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Leviticus 1     John 20     Proverbs 17     Philippians 4

     No book in the Old Testament presents a greater challenge to the modern reader than Leviticus, and imagination is required to picture the ceremonies and rites that form the bulk of the book. However, it is important to try to understand the rituals in Leviticus for two reasons. First, rituals enshrine, express, and teach those values and ideas that a society holds most dear. By analyzing the ceremonies described in Leviticus, we can learn about what was most important to the Old Testament Israelites. Second, these same ideas are foundational for the New Testament writers. Particularly the concepts of sin, sacrifice, and atonement found in Leviticus are used in the New Testament to interpret the death of Christ.
     Precisely because the rituals of Leviticus are so central to Old Testament thinking, they are often obscure to us, because the writers did not need to explain them to their contemporaries. Every Israelite knew why a particular sacrifice was offered on a specific occasion and what a certain gesture meant. For ourselves, every hint in the text must be grasped to understand these things, and a judicious reading between the lines is sometimes required.
     Leviticus is part of the covenant law given at Sinai. The ideas that inform the whole Sinaitic covenant, including God’s sovereign grace in choosing Israel and His moral demands, are also presupposed here. Certain themes are especially prominent in Leviticus. First, God is present with His people. Second, because God is holy, His people must also be holy (11:45). Since man is sinful, he cannot dwell with the holy God. Contact between the sinner and the divine holiness may result in death. Hence, atonement for sin through the offering of sacrifice is of paramount importance.
  ESV Reformation Study Bible

Leviticus 1

Laws for Burnt Offerings

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

3 “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. 5 Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6 Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7 and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9 but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

10 “If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, he shall bring a male without blemish, 11 and he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 12 And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar, 13 but the entrails and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

14 “If his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves or pigeons. 15 And the priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head and burn it on the altar. Its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. 16 He shall remove its crop with its contents and cast it beside the altar on the east side, in the place for ashes. 17 He shall tear it open by its wings, but shall not sever it completely. And the priest shall burn it on the altar, on the wood that is on the fire. It is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

John 20

The Resurrection

John 20:1  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” — and that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Proverbs 17

Proverbs 17:1

Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2  A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3  The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the LORD tests hearts.
4  An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5  Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6  Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7  Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8  A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9  Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10  A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11  An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12  Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13  If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14  The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15  He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the LORD.
16  Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17  A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18  One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19  Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20  A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21  He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22  A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23  The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24  The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25  A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26  To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27  Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Philippians 4

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Exhortation, Encouragement, and Prayer

2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

God’s Provision

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Final Greetings

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

The Oversight of Ourselves

By Richard Baxter 6/1/1992

     Let us consider what it is to take heed to ourselves. See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that Gospel which you preach; and lest, while you proclaim to the world the necessity of a Savior, your own hearts should neglect Him, and you should miss of an interest in Him and His saving benefits. Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing. Though there is a promise of shining as the stars, to those “who turn many to righteousness,” that is if they are first turned to it themselves. Their own sincerity in the faith is the condition of their glory though their great ministerial labors may be a condition of the promise of greater glory.

     Many have warned others that they come not to that place of torment, while yet they hastened to it themselves: Many a preacher is now in hell, who hath hundreds of times called upon his hearers to escape it. Can any reasonable man imagine that God should save men for offering salvation to others, while they refuse it themselves? Many a tailor goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others. Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work. Take heed, therefore, to yourselves first, that you be that which you persuade others to be, and heartily entertain that Savior whom you offer to them.

     Oh what aggravated misery is this, to perish in the midst of plenty!—to famish with the bread of life in our hands, while we offer it to others. If such a wretched man would take my counsel, he would make a stand, and call his heart and life to an account, and fall preaching to himself, before he preach any more to others.

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Richard Baxter (1615–1691) was a Puritan pastor at Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England. He is best known for evangelizing and catechizing families under his care. This article is excerpted from The Reformed Pastor: Updated and Unabridged. His collected writings have been reprinted in four volumes by Soli Deo Gloria Publications.

The Origin of the Soul

By R.C. Sproul 6/1/1992

     Students of philosophy are well aware of the watershed significance of Immanuel Kant’s epochal work, The Critique of Pure Reason. In this volume Kant gave a comprehensive critique of the traditional arguments for the existence of God, wrecking havoc on natural theology and classical apologetics. Kant ended in agnosticism with respect to God, arguing that God cannot be known either by rational deduction or by empirical investigation. He assigned God to the “noumenal world,” a realm impenetrable by reason or by sense perception.

     The impact on apologetics and metaphysical speculation of Kant’s work has been keenly felt. What is often overlooked, however, even among philosophers, is the profound impact Kant’s critique had on our understanding of the soul.

     Kant placed three concepts or entities in his noumenal realm, a realm above and beyond the phenomenal realm. The triad includes God, the self, and the thing-in-itself, or essences. If God resides in this extraphenomenal realm, then, the argument goes, we cannot know anything about Him. Our knowledge, indeed all true science, is restricted to the phenomenal realm, the world perceived by the senses. Kant argued that we cannot move to the noumenal realm by reasoning from the phenomenal realm (a point that put Kant on a collision course with the apostle Paul).

     Kant’s agnosticism moved beyond theology to metaphysics. Since meta-physics is concerned with that which is above and beyond the physical, it is deemed a fool’s errand to seek knowledge of essences. The phenomenal realm is the world of existence, not of metaphysical essences or “things-in-themselves.” There may be metaphysical essences but they cannot be known by human reason. That Kant did a hatchet job on metaphysics as well as theology is clear.

     Again, what is often overlooked is that the hatchet had more work to do. By assigning the self to the noumenal realm, Kant also hacked away at the concept of the human soul. This has had a devastating impact on subsequent views of anthropology. Pre-Kantian thought gave heavy weight to the importance of the human soul. Post-Kantian thought has as all but eliminated the soul from serious consideration.

     The nature of the self remains a concern of psychology, but its nature is enmeshed in enigma. Descartes arrived at a knowledge of the self as a clear and distinct idea via a rigorous doubting process. He resolved to doubt everything he could possibly doubt. The one thing he couldn’t doubt was that he was doubting. There was no doubt about that. For anyone to doubt that he is doubting, he must doubt to do it. Since doubting is a form of thinking and thought requires a thinker, Descartes arrived at his famous conclusion: Cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.” We notice that in this formula there is an “I,” a self, that is necessarily involved in the process.

     Kant, himself, could not rid himself of the awareness of his self. He appealed, however, not to a rational deduction by which he came to a conclusion of his self; rather, he coined the idea of the “transcendental apperception of the ego.” This technical language is somewhat cumbersome but nevertheless significant. Kant saw the self not as something perceived by the senses. It is an apperception and a necessary apperception for all thought. It transcends the normal process of knowing according to Kant.

     What is crucial is that some notion of the self beyond the physical is inescapable. We may argue about how we know we are selves but we cannot deny that we are selves. Descartes was correct: It takes a self to deny the self.

     That the human self involves more than the body is clear to all except the most rigorous material determinists who reduce all reality to the purely physical, including thought as mind itself. They reject the Gerstnerian formula: “What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind.”

     Classical Christian anthropology views man as a substantial dichotomy. This concept is likewise under attack in evangelical circles, not only from the side of trichotomists but also from those who see in it an unwarranted intrusion of Greek philosophy into Jewish-Christian thought. It is rejected by Murray Harris, for one, and was attacked by Philip Hughes, to mention another evangelical scholar.

     In my judgment, the rejection of substantial dichotomy rests upon a fundamental error of understanding, a fatal false assumption. Harris and others attack substantial dichotomy because they hear in it a recapitulation of Greek dualism. The Greeks viewed man as a creature locked in a conflict between two opposing and irreconcilable substances, the body and the soul. To the Greek the soul is eternal and good, the body is temporal and intrinsically imperfect. For Plato the nonmaterial ideal realm is the realm of the good. The physical is at best an imperfect receptacle or copy of the ideal. Hence the view emerged in Greek philosophy that the body is the prison house of the soul. Redemption means the release of the soul from the body.

     Pythagoras was the source of Plato’s theory of the transmigration of the soul, an early version of reincarnation. The soul is eternal but may become entrapped in a series of incarnations during its eternal migration. Redemption occurs when the chain or series of incarnations end and the soul is free to live a bodiless existence.

     Herein is the dualism so repugnant to Christian thought. But the problem with the Greek view is not that it has two distinct substances, body and soul, but that it views them as in total conflict with each other, because the physical is inherently evil (at least in the metaphysical sense of evil).

     Jewish-Christian thought, however, sees man as made up of two distinct substances that are not in conflict. Nor does the Bible view matter as being inherently evil. For the Christian, redemption is of the body, not from the body. The Christian doctrine of substantial dichotomy is not dualistic. Man is not a dualism but a duality. That is, we have a real body (material substance) and a real soul (immaterial substance). There is an analogy with the person of Christ in that He has two natures or substances, divine and human, united in one person. That He has two substances does not necessitate a dualism in His person. (Of course the human nature of Christ also includes a human body and a human soul.)

     That we are made up of body and soul is indicated in the creation account:

     “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

     In the creation imagery man’s body is formed first. But the body without the soul remains lifeless. When God breathes the breath of life into the body, then man becomes a living soul. In this account there is no hint of an eternal or preexistent human soul. The soul is as much a creation as is the body. That the soul survives the grave is not a testimony to its indestructibility or of its intrinsic immortality. The soul as a created entity is mortal. It survives the grave only because it is sustained and preserved by the power of God. It is preserved for eternal felicity for the redeemed; it is preserved for eternal punishment for the damned.

     The soul of man can live without the body; the body cannot live without the soul. Jesus exhorted His hearers: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both the soul and the body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

     From biblical revelation we know we have souls. The Bible does not banish the soul to some “never-never” noumenal world of agnosticism. Not only do we have souls, but the nurture and care of our souls is a top priority for the Christian life.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Marks of a Great Teacher: Understanding

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1993

     The K-I-S-S principle is frequently requested in a learning environment. The acrostic stands for “Keep it simple, stupid.” It seems we are a people who loathe difficult study. We want easy answers and we want them quickly. Mastery of a subject, however, requires years of diligent labor and study. But once the teacher has mastered his material, how does he transmit it to his students?

     Certain assumptions are made in the classroom. The first is that the teacher knows more about the subject than the student. It is, in general, a safe assumption. The second assumption is that the teacher cannot communicate his mastery of the subject all at once. To educate (as the Latin root suggests), we must lead students “out of” ignorance into knowledge. That knowledge moves in increments, from the simple to complex.

     The great teacher helps his students gain understanding. This may be the most vital and most difficult task of teaching. Students often complain that the teacher speaks “over-the-heads” of the students. What does this mean? It means that the student does not understand what is being taught. It may indicate that the student is lazy and is unwilling to be stretched intellectually. It could also mean that the teacher doesn’t understand what he is teaching.

     Often times our educational process is a failure with respect to learning. The syndrome goes something like this: A student attends college classes, takes copious notes, memorizes the notes, and makes an A in the course. Then he graduates from college and follows the same procedure in graduate school. Now he becomes a teacher and he has a great store of information about which he has been tested yet has little understanding. Information has been transferred but never processed or digested by the inquiring mind. This teacher now goes in the classroom where he gives lectures from his notes and text books. He allows little time for questions (he fears questions he may not be able to answer). He continues the vicious syndrome of his own education with his students and the game goes on.

     A great teacher can simplify without distortion. This is the supreme test of understanding. If I truly understand something, I ought to be able to communicate it to others. There is a vast chasm that separates the simple from the simplistic. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, taught in simple terms. But He was never simplistic. To oversimplify is to distort the truth. The great teacher can express the profound by the simple, without distortion. To do that requires a deep level of understanding. The great teacher imparts understanding, not merely information. To do that the teacher must understand the material being taught.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

None Dare Call It Heresy

By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1994

     Is the flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinn a heretic? He was so branded by Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man,” in his recent book Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century. Hanegraaff’s Charge resulted in a radical outburst of indignant cries directed not at Hinn but at Hanegraaff.

     It seems that the only real and intolerable heresy today is the despicable act of calling someone a heretic. If the one accused is guilty of heresy, he or she will probably elicit more sympathy than his accuser. Anyone who cries “Heretic!” today risks being identified as a native of Salem, Massachusetts.

     After Hanegraaff made his charge in print, a couple of things happened. One is that Hinn recanted his own teaching that there are nine persons in the Trinity and apologized to his hearers for that teaching. Such recantations are rare in church history, and it is gratifying that at least in this case on that point Hinn repented of his false teaching.

     The second interesting footnote to the Hanegraaff-Hinn saga was the appearance of an editorial by the editor of a leading charismatic magazine in which Hanegraaff was castigated for calling Hinn a heretic. At the 1993 Christian Booksellers Association convention, I was present for and witness to a discussion between Hanegraaff and the magazine editor. I asked the editor a few questions. The first was, “Is there such a thing as heresy?” The editor acknowledged that there was. My second question was, “Is heresy a serious matter?” Again he agreed that it was. My next question was obvious. “Then why are you criticizing Hanegraaff for saying that Hinn was teaching heresy when even Hinn admits it now?”

     The editor expressed concern about tolerance, charity, the unity of Christians, and matters of that sort. He expressed a concern about witch hunts in the evangelical church. My sentiments about that are clear. We don’t need to hunt witches in the evangelical world. There is no need to hunt what is not hiding. The “witches” are in plain view, every day on national television, teaching blatant heresy without fear of censure.

     Consider the case of Jimmy Swaggart. For years Swaggart has publicly repudiated the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Swaggart was not challenged (to my knowledge) by his church for his heresy. He was censured for sexual immorality but not heresy. I guess this church regards romping with prostitutes in private a more serious offense than denying the Trinity before the watching world.

     As I documented in The Agony of Deceit: What Some TV Preachers are Really Teaching, Paul Crouch teaches heresy. So do Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagen. These men seem to teach their heresies with impunity.

     But what do we mean by heresy? Is every theological error a heresy? In a broad sense, every departure from biblical truth may be regarded as a heresy. But in the currency of Christian thought, the term heresy has usually been reserved for gross and heinous distortions of biblical truth, for errors so grave that they threaten either the essence (esse) of the Christian faith or the well-being (bene esse) of the Christian church.

     Luther was excommunicated by Rome and declared a heretic for teaching justification by faith alone. Luther replied that the church had embraced a heretical view of salvation. The issue still burns as to who the heretic is.

     In Luther’s response to Erasmus’ Diatribe, he acknowledged that many of the points at issue were trifles. They did not warrant rupturing the unity of the church. They could be “covered” by the love and forbearance that covers a multitude of sins. When it came to justification, however, Luther sang a different tune. He called justification the article upon which the church stands or falls, a doctrine so vital that it touches the very heart of the Gospel. A church that rejects justification by faith alone (and anathematizes it as a deadly heresy) is nolonger an orthodox church. Luther wasn’t shadow boxing on that issue; nor was the Reformation a mere misunderstanding between warring factions in the church. No teapot was big enough to contain the tempest it provoked.

     In graduate school in Holland, it was the custom of my tutor, Professor G.C. Berkouwer, to lecture on one doctrine per year. In 1965 he departed from his normal policy and lectured on “The History of Heresy in the Christian Church.”

     Berkouwer canvassed the most important struggles the church faced against heresy. It was Marcion’s heretical canon that made it necessary for the church to formalize the contents of the true canon of sacred Scripture. It was Arius’s adoptionism that necessitated the conciliar decrees of Nicaea. It was the heresies of Eutyches (monophysitism) and Nestorius that provoked the watershed ecumenical council of Chalcedon in 451. The heresies of Sabellius, Apollinarius, the Socinians, and others have driven the church through the ages to define the limits of orthodoxy.

     One of the major points in Berkouwer’s study was the historical tendency for heresies to beget other heresies, particularly heresies in the opposite direction. For example, efforts to defend the true humanity of Jesus often led to the denial of His deity. Zeal to defend the deity of Christ often led to a denial of His humanity. Likewise the zeal for the unity of the Godhead and monotheism have led to the denial of the personal distinctions in the being of God, whereas zeal for personal distinctives have led to tritheism and a denial of the essential unity of God. Likewise, efforts to correct the heresy of legalism have produced the antinomian heresy and vice versa.

     We live in a climate where heresy is embraced and proclaimed with the greatest of ease. I can’t think of any of these major heresies that I haven’t heard repeatedly and openly on national tv by so-called “evangelical preachers” such as Hinn, Crouch, and the like. Where our fathers saw these issues as matters of life and death, indeed of eternal life and death, we have so surrendered to relativism and pluralism that we simply don’t care about serious doctrinal error. We prefer peace to truth and accuse the orthodox of being divisive when they call a heretic a heretic. It is the heretic who divides the church and disrupts the unity of the body of Christ.

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

R.C. Sproul Books:

Help! My Neighbor’s a Heretic

By Mike Malone 4/1/1994

     My middle daughter had a great concern for a boy in our neighborhood and his family. They did not attend church, and they “never read the Bible.” She suggested that we buy her friend a copy of the Scriptures, which she would deliver to him. What were we to do? The potential for alienation from our neighborhood was written all over our daughter’s naive request. The mother came by one afternoon and engaged me in conversation. “You know, we don’t go to church, but we believe in God. We just don’t believe it’s right to shove our beliefs off on other people. After all, we’re all free to believe what we want.”

     There I was, the narrow bigot, trapped by a compassionate, free-thinking modern American. The temptation to slip quietly away, tail between my legs, was strong; but the desire to respond was stronger. “It’s true that we are free to believe whatever we want,” I said. “But you can’t mean that it doesn’t matter. It really does matter. While we are free to believe whatever we want, not all beliefs are true. Right?” My neighbor was somewhat puzzled by the response. “For example, Adolf Hitler believed certain things, but you would say he was wrong about them wouldn’t you? You would agree that what he believed had horrible consequences for tens of millions of others, right” “Well, yes, of course … well, you know what I mean.” The conversation ended there and we never had another.

     That’s how it is and that’s some of the price you pay for being a Christian in a self-conscious way in 1994. Fortunately, not all encounters end in this way. When a Christian takes the time to listen carefully and respond intelligently, many may come to Christ or have their understanding clarified.

     “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine,” Paul admonishes Timothy. “Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). Paying attention to and continuing in what is sound, true, Scriptural, or doctrinally correct has implications for you and for your hearers.

     How do you respond to the subtle and pervasive pluralism of the day? First, commit to being a life-long learner, for yourself. Paul recognizes that God not only appoints ends or goals (here, the salvation of His people); He also appoints means to those ends (here, the persistent and patient consideration of doctrine, or what we believe). As we require food and oxygen to achieve physical maturity, so spiritually we require means to move in the direction of maturity.

     Second, realize that God employs you in the rescuing of those who are lost in darkness and death. Their situation is grave. Eternity hangs in the balance.

     When you speak with friends who have embraced ideas which appear unorthodox, require that they test everything by the only standard which you or they have: the Word of God. A lack of willingness to submit to the Scriptures is indicative of a heart not yet made responsive to the call of God.

     In connection with this, require of your friend or neighbor that the whole of the teaching of the Bible be considered. Most if not all cults and heterodox groups are established by misunderstanding or misapplying isolated texts of Scripture. Heresy can be much more difficult to deal with than things which are pagan because heretics, cultists, and others tend to know their Bibles well. Know your Bible well and develop a comprehensive understanding of Scripture which measures and judges aberrant ideas.

     Finally, many people are somewhat unwittingly involved in heretical ideas and practices. Remember that they are not the enemy and that God has and will continue to rescue people like them. Be patient in loving them. Answer their questions. At times sober and hard confrontation may be required. With some, that will mean alienation and rejection. For those in whom the Spirit is working a resultant “joy unspeakable and full of glory” will come.

     Conversations are never easy with people in cults, marginal Christian groups, or paganism. They require knowledge, wisdom, and courage. For centuries, God has been pleased to use the faithful speaking of the Good News by novices like us. The result: an innumerable host will gather to worship and adore the Lamb throughout eternity.

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     Mike Malone, could not find bio

Leviticus 1; John 20; Proverbs 17; Philippians 4

By Don Carson 3/30/2018

     Thomas Gets A Lot Of Bad Press — “Doubting Thomas,” we call him. Yet the reason he doubts that Jesus has risen from the dead may have more to do with the fact that he was not present when Jesus first appeared to the apostolic band (John 20:19-25). It is entirely obvious that any of the others would have fared any better if they had been absent on the critical day?

     Certainly Thomas does not lack courage. When Jesus purposes to return from Galilee to Judah to raise Lazarus from the dead, and the disciples, understanding the political climate, recognize how dangerous such a course of action will be, it is Thomas who quietly encourages his colleagues: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (11:16). On occasion Thomas articulates the question the entire band is wanting to ask. Thus, when Jesus insists he is going away, and that by now they really do know the way, Thomas is not just speaking for himself when he quietly protests, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (14:5).

     But here in John 20, if he is the one caught out by his absence, at the second appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the apostolic band Thomas also triggers some dialogue of stellar importance. When Jesus shows up, through locked doors, he specifically turns to Thomas and displays the scars of his wounds: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (20:27). Thomas asks no further evidence. He erupts with one of the great christological confessions of the New Testament: “My Lord and my God!” (20:28).

     Jesus responds with an utterance that illuminates the nature of Christian witness today: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (20:29). Jesus here casts his shadow forward down the meadows of history, envisaging the countless millions who will trust him without ever having seen him in the flesh, without ever having traced out the scars on his hands, feet, and side. Their faith is not inferior. Indeed, in the peculiar providence of God, the report of Thomas’s experience is one of the things the Spirit of God will use to bring them to faith. Jesus graciously provides the visual and tangible evidence to the one, so that the written report of Thomas’s faith and confession will spur to conversion those who have access only to text. Both Thomas and his successors believe in Jesus and have life in his name (20:30-31).

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

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 35

Great Is the LORD

11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
13 But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.

15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
16 like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 12.


The divisions of this chapter are,--I. A consideration of the righteousness of God overturns the righteousness of works, as is plain from passages of Scripture, and the confession and example of the saints, sec. 1-3. II. The same effect produced by a serious examination of the conscience, and a constant citation to the divine tribunal, sec. 4 and 5. III. Hence arises, in the hearts of the godly, not hypocrisy, or a vain opinion of merit, but true humility. This illustrated by the authority of Scripture and the example of the Publican, sec. 6, 7. IV. Conclusion--arrogance and security must be discarded, every man throwing an impediment in the way of the divine goodness in proportion as he trusts to himself.


1. Source of error on the subject of Justification. Sophists speak as if the question were to be discussed before some human tribunal. It relates to the majesty and justice of God. Hence nothing accepted without absolute perfection. Passages confirming this doctrine. If we descend to the righteousness of the Law, the curse immediately appears.

2. Source of hypocritical confidence. Illustrated by a simile. Exhortation. Testimony of Job, David, and Paul.

3. Confession of Augustine and Bernard.

4. Another engine overthrowing the righteousness of works--viz. A serious examination of the conscience, and a comparison between the perfection of God and the imperfection of man.

5. How it is that we so indulge this imaginary opinion of our own works. The proper remedy to be found in a consideration of the majesty of God and our own misery. A description of this misery.

6. Christian humility consists in laying aside the imaginary idea of our own righteousness, and trusting entirely to the mercy of God, apprehended by faith in Christ. This humility described. Proved by passages of Scripture.

7. The parable of the Publican explained.

8. Arrogance, security, and self-confidence, must be renounced. General rule, or summary of the above doctrine.

1. Although the perfect truth of the above doctrine is proved by clear passages of Scripture, yet we cannot clearly see how necessary it is, before we bring distinctly into view the foundations on which the whole discussion ought to rest. First, then, let us remember that the righteousness which we are considering is not that of a human, but of a heavenly tribunal; and so beware of employing our own little standard to measure the perfection which is to satisfy the justice of God. It is strange with what rashness and presumption this is commonly defined. Nay, we see that none talk more confidently, or, so to speak, more blusteringly, of the righteousness of works than those whose diseases are most palpable, and blemishes most apparent. This they do because they reflect not on the righteousness of Christ, which, if they had the slightest perception of it, they would never treat with so much insult. It is certainly undervalued, if not recognized to be so perfect that nothing can be accepted that is not in every respect entire and absolute, and tainted by no impurity; such indeed as never has been, and never will be, found in man. It is easy for any man, within the precincts of the schools, to talk of the sufficiency of works for justification; but when we come into the presence of God there must be a truce to such talk. The matter is there discussed in earnest, and is no longer a theatrical logomachy. Hither must we turn our minds if we would inquire to any purpose concerning true righteousness; the question must be: How shall we answer the heavenly Judge when he calls us to account? Let us contemplate that Judge, not as our own unaided intellect conceives of him, but as he is portrayed to us in Scripture (see especially the Book of Job), with a brightness which obscures the stars, a strength which melts the mountains, an anger which shakes the earth, a wisdom which takes the wise in their own craftiness, a purity before which all things become impure, a righteousness to which not even angels are equal (so far is it from making the guilty innocent), a vengeance which once kindled burns to the lowest hell (Exod. 34:7; Nahum 1:3; Deut. 32:22). Let Him, I say, sit in judgment on the actions of men, and who will feel secure in sisting himself before his throne? "Who among us," says the prophets "shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly," &c. (Isaiah 33:14, 15). Let whoso will come forth. Nay, the answer shows that no man can. For, on the other hand, we hear the dreadful voice: "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark our iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps. 130:3). All must immediately perish, as Job declares, "Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? They are destroyed from morning to evening," (Job 4:17-20). Again, "Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?" (Job 15:15, 16). I confess, indeed, that in the Book of Job reference is made to a righteousness of a more exalted description than the observance of the Law. It is of importance to attend to this distinction; for even could a man satisfy the Law, he could not stand the scrutiny of that righteousness which transcends all our thoughts. Hence, although Job was not conscious of offending, he is still dumb with astonishment, because he sees that God could not be appeased even by the sanctity of angels, were their works weighed in that supreme balance. But to advert no farther to this righteousness, which is incomprehensible, I only say, that if our life is brought to the standard of the written law, we are lethargic indeed if we are not filled with dread at the many maledictions which God has employed for the purpose of arousing us, and among others, the following general one: "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them," (Deut. 27:26). In short, the whole discussion of this subject will be insipid and frivolous, unless we sist ourselves before the heavenly Judge, and anxious for our acquittal, voluntarily humble ourselves, confessing our nothingness.

2. Thus then must we raise our eyes that we may learn to tremble instead of vainly exulting. It is easy, indeed, when the comparison is made among men, for every one to plume himself on some quality which others ought not to despise; but when we rise to God, that confidence instantly falls and dies away. The case of the soul with regard to God is very analogous to that of the body in regard to the visible firmament. The bodily eye, while employed in surveying adjacent objects, is pleased with its own perspicacity; but when directed to the sun, being dazzled and overwhelmed by the refulgence, it becomes no less convinced of its weakness than it formerly was of its power in viewing inferior objects. Therefore, lest we deceive ourselves by vain confidence, let us recollect that even though we deem ourselves equal or superior to other men, this is nothing to God, by whose judgment the decision must be given. But if our presumption cannot be tamed by these considerations, he will answer us as he did the Pharisees, "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God," (Luke 16:15). Go now and make a proud boast of your righteousness among men, while God in heaven abhors it. But what are the feelings of the servants of God, of those who are truly taught by his Spirit? "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified," (Ps. 143:2). Another, though in a sense somewhat different, says, "How should man be just with God? If he will contend with him he cannot answer him one of a thousand," (Job 9:2, 3). Here we are plainly told what the righteousness of God is, namely, a righteousness which no human works can satisfy which charges us with a thousand sins, while not one sin can be excused. Of this righteousness Paul, that chosen vessel of God, had formed a just idea, when he declared, "I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified," (1 Cor. 4:4).

3. Such examples exist not in the sacred volume only; all pious writers show that their sentiment was the same. Thus Augustine says, "Of all pious men groaning under this burden of corruptible flesh, and the infirmities of this life, the only hope is, that we have one Mediator Jesus Christ the righteous, and that he intercedes for our sins," (August. ad Bonif. lib. 3, c. 5). What do we hear? If this is their only hope, where is their confidence in works? When he says only, he leaves no other. Bernard says, "And, indeed, where have the infirm firm security and safe rest, but in the wounds of the Savior? Hold it then the more securely, the more powerful he is to save. The world frowns, the body presses, the devil lays snares: I fall not, because I am founded on a firm rock. I have sinned a grievous sin: conscience is troubled, but it shall not be overwhelmed, for I will remember the wounds of the Lord." He afterwards concludes, "My merit, therefore, is the compassion of the Lord; plainly I am not devoid of merit so long as he is not devoid of commiseration. But if the mercies of the Lord are many, equally many are my merits. Shall I sing of my own righteousness? O Lord, I will make mention of thy righteousness alone. That righteousness is mine also, being made mine by God," (Bernard, Serm. 61, in Cantic). Again, in another passage, "Man's whole merit is to place his whole hope in him who makes the whole man safe," (in Psal. Qui Habitat. Serm. 15). In like manner, reserving peace to himself, he leaves the glory to God: "Let thy glory remain unimpaired: it is well with me if I have peace; I altogether abjure boasting, lest if I should usurp what is not mine, I lose also what is offered," (Serm. 13, in Cantic). He says still more plainly in another place: "Why is the Church solicitous about merits? God purposely supplies her with a firmer and more secure ground of boasting. There is no reason for asking by what merits may we hope for blessings, especially when you hear in the prophet, Thus saith the Lord God, I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake,' (Ezek. 36:22, 32). It is sufficient for merit to know that merits suffice not; but as it is sufficient for merit not to presume on merit, so to be without merits is sufficient for condemnation," (Bernard, Serm. 68). The free use of the term merits for good works must be pardoned to custom. Bernard's purpose was to alarm hypocrites, who turned the grace of God into licentiousness, as he shortly after explains: "Happy the church which neither wants merit without presumption, nor presumption without merit. It has ground to presume, but not merit. It has merit, merit to deserve, not presume. Is not the absence of presumption itself a merit? He, therefore, to whom the many mercies of the Lord furnish ample grounds of boasting, presumes the more securely that he presumes not," (Bernard, Serm. 68).

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

  • R.C. Sproul
  • John MacArthur
  • Ligon Duncan

#1 If God is Sovereign | How Can Man Be Free?


#2 Is Jesus the Only Way? | Ligonier


#3 Should the Church Embrace Postmodernism | Ligonier


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     3/1/2007    Accepted in the Beloved

     When I begin premarital counseling with a couple in our church, one of the first things we talk about is the purpose of the marriage covenant. I usually astonish the couple when I explain that their marriage is not primarily about them. After the initial shock, the young couple usually just looks at me with blank stares. I then explain that marriage is first and foremost about God and His kingdom (Eph. 5:30–32). We spend some time talking about the creation ordinance to be fruitful and multiply, and I explain that their marriage is intended to bring glory to God as each fulfills his and her covenant role in the relationship. I explain that they are getting married not just to live under the same roof with the same last name, but that their marriage is to reflect the relationship of Christ and His Bride (Eph. 5:25–29). When they understand that truth, they have a good foundation on which to build a loving and full marriage.

     When we begin to realize that salvation is not primarily about us, but about God’s kingdom and His glory, only then are we able to have a right understanding of our salvation. We are not Christians so that we can merely live under the same roof as other Christians, or for the mere reason to be called a “Christian.” We became Christians because God accepted us by adopting us into His family. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God the Father made us alive in Christ (Acts 10:35). Though this is quite simple, it is confusing to many who have been duped into thinking they have somehow accepted God as their Father. However, the Word of God is clear; it is not that we have accepted God; rather, He has accepted us into His family. The apostle Paul writes: “…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:3–6 NKJV).

     God accepts us into His family (Ps. 19:14; Rom. 14:3; 1 Tim. 2:3; 1 Peter 2:5), and if it is God who accepts us as His adopted children, it is God who keeps us so that we might be holy and blameless coram Deo. Jesus Christ is our Great Shepherd, and we are His sheep who hear His voice, who follow Him, and for whom He laid down His life so that we would be adopted by the Father only as a result of the Son’s perfect, and completely acceptable, life and death (John 10:1–11).

     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

     During the Civil War, on this day, March 30, 1863, just three months after his Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer. He stated: “We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God… we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” President Lincoln concluded: “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become… too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

In any country where talent and virtue produce no advancement, money will be the national god. Its inhabitants will either have to possess money or make others believe that they do. Wealth will be the highest virtue, poverty the greatest vice. Those who have money will display it in every imaginable way. If their ostentation does not exceed their fortune, all will be well. But if their ostentation does exceed their fortune they will ruin themselves. In such a country, the greatest fortunes will vanish in the twinkling of an eye. Those who don't have money will ruin themselves with vain efforts to conceal their poverty. That is one kind of affluence: the outward sign of wealth for a small number, the mask of poverty for the majority, and a source of corruption for all.
--- Denis Diderot   Tocqueville: Democracy in America Volumes 1 & 2 and Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville (Complete and Unabridged)

How vast a memory has love!
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
--- Alexander Pope   The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq: In Four Volumes Complete. with His Last Corrections, Additions, and Improvements. Carefully Collated and Compared ... from the Various Critics and Commentators

Books are the windows through which the soul looks out.
--- Henry Ward Beecher   Henry Ward Beecher (Classic Reprint)

All changes, even the most longed for have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves. We must die to one life before we can enter another.
--- Anatole France   The Jewish Mind

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/30
     University of Virginia Libray 1994

     Second of ninth month, 1767. -- With the unity of Friends, I set off on a visit to Friends in the upper part of Berks and Philadelphia counties; was at eleven meetings in about two weeks, and have renewed cause to bow in reverence before the Lord, who, by the powerful extendings of his humbling goodness, opened my way among Friends, and I trust made the meetings profitable to us. The following winter I joined some Friends in a family visit to some part of our meeting, in which exercise the pure influence of Divine love made our visits reviving.

John Woolman's Journal

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Twenty-first Chapter / Above All Goods And All Gifts We Must Rest In God

          The Disciple

     ABOVE all things and in all things, O my soul, rest always in God, for He is the everlasting rest of the saints.

     Grant, most sweet and loving Jesus, that I may seek my repose in You above every creature; above all health and beauty; above every honor and glory; every power and dignity; above all knowledge and cleverness, all riches and arts, all joy and gladness; above all fame and praise, all sweetness and consolation; above every hope and promise, every merit and desire; above all the gifts and favors that You can give or pour down upon me; above all the joy and exultation that the mind can receive and feel; and finally, above the angels and archangels and all the heavenly host; above all things visible and invisible; and may I seek my repose in You above everything that is not You, my God.

     For You, O Lord my God, are above all things the best. You alone are most high, You alone most powerful. You alone are most sufficient and most satisfying, You alone most sweet and consoling. You alone are most beautiful and loving, You alone most noble and glorious above all things. In You is every perfection that has been or ever will be. Therefore, whatever You give me besides Yourself, whatever You reveal to me concerning Yourself, and whatever You promise, is too small and insufficient when I do not see and fully enjoy You alone. For my heart cannot rest or be fully content until, rising above all gifts and every created thing, it rests in You.

     Who, O most beloved Spouse, Jesus Christ, most pure Lover, Lord of all creation, who shall give me the wings of true liberty that I may fly to rest in You? When shall freedom be fully given me to see how sweet You are, O Lord, my God? When shall I recollect myself entirely in You, so that because of Your love I may feel, not myself, but You alone above all sense and measure, in a manner known to none? But now I often lament and grieve over my unhappiness, for many evils befall me in this vale of miseries, often disturbing me, making me sad and overshadowing me, often hindering and distracting me, alluring and entangling me so that I neither have free access to You nor enjoy the sweet embraces which are ever ready for blessed souls. Let my sighs and the manifold desolation here on earth move You.

     O Jesus, Splendor of eternal glory, Consolation of the pilgrim soul, with You my lips utter no sound and to You my silence speaks. How long will my Lord delay His coming? Let Him come to His poor servant and make him happy. Let Him put forth His hand and take this miserable creature from his anguish. Come, O come, for without You there will be no happy day or hour, because You are my happiness and without You my table is empty. I am wretched, as it were imprisoned and weighted down with fetters, until You fill me with the light of Your presence, restore me to liberty, and show me a friendly countenance. Let others seek instead of You whatever they will, but nothing pleases me or will please me but You, my God, my Hope, my everlasting Salvation. I will not be silent, I will not cease praying until Your grace returns to me and You speak inwardly to me, saying: “Behold, I am here. Lo, I have come to you because you have called Me. Your tears and the desire of your soul, your humility and contrition of heart have inclined Me and brought Me to you.”

     Lord, I have called You, and have desired You, and have been ready to spurn all things for Your sake. For You first spurred me on to seek You. May You be blessed, therefore, O Lord, for having shown this goodness to Your servant according to the multitude of Your mercies.

     What more is there for Your servant to say to You unless, with his iniquity and vileness always in mind, he humbles himself before You? Nothing among all the wonders of heaven and earth is like to You. Your works are exceedingly good, Your judgments true, and Your providence rules the whole universe. May You be praised and glorified, therefore, O Wisdom of the Father. Let my lips and my soul and all created things unite to praise and bless You.

The Imitation Of Christ

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

     The fruit of the Spirit is love.

     And what is the reason that God's Holy Spirit cannot come in power? Is it not possible?

     You remember the comparison I used in speaking of the vessel. I can dip a little water into a potsherd, a bit of a vessel; but if a vessel is to be full, it must be unbroken. And the children of God, wherever they come together, to whatever church or mission or society they belong, must love each other intensely, or the Spirit of God cannot do His work. We talk about grieving the Spirit of God by worldliness and ritualism and formality and error and indifference, but, I tell you, the one thing above everything that grieves God's Spirit is this lack of love. Let every heart search itself, and ask that God may search it.

     Our Love Shows God's Power

     Why are we taught that "the fruit of the Spirit is love"? Because the Spirit of God has come to make our daily life an exhibition of divine power and a revelation of what God can do for His children.

     In the second and the fourth chapters of Acts we read that the disciples were of one heart and of one soul. During the three years they had walked with Christ they never had been in that spirit. All Christ's teaching could not make them of one heart and one soul. But the Holy Spirit came from Heaven and shed the love of God in their hearts, and they were of one heart and one soul. The same Holy Spirit that brought the love of Heaven into their hearts must fill us too. Nothing less will do. Even as Christ did, one might preach love for three years with the tongue of an angel, but that would not teach any man to love unless the power of the Holy Spirit should come upon him to bring the love of Heaven into his heart.

     Think of the church at large. What divisions! Think of the different bodies. Take the question of holiness, take the question of the cleansing blood, take the question of the baptism of the Spirit--what differences are caused among dear believers by such questions! That there are differences of opinion does not trouble me. We do not have the same constitution and temperament and mind. But how often hate, bitterness, contempt, separation, unlovingness are caused by the holiest truths of God's Word! Our doctrines, our creeds, have been more important than love. We often think we are valiant for the truth and we forget God's command to speak the truth in love. And it was so in the time of the Reformation between the Lutheran and Calvinistic churches. What bitterness there was then in regard to the Holy Supper, which was meant to be the bond of union among all believers! And so, down the ages, the very dearest truths of God have become mountains that have separated us.

     If we want to pray in power, and if we want to expect the Holy Spirit to come down in power, and if we want indeed that God shall pour out His Spirit, we must enter into a covenant with God that we love one another with a heavenly love.

     Are you ready for that? Only that is true love that is large enough to take in all God's children, the most unloving and unlovable, and unworthy, and unbearable, and trying. If my vow--absolute surrender to God--was true, then it must mean absolute surrender to the divine love to fill me; to be a servant of love to love every child of God around me. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."

     Oh, God did something wonderful when He gave Christ, at His right hand, the Holy Spirit to come down out of the heart of the Father and His everlasting love. And how we have degraded the Holy Spirit into a mere power by which we have to do our work! God forgive us! Oh, that the Holy Spirit might be held in honor as a power to fill us with the very life and nature of God and of Christ!

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 13:21-22
     by D.H. Stern

21     Evil pursues sinners,
but prosperity will reward the righteous.
22     A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren,
but the wealth of a sinner is stored up for the righteous.

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


     ‘But there is a real choice after death? My Roman Catholic friends would be surprised, for to them souls in Purgatory are already saved. And my Protestant friends would like it no better, for they’d say that the tree lies as it falls.’

     ‘They’re both right, maybe. Do not fash yourself with such questions. Ye cannot fully understand the relations of choice and Time till you are beyond both. And ye were not brought here to study such curiosities. What concerns you is the nature of the choice itself: and that ye can watch them making.’

     ‘Well, Sir,’ I said, ‘That also needs explaining. What do they choose, these souls who go back (I have yet seen no others)? And how can they choose it?’

     ‘Milton was right,’ said my Teacher. ‘The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality. Ye see it easily enough in a spoiled child that would sooner miss its play and its supper than say it was sorry and be friends. Ye call it the Sulks. But in adult life it has a hundred fine names—Achilles’ wrath and Coriolanus’ grandeur, Revenge and Injured Merit and Self-Respect and Tragic Greatness and Proper Pride.’

     ‘Then is no one lost through the undignified vices, Sir? Through mere sensuality?’

     ‘Some are, no doubt. The sensualist, I’ll allow ye, begins by pursuing a real pleasure, though a small one. His sin is the less. But the time comes on when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving fiercer and fiercer, and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him. He’d fight to the death to keep it. He’d like well to be able to scratch; but even when he can scratch no more he’d rather itch than not.’

     He was silent for a few minutes, and then began again.

     ‘Ye’ll understand, there are innumerable forms of this choice. Sometimes forms that one hardly thought of at all on Earth. There was a creature came here not long ago and went back—Sir Archibald they called him. In his earthly life he’d been interested in nothing but Survival. He’d written a whole shelf-full of books about it. He began by being philosophical, but in the end he took up Psychical Research. It grew to be his only occupation—experimenting, lecturing, running a magazine. And travelling too: digging out queer stories among Tibetan lamas and being initiated into brotherhoods in Central Africa. Proofs—and more proofs—and then more proofs again—were what he wanted. It drove him mad if ever he saw anyone taking an interest in anything else. He got into trouble during one of your wars for running up and down the country telling them not to fight because it wasted a lot of money that ought to be spent on Research. Well, in good time, the poor creature died and came here: and there was no power in the universe would have prevented him staying and going on to the mountains. But do ye think that did him any good? This country was no use to him at all. Everyone here had “survived” already. Nobody took the least interest in the question. There was nothing more to prove. His occupation was clean gone. Of course if he would only have admitted that he’d mistaken the means for the end and had a good laugh at himself he could have begun all over again like a little child and entered into joy. But he would not do that. He cared nothing about joy. In the end he went away.’

     ‘How fantastic!’ said I.

     ‘Do ye think so?’ said the Teacher with a piercing glance. ‘It is nearer to such as you than ye think. There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself … as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did ye never know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.’

     Moved by a desire to change the subject, I asked why the Solid People, since they were full of love, did not go down into Hell to rescue the Ghosts. Why were they content simply to meet them on the plain? One would have expected a more militant charity.

     ‘Ye will understand that better, perhaps before ye go,’ said he. ‘In the meantime, I must tell ye they have come further for the sake of the Ghosts than ye can understand. Every one of us lives only to journey further and further into the mountains. Every one of us has interrupted that journey and retraced immeasurable distances to come down today on the mere chance of saving some Ghost. Of course it is also joy to do so, but ye cannot blame us for that! And it would be no use to come further even if it were possible. The sane would do no good if they made themselves mad to help madmen.’

The Great Divorce

6 Important Points About Pagan Mind
     by Dr. David Wells

     1. Insofar as they were known, the gods were known through nature. Pagans began with the experiences of nature and from this generated countless myths about the activities of the gods that explained why life had turned out the way it had or why it had yielded the experiences that it had.

     2. Pagans proceeded from the basis of their experience to understand the supernatural. Apart from nature there was no other revelation, and apart from experience there was no other means of knowing the intent of the gods. The pagan mind did not search for truth so much as it looked for the meaning of experience.  Before Philosophy: The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man

     3. The supernatural realm was neither stable nor predictable. The gods inflicted calamity on the earth either because of the surfacing of some dark intent within themselves or because of the outbreak of rivalries and territorial disputes. It was the uncertainty over these intentions that produced the system of appeasement represented by pagan religious rites. These rites and sacrifices were a form of systematized, organized bribery designed to relieve the gods' anger or forestall further venting of their displeasure on the earth. Making sacrifices basically amounted to paying protection money. Assurance about the efficacy of these actions, however, was never guaranteed; only experience and hindsight could tell whether they had had the desired effect.

     4. The pagan divinities were sexual, and this meant that their religion had sexual overtones as well. Cult prostitution and an intense interest in fertility and reproduction (evident in child sacrifice and other rites) were common.   FROM PRIMITIVES TO ZEN    Sexual rites were accorded considerable celestial significance and were viewed as a means of identifying with nature's rhythms and placating the gods when disharmony broke out.

     5. It is obvious that the pagan mind had no moral categories superseding the relativities of daily life. Pagans made no appeal to moral absolutes. They determined what was right experimentally. They understood the art of living to consist in bringing oneself into harmony with the rhythms of nature and the ways of the gods. The same sort of thing has been true of all pantheistic religions: the supreme norm is always the status quo, whatever that might be and however it might change, because nature, in all of its workings, is viewed as a reflection of the workings of a higher being or order of beings. Pagan religion sought to bring society into harmony not with moral absolutes but with the rhythms of life.

     6. History had no real value for the pagans; their lives were centered in the experience of the moment. They sought in a variety of ways to cut their ties to the past and to focus instead on the future. They sought out predictable cycles of regeneration in emulation of the rhythms of nature, the annual passage through the seasons from autumnal death to springtime rebirth. And they found history especially irrelevant in their efforts to know the gods; here, too, experience was everything, for the activity of the gods in the past offered no reliable indications of how they might act in the future.

     In contrast to this outlook, these habits of mind, what made the faith of Israel unique? It was not just that it was faith in Yahweh — and Yahweh alone — important though that obviously was. It was how Yahweh made himself known and how, in consequence, his people thought about the world. The saving revelation of God, unlike the intimations of the gods, came not in nature with its storms, misfortunes, and rejuvenations; it came not in human nature with its whisperings and intuitions; it came in history.  Before Philosophy: The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man   It came in a history that was external, objective, known to Israel and its neighbors. Paul treated this history not simply as an interesting case study of how God works in the world but as the only message about God's working that we have (Acts 13:16-48). And later, when he stood before Agrippa and testified to his faith, he pointed to the culmination to these divine acts in the resurrection of Christ — a matter, he said, of which the king could not be ignorant, "because it was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). The resurrection of Christ had nothing to do with the religious imagination, nothing to do with parables of existence and symbols of inner experience; it had everything to do with an act of God that was public, external, and objective. And herein lies the crucial difference between the pagan and the biblical minds. For the latter, as G. Ernest Wright argued in an earlier attempt to resuscitate the importance of the biblical narrative, it is "the objectivity of God's historical acts which are the focus of attention"; for the former it is "the subjectivity of inner, emotional, diffuse and mystical experience."

     In consequence, because this history was Israel's alone, the biblical authors of both the Old and New Testaments did not believe that God was to be found in other faiths. In the Bible we find none of the tortured analyses of other religions that so engage many of the churchly today, still less the easy bonhomie with which those of other religions are welcomed as fellow travelers, and even less the common assumption that God is found within private experience that each individual must interpret for him or herself. And we miss the point entirely if we suppose that the reason for this is that the Hebrews of the Old Testament lacked the analytical skills to do these interfaith analyses, because these skills had not yet been developed by the Greeks.   The Semantics of Biblical Language:   Even the authors of the New Testament, who presumably might have known better, since they came after the Greeks, nevertheless showed the same disinclination to think in this way. No, the answer is much simpler than that: the biblical authors wrote from the conviction of the uniqueness of biblical faith —a uniqueness that was not a matter of perception but of fact, not simply of their inner experience but of the objective facts of their history. The locus of its revelation was not in the human imagination but in history. It was this that protected the uniqueness of their faith, because it secured the objectivity of the revelation upon which that faith rested.

     Pagan cultures encountered their gods and goddesses in nature. The gods were to nature what the soul is to the body: they animated it and gave it its awesomeness. The Hebrews encountered their God in history. Yahweh disclosed himself in actions that were prophetically interpreted and that marked the Israelites as a people covenantally distinguished as his own. They did not expect encounters with God in nature, as did the pagans. In fact, it may be the case that in the "nature" psalms, such as Psalm 8, we can hear a voice mocking the Egyptians and Mesopotamians for their confusion of the supernatural and natural. For the psalmist, nature reflects the greatness of God but it neither discloses his saving intentions nor mediates his direct presence. Yahweh's designs were defined by his acts in history as prophetically interpreted, not his acts in nature or his immanental presence in human nature.

No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Holiness v. hardness towards God

     And He … wondered that there was no intercessor.
Isaiah 59:16.

     The reason many of us leave off praying and become hard towards God is because we have only a sentimental interest in prayer. It sounds right to say that we pray; we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial, that our minds are quieted and our souls uplifted when we pray; but
Isaiah implies that God is amazed at such thoughts of prayer.

     Worship and intercession must go together, the one is impossible without the other. Intercession means that we rouse ourselves up to get the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray. Too often instead of worshipping God, we construct statements as to how prayer works. Are we worshipping or are we in dispute with God—‘I don’t see how You are going to do it.’ This is a sure sign that we are not worshipping. When we lose sight of God we become hard and dogmatic. We hurl our own petitions at God’s throne and dictate to Him as to what we wish Him to do. We do not worship God, nor do we seek to form the mind of Christ. If we are hard towards God, we will become hard towards other people.

     Are we so worshipping God that we rouse ourselves up to lay hold on Him, that we may be brought into contact with His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship to God, or are we hard and dogmatic?

     ‘But there is no one interceding properly’—then be that one yourself, be the one who worships God and who lives in holy relationship to him. Get into the real work of intercession, and remember it is a work, a work that taxes every power; but a work which has no snare. Preaching the gospel has a snare; intercessory prayer has none.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


I said to her what
Was in my heart, she
What was not in hers.
On such shaky

Foundations we built
One of love's shining
Greenhouses to let fly
In with our looks.

Thomas, R. S.

The Transfiguration
     Messianic Bible Study Collection

     D. The Transfiguration

1.     The Descriptive Passages

     The greatest manifestation of the Shechinah Glory in the person of Jesus is found in the Transfiguration passages. The four passages where a description is given are: Matthew 17:1–8; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36; and 2 Peter 1:16–18. These passages give different descriptions of what occurred which, taken singularly or altogether, picture the brilliance of the Shechinah Glory.

a.     Matthew 17:1–8

     The Matthew passage states: his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light (v. 2). A bright cloud overshadowed Him, and the Voice of God spoke out of the cloud, authenticating the Messiahship of Yeshua (v. 5). The appearance of the cloud and the Voice of God speaking out of the cloud was the very same thing that had occurred at Mount Sinai. This description clearly reflects the Shechinah manifestations of the Old Testament that are developed further in the New Testament as they are fulfilled in the person of the Messiah. While the shining of the face of Moses was that of a reflected glory, the shining of Yeshua was the shining of the Shechinah Glory itself. Moses was like the moon, but Jesus was like the sun.

b.     Mark 9:2–8

     The passage in Mark states in verse 3: his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them, and a cloud overshadowed them in verse 7.

c.     Luke 9:28–36

     The Luke passage states in verse 29: the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling.

     They saw His glory while the cloud overshadowed Him.

d.     2 Peter 1:16–18

     In the 2 Peter passage, Peter proclaimed what he saw on the Mount of Transfiguration and claimed to be an eyewitness of his majesty. The Messiahship of Yeshua was authenticated by this Majestic Glory.

     Jesus was the visible manifestation of God’s presence in a new form. At the Mount of Transfiguration, the Glory that was veiled by the human body shown through, and three of the apostles were able to behold the Shechinah Glory in its brightness and in a form greater than what had appeared in the Old Testament. For, besides the repetition of the Old Testament manifestations, there was also the unique Shechinah manifestation of Yeshua Himself as the God-Man.

Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). Vol. 22: The Messianic Bible Study Collection (16–17). Tustin, Calif.: Ariel Ministries.

The Master sends the twelve on a mission.
     Pulpit Commentary

     Ver. 1.—Then he called his twelve disciples together. The Galilee ministry was just over; outwardly it had been a triumphant success; vast crowds had been gathered together. The Master was generally welcomed with a positive enthusiasm; the people heard him gladly. Here and there were visible, as in the cases of the woman who touched him and the synagogue ruler who prayed him to heal his little daughter, just related (ch. 8), conspicuous examples of a strange or mighty faith; but the success, the Master knew too well, was only on the surface. The crowds who to-day shouted “Hosanna!” and greeted his appearance among them with joy, on the morrow would fall away from him, and on the day following would reappear with the shout “Crucify him!” It was especially to warn his Church in coming ages of this sure result of all earnest devoted preaching and teaching, that he spoke that saddest of parables, “the sower” (ch. 8). But before he finally brought this Galilæan ministry to a close, he would gather in some few wavering souls, whose hearts he knew were trembling in the balance between the choice of life and good, and death and evil. To help these he sent out this last mission. The word rendered “called together” indicates a solemn gathering. And gave them power, etc. This and the further detail of the neat verse (2) roughly describe the work he intended them to do, and the means bestowed on them for its accomplishment. Very extraordinary powers were conferred on them powers—evidently intended to terminate with the short mission on which he now despatched them.

     Ver. 2.—And to heal the sick. St. Mark (6:13), in his brief notice of this mission of the twelve, mentions the special instrument of their power over sickness—the twelve anointed the sick with oil, and healed them. It is probable that the early Christian custom alluded to by St. James
(5:14), of anointing the sick with oil, arose from our Lord’s direction to his apostles on the occasion of this mission. The practice was continned, or possibly was revived, long after the original power connected with it bad ceased to exist. It still survives in the Roman Catholic Church in the sacrament of extreme unction, which, singularly enough, is administered when all hope of the patient’s recovery from the sickness is over. Anointing the sick with oil was a favourite practice among the ancient Jews (see
Isa. 1:6 and ch. 10:34). It was to be used by the twelve as an ordinary medicine, possessing, however, in their hands an extraordinary effect, and was to be, during this mission, the visible medium through which the Divine influence and power to heal took effect. We never read of Jesus in his miracles using oil; his usual practice seems to have been simply to have used words. At times he touched the sufferer; on one occasion only we read how he mixed some clay with which he anointed the sightless eyes.

     Ver. 3.—Take nothing for your journey. Dr. Farrar well sums up the various directions of the Master to these his first mission aries: “The general spirit of the instructions merely is, ‘Go forth in the simplest, humblest manner, with no hindrances to your movements, and in perfect faith;’ and this, as history shows, has always been the method of the most successful missions. At the same time, we must remember that the wants of the twelve were very small, and were secured by the free open hospitality of the East.”

     Ver. 4.—And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. On entering any new place they were to select, after due and careful inquiry (
Matt. 10:11), a family likely and able to assist them in their evangelistic work. This “house” they were to endeavour to make the centre of their efforts in that locality. This rule we find continued in the early years of Christianity. In the history of the first Churches, certain “houses” in the different cities were evidently the centres of the mission work there. We gather this from such expressions in St. Paul’s letters as “the Church which is in his house” (comp., too, Acts 16:40, where the house of Lydia was evidently the head-quarters of all missionary work in Philippi and its neighbourhood).

     Ver. 5.—And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them. It was the custom of the Jews when they returned from foreign (Gentile) lands, as they crossed the frontiers of the Holy Land, to shake the dust from off their feet. This was an act symbolizing that they had broken, now on their return to their own land, all communion with Gentile peoples which a residence among them had necessitated for a season. The bitter hatred and loathing of the Jews, after their return from the Captivity, for all Gentile races can only be understood by the student of the Talmud. So comprehensive and perfect a hatred, enduring, too, for centuries, has never been witnessed in the case of any other peoples. This accounts in great measure for the retaliative persecution which more or less has been carried on all through the Christian era against this marvellous race. In our day—the day of a liberalism possibly exaggerated and unreal—in many parts of Europe the untrained sense of the masses strangely revolts against this spirit of toleration; and wild excesses, massacres, and bitter persecution—the Judenhetz, hatred of the Jews in Germany and in Russia—are among the curious results of the liberality and universal toleration of the time.

     Ver. 4.—And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. On entering any new place they were to select, after due and careful inquiry (
Matt. 10:11), a family likely and able to assist them in their evangelistic work. This “house” they were to endeavour to make the centre of their efforts in that locality. This rule we find continued in the early years of Christianity. In the history of the first Churches, certain “houses” in the different cities were evidently the centres of the mission work there. We gather this from such expressions in St. Paul’s letters as “the Church which is in his house” (comp., too, Acts 16:40, where the house of Lydia was evidently the head-quarters of all missionary work in Philippi and its neighbourhood).

The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Yoma 43b, 44b


     Abraham is commanded by God to bring his beloved son to Mount Moriah and there to take a knife to him and offer him up as a sacrifice. Abraham had a number of options in response to this difficult command: he could have argued; he could have refused; he could have fled; he could have agonized and delayed. Yet he chose to carry out God’s instruction, and he did so, according to our understanding of the Torah, at the earliest possible opportunity.

     Jewish parents are commanded by God to circumcise their beloved sons. This is usually accomplished by bringing the baby to a mohel, who will take a knife and enter the boy into the covenant of circumcision. Many mothers and fathers probably contemplate their options as the prescribed time for the bris of their tiny, precious child draws near. Yet Jews have chosen, for over 3,700 years, to carry out God’s instruction, and they have traditionally done so on the eighth day at the earliest possible opportunity.

     What does one do when faced with a terribly difficult decision? It is human nature to struggle with the options and to put off a course of action until we are 100 percent certain that we are making the right choice. But life rarely provides us with the luxury of time for such deliberations. All too often, “the one who hesitates is lost.”

     While making rash decisions is never to be encouraged, the Gemara nevertheless praises those who carry out instructions and mitzvot as quickly as possible. Rashi, in his commentary to the Talmud (Ḥullin 107b) teaches: “Diligence (or alacrity) is preferable to caution.” A cautious person will be very careful not to make a mistake or to commit a transgression; the diligent person, on the other hand, will plan ahead and be prepared for all contingencies, so that when the critical moment comes for a decision, the correct choices can be made on the spot.

     Blind obedience to authority can lead to the infamous response: “I was only following orders.” Civilized societies can accept no such excuses. The Rabbis were quite strict in their expectations of moral responsibility on the part of the individual. How then does one find the perfect balance between making ethical decisions, on the one hand, and making quick decisions, on the other? In the case of Abraham, there was a complete and total faith in the One issuing the commands—God. With a bris, Jews have the experience of almost four thousand years of our people following this practice to rely upon. In other situations, we try to follow the teaching of Rashi who urges us to look into the future and to be ready for the critical moments, so that we can be diligent to do the mitzvot as early as possible.

     The Torah worries about Israel’s money.

     Text / Mishnah (4:3): He slaughtered it and received its blood in a silver bowl, and gave it to the one who stirred it while standing on the fourth terrace in the sanctuary, so that it would not congeal. He took the fire pan and went to the top of the altar. He cleared the coals on both sides, and he took a panful of coals from below. He came down and placed it [the fire pan] on the fourth terrace in the courtyard. Every other day, he would clear the coals with a silver fire pan, but today he cleared it with one of gold.

     Gemara: “Every other day, he would clear the coals with a silver fire pan, etc.” What is the reason? The Torah worries about Israel’s money.

     Context / Aaron is to offer his own bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and his household. Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the Lord at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the Lord and the other marked for Azazel. Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the Lord, which he is to offer as a sin offering; while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the Lord, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness before Azazel. Aaron shall then offer his bull of sin offering … and he shall take a panful of glowing coals scooped from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of finely ground aromatic incense, and bring this behind the curtain.… And this shall be to you a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall practice self-denial; and you shall do no manner of work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins; you shall be clean before the Lord. (
Leviticus 16:6–12, 29–30)

     Masekhet Yoma deals with the laws and rituals of yoma, Aramaic for the day, that is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Large sections of this tractate deal with the Yom Kippur ceremonies for the Kohen Gadol, or High Priest, at the Temple in Jerusalem. The specifics of the ritual are interesting though not applicable to our lives today. In fact, the workings of the Temple were not applicable even to many of the Rabbis of the Talmud who lived after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 C.E. Nonetheless, they are listed in the Torah, taught in the Mishnah, and expounded on in the Gemara. The Torah teaches about the Tabernacle which the Israelites used in the Sinai wilderness. Aaron and his sons were the participants in the Yom Kippur ritual. These rituals were transferred to the Temple which later replaced the portable Tabernacle as the central shrine.

     Part of the Yom Kippur ritual involved scooping up burning coals with a special fire pan. The Torah says that Aaron, the Kohen Gadol, should place two handfuls of incense on these coals. The Mishnah teaches that on Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol used a gold fire pan to pick up the coals, but every other day, he used a silver one. We can understand why a gold one would be used on Yom Kippur: It is a special day, perhaps the most holy day on the Jewish calendar. But why not use a gold fire pan every day of the year? The Gemara answers: The Torah worries about Israel’s money. We may ask: If the Kohen Gadol used a silver pan the rest of the year and a gold pan on Yom Kippur, where would there be a savings? Wouldn’t there be the same expense of making a gold pan? The commentators note that these pans wore out from wear and tear. If a gold pan were used every day, it would mean the expense of replacing it more often, and the Torah worries about the material possessions of the Jewish people.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Teacher's Commentary
     Decision Time

      There are two decisions that are critical in every human life. The first decision is to accept Jesus, the Son of God, as personal Saviour.

     The second decision has to do with discipleship. Will we follow Jesus completely?

     What are some of the characteristics of the disciple’s lifestyle ... in Luke 9 and Luke 10? Trust. Suffering. Humility. Purpose. Commitment. Involvement. And prayer.

     The Seventy-two. The other Gospels focus on 12 disciples. But Luke introduces us to a larger corps of close followers. Luke 10 tells us that Jesus appointed 72 that He sent out two-by-two to preach in Israelite towns. We know the names of the Twelve. But the 72 remain anonymous. Yet Jesus knew them and their ministries well. How good that today too we need not be well known by others to be effective disciples of Jesus Christ.

     There are some decisions I hate to make.

     I particularly dislike deciding what to order from a menu. I’ll sit and stare at the listed foods, be the last one to order, and still try frantically to get out of saying to the waitress, “I’ll take this.”

     I had a hard time deciding to buy our last car. I wasn’t sure whether it was God’s will or my desires that motivated me. And I was very frustrated.

     Other decisions—often bigger ones—seem to come easily. It was easy to leave my Wheaton teaching position to move to Arizona, where I had no job or income except through writing. It was clearly the right thing to do.

     What can we say about decisions? Some are easy. Some hard. But all of us face decisions that have to be made.

     This was the situation in Jesus’ day as we come to the events described in Luke 7:18–9:20. Jesus had presented Himself as Lifegiver, and had demonstrated His authority. Jesus had openly explained the principles on which the new life He offered is to be built. The counterculture of love had been clearly defined.

     And now people had to choose. They had to decide to trust Jesus and commit themselves to Him, or to reject Him.

     What were the reactions of people under the pressure of imminent decision? Why did those who hesitated hold back? Looking at them, we can perhaps understand our own reactions to Jesus’ claims. And perhaps we too can see why today we have to make the choice they tried to avoid.

     Why Wait? Luke 7:18–8:3 / John the Baptist (Luke 7:18–23). One of those who seemed to hesitate now was John the Baptist! What a shock to see him waver, for the whole focus of his life had been to prepare the way for Jesus. Still, as we look at the circumstances, we can understand.

     John was now in prison (Matt. 11:2), about to be executed by King Herod. The personal pressure John faced must have had something to do with the growth of doubt. But even more serious must have been the fact that Jesus’ ministry was not taking the direction John had foreseen. John, like the other godly Jews of his day, was entranced with an Old Testament picture: a vision of a messianic King who would throw off the pagan yoke and bring in Israel’s promised glory days. But John could see no evidence that Jesus was using His miraculous power to strike a blow for freedom. John did not expect the Messiah simply to go around teaching people to love!

     So John sent two of his followers to Jesus to question Him: “Are You the One?” (Luke 7:19, NASB) “At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind” (Luke 7:21). Turning to John’s followers, who had witnessed the healings, Jesus told them to report to John what they had seen.

     What had they seen? Miracles? Yes. But what kind of miracles? The Old Testament had said the Messiah was to “open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon” (Isa. 42:7, NASB). Messiah would care for those in need. His ministry would focus on people. So Jesus sent the followers of John back to him to report. Then He turned to the crowds and He said,
“Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me.”

     John hesitated, because Jesus hadn’t done what he expected.

     What have you expected of the Christian faith? Have you seen it as a way to become better than others? As a basis from which to criticize sinners? To reject the youth who aches for drugs, or the adult who curses and tries to hide the emptiness of his life behind irreverence or pride.

     Jesus told John,
Look at Me! See what I do! Jesus did not come to judge. He did not come to build religious walls. He came to reach out to people, to heal, to save, to bring hope. To care. And happy are we if we never take our eyes from Him.

     If we look at Jesus, we see love at the center of the life that He offers and demands. For people who expect something different, something less, no wonder there is hesitancy. But look again at Jesus. And choose.

The Teacher's Commentary

Take Heart
     March 30

     You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. --- Matthew 5:14.

     Religion brings to life principles that are ultimately to have the ascendancy in the soul. ( The American National Preacher, Volumes 7-8 ) It calls up dormant powers—urges to conflict with the powers of darkness and bids us grapple with invisible and mighty foes. Let Christians contemplate the situation in which we are placed, and then let us ask whether this organization does not intend that our piety will be developed.

     What is religion? It intends the subjugation of our natural propensities, the overcoming of our evil passions, the purification of our corrupt hearts, the discipline of wayward and rebellious minds. It demands that chastened and serious feeling should take the place of frivolity; prayer, the place of thoughtlessness; the love of God, the place of the love of fashion; and delight in devotion, the place of delight in amusement and ostentation. The nature of godliness is to stamp our lives in letters indelible, legible to all.

     There is enough human opposition to all that is pure and humble to make it indispensable that a line be distinctly drawn between the friends and the foes of God. Christians have been a little band—a remnant amid humanity’s tribes. We tread a world in possession of the enemies of God. Our very presence is a rebuke on human pursuits, our views a rejection of the opinions of others, our lives a living reminder of human folly and crime. There is not a single principle of your religion that the people of the world do not at heart hate. There is opposition enough to test Christian character and show what we are. It may meet you in the family—the eye of a father will criticize you for being a Christian, or the tongue of a brother will deride you for your serious piety. It may meet you in the circle of friends—the voice of professed affection will speak of you as superstitious for your regard for God. It may meet you in public and political life and subject the soul to a daily and constant test whether there is strength of devotion sufficient to avow the despised doctrines of the cross and to make them the governing principle of your life.

     “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12), and one design of persecution is to develop the strength of the Christian principle.
--- Albert Barnes

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

On This Day
     Stand Up for Jesus  March 30

     Dudley Tyng served as his father’s assistant at Philadelphia’s Church of the Epiphany and was elected its pastor when his father retired in 1854. He was only 29 when he succeeded his father at the large Episcopal church, and at first it seemed a great fit. But the honeymoon ended when Dudley began vigorously preaching against slavery. Loud complaints rose from the more conservative members, resulting in Dudley’s resignation in 1856.

     He and his followers organized the Church of the Covenant elsewhere in the city, and his reputation grew. He began noontime Bible studies at the YMCA, and his ministry reached far beyond his own church walls. Dudley had a burden for leading husbands and fathers to Christ, and he helped organize a great rally to reach them. On Tuesday, March 30, 1858, 5,000 men gathered. Dudley looked over the sea of faces and declared, “I would rather this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God’s message.” Over 1,000 men were converted that day.

     Two weeks later Dudley was visiting in the countryside, watching a corn-thrasher in the barn. His hand moved too close to the machine and his sleeve was snared. His arm was ripped from its socket, the main artery severed. Four days later his right arm was amputated close to the shoulder. When it appeared he was dying, Dudley told his aged father: “Stand up for Jesus, father, and tell my brethren of the ministry to stand up for Jesus.”

     Rev. George Duffield of Philadelphia’s Temple Presbyterian Church was deeply stirred by Dudley’s funeral, and the following Sunday he preached from Ephesians 6 about standing firm for Christ. He read a poem he had written, inspired by Dudley’s words: Stand up, stand up for Jesus, / Ye soldiers of the cross; / Lift high His royal banner, / It must not suffer loss.

     The editor of a hymnal heard the poem, found appropriate music, and published it. Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus soon became one of America’s favorite hymns, extending Dudley’s dying words to millions.

     Put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.
--- Ephesians 6.13.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 30

     "He was numbered with the transgressors." --- Isaiah 53:12.

     Why did Jesus suffer himself to be enrolled amongst sinners? This wonderful condescension was justified by many powerful reasons. In such a character he could the better become their advocate. In some trials there is an identification of the counsellor with the client, nor can they be looked upon in the eye of the law as apart from one another. Now, when the sinner is brought to the bar, Jesus appears there himself. He stands to answer the accusation. He points to his side, his hands, his feet, and challenges Justice to bring anything against the sinners whom he represents; he pleads his blood, and pleads so triumphantly, being numbered with them and having a part with them, that the Judge proclaims, “Let them go their way; deliver them from going down into the pit, for he hath found a ransom.” Our Lord Jesus was numbered with the transgressors in order that they might feel their hearts drawn towards him. Who can be afraid of one who is written in the same list with us? Surely we may come boldly to him, and confess our guilt. He who is numbered with us cannot condemn us. Was he not put down in the transgressor’s list that we might be written in the red roll of the saints? He was holy, and written among the holy; we were guilty, and numbered among the guilty; he transfers his name from yonder list to this black indictment, and our names are taken from the indictment and written in the roll of acceptance, for there is a complete transfer made between Jesus and his people. All our estate of misery and sin Jesus has taken; and all that Jesus has comes to us. His righteousness, his blood, and everything that he hath he gives us as our dowry. Rejoice, believer, in your union to him who was numbered among the transgressors; and prove that you are truly saved by being manifestly numbered with those who are new creatures in him.

          Evening - March 30

     "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord."Lamentations 3:40.

     The spouse who fondly loves her absent husband longs for his return; a long protracted separation from her lord is a semi-death to her spirit: and so with souls who love the Saviour much, they must see his face, they cannot bear that he should be away upon the mountains of Bether, and no more hold communion with them. A reproaching glance, an uplifted finger will be grievous to loving children, who fear to offend their tender father, and are only happy in his smile. Beloved, it was so once with you. A text of Scripture, a threatening, a touch of the rod of affliction, and you went to your Father’s feet, crying, “Show me wherefore thou contendest with me?” Is it so now? Are you content to follow Jesus afar off? Can you contemplate suspended communion with Christ without alarm? Can you bear to have your Beloved walking contrary to you, because you walk contrary to him? Have your sins separated between you and your God, and is your heart at rest? O let me affectionately warn you, for it is a grievous thing when we can live contentedly without the present enjoyment of the Saviour’s face. Let us labour to feel what an evil thing this is—little love to our own dying Saviour, little joy in our precious Jesus, little fellowship with the Beloved! Hold a true Lent in your souls, while you sorrow over your hardness of heart. Do not stop at sorrow! Remember where you first received salvation. Go at once to the cross. There, and there only, can you get your spirit quickened. No matter how hard, how insensible, how dead we may have become, let us go again in all the rags and poverty, and defilement of our natural condition. Let us clasp that cross, let us look into those languid eyes, let us bathe in that fountain filled with blood—this will bring back to us our first love; this will restore the simplicity of our faith, and the tenderness of our heart.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 30


     Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834–1924

     I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8)

     Upon God’s care I lay me down, as a child upon its mother’s breast;
     No silken couch, nor softest bed could ever give me such deep rest.

--- Unknown

     Trusting God throughout the day allows us to rest peacefully at night. Fear and anxiety are the chief causes of the tension that leads to disturbed rest. And sound rest is an absolute necessity for the renewing of our bodies, minds, and emotions. Only a peaceful relationship with God and with others allows us this total renewal at the close of each day. We must learn to relax and release our cares and burdens to the Lord and then claim His promised rest.

     ’Tis sweet to keep my hand in His, while all is dim—
     To close my weary, aching eyes, and trust in Him!

--- Unknown

     Whenever there are those occasional times when sleep eludes us, it is important to center our thoughts on God, the Scriptures, and the loving concern of the Lord rather than upon the solving of life’s many problems.

     “Now the Day is Over” was written by Sabine Baring-Gould (composer of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”). The author, a minister in the Anglican church, was recognized as one of England’s most prolific writers of his time. Baring-Gould wrote this charming text for the children of his parish at Horbury Bridge, near Wakefield, England. It was based on Proverbs 3:24—“When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.” The hymn first appeared in the Church Times on March 16, 1865. It is still a favorite hymn with children everywhere.

     Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh; shadows of the evening steal across the sky.
     Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose; with Thy tend’rest blessing may mine eyelids close.
     Thru the long night-watches may Thine angels spread their white wings above me, watching round my bed.
     When the morning wakens, then may I arise pure and fresh and sinless in Thy holy eyes.

     For Today: Psalm 3:5; Psalm 37:7; Psalm 63:1–8; Psalm 139:11, 12.

     Determine to begin and end each day with your mind centered on God. Thank Him for providing the renewal of your body, mind, and emotions. Sing and share this lovely children’s hymn before retiring ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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

          God's Work of Regeneration Precedes Our Repentance and Faith

     Let us now retrace our steps, going over again the ground we have covered, but in the inverse order. Not until a soul has been begotten of God can we have any spiritual apprehension of the Divine mercy. Before that miracle of grace takes place he is possessed more or less of a pharisaical spirit. To sincerely bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His abundant mercy is the heartfelt acknowledgment of one who has turned away with loathing from the filthy rags of his own righteousness (Isa. 64:6) and who places no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3). Equally true is it that no unregenerate person ever has his conscience sprinkled with the peace-producing blood of Christ, for until spiritual life is imparted evangelical repentance and saving faith are morally impossible. Therefore, there can be no realization of our desperate need of a Savior or any actual trusting in Him until we are quickened (made alive) by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:1), that is, born again (John 3:3). Still more evident is it that so long as a person remains dead in sin, with his mind set at enmity against God (Rom. 8:7), there can be no acceptable obedience to Him; for He will neither be imposed upon nor bribed by rebels. And certain it is that none who are in love with this world's painted baubles will conduct themselves as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth”; for they are perfectly at home here.

          Regeneration Produces a Living Hope

     “Begotten us again unto a lively hope.” This is the immediate effect and fruit of the new birth, and is one of the characteristic marks that distinguishes the regenerate from the unregenerate. Hope always has respect to something in the future (Rom. 8:24, 25), being an eager expectation of something desirable, an anticipation of a promised good, whether real or imaginary. The heart of the natural man is largely buoyed up, and his spirits maintained, by contemplations of some improvement in his lot that will increase his happiness in this world. But in the majority of instances the things dreamed of never materialize, and even when they do the result is always disappointing. For no real satisfaction of soul is to be found in anything under the sun. If such disillusioned souls have come under the influence of man-made religion, then they will seek to persuade themselves of, and look forward to, something far better for themselves in the hereafter. But such expectations will prove equally vain, for they are but the fleshly imaginings of carnal men. The false hope of the hypocrite (Job 8:13), the presumptuous hope of those who neither revere God's holiness nor fear His wrath but who count upon His mercy, and the dead hope of the graceless professor will but mock their subjects.

          The Christian's Hope Is Both Living and Lively

     In contradistinction to the delusive expectations cherished by the unregenerate, God's elect are begotten again to a real and substantial hope. This hope, which fills their minds and acts upon their wills and affections (thus radically altering the orientation of their thoughts, words, and deeds) is based upon the objective promises of God's Word (which are summarized in v. 4). In most of its occurrences, the Greek adjectival participle from zaō (to live; no. 2198 in Strong's Greek Dictionary) is translated living, though in Acts 7:38 (as here in 1 Peter 1:3) it is rendered lively. Both meanings are accurate and appropriate in this context. The Christian's hope is a sure and steadfast one (Heb. 6:19) because it rests upon the word and oath of Him that cannot lie. It is the gift of Divine grace (2 Thess. 2:16), a fruit of the Spirit (Rom. 5:1-5), inseparably connected with faith and love (1 Cor. 13:13). It is a living hope because it is exerted by a quickened soul, being an exercise of the new nature or principle of grace received at regeneration. It is a living hope because it has eternal life for its object (Titus 1:2). What a glorious change has taken place, for before we were begotten of God many of us were captivated by “a certain fearful looking for of judgment” (Heb. 10:27), and through fear of death were “all their [our] lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15, brackets mine). It is also termed “a living hope” because it is imperishable, one that looks and lasts beyond the grave. Should death overtake its possessor, far from frustration, hope then enters into its fruition.

     This inward hope of the believer is not only a living but a lively one, for it is—like faith and love — an active principle in his soul, animating him to patience, steadfastness, and perseverance in the path of duty. Therein it differs radically from the dead hope of religious formalists and empty professors, for theirs never stirs them to spiritual activity or produces anything to distinguish them from respectable worldlings who make no profession at all. It is the possession and exercise of this lively hope that affords demonstration that we have been “begotten. . . again.” By Divine begetting a spiritual life is communicated, and that life manifests itself by desires after spiritual things, by a seeking of satisfaction in spiritual objects, and by a cheerful performance of spiritual duties. The genuineness and reality of this “lively hope” is, in turn, evidenced by its producing a readiness to the denying of self and to the enduring of afflictions, thus acting as “an anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19) amid the storms of life. This hope further distinguishes itself by purging its possessor. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). It is also a “lively hope” in that it cheers and enlivens its possessor; for as he views the blissful goal courage is imparted and inspiration afforded, enabling him to endure to the end of his trials.

          The Saving Virtue of Christ's Resurrection

     Sixthly, let us consider the acknowledgment of this prayer, namely, “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” From the position occupied by these words, it is plain that they are related to and govern the preceding words as well as the verse that follows. Equally obvious it is that the resurrection of Christ implies His previous life and death, though each possesses its own distinctive value and virtue. The connection between the resurrection of Christ and the exercise of the abundant mercy of God the Father in His bringing us from death to life, His putting into our hearts a living hope, and His bringing us into a glorious inheritance is a very real and intimate one. As such it calls for our devout attention. The Savior's rising again from the dead was the climacteric proof of the Divine origin of His mission and thus a ratification of His Gospel. It was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning Him, and thus proved Him to be the promised Messiah. It was the accomplishment of His own predictions, and thus certified Him to be a true prophet. It determined the context between Him and the Jewish leaders. They condemned Him to death as an impostor, but by restoring the temple of His body in three days He demonstrated that they were liars. It witnessed to the Father's acceptance of His redemptive work.

     There is, however, a much closer connection between the resurrection of Christ from the dead and the hope of eternal life that is set before His people. His emerging in triumph from the tomb furnished indubitable proof of the efficacy of His propitiatory sacrifice, by which He had put away the sins of those for whom it was offered. This being accomplished, by His resurrection Christ brought in an everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24), thus securing for His people the eternal reward due Him by His fulfillment of God's Law by His own perfect obedience. He who was delivered up to death for our offenses was raised again for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Attend to the words of John Brown (to whose commentary on 1 Peter I am greatly indebted):

     “When God ‘brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant,’ He manifested Himself to be ‘the God of peace,’ the pacified Divinity. He ‘raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in himself’ [1 Peter 1:2 1]. Had Jesus not risen, ‘our faith had been in vain; we should have been still in our sins’ [1 Cor. 15:17], and without hope. But now that He is risen,

          “Our Surety freed, declares us free,
          For whose offences He was seized;
          In His release our own we see,
          And joy to view Jehovah pleased.

     By faith we now behold Christ seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, from whence He is administering all the outworking of that redemption which He has accomplished. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to [the spiritual] Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31, brackets mine).

     More specifically, not only is the resurrection of Christ the legal basis upon which God the Father imputes the righteousness of Christ to the accounts of believing sinners, but it is also the legal warrant upon which the Holy Spirit proceeds to regenerate those sinners in order that they might initially believe on Christ, turn from their sins, and be saved. Unfortunately, like so many other fine points of Gospel doctrine, this is little understood today. The spirit of a man must be brought forth from its death in sin before his body will be subject to being raised in glory at the last day. And while the Holy Spirit is the One who spiritually quickens God's elect, it must be remembered that He is sent forth, to do His saving work, by the kingly power of the risen Christ, to whom that authority was given as the reward of His finished work (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:33; Rev. 3:1). In James 1:18, the new birth is traced back to the sovereign will of the Father. In Ephesians 1:19 and following, the new birth and its gracious consequences are attributed to the gracious operation of the Spirit. Here in our text, while issuing from the abundant mercy of the Father, it is ascribed to the virtue of Christ's triumph over death. It is to be observed that Christ's own resurrection is termed a begetting of Him (Ps. 2:7; cf. Acts 13:33), while our spiritual resurrection is designated a regeneration (Titus 3:5). Christ is expressly called “the first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5). This He is called because His resurrection marked a new beginning both for Him and for His people.

A Guide to Fervent Prayer

Leviticus 1-5

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