouble ourselves much with a matter in which there is no importance.

[385] See August. Homil. in Joann. 49. De Civitate Dei. Lib. 21 cap. 13-24.

[386] The French of the latter clause of this sentence is "et toutesfois il y aura matiere assez ample de les pourmener en cette campagne, veu qu'ils n'ont nulle couleur pour jamais;"--and yet there is ample space to travel them over this field, seeing that they have no colour of excuse, but must be convicted of being the most villanous decivers that ever were.


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

Legalism Galatians 2:18

By Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

     The danger of legalism is that it builds up again what Christ has torn down. (Gal 2:18) It distorts and may actually destroy the gospel. It is inimical to the grace of God in Christ. It lies at the heart of many pastoral problems and is one of the most common spiritual sicknesses. Unfortunately it is an infectious disease, especially if a pastor or preacher has contracted it. So it is important to be able to recognize some of its common symptoms.

     A (Self) Righteous “Temper” | Legalism produces what our forefathers called a self-righteous “temper.” Of course it can do that in the limited modern sense of the word temper—“anger” or “rage.” But in the older sense the word is closer to our word temperament—a person’s basic disposition. Temper can be controlled, at least to an extent; temperament, however, cannot be hidden. It is like the breath of a smoker or the scent of a pleasing perfume. It discloses itself in a variety of ways, some more subtle than others.

     Think of the Pharisee in Jesus’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. (Luke 18:9-14)

     Pharisees lived “according to the strictest party of . . . religion.” (Acts 26:5) The name itself is probably derived from the root “to separate.” Pharisaism was essentially a conservative “holiness movement.” So the Pharisee was a man deeply exercised about personal and religious holiness in the details of life. Indeed the Pharisee Jesus pictures praying in the temple went beyond the specific requirements of the law. Listen to his prayer. He thinks of himself as:

  Not like other men. (By definition—he is, after all, a Pharisee. (The probable derivation is “a separated one.”))
  A Ten Commandments man. (He alludes to at least three of them.)
  Able to compare himself favorably with others. (He does so specifically with a tax collector who entered the temple simultaneously.)
  A man punctilious in his disciplines. (He fasts twice a week. The law included more feasts than fasts and required fasting only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31. Other fasts were introduced but the text that notes them (Zech. 8:19) stresses that they are to be turned into feasts!).
  A self-sacrificing man. (He tithed everything. The law required tithing of only crops, fruit, and animals.6 Apparently the Pharisee’s tithing extended beyond income to his possessions.)

     Who is this man?

     Luke tells us that Jesus told the parable “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” (Luke 18:9) But Jesus himself did not tell his original hearers this. Indeed we are given the impression that his hearers were probably led along by the Pharisee’s hint that he was “not like . . . this tax collector.” Surely the Pharisee was God’s man, the righteous one who could leave the temple assured he was justified before God. It could not be the miserable tax collector, could it? For, apart from being a tax collector and therefore by definition associated with “sinners,” he:

  Could not even lift his eyes to heaven—which was expected in prayer etiquette. (See John 17:1.)
  Beat his breast in the light of his obvious sinfulness.
  Cried out to God to be “merciful” (literally, “propitiated”) to him—since no sacrifice was prescribed for his high-handed transgressions.
  Acknowledged he was “a sinner.”

     There was, surely, only one answer to Jesus’s implied question: “So which of these two men went home from temple worship that day justified, righteous in the sight of the Holy God of heaven?”

  We are over-familiar with this parable.
  We know “the right answer.”
  We have been immunized against the unexpected, indeed stunning truth.
  It was the tax collector.

     How can contemporary Christians recapture the sense of shock at hearing Jesus’s conclusion?

     In one sense the answer is simple. It should shock us because evangelical Christians may existentially have more in common with the Pharisee than with the tax collector. ( Emphasis mine. I see it in two of my sons and myself ) Those into whose temperaments justification by grace has fully permeated:

     Do not look down on another person—including another Christian. The instinct to do so is one of the most obvious telltale signs of a heart from which legalism has not yet been fully or finally banished; for it implies that we have merited grace more than another.

     Do not assume that there is anything in our devotion to the Lord that is the reason for God’s acceptance of us rather than of somebody else who lacks it.

     Do not assume that it is on the grounds of a decision we made, or for that matter our years of commitment to Christ, that we are accepted before God.

     Do not despise (“treat with contempt,” in Luke’s expression) an embarrassing breach of etiquette, or outward show of sorrow, in another person.

     So, when did you last beat your breast and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”?

     Excerpt from The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance

Sinclair Ferguson Books:

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coram Deo
     1/2006    Progress Redefined

     The world measures success in terms of that which is tangible — by what is bigger, faster, and by what draws the most attention. For many people, success is defined solely by numbers and circumstantial outcomes. True success, however, cannot be measured merely by what is perceived by the eyes of men. We measure our success according to economic and sociological standards, which at times is certainly appropriate considering that we are to be good stewards of our time, talents, and finances; however, the problem lies in that we measure our Christian lives according to the same principles — evaluating our success in the Christian life based on what is bigger, faster, and, especially, on what draws the most attention. However, often what is considered “successful” by the world’s standards is entirely unsuccessful according to the standards of God. Though it could be said that the measure of a man in terms of his success is based upon the subjective standards of others, true success is measured objectively by God, whose standard is impartial and immutable.

     According to the prophet Micah, God has provided us with His standard of success: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Simply stated, God is not first and foremost concerned with our success; rather, He is concerned with our faithfulness. Herein is the standard of the pilgrim’s progress: As pilgrims of God, we progress not in our successfulness but in our faithfulness to God. Our standard for faithfulness does not come from the world, it does not come from those around us, and it certainly does not come from within us.

     Our standard is from God alone and is found in the cross of Christ alone, and it is upon the cross that Christ took the burden from our backs and set us free to live, move, and have our being in Him.

     As we learn from Bunyan’s classic, our progress as Christians is not measured on the scale of man’s justice but on the scale of God’s grace. For His burden is easy and His yoke light, and to walk humbly before God is to be lifted up by God (James 4:10), to know weakness is to know the perfection of God’s strength (2 Cor. 12:9), to bear the cross is to wear the crown (Gal. 6:14), and to live for Christ coram Deo, before the face of God, is to die to ourselves (Mark 8:34).

     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

     He was called the “Chief Architect of the Constitution,” and wrote many of the Federalist Papers which where instrumental in the States ratifying the Constitution. He introduced the Bill of Rights in the first session of Congress. As President, he and his wife Dolly had to flee the White House when the British set it on fire during the War of 1812. Who was he? James Madison, born this day, March 16, 1751. James Madison wrote: “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.
--- Jim Elliot   Living Without the Veil: Knowing God Intimately, and Making Him Known

If you have no opposition in the place you serve,
you're serving in the wrong place.
--- G. Campbell Morgan   The Ministry of the Word:

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
--- Maya Angelou   Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information and Contemplation

It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.
--- Peter De Vries   The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/16
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     On the 31st of fifth month, 1761, I was taken ill of a fever, and after it had continued near a week I was in great distress of body. One day there was a cry raised in me that I might understand the cause of my affliction, and improve under it, and my conformity to some customs which I believed were not right was brought to my remembrance. In the continuance of this exercise I felt all the powers in me yield themselves up into the hands of Him who gave me being, and was made thankful that he had taken hold of me by his chastisements. Feeling the necessity of further purifying, there was now no desire in me for health until the design of my correction was answered. Thus I lay in abasement and brokenness of spirit, and as I felt a sinking down into a calm resignation, so I felt, as in an instant, an inward healing in my nature, and from that time forward I grew better.

     Though my mind was thus settled in relation to hurtful dyes, I felt easy to wear my garments heretofore made, and continued to do so about nine months. Then I thought of getting a hat the natural color of the fur, but the apprehension of being looked upon as one affecting singularity felt uneasy to me. Here I had occasion to consider that things, though small in themselves, being clearly enjoined by Divine authority, become great things to us; and I trusted that the Lord would support me in the trials that might attend singularity, so long as singularity was only for his sake. On this account I was under close exercise of mind in the time of our General Spring Meeting, 1762, greatly desiring to be rightly directed; when, being deeply bowed in spirit before the Lord, I was made willing to submit to what I apprehended was required of me, and when I returned home got a hat of the natural color of the fur.

     In attending meetings this singularity was a trial to me, and more especially at this time, as white hats were used by some who were fond of following the changeable modes of dress, and as some Friends who knew not from what motives I wore it grew shy of me, I felt my way for a time shut up in the exercise of the ministry. In this condition, my mind being turned toward my Heavenly Father with fervent cries that I might be preserved to walk before him in the meekness of wisdom, my heart was often tender in meetings, and I felt an inward consolation which to me was very precious under these difficulties.

     I had several dyed garments fit for use which I believed it best to wear till I had occasion for new ones. Some Friends were apprehensive that my wearing such a hat savored of an affected singularity; those who spoke with me in a friendly way I generally informed, in a few words, that I believed my wearing it was not in my own will. I had at times been sensible that a superficial friendship had been dangerous to me; and many Friends being now uneasy with me, I had an inclination to acquaint some with the manner of my being led into these things; yet upon a deeper thought I was for a time most easy to omit it, believing the present dispensation was profitable, and trusting that if I kept my place the Lord in his own time would open the hearts of Friends towards me. I have since had cause to admire his goodness and loving-kindness in leading about and instructing me, and in opening and enlarging my heart in some of our meetings.

John Woolman's Journal

Proverbs 12:22-23
     by D.H. Stern

22     Lying lips are an abomination to ADONAI,
but those who deal faithfully are his delight.
23     A cautious person conceals knowledge,
but the heart of a fool blurts out folly.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘That’s just what I say. I haven’t got my rights. I always done my best and I never done nothing wrong. And what I don’t see is why I should be put below a bloody murderer like you.’

     ‘Who knows whether you will be? Only be happy and come with me.’

     ‘What do you keep on arguing for? I’m only telling you the sort of chap I am. I only want my rights. I’m not asking for anybody’s bleeding charity.’

     ‘Then do. At once. Ask for the Bleeding Charity. Everything is here for the asking and nothing can be bought.’

     ‘That may do very well for you, I daresay. If they choose to let in a bloody murderer all because he makes a poor mouth at the last moment, that’s their look out. But I don’t see myself going in the same boat as you, see? Why should I? I don’t want charity. I’m a decent man and if I had my rights I’d have been here long ago and you can tell them I said so.’

     The other shook his head. ‘You can never do it like that,’ he said. ‘Your feet will never grow hard enough to walk on our grass that way. You’d be tired out before we got to the mountains. And it isn’t exactly true, you know.’ Mirth danced in his eyes as he said it.

     ‘What isn’t true?’ asked the Ghost sulkily.

     ‘You weren’t a decent man and you didn’t do your best. We none of us were and none of us did. Lord bless you, it doesn’t matter. There is no need to go into it all now.’

     ‘You!’ gasped the Ghost. ‘You have the face to tell me I wasn’t a decent chap?’

     ‘Of course. Must I go into all that? I will tell you one thing to begin with. Murdering old Jack wasn’t the worst thing I did. That was the work of a moment and I was half mad when I did it. But I murdered you in my heart, deliberately, for years. I used to lie awake at nights thinking what I’d do to you if I ever got the chance. That is why I have been sent to you now: to ask your forgiveness and to be your servant as long as you need one, and longer if it pleases you. I was the worst. But all the men who worked under you felt the same. You made it hard for us, you know. And you made it hard for your wife too and for your children.’

     ‘You mind your own business, young man,’ said the Ghost. ‘None of your lip, see? Because I’m not taking any impudence from you about my private affairs.’

     ‘There are no private affairs,’ said the other.

     ‘And I’ll tell you another thing,’ said the Ghost. ‘You can clear off, see? You’re not wanted. I may be only a poor man but I’m not making pals with a murderer, let alone taking lessons from him. Made it hard for you and your like, did I? If I had you back there I’d show you what work is.’

     ‘Come and show me now,’ said the other with laughter in his voice, ‘It will be joy going to the mountains, but there will be plenty of work.’

     ‘You don’t suppose I’d go with you?’

     ‘Don’t refuse. You will never get there alone. And I am the one who was sent to you.’

     ‘So that’s the trick, is it?’ shouted the Ghost, outwardly bitter, and yet I thought there was a kind of triumph in its voice. It had been entreated: it could make a refusal: and this seemed to it a kind of advantage. ‘I thought there’d be some damned nonsense. It’s all a clique, all a bloody clique. Tell them I’m not coming, see? I’d rather be damned than go along with you. I came here to get my rights, see? Not to go snivelling along on charity tied onto your apron-strings. If they’re too fine to have me without you, I’ll go home.’ It was almost happy now that it could, in a sense, threaten. ‘That’s what I’ll do,’ it repeated, ‘I’ll go home. I didn’t come here to be treated like a dog. I’ll go home. That’s what I’ll do. Damn and blast the whole pack of you …’ In the end, still grumbling, but whimpering also a little as it picked its way over the sharp grasses, it made off.

The Great Divorce   or   The Great Divorce

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The master assizes

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. --- 2 Cor. 5:10.

     Paul says that we must all, preacher and people alike, “appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” If you learn to live in the white light of Christ here and now, judgment finally will cause you to delight in the work of God in you. Keep yourself steadily faced by the judgment seat of Christ; walk now in the light of the holiest you know. A wrong temper of mind about another soul will end in the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are. One carnal judgment, and the end of it is hell in you. Drag it to the light at once and say—‘My God, I have been guilty there.’ If you don’t, hardness will come all through. The penalty of sin is confirmation in sin. It is not only God who punishes for sin; sin confirms itself in the sinner and gives back full pay. No struggling or praying will enable you to stop doing some things, and the penalty of sin is that gradually you get used to it and do not know that it is sin. No power save the incoming of the Holy Ghost can alter the inherent consequences of sin.

     “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light.” Walking in the light means for many of us walking according to our standard for another person. The deadliest Pharisaism to-day is not hypocrisy, but unconscious unreality.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


My luminary.
  my morning and evening
  star. My light at noon
  when there is no sun
  and the sky lowers. My balance
  of joy in a world
  that has gone off joy's
  standard. Yours the face
  that young I recognised
  as though I had known you
  of old. Come, my eyes
  said, out into the morning
  of a world whose dew
  waits for your footprint.
  Before a green altar
  with the thrush for priest
  I took those gossamer
  vows that neither the Church
  could stale nor the Machine
  tarnish, that with the years
  have grown hard as flint,
  lighter than platinum
  on our ringless fingers.

The JPS Torah commentary

     The Book of Numbers contains a fair sampling of poetry, ranging from the four poems that comprise Balaam’s oracles (chaps. 23–24) to smaller pieces of a few lines. The latter most likely stem from earlier sources. The Priestly Blessing (6:24–26) probably originates in the cult of the First Temple (see Lev. 9:23 and Excursus 13; the outside origin of the Song of the Ark (10:35–36) is probably indicated by the inserted nuns that frame it; the excerpt on God the Warrior is expressly borrowed from the “Book of the Wars of the Lord”; the Song of the Well (21:17–18) may plausibly be traced to the time and region in which Israel found itself during its wilderness sojourn, but it required a special prose introduction (21:16) to emphasize that it was the Lord rather than man who provided the water; and the Song of Heshbon (21:27–30) is most likely an Amorite victory song over the Moabites borrowed by Israel to substantiate its claim that it took Transjordan from the Amorites and not from the Moabites, which demonstrates that the Bible contains pre-Israelite poetry.

     There is also evidence in Numbers of borrowings from epic sources found in the narratives of Exodus. Thus the statement that the Levites were chosen at Mount Sinai (3:1, 5–13) alludes to their consecration at the time of the episode of the golden calf (Exod. 32:26–29), and the comprehensive wilderness itinerary (chap. 33) includes the opening line of a narrative found in Exodus (for 33:14, see Exod. 17:1; see also 33:40 and the beginning of 21:1–3). Also, the calendar of Leviticus 23 presumes a knowledge of chaps. 28–29.

     Borrowings from Leviticus are also in evidence, especially from the second half of the book (chaps. 17–26), generally known as the Holiness Code (H). The frequent inclusion of the ger, the “resident alien,” in the legislation of Numbers (e.g., 9:13–14; 15:26–30; 19:13, 20; 35:15) is an indication that these passages are dependent on the doctrine that the Land of Israel is holy, and hence all its inhabitants, Israelites and non-Israelites alike, are under obligation not to pollute it by violating the Lord’s prohibitive commandments. This doctrine, however, is the expressed teaching of Leviticus 17–26 (H), which may imply that all the passages that cite the ger are dependent on these chapters—which would then mandate that the final redaction of the Book of Numbers took place later than that of Leviticus. This conclusion would be supported by the observation that the law of corpse contamination (Num. 19; note the ger, vv. 13, 20) was not inserted in the Book of Leviticus, which deals with human impurities (chaps. 12–15) and presumes the knowledge of corpse impurity (e.g., 5:3; 7:21; 21:1–4; and esp. 22:3–4), because the law in Numbers reflects a time subsequent to that presupposed by the impurity laws of Leviticus. Details are found in Excursus 48.

     Further evidence that Numbers is posterior to Leviticus is the large number of clearly demonstrable interpolations evident in Numbers, as presented above. Indeed, the fact that its editorial sutures are, in the main, fully visible, and at times crudely done, renders this material subject to the exegetical principle: “The less integrated the disturbance is into the context, the later it may be assumed to have been combined.… The grossest disturbances are thus to be ascribed to the last redactional stage of combination, while lesser disturbances belong to earlier development of the tradition complexes.” For glaring examples of interpolation, see the structural schemes charted below, on pages xxiv to xxviii and in their respective Excursuses. Leviticus, on the other hand, contains many fewer interpolations, and even this material, as I demonstrate in my Leviticus commentary, has been smoothly integrated into the text.

     There is also evidence of borrowing from Deuteronomy. The victory over Og in Numbers 21:33–35 must be adjudged a copy of Deuteronomy 3:1–2, made for the purpose of conforming the Numbers narrative to the deuteronomic position that all of Transjordan was conquered at once (see the Comments to 21:33–35, and Excursus 55).

     Conversely, Numbers itself may be the source for other Torah books. The wilderness itinerary list (chap. 33) may well be the basis for the individual itinerary statements in Exodus and Numbers (Exod. 12:37; 13:20; 14:1–2; 15:22; 17:1; 19:2; Num. 10:12; 20:1, 22; 21:10–11; 22:1; see Excursus 71). Deuteronomy has picked up items from Numbers. For example, Deuteronomy 1:39 is clearly a reworking and condensation of Numbers 14:30–33. At the same time, two pericopes characterized by the same subject and vocabulary need not be interdependent; for example, the two laws on the purification offering (15:22 and Lev. 4:13–21) probably reflect discrete traditions.

     In sum, the pericopes of Numbers are not, in the main, unitary compositions but are composites of or contain insertions from other sources. Some of these sources are old poems, narratives in Exodus, and cultic material in Leviticus. Conversely, Numbers material can be shown to have influenced the composition of Exodus and Deuteronomy.

The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers (English and Hebrew Edition)

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Shabbat 10b


     Imagine that you are a hospital patient. A friend pays you a visit, and you thank him for visiting. Which response would you rather hear—“It’s no big deal; I was driving by anyway,” or “I really wanted to see you, and I’m glad that you and I had this time together”? Most of us would prefer the latter, showing that our friends pay special attention to us, notice us, even go out of their way for us. These are the sentiments that Ben Zoma expresses. None of us wants to think that what has been done for us required no effort. On the contrary: We enjoy being pampered and having someone pay special attention to us.

     This is especially true because we live in a huge, impersonal world. Much of the time, no one goes out of their way just for us. When we spend hours trying to get a question answered in a huge bureaucracy, we may feel as if we are simply numbers in a computer. If we do our banking at an automated teller machine, months may go by without our seeing a human teller. To the employee at the drive-through fast food place, we are one of hundreds of anonymous patrons who will pick up dinner in a bag that night.

     In this nameless, cold world of impersonal machines and detached people, any sign of personal attention is most welcome. It deserves not only our notice but also our gratitude. Thus, Ben Zoma reminds us of two things: First, we must appreciate the good things that people do for us and express our thanks to them. When we do not notice, we only contribute to the increased impersonality of society. Second, we should, whenever possible, give that extra special personal attention to others. We become better hosts—as well as employers, employees, friends, and relatives—by catering to the needs of others. By appreciating the kindness that is shown to us both by God and by people, and by showing kindness to others, we make a cold world a much warmer place.

     Rest Stop

     Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. (
Exodus 14:2)

     Words of Torah are compared to water … as it says: “Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water” [
Isaiah 55:1].… Just as water restores the soul, as it says: “So God split open the hollow which is at Lehi, and the water gushed out of it; he drank, regained his strength, and revived” [Judges 15:19], so too with Torah, as it says: “The teaching of the Lord is perfect, renewing life” [Psalms 19:8]. (Song of Songs Rabbah 1, 3)

     They asked Rabbi Levi Yitzḥak: “Why is the first page number missing in all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud? Why does each begin with the second?” He replied: “However much a man may learn, he should always remember that he has not even gotten to the first page.” (Martin Buber. Tales of the Hasidim Early Masters

     Seder Moed / Introduction to Seder Moed

     The second Order of the Mishnah is called Moed, or “Holiday.” It is comprised of twelve tractates that discuss the laws of the various festivals of the Jewish year. The Order begins with two tractates concerning Shabbat. They are followed by sections that cover Pesaḥ, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, and fast days, as well as the laws of what is permitted and prohibited during a holiday and the intermediate days of the festivals.

     One who gives a gift to a friend must inform him.

     Text / Rava bar Meḥasya said in the name of Rav Ḥama bar Gurya in the name of Rav: “One who gives a gift to a friend must inform him, as it says: ‘That you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you’ [
Exodus 31:13].” It is also taught: “That you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you” [Ibid.]. The Holy One said to Moses: “I have a great gift in my treasury, and its name is Shabbat. I want to give it to Israel; go inform them!”
     Based on this, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: “One who gives bread to a child must inform his mother.” What should be done to him? Abaye said: “Rub him with oil and paint his eyes.” But now that we are concerned with witchcraft, what should be done? Rav Papa said: “Rub him with what he gave him.” … Rav Ḥisda held two gift oxen in his hands. He said: “Whoever can tell me a new teaching of Rav, I will give these to him.” Rava bar Meḥasya said to him: “This is what Rav said: ‘One who gives a gift to his friend must inform him, as it says: “That you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you.” ’ ” He gave them to him. He said to him: “Are Rav’s teachings so precious to you?” He said: “Yes.” He said: “A thing is precious to its wearer.”

     Context / The Lord spoke to Moses: See, I have singled out by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft; to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood—to work in every kind of craft.… And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you. (
Exodus 31:1–5, 12–13)

     These stories all teach the same lesson, based on the saying of Rava bar Meḥasya, that one must announce a gift before giving it. Rava bar Meḥasya uses as proof a verse from Exodus: “That you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you.” The verse appears in a section where God appoints Bezalel to build the mishkan, or portable tabernacle that the Israelites used in the wilderness. (The verse is repeated—“It is also taught”—because first Rava uses it for his explanation, and then the verse is brought in to prove the point about God.) Rava comments on the strange language of the verse, that God wants the Israelites to know that God has consecrated them. In other words, God doesn’t just give the great gift of Shabbat but announces it first. The connection with the mishkan is, apparently, that God expects the Shabbat to be observed even by the builders of the Sanctuary. The Shabbat may be one of the great treasures in God’s storehouse, but the recipients, Israel, must be willing to accept it. If it is not seen as a treasure, it will be a wasted gift.

     Since a child will probably not remember to tell his mother, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel teaches that we must inform the child’s mother when we give the youngster bread. Yet, there must be a child-proof means of informing her. Abaye recommends putting on oil and paint (probably a blue eye makeup that was commonly used). The mother will surely notice these, ask the child, and find out that he has recently eaten bread. However, these cosmetics were used in forms of witchcraft, and therefore fell into disuse by the Jews. In this case, Rav Papa recommends that we take some of the food itself and rub it onto the child. A youngster who returns home with bread crumbs all over will undoubtedly be asked about it.

     In the first section of the Gemara, Rava records the teaching of Rav, with a biblical verse as the proof. In the second and parallel account, the proof is in a clever story about the giving of a gift. (It is possible that these two stories originated in the same incident.) Rav Ḥisda announces that he will give a gift (two oxen fit for presentation to the kohanim in the Temple) to anyone who can teach him a saying by his mentor, Rav, that he had never heard before. The answer is ironic, for Rava responds by quoting a teaching of Rav on giving gifts: One must announce a gift in public before giving it. This humor was not lost on the editors of the Talmud. Rava uses Rav Ḥisda’s challenge, and Rav’s teaching about gifts, not only to instruct others but also to receive a gift for himself! Rava, however, is a bit puzzled that Rav Ḥisda would give away two oxen for an original saying by Rav. Rav Ḥisda’s answer, “A thing is precious to its wearer,” seems to mean that only one who “wears” the words of his teacher truly cherishes them. Rav Ḥisda is one such person. In directing his words to Rava, Rav Ḥisda is also complimenting his colleague Rava who finds Rav’s words equally precious.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Seventh Chapter / Grace Must Be Hidden Under The Mantle Of Humility


     IT IS better and safer for you to conceal the grace of devotion, not to be elated by it, not to speak or think much of it, and instead to humble yourself and fear lest it is being given to one unworthy of it. Do not cling too closely to this affection, for it may quickly be changed to its opposite. When you are in grace, think how miserable and needy you are without it. Your progress in spiritual life does not consist in having the grace of consolation, but in enduring its withdrawal with humility, resignation, and patience, so that you neither become listless in prayer nor neglect your other duties in the least; but on the contrary do what you can do as well as you know how, and do not neglect yourself completely because of your dryness or anxiety of mind.

     There are many, indeed, who immediately become impatient and lazy when things do not go well with them. The way of man, however, does not always lie in his own power. It is God’s prerogative to give grace and to console when He wishes, as much as He wishes, and whom He wishes, as it shall please Him and no more.

     Some careless persons, misusing the grace of devotion, have destroyed themselves because they wished to do more than they were able. They failed to take account of their own weakness, and followed the desire of their heart rather than the judgment of their reason. Then, because they presumed to greater things than pleased God they quickly lost His grace. They who had built their homes in heaven became helpless, vile outcasts, humbled and impoverished, that they might learn not to fly with their own wings but to trust in Mine.

     They who are still new and inexperienced in the way of the Lord may easily be deceived and overthrown unless they guide themselves by the advice of discreet persons. But if they wish to follow their own notions rather than to trust in others who are more experienced, they will be in danger of a sorry end, at least if they are unwilling to be drawn from their vanity. Seldom do they who are wise in their own conceits bear humbly the guidance of others. Yet a little knowledge humbly and meekly pursued is better than great treasures of learning sought in vain complacency. It is better for you to have little than to have much which may become the source of pride.

     He who gives himself up entirely to enjoyment acts very unwisely, for he forgets his former helplessness and that chastened fear of the Lord which dreads to lose a proffered grace. Nor is he very brave or wise who becomes too despondent in times of adversity and difficulty and thinks less confidently of Me than he should. He who wishes to be too secure in time of peace will often become too dejected and fearful in time of trial.

     If you were wise enough to remain always humble and small in your own eyes, and to restrain and rule your spirit well, you would not fall so quickly into danger and offense.

     When a spirit of fervor is enkindled within you, you may well meditate on how you will feel when the fervor leaves. Then, when this happens, remember that the light which I have withdrawn for a time as a warning to you and for My own glory may again return. Such trials are often more beneficial than if you had things always as you wish. For a man’s merits are not measured by many visions or consolations, or by knowledge of the Scriptures, or by his being in a higher position than others, but by the truth of his humility, by his capacity for divine charity, by his constancy in seeking purely and entirely the honor of God, by his disregard and positive contempt of self, and more, by preferring to be despised and humiliated rather than honored by others.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 16

     They are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name …so that they may be one as we are one.
John 17:11.

     This Scripture contains the first preparation of Christ for death, where he sets his house in order, prays for his people, and blesses them before he dies. ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... ) The love of Christ was ever tender and strong to his people, but the greatest demonstration of it was at parting, in two ways especially: in leaving support and comfort with them in his last heavenly sermon, in John 14 through 16, and in pouring out his soul to the Father for them in this heavenly prayer, chapter 17. In this prayer he gives them a sample of his intercession, which he was just then going to perform in heaven for them. Here his heart overflowed, for he was leaving them and going to the Father. The last words of a dying person are remarkable—how much more a dying Savior?

     We have here Christ’s petition in behalf of his people, not only those at that place, but all others that then did or afterwards would believe on him. And the sum of what he here requests for them is that his Father would protect them through his name, where you have both the mercy and the means of attaining it. The mercy is to be protected. Protecting implies danger, and there is a double danger anticipated in this request: danger in respect of sin and danger in respect of ruin and destruction. To both these the people of God lie open in this world.

     The means of their preservation from both is the name, that is, the power of God. This name of the Lord is the strong tower that the righteous run to and are safe (
Prov. 18:10). Alas! It is not your own strength or wisdom that keeps you, but you are kept by the mighty power of God. This protecting power of God does not, however, exclude our care and diligence but implies it. God keeps his people, and yet they are to keep themselves in God’s love (Jude 21), to, above all else, guard their hearts (Prov. 4:23).

     The arguments with which he urges and presses on this request are drawn partly from his own condition—within a very few hours he will be separated from them in regard to his corporeal presence; partly from their condition—“they are still in the world,” that is, I must leave them in the midst of danger; and partly from the joint interest his Father and he himself had in them: Keep those you have given me.
--- John Flavel

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

On This Day   March 16
     The Fifth Lateran Council

     Pope Leo announced his special sale of indulgences just as the Fifth Lateran Council was finishing its work.

     Leo had been born Giovanni de’ Medici, second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. At age 8 he was nominated to an archbishopric. By age 14 he had become a cardinal-deacon, the youngest ever to be so named. His father wrote to him, warning that Rome “was the sink of all iniquities” and that he must live “a virtuous life.…”

     Leo ignored the advice. When he became pope at age 37, his attitude was, “Let’s enjoy the papacy, for God has given it to us.” He entered Rome on a white horse amid great pageantry and immediately became embroiled in European politics as though in a chess game. He promoted relatives to church positions and imprisoned enemies in deepest dungeons. He was nearly assassinated by poison, and the unfortunate plotters were tortured and strangled. He enjoyed ornate clothing and covered his fingers with gems. He reveled in entertainment and kept a monk able to swallow a pigeon in one mouthful and 40 eggs at one sitting. He hunted, aided by 70 dogs. He commissioned artists to elaborate projects and attended pornographic plays.

     He exhausted his treasury, and that was one of the concerns of the Fifth Lateran Council. The council, which resumed shortly after Leo’s election, made several important decisions. The newly invented printing press was recognized as a gift from heaven, but only books approved by the Vatican could be published. A new crusade against the Turks was approved, and a tax was authorized to pay for it. The Roman pontiff was assured of authority over all church councils, and obedience to the pope was declared necessary for salvation. And to raise money, Pope Leo, aided by the council, lifted the prohibition against usury, took out outrageous loans, and issued his special sale of indulgences.

     Having accomplished its work, the council adjourned on March 16, 1517, and Leo returned to the pleasures of his office. He once reportedly quipped, “How profitable that fable of Christ has been to us.”

     Jerusalem’s prophets are proud and not to be trusted.
     The priests have disgraced the place of worship
     And abused God’s Law.
     All who do evil are shameless,
     But the LORD does right and is always fair.
     With the dawn of each day, God brings about justice.
     --- Zephaniah 3:4,5.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 16

     “I am a stranger with thee.”
--- Psalm 39:12.

     Yes, O Lord, with thee, but not to thee. All my natural alienation from thee, thy grace has effectually removed; and now, in fellowship with thyself, I walk through this sinful world as a pilgrim in a foreign country. Thou art a stranger in thine own world. Man forgets thee, dishonours thee, sets up new laws and alien customs, and knows thee not. When thy dear Son came unto his own, his own received him not. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. Never was foreigner so speckled a bird among the denizens of any land as thy beloved Son among his mother’s brethren. It is no marvel, then, if I who live the life of Jesus, should be unknown and a stranger here below. Lord, I would not be a citizen where Jesus was an alien. His pierced hand has loosened the cords which once bound my soul to earth, and now I find myself a stranger in the land. My speech seems to these Babylonians among whom I dwell an outlandish tongue, my manners are singular, and my actions are strange. A Tartar would be more at home in Cheapside than I could ever be in the haunts of sinners. But here is the sweetness of my lot: I am a stranger with thee. Thou art my fellow-sufferer, my fellow-pilgrim. Oh, what joy to wander in such blessed society! My heart burns within me by the way when thou dost speak to me, and though I be a sojourner, I am far more blest than those who sit on thrones, and far more at home than those who dwell in their ceiled houses.

     “To me remains nor place, nor time:
     My country is in every clime;
     I can be calm and free from care
     On any shore, since God is there.

     While place we seek, or place we shun,
     The soul finds happiness in none:
     But with a God to guide our way,
     ’Tis equal joy to go or stay.”

          Evening - March 16

     “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins." Psalm 19:13.

     Such was the prayer of the “man after God’s own heart.” Did holy David need to pray thus? How needful, then, must such a prayer be for us babes in grace! It is as if he said, “Keep me back, or I shall rush headlong over the precipice of sin.” Our evil nature, like an ill-tempered horse, is apt to run away. May the grace of God put the bridle upon it, and hold it in, that it rush not into mischief. What might not the best of us do if it were not for the checks which the Lord sets upon us both in providence and in grace! The psalmist’s prayer is directed against the worst form of sin—that which is done with deliberation and wilfulness. Even the holiest need to be “kept back” from the vilest transgressions. It is a solemn thing to find the apostle Paul warning saints against the most loathsome sins. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” What! do saints want warning against such sins as these? Yes, they do. The whitest robes, unless their purity be preserved by divine grace, will be defiled by the blackest spots. Experienced Christian, boast not in your experience; you will trip yet if you look away from him who is able to keep you from falling. Ye whose love is fervent, whose faith is constant, whose hopes are bright, say not, “We shall never sin,” but rather cry, “Lead us not into temptation.” There is enough tinder in the heart of the best of men to light a fire that shall burn to the lowest hell, unless God shall quench the sparks as they fall. Who would have dreamed that righteous Lot could be found drunken, and committing uncleanness? Hazael said, “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?” and we are very apt to use the same self-righteous question. May infinite wisdom cure us of the madness of self-confidence.

Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

Amazing Grace
     March 16


     Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839–1929

     The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27)

     When close friends or family members turn to us for comfort in their grief following the loss of a loved one, often we find it difficult to express just the right words of consolation. One day successful author, business man, and devout Presbyterian layman Anthony J. Showalter received sorrowful letters from two different friends, telling him of their recent bereavements. In sending messages of comfort to them, Mr. Showalter included Deuteronomy 33:27 ---

     “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms …”

     As he concluded his letters the thought occurred to him that this verse would be a fine theme for a hymn. Almost spontaneously he jotted down the words and music for the refrain of this soon-to-be favorite.

     Feeling that he should have some assistance in completing a text based on this comforting verse from Deuteronomy, Mr. Showalter asked his friend Elisha A. Hoffman, a pastor and author of more than 2,000 gospel songs, to furnish the stanzas. The hymn then was published in 1887 in the Glad Evangel for Revival, Camp and Evangelistic Meetings Hymnal.

     It is not surprising that “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” with its assurance of God’s steadfast care and guidance and the peace that is ours as we enjoy the intimacy of His fellowship, has been another of the gospel song favorites enjoyed by all ages. Each day we need to relearn the truths of these words:

     What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms; what a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.
     O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms; O how bright the path grows from day to day, leaning on the everlasting arms.
     What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.
     Chorus: Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

     For Today: Psalm 17:8; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 91:2; Proverbs 14:26; 1 John 1:7.

     When the events of today seem difficult, or even overwhelming, apply the lesson of leaning on “those everlasting arms,” as you learn to rest and relax in His loving care. Share the truth of Deuteronomy 33:27 with another needing encouragement. Use this little musical message as your theme song for today ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Book Of Common Prayer
     Friday, March 16 2018 | Lent

Friday Of The Fourth Week In Lent
Year 2

Invitatory     Psalm 95
Psalms (Morning)     Psalm 102
Psalms (Evening)     Psalm 107:1–32
Old Testament     Exodus 2:1–22
New Testament     1 Corinthians 12:27–13:3
Gospel     Mark 9:2–13

Index of Readings

Psalm 95

95 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Psalms (Morning)
Psalm 102
102 A Prayer Of One Afflicted, When He Is Faint And Pours Out His Complaint Before The Lord.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
2 Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!

3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8 All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the LORD builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.

18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.

Psalms (Evening)
Psalm 107:1–32

107 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Old Testament
Exodus 2:1–22

2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”

New Testament
1 Corinthians 12:27–13:3

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Mark 9:2–13

2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

The Book of Common Prayer

Press on to Know

the Supremacy of Christ | John Piper

When Should We Pray for God

to Take Us Home? | John Piper

Why Does NT Cite

Extrabiblical Sources | John Piper

Do Arminians Preach

a Sufficient Gospel? | John Piper

Should I Care at All

What People Think of Me? | John Piper

God Is Totally Free to Save You

John Piper

How Did Jesus “Learn” Obedience?

Hebrews 5:7—9 | John Piper

Jesus’s Prayer in His Darkest Hour

Hebrews 5:7—9 | John Piper

The Bible Will Teach You How to Think

Isaiah 51:12—13 | John Piper

What Value Is the Old Testament

to the Christian Life? | John Piper

The Bible Will Teach You How to Think

Isaiah 51:12—13 | John Piper

Four Traits of a Life Worth Living

Philippians 1:27–28 | John Piper

Does God Love the Non-Elect?

John Piper

Do Non-Christians Ever Please God?

John Piper

God Gives to Create Cheerful Givers

2 Corinthians 9:6–11 | John Piper

How to Find Gold in God’s Word

Panel Discussion | John Piper

Avoid the Unrepentant

But What If They’re Family? | John Piper