The Birth of Jesus ChristLuke 2 1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Jesus Presented at the Temple22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Return to Nazareth39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
The Boy Jesus in the Temple41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
John the Baptist Prepares the WayLuke 3 1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
What I'm Reading
Why Would God Have Permitted Any Form of Servitude or Slavery?
By J. Warner Wallace 8/6/2014
Many skeptics claim the God of the Bible actually endorses slavery. They make this claim on the basis of specific terminology used in the Old and New Testament. We’ve already highlighted the difference, however, between the New Testament Servitude of the Ancient Near East and the New World Slavery of our American ancestors. But it’s fair to ask an even more foundational question: Why would God allow any form of servitude or slavery in the first place? This question is a subset of other skeptical queries attempting to reconcile the existence of evil with the existence of a loving, all powerful God. While there are many reasonable explanations and responses to the problem of evil, this particular objection related to slavery is grounded in a presupposition about God’s purpose here on earth.
Did God design our planet to be an immutable place of perfection or did He design it to accommodate our own free will choices? What role does personal freedom have on our circumstances? One thing is clear: from a Christian perspective, we know that this world is not our home:
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 | But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
We also know we are simply travelers passing through this earthly home on our way to something that is perfect:
Hebrews 11:13-16 | All these people (the faithful examples from the Old Testament) were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Ordinary Gifts for Extraordinary Trials
By John Knight 10/20/2017
After my wife’s second surgery within a week, I was reminded again that even successful surgeries include pain, complications, and high levels of discomfort. I couldn’t do anything useful except be present for her. Eventually I couldn’t even do that as hospital visiting hours ended. My mind and notebook were filling up with details on medications and therapies. The Airbnb room was comfortable, but it wasn’t home. Sleep was both short and restless, and I was out of all my normal routines.
All the elements — and excuses — came together for anxiety, bitterness, and fear to take control. Most dangerously, I didn’t appreciate how vulnerable I was, so I wasn’t actively orienting myself to my greatest source of strength in God and his word. My thoughts and feelings were quietly beginning their combined assault on my hope. My heart was already grumbling.
The First Gift | I grabbed my phone as I walked to breakfast, intending to review my notes before going to the hospital.
And then God helped.
First, the devotional app on my phone caught my attention. I tapped on it. And this was the opening sentence:
At Least as Dangerous as Porn
By Jon Bloom 10/20/2017
When you think of the kind of trials that test your faith (James 1:2), do you ever think of material prosperity as one of them? Most of us don’t. We tend to think of suffering, adversity, and loss that put us in places of significant need.
And we try to avoid experiencing such needs if at all possible. If such experiences come, we really want, and therefore pray, for God to deliver us from the needy seasons as soon as possible. For surely a God who loves his children would not want them experiencing need, right? He’d want to bless us, right? Right. Unless need happens to hold greater, richer spiritual blessings than plenty. In that case, needy seasons would be greater gifts to God’s children than plenteous seasons.
Think about the testimonies you’ve heard of people’s powerful encounters with God. Ask yourself how many of those stories of powerful, transformational, life-altering, love-producing, sanctifying encounters with God were the result of being lavished with worldly prosperity. If you’re like me, you come up empty. But if you know any, you can probably count them on one hand with fingers left over.
On the other hand, how many of those stories involve people in some way being, as we say, brought to the end of themselves? Let that sink in for moment: we tend to encounter God more profoundly in our places of need than in our places of prosperity.
At Least as Dangerous as Porn | In fact, if we take the Bible seriously, material prosperity should frighten us, in some sense, because the Bible says frightening things about it:
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
The Source of Righteousness
By John MacArthur 1993
God’s Word is true and produces righteousness in the believer’s life.
The inability of human wisdom to produce right living was reaffirmed in my thinking as I read a contemporary psychiatrist's book on how to overcome depression. The doctor's first suggestion was to shout "Cancel!" every time you have a negative thought. She also recommended playing a tape recording of positive messages while you sleep at night, and listening to positive music during the day.
Cultivating a meaningful spiritual philosophy was another of her suggestions. She said any will do—as long as it works for you—but cautioned against those that speak of sin and guilt. Her final point was to find the spiritual light within yourself.
That kind of advice is foolish because it has no basis in truth. The best it can do is mask a few symptoms. It cannot cure the illness.
Jesus illustrated the hopelessness of searching for truth through such means when He said to a group of unbelievers, "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil . . . [who] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. . . . He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God" (John 8:43-47).
From 1964 to 1966 Dr. MacArthur served as an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank , California and from 1966 to 1969 as a faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary, where he graduated with honors.
In 1969, John came to Grace Community Church . The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage.Under John's leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,000-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members also participate each week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, led by members of the pastoral staff and lay leaders. These groups are dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.
In 1985, John became president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College ), an accredited, four-year, liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita , California . In 1986, John founded The Master's Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, John regularly teaches Expository Preaching at the seminary and frequently speaks in chapel.
John is also president and featured teacher with Grace to You. Founded in 1969, Grace to You is the nonprofit organization responsible for developing, producing, and distributing John's books, audiocassettes, free sermons (MP3s) and the Grace to You, Portraits of Grace, and Grace to You Weekend radio programs. Grace to You airs thousands of times daily throughout the English speaking world reaching all major population centers in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa. It also airs more than 450 times daily in Spanish reaching 23 countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus, in 1988, John has written over 100 books and, through Grace to You and retail bookstores, distributed millions of copies worldwide.Many of John's books are available on CD-ROM and many titles have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and several other major languages.
John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda.They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their eleven grandchildren--Johnny, Ty, Jessy, KD, Olivia, Susannah, Gracie, Kylee, Andrew, Brooke and Elizabeth.
"MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology. MacArthur's "dispensationalism" is eschatological and ecclesiological only. And given the fact that soteriology is central to our whole understanding of Christianity, whereas eschatology and ecclesiology deal primarily with secondary doctrines, it would be my assessment that MacArthur has far less in common with Ryrie than he would have with anyone who believes 1) that God's grace is efficacious for regeneration and sanctification as well as for justification, and 2) that God graciously guarantees the perseverance of all true believers." - Phil Johnson
John MacArthur Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 117The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever
117:24 This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
An Account of the Life and Sufferings of Mr. William Lithgow, a Native of ScotlandThis gentleman was descended from a good family, and having a natural propensity for travelling, he rambled, when very young, over the northern and western islands; after which he visited France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. He set out on his travels in the month of March, 1609, and the first place he went to was Paris, where he stayed for some time. He then prosecuted his travels through Germany and other parts, and at length arrived at Malaga, in Spain, the seat of all his misfortunes.
During his residence here, he contracted with the master of a French ship for his passage to Alexandria, but was prevented from going by the following circumstances. In the evening of the seventeenth of October, 1620, the English fleet, at that time on a cruise against the Algerine rovers, came to anchor before Malaga, which threw the people of the town into the greatest consternation, as they imagined them to be Turks. The morning, however, discovered the mistake, and the governor of Malaga, perceiving the cross of England in their colors, went on board Sir Robert Mansel's ship, who commanded on that expedition, and after staying some time returned, and silenced the fears of the people.
The next day many persons from on board the fleet came ashore. Among these were several well known by Mr. Lithgow, who, after reciprocal compliments, spent some days together in festivity and the amusements of the town. They then invited Mr. Lithgow to go on board, and pay his respects to the admiral. He accordingly accepted the invitation, was kindly received by him, and detained till the next day when the fleet sailed. The admiral would willingly have taken Mr. Lithgow with him to Algiers; but having contracted for his passage to Alexandria, and his baggage, etc., being in the town, he could not accept the offer.
As soon as Mr. Lithgow got on shore, he proceeded towards his lodgings by a private way, (being to embark the same night for Alexandria) when, in passing through a narrow uninhabited street, he found himself suddenly surrounded by nine sergeants, or officers, who threw a black cloak over him, and forcibly conducted him to the governor's house. After some little time the governor appeared when Mr. Lithgow earnestly begged he might be informed of the cause of such violent treatment. The governor only answered by shaking his head, and gave orders that the prisoner should be strictly watched until he (the governor) returned from his devotions; directing, at the same time, that the captain of the town, the alcade major, and town notary, should be summoned to appear at his examination, and that all this should be done with the greatest secrecy, to prevent the knowledge reaching the ears of the English merchants then residing in the town.
These orders were strictly discharged, and on the governor's return, he, with the officers, having seated themselves, Mr. Lithgow was brought before them for examination. The governor began by asking several questions, namely, of what country he was, whither bound, and how long he had been in Spain. The prisoner, after answering these and other questions, was conducted to a closet, where, in a short space of time, he was visited by the town captain, who inquired whether he had ever been at Seville, or was lately come from thence; and patting his cheeks with an air of friendship, conjured him to tell the truth, "For (said he) your very countenance shows there is some hidden matter in your mind, which prudence should direct you to disclose." Finding himself, however, unable to extort any thing from the prisoner, he left him, and reported the same to the governor and the other officers; on which Mr. Lithgow was again brought before them, a general accusation was laid against him, and he was compelled to swear that he would give true answers to such questions as should be asked him.
The governor proceeded to inquire the quality of the English commander, and the prisoner's opinion what were the motives that prevented his accepting an invitation from him to come on shore. He demanded, likewise, the names of the English captains in the squadron, and what knowledge he had of the embarkation, or preparation for it before his departure from England. The answers given to the several questions asked were set down in writing by the notary; but the junto seemed surprised at his denying any knowledge of the fitting out of the fleet, particularly the governor, who said he lied; that he was a traitor and a spy, and came directly from England to favor and assist the designs that were projected against Spain, and that he had been for that purpose nine months in Seville, in order to procure intelligence of the time the Spanish navy was expected from the Indies. They exclaimed against his familiarity with the officers of the fleet, and many other English gentlemen, between whom, they said, unusual civilities had passed, but all these transactions had been carefully noticed.
Besides to sum up the whole, and put the truth past all doubt, they said he came from a council of war, held that morning on board the admiral's ship, in order to put in execution the orders assigned him. They upbraided him with being accessory to the burning of the island of St. Thomas, in the West Indies. "Wherefore (said they) these Lutherans, and sons of the devil, ought to have no credit given to what they say or swear."
In vain did Mr. Lithgow endeavor to obviate every accusation laid against him, and to obtain belief from his prejudiced judges. He begged permission to send for his cloak bag which contained his papers, and might serve to show his innocence. This request they complied with, thinking it would discover some things of which they were ignorant. The cloak bag was accordingly brought, and being opened, among other things, was found a license from King James the First, under the sign manual, setting forth the bearer's intention to travel into Egypt; which was treated by the haughty Spaniards with great contempt. The other papers consisted of passports, testimonials, etc., of persons of quality. All these credentials, however, seemed rather to confirm than abate the suspicions of these prejudiced judges, who, after seizing all the prisoner's papers, ordered him again to withdraw.
In the meantime a consultation was held to fix the place where the prisoner should be confined. The alcade, or chief judge, was for putting him into the town prison; but this was objected to, particularly by the corregidor, who said, in Spanish, "In order to prevent the knowledge of his confinement from reaching his countrymen, I will take the matter on myself, and be answerable for the consequences"; upon which it was agreed that he should be confined in the governor's house with the greatest secrecy.
This matter being determined, one of the sergeants went to Mr. Lithgow, and begged his money, with liberty to search him. As it was needless to make any resistance, the prisoner quietly complied, when the sergeant (after rifling his pockets of eleven ducatoons) stripped him to his shirt; and searching his breeches he found, inclosed in the waistland, two canvass bags, containing one hundred and thirty-seven pieces of gold. The sergeant immediately took the money to the corregidor, who, after having told it over, ordered him to clothe the prisoner, and shut him up close until after supper.
About midnight, the sergeant and two Turkish slaves released Mr. Lithgow from his then confinement, but it was to introduce him to one much more horrible. They conducted him through several passages, to a chamber in a remote part of the palace, towards the garden, where they loaded him with irons, and extended his legs by means of an iron bar above a yard long, the weight of which was so great that he could neither stand nor sit, but was obliged to lie continually on his back. They left him in this condition for some time, when they returned with a refreshment of food, consisting of a pound of boiled mutton and a loaf, together with a small quantity of wine; which was not only the first, but the best and last of the kind, during his confinement in this place. After delivering these articles, the sergeant locked the door, and left Mr. Lithgow to his own private contemplations.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Example of the Early Church
By Michael Haykin 11/01/2015
It was during the last quarter of the second century in the eastern Mediterranean, possibly in the city of Alexandria, that a man by the name of Diognetus met a Christian author as well as some other believers. It is not surprising that as Diognetus spent time with this man and the others, he began to ask them questions: What do you Christians believe about God? Why do you reject the gods that other Greeks and Romans worship? Why do you Christians use the Jewish Old Testament even though you’re not Jews? And Diognetus was amazed when he saw the way these Christians related to one another, for it was evident that they loved each other like people in the same family were to love each other. Why was that?
Simple though these questions might seem, they actually touch on utterly central matters: Who is the God that Christians worship, and what difference does this worship make for daily life? A number of discussions about these subjects ensued, and it became very evident that Diognetus was earnest about knowing the Truth. The Christian author decided, therefore, to write to his unbelieving friend and explain in a fairly succinct form what Christians think about these matters.
The resulting letter, which historians now call The Letter to Diognetus, is a veritable gem of early Christian apologetics. Beyond the fact that the author obviously benefited from a superb education and that he knew portions of the New Testament extremely well, scholars have no real idea as to who wrote this letter.
In the World, but Not of the WorldThe author of the letter notes that, unlike the Jews, Christians are not to be distinguished from their fellow Greeks and Romans by virtue of their geographical locale, distinct language, or various unique customs of dress, food, and other matters of daily life. When it comes to all of these things, they lived like the other citizens of the Roman Empire. Yet, their Christian commitment did draw certain lines of demarcation between themselves and their surrounding culture:
They live in their own native lands, but as sojourners; they share all things as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners… . They marry, like everyone else, have children, but they do not expose their infants. They share a common table, but not the marriage bed. They are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend [their days] on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. (Letter to Diognetus 5.5–9)
Here the New Testament language of sojourning and heavenly citizenship is pressed into service to affirm the paradox of Christian existence. The Christian life is one that was similar in so many ways to the mores of Greco-Roman society, but in certain key areas—notably with regard to the treatment of children and sexual expression—it bore witness to a completely different ethic.
On Abortion and Sexual ImmoralityAlthough abortion did take place in Greek and Roman culture, it was not a common solution for unwanted children, since it posed a huge danger to the life of the mother. Hence, the preferred method to solve the problem of unwanted progeny was to leave them in the street after birth. There, they would die of exposure or be picked up by slave traders or brothel owners—or thankfully, in some cases, babies were picked up by Christians and raised in believing households. Greeks and Romans saw nothing wrong with the practice of exposure, but Christians rightly knew that such an ethical stance was tantamount to murder.
The other key area in which these Christians differed from their culture was with regard to sexual expression. Many Greco-Roman pagans saw nothing wrong with casual sex with those who were not their spouses—the use of slaves in this way was extremely common. But this was not the Christian way. The church was not hesitant to affirm the goodness of sex, but it had boundaries—namely, marriage between a husband and wife.
The Ground of the Christian EthicFurther on in the letter, the anonymous author grounds these vital ethical perspectives in the cross. The letter says:
[God] himself gave his own Son as a ransom for us—the Holy One for the godless, the Innocent One for the wicked, the Righteous One for the unrighteous, the Incorruptible for the corruptible, the Immortal for the mortal. For what else was able to cover our sins except his righteousness? In whom could we, who were lawless and godless, have been justified, but in the Son of God alone? O the sweet exchange! O the inscrutable work of God! O blessings beyond all expectation!—that the wickedness of many should be hidden in the one Righteous Man, and the righteousness of the One should justify the many wicked! (Diognetus 9.2–5)
The author is overwhelmed by what took place at the cross—lost in rapture, awe, and praise, as Charles Wesley might put it.
This is why Christians live lives of sexual purity: having experienced God’s holy love for them, they can do nothing else but “imitate his [i.e., God’s] goodness” (Diognetus 10.3). Though wholly counter-cultural in its day, this expression of sexual purity won many to Christ. May it do so again. Dr. Michael Haykin is professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Michael Haykin Books:
- 1 Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church
- 2 Eight Women of Faith
- 3 Owen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ
- 4 To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin's Missional Vision and Legacy
- 5 Warfield on the Christian Life (Redesign): Living in Light of the Gospel
- 6 The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers
- 7 The Reformers and Puritans as Spiritual Mentors: Hope Is Kindled (Christian Mentor)
- 8 Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church by Michael A. G. Haykin (2011-03-02)
- 9 The Spirit of God: The Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae) by Michael A G Haykin (1994-08-01)
- 10 William E. Payne: A Memoir
The Essential Marks of a Preacher
By Jason Allen 11/01/2015
“How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). With airtight logic, the Apostle Paul sets forth the indispensable human link in fulfilling the Great Commission — the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, he instructs us in the way of the kingdom, that in every generation God is calling out preachers to serve His church.
Paul’s timeless question is especially relevant for the twenty-first-century church. Evangelical churches are in the midst of a massive generational transition, with vacant pastorates and empty pulpits dotting the landscape.
Vacant pulpits ought not induce the wringing of hands. Christ is building His church. He does not hope for ministerial volunteers; He sovereignly sets apart pastors to serve His church and preach His gospel.
Nonetheless, the church is to call out the called, and every qualified man of God should consider if God is calling him to pastoral ministry.
How might one know if God is calling him to the ministry? There are four essential marks.
A Burning DesireThe leading indicator of a call to ministry is a burning desire for the work. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul begins the list of ministry qualifications by asserting, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” In fact, Paul testified that he ministered as one “under compulsion,” fearful of God’s judgment if he did not peach.
In his Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon argued, “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to be a true call to the ministry, there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling to others what God has done to our own souls.”
Those who have been most used of God carried this weight of the soul. Men such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Spurgeon owned this inner compulsion that, like an artesian well, continuously poured power and urgency into their ministries.
The preacher may not feel every Sunday what Richard Baxter felt when he famously resolved “to preach as a dying man, to dying men; as one not sure to ever preach again.” But the one called of God knows a constant, ongoing desire for the work of ministry.
A Holy LifeFirst Timothy 3:1–7 offers a clear and nonnegotiable list of character qualifications for the ministry. This list is prescriptive, not descriptive; it is regulative, not suggestive. In summary, the minister of God must be above reproach.
Before a church evaluates a pastoral candidate’s gifting or talent, it must first evaluate his character. To be sure, for a man aspiring to ministry, it may help to be winsome, to be eloquent, or to possess a magnetic personality. Yet, before one looks for these secondary—and tertiary—strengths, one must first meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3.
What is more, the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications do not simply represent a one-time threshold to cross. Rather, they are a lifestyle to be maintained, a character to be cultivated, and an ongoing accountability to God’s Word and God’s people. One’s call to ministry is inextricably linked to one’s biblical character. The two cannot—and must not—be decoupled.
A Surrendered WillThe Apostle Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb and testified that he “became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me” (Col. 1:25). Paul chose to preach because God chose him to preach. Every call to preach originates in heaven. Our response is total surrender.
In fact, “surrendering to ministry” used to be common parlance in evangelical churches. We would do well to recover that phrase, because that is how one enters the ministry—through surrender. God’s call to ministry comes with the expectation that you will go whenever and wherever He calls you. His ministers are His agents, deployed for service according to His providential plan.
An Ability to TeachFinally, the one called to the ministry must be able to teach the Word of God. In 1 Timothy 3, this is the distinguishing qualification between the office of the deacon and elder. There are a thousand ways a minister can serve the church, but there is one, indispensable, and nonnegotiable responsibility — to preach and teach the Word of God.
Does the preparation and delivery of sermons fulfill you? Do the people of God benefit from your ministry of the Word? Does your church sense your gifting and affirm your ability to preach or teach about God?
ConclusionAny man can choose the ministry, and too many unqualified men have. Only a select few are called by God. Discerning between being called of men and called of God is urgently important.
If God is calling you to be His servant, then realize, in the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “the work of preaching is the highest and greatest and most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” If God has called you to be His preacher, never stoop to be a king of men.
Sin, Repentance, and Walking in the Light
By Trillia Newbell 11/01/2015
Our smallest offense deserves the full wrath of God. That’s hard to hear if we forget that God has not only covered our sin in Christ but also allows us to approach Him continually to receive that grace anew. We also know that God is holy — set apart in His perfection, glory, and majesty. We are sinners who sin every day. Our sin should grieve us but not condemn, because we serve a God who is good and gracious but also holy and just. So, what are we to do with this enigma of our sinfulness and God’s holiness that clings so close to us? Repent and receive God’s amazing grace. God, the Boogeyman? Walk in the Light
Those used to be my terrified thoughts as a young child. I would fearfully snuggle into my bed, waiting for the boogeyman to jump out of the closet and get me. When I became a Christian, I realized that much of the way I related to God was with that childlike fear of the boogeyman. I felt like I didn’t have much control over my life, but instead of realizing I was in the hands of a good and loving Father, I viewed Him as tyrannical. He had all the control, I thought, but the only love He showed was on the cross (which of course would have been enough). I really did think God was like the boogeyman hanging out in my closet, just waiting for the right moment to punish me or cause some harm.
How sad. If we only know God as the sovereign ruler of the world, then we might make the same mistake I did as a young Christian. It wasn’t until I understood the great love of God that I began to see His ways as good and loving. Yes, even those tough things in our lives come from God’s loving hand (1 Peter 1:3–9; Heb. 12:3–17). We can rest in the knowledge that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways, and yet He is still thoughtful of man (Ps. 8:4; Isa. 55:8).
We see evidence of this in Isaiah 55, which begins with an urgent call for us to come and drink: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (v. 1). God delights in meeting our needs (spiritual and otherwise). We have a Father who invites us to the throne of grace to receive help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). And though I didn’t fully grasp the significance of the cross as a young Christian, I now understand that God displayed His ultimate love for us through the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. Is there a greater love than that?
God is not the boogeyman. He is the sovereign, loving, awesome God who came to redeem a people for Himself. He is good and loves us relentlessly. So, in response to our knowledge of His loving character, we discipline ourselves to repent daily of the sin for which Christ has already died.
Thankfully, we don’t have to do this as Christians. We’ve seen the light. The gospel has shined light into darkness. And this light isn’t disorienting; it’s a gift of grace that purifies and guides us.
But perhaps you’ve been walking around like you are still in the dark. God calls you to walk in the light. To walk in the light means to walk in the goodness and grace of God, living a life that is reflective of the Savior, and walking in a manner worthy of the gospel. Repentance is one of the clearest ways to walk in this light. The Apostle John tells us, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). To walk in darkness is either to walk with the knowledge of sin and ignore it or to walk as if we are completely without sin, never repenting (1 John 1:8). The grace of God allows us to not only acknowledge that we continue to struggle with sin, but also to turn from our sin.
We see clearly that our walking in the light isn’t perfect — not even close. We will never reach perfection on this earth. That’s why repentance is such a beautiful gift from our God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Oh, what grace. We confess our sins to God — acknowledging our great need for Him to turn us from our sin—and what does He do? He does what He’s already done — pours out the grace we need to change. His wrath was reserved for Jesus. We don’t receive punishment or wrath for our sins—we receive grace. There are, of course, consequences for sin, but even so, our standing before God doesn’t change. God is sovereign and rules over all.
He is holy, yet because of Jesus we can approach Him. Run, don’t walk, to the throne of grace. Don’t walk like a blind man while you can walk in the light that is available to you. Walk in the light. Confess your sin and receive grace. There is no condemnation for you.
God, the Boogeyman?There it is again. That eerie dark shadow lurking in the closet. He seems so unpredictable. What might he do next? What might happen? Will he jump out and get me?
Walk in the LightOne of the many side effects I’ve experienced from getting older is an inability to see the road while driving at night. Everything glows. If it rains, it’s as if someone is shining a bright light in my eyes. Like the responsible adult that I am, I have yet to go to an eye doctor. So, I’m driving around in the dark, blind as a bat.
Trillia Newbell Books:
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Learning to lead (4)
(Oct 24) Bob Gass
‘If it is leadership, let him govern diligently.’
(Ro 12:8) 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. ESV
How will you know you have the gift of ‘leadership’? Because you’ll know where God wants you to go, and be able to show others the value of going with you. There are many talented people who never become effective leaders. Why? Because they’re more interested in themselves than in those they lead. What’s interesting, however, is once they go through the school of hard knocks, they become sensitised to other people’s needs. But good leaders don’t wait for that to happen. They realise that ideas are a dime a dozen, but people who can implement them are priceless. Legendary American football coach Bear Bryant used to say, ‘I’m just a plough-hand from Arkansas, but I’ve learned to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together. There are just three things I’d ever say: If something goes bad, I did it. If it goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it.’ When you have the gift of leadership, you’ll also be approachable. You won’t fly off the handle, you won’t let minor problems poison your outlook, and you’ll sandwich every slice of criticism between two layers of praise. Robert Louis Stevenson said, ‘Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others.’ There are people who knock the heart out of you, and people who put it back in. Paul was such a leader: ‘Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God…for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News’ (Philippians 1:3,5 NLT). That’s the kind of leader you should aspire to be.
by Bill Federer
The United Nations Day was established by charter on this day, October 24, 1945. One of the first Presidents of the U.N. General Assembly and chairman of the U.N. Security Council was Philippine General Carlos Romulo. He had served with General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific, was Ambassador to the U.S. and won the Pulitzer Prize. General Carlos Romulo stated: “Never forget, Americans, that yours is a spiritual country. Yes, I know you’re a practical people. Like others, I’ve marveled at your factories, your skyscrapers, and your arsenals. But underlying everything else is the fact that America began as a God-loving, God-fearing, God-worshiping people.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
II. As to the second point. This wrestle is in a certain sense a resisting of God. You cannot have wrestling otherwise; but you may have Christian fatalism. It is not mere wrestling with ourselves, our ignorance, our self-will. That is not prayer, but self-torment. Prayer is wrestling with God. And it is better to fall thus into the hands of God than of man—even than our own. It is a resistance that God loves. It is quite foreign to the godless, self-willed defiant resistance. In love there is a kind of resistance that enhances it. The resistance of love is a quite different thing from the resistance of hostility. The yielding to one you love is very different from capitulating to an enemy:
Two constant lovers, being joined in one,
Yielding unto each other yield to none -
i.e. to no foreign force, no force foreign to the love which makes them one.
So when God yields to prayer in the name of Christ, to the prayer of faith and love, He yields to Himself who inspired it, as He sware by Himself since none was greater. Christian prayer is the Spirit praying in us. It is prayer in the solidarity of the Kingdom. It is a continuation of Christ’s prayer, which in Gethsemane was a wrestle, an sgwnia with the Father. But if so, it is God pleading with God, God dealing with God—as the true atonement must be. And when God yields it is not to an outside influence He yields, but to Himself.
Let me make it still more plain. When we resist the will of God we may be resisting what God wills to be temporary and to be resisted, what He wills to be intermediary and transcended. We resist because God wills we should. We are not limiting God’s will, any more than our moral freedom limits it. That freedom is the image of His, and, in a sense, part of His. We should defraud Him and His freedom if we did not exercise ours. So the prayer which resists His dealing may be part of His will and its fulfilment.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
If you will quit babysitting Christians,
God will give you a generation
that will shake the gates of hell.
--- Damon Thompson
The only fear I have is to fear to get out of the will of God. Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear, for God has sworn to keep me in His will.
--- A.W. Tozer
Success and the Christian: The Cost of Spiritual Maturity
It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun.
--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Thanks to Meir Yona
What Injunctions Caesar Gave When He Was Come Within The City. The Number Of The Captives And Of Those That Perished In The Siege; As Also Concerning Those That Had Escaped Into The Subterranean Caverns, Among Whom Were The Tyrants Simon And John Themselves.
1. Now when Titus was come into this [upper] city, he admired not only some other places of strength in it, but particularly those strong towers which the tyrants in their mad conduct had relinquished; for when he saw their solid altitude, and the largeness of their several stones, and the exactness of their joints, as also how great was their breadth, and how extensive their length, he expressed himself after the manner following: "We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than God who ejected the Jews out of these fortifications; for what could the hands of men or any machines do towards overthrowing these towers?" At which time he had many such discourses to his friends; he also let such go free as had been bound by the tyrants, and were left in the prisons. To conclude, when he entirely demolished the rest of the city, and overthrew its walls, he left these towers as a monument of his good fortune, which had proved his auxiliaries, and enabled him to take what could not otherwise have been taken by him.
2. And now, since his soldiers were already quite tired with killing men, and yet there appeared to be a vast multitude still remaining alive, Caesar gave orders that they should kill none but those that were in arms, and opposed them, but should take the rest alive. But, together with those whom they had orders to slay, they slew the aged and the infirm; but for those that were in their flourishing age, and who might be useful to them, they drove them together into the temple, and shut them up within the walls of the court of the women; over which Caesar set one of his freed-men, as also Fronto, one of his own friends; which last was to determine every one's fate, according to his merits. So this Fronto slew all those that had been seditious and robbers, who were impeached one by another; but of the young men he chose out the tallest and most beautiful, and reserved them for the triumph; and as for the rest of the multitude that were above seventeen years old, he put them into bonds, and sent them to the Egyptian mines. 31 Titus also sent a great number into the provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theatres, by the sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves. Now during the days wherein Fronto was distinguishing these men, there perished, for want of food, eleven thousand; some of whom did not taste any food, through the hatred their guards bore to them; and others would not take in any when it was given them. The multitude also was so very great, that they were in want even of corn for their sustenance.
3. Now the number 32 of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand, the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army, which, at the very first, occasioned so great a straitness among them, that there came a pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine, as destroyed them more suddenly. And that this city could contain so many people in it, is manifest by that number of them which was taken under Cestius, who being desirous of informing Nero of the power of the city, who otherwise was disposed to contemn that nation, entreated the high priests, if the thing were possible, to take the number of their whole multitude. So these high priests, upon the coming of that feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten 33 belong to every sacrifice, [for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves,] and many of us are twenty in a company, found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred; which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two millions seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy; for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhea, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice; nor indeed for any foreigners neither, who come hither to worship.
4. Now this vast multitude is indeed collected out of remote places, but the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly, the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world; for, to speak only of what was publicly known, the Romans slew some of them, some they carried captives, and others they made a search for under ground, and when they found where they were, they broke up the ground and slew all they met with. There were also found slain there above two thousand persons, partly by their own hands, and partly by one another, but chiefly destroyed by the famine; but then the ill savor of the dead bodies was most offensive to those that lighted upon them, insomuch that some were obliged to get away immediately, while others were so greedy of gain, that they would go in among the dead bodies that lay on heaps, and tread upon them; for a great deal of treasure was found in these caverns, and the hope of gain made every way of getting it to be esteemed lawful. Many also of those that had been put in prison by the tyrants were now brought out; for they did not leave off their barbarous cruelty at the very last: yet did God avenge himself upon them both, in a manner agreeable to justice. As for John, he wanted food, together with his brethren, in these caverns, and begged that the Romans would now give him their right hand for his security, which he had often proudly rejected before; but for Simon, he struggled hard with the distress he was in, still he was forced to surrender himself, as we shall relate hereafter; so he was reserved for the triumph, and to be then slain; as was John condemned to perpetual imprisonment. And now the Romans set fire to the extreme parts of the city, and burnt them down, and entirely demolished its walls.
by D.H. Stern
and the nagging of a wife are the same—
16 whoever can restrain her can restrain the wind
or keep perfume on his hand from making itself known.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Now thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.2 Cor. 2:14. ---
The viewpoint of a worker for God must not be as near the highest as he can get, it must be the highest. Be careful to maintain strenuously God’s point of view, it has to be done every day, bit by bit; don’t think on the finite. No outside power can touch the viewpoint.
The viewpoint to maintain is that we are here for one purpose only, viz., to be captives in the train of Christ’s triumphs. We are not in God’s showroom, we are here to exhibit one thing—the absolute captivity of our lives to Jesus Christ. How small the other points of view are—‘I am standing alone battling for Jesus’; ‘I have to maintain the cause of Christ and hold this fort for Him.’ Paul says—‘I am in the train of a conqueror, and it does not matter what the difficulties are, I am always led in triumph.’ Is this idea being worked out practically in us? Paul’s secret joy was that God took him, a red-handed rebel against Jesus Christ, and made him a captive, and now that is all he is here for. Paul’s joy was to be a captive of the Lord, he had no other interest in heaven or on earth. It is a shameful thing for a Christian to talk about getting the victory. The Victor ought to have got us so completely that it is His victory all the time, and we are more than conquerors through Him. “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ.” We are enwheeled with the odour of Jesus, and wherever we go we are a wonderful refreshment to God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
His intellect was the clear mirror
he looked in and saw the machinery of God
assemble itself? It was one that reflected
the emptiness that was where God
should have been. The mind's tools had
no power convincingly to put him
together. Looking in that mirror was a journey
through hill mist where, the higher
one ascends, the poorer the visibility
becomes. It could have led to despair
but for the consciousness of a presence
behind him, whose breath clouding
that looking-glass proved that it was alive.
To learn to distrust the distrust
of feeling--this then was the next step
for the seeker? To suffer himself to be persuaded
of intentions in being other than the crossing
of a receding boundary which did not exist?
To yield to an unfelt pressure that, irresistible
in itself, had the character of everything
but coercion? To believe, looking up
into invisible eyes shielded against love's
glare, in the ubiquity of a vast concern?
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The Talmud reflects the educational methods of teachers who are able to adjust their teachings to the differing levels of their students. The talmudic rabbis did not sacrifice either the limited or the superior student in their program for religious development. The rabbis managed to keep them together in the community. They did not claim that the minimum was the maximum, nor did they seek to focus exclusively on the unusual capacities of intellectually gifted individuals at the expense of the large, more limited, sectors of the community.
The educational approach expressed in the Talmud is not found in the writings of the biblical prophets. Prophets proclaim and thunder the word of God regardless of their audience. The rabbis, on the other hand, do not feel compelled to speak—whether or not their words will be understood. They are patient and tolerant of the limited capacities of the community. Their task is to educate a community, not simply to set down noble ideals to which the community ought to aspire. They understand their task as implementers of the spiritual ideals of the prophets within the daily life of the community. As patient educators, they establish and develop a realistic way by which a community can relate to God. In their teachings, they do not mirror the uncompromising movement from God to man as does the discourse of the prophets. Rather they recognize the quite slow, painstaking efforts of humans who aspire to reach out toward God. They reflect how difficult a task it is to build a spiritual community in accordance with the specifications of the divine architect.
The talmudic teachers, as distinct from the prophets, show us the importance of compromises and stages of development in man’s religious growth. The notion of obligation that emerges from the model of legislative authority reflects only the beginning of the Jew’s approach to Halakhah. The ḥasid’s approach to Halakhah is what the tradition hopes the community itself will ultimately realize. The rabbis were willing, therefore, to utilize multiple theological models in order to inspire observance of the Halakhah.
Maimonides understood Jerusalem from the perspective of the Talmud. He knew that in appropriating philosophy he was expressing a definite spirit within the tradition and was not simply grafting on to it alien Greek tendencies. A suffering community waits for God’s response in history. Maimonides, therefore, ends the Mishneh Torah, which is addressed to community, with the theme of messianism. However Maimonides knew that the Talmud, even under conditions of exile, described the halakhic approach of the ḥasid. He believed, therefore, that one can achieve disinterested love of God even under non-messianic conditions of history. Economic and political conditions of community do not necessarily define the spiritual capacities of individuals. Maimonides writes The Guide of the Perplexed for those who, in a non-messianic world, can approach Halakhah with the perspective of the ḥasid.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. --- 1 Corinthians 2:8
Whatever else is to be made of it, everyone feels that the cross stands out as a hideous tragedy, a dreadful fact black as a splash of ink on our human records. The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life They “have crucified the Lord of glory”! gasps Paul in horror. And as often as it comes in sight of Calvary, the human heart echoes that shuddering cry, stands rooted to the spot, staring incredulously at what can’t be true, yet there it really is!
How did it happen, this appalling thing? What sudden orgy of insanity overwhelmed for one mad day the kindly human nature that we know so well and swept it headlong into this? For we feel hotly that it must have been something monstrous, inexplicable, blown in from the darkness round us that was guilty of that horror. Yet the last haunting terror of it is that it was brought about by ordinary mortals like us, kind and likable in many ways, no doubt. Their children ran with happy shouts to father that day he came home from Calvary, well satisfied, as he kept telling his wife as he played with his little one, with the day’s admirable work—it was not something unthinkable and gross and obviously devilish that was responsible for our Lord’s cross, but it was set up by the quite ordinary, decent, and respectable little sins of decent and respectable people, by the kind of thing into which we are all apt to drift every other day. Let us remember that with a great shivering awe, lest in our lives, too, there rings out that sound of hammering as the nails run home.
“The past throws light on the future,” says Guicciardini, “because the world was ever on the same make, and all that is or will be in another day has already been, and the same things return, only with different names and colors. It is not everyone who knows them under the new face, but the wise know them.” And age by age the Lord Christ is crucified. And we too have crowded eagerly to Calvary and nailed him to his cross and laughed up into his face and watched him die and gone our way well pleased and much relieved that we have hustled him out of the way—yes, even we.
--- Arthur John Gossip
John Paton’s life was molded by his childhood in a little cottage in Kirkmahoe, Scotland. The cottage had ribs of oak, stone walls, a thatched roof, and three rooms filled with 11 children. The front room served as bedroom, kitchen, and parlor. The rear room was his father’s stocking-making shop. The middle room was a closet where John’s father retired each day for prayer and Bible study. The sound of his father’s prayers through the wall made a powerful impression on young John.
Years later, when Scotland’s Reformed Church issued a plea for missionaries for the South Pacific, John went to his parents for advice. They told him something they had never before disclosed—he had been dedicated to foreign missions before birth.
John sailed from Scotland April 16, 1858, landing on the islands in November. He found himself among cannibals and endangered again and again. “They encircled us in a deadly ring,” he wrote of one incident, “and one kept urging another to strike the first blow. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw him watching all the scene. My peace came back to me like a wave from God. I realized that my life was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.”
The turning point came when Paton decided to dig a well to provide fresh water for the people The islanders, terrified at bringing “rain from below,” watched with deepest foreboding. Paton dug deeper and deeper until finally, at 30 feet, he tapped into a stream of water. Opposition to his mission work ceased, and the wide-eyed islanders gave him their full respect. Chief Mamokei accepted Christ as Savior, then a few others made the daring step. On October 24, 1869, nearly 11 years after his arrival, Paton led his first communion service. Twelve converted cannibals partook of the Lord’s Supper. “As I put the bread and wine into those hands once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems of the Redeemer’s love,” he wrote, “I had a foretaste of the joy of Glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces.”
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 24
“The trees of the Lord are full of sap.” --- Psalm 104:16.
Without sap the tree cannot flourish or even exist. Vitality is essential to a Christian. There must be life —a vital principle infused into us by God the Holy Ghost, or we cannot be trees of the Lord. The mere name of being a Christian is but a dead thing, we must be filled with the spirit of divine life. This life is mysterious. We do not understand the circulation of the sap, by what force it rises, and by what power it descends again. So the life within us is a sacred mystery. Regeneration is wrought by the Holy Ghost entering into man and becoming man’s life; and this divine life in a believer afterwards feeds upon the flesh and blood of Christ and is thus sustained by divine food, but whence it cometh and whither it goeth who shall explain to us? What a secret thing the sap is! The roots go searching through the soil with their little spongioles, but we cannot see them suck out the various gases, or transmute the mineral into the vegetable; this work is done down in the dark. Our root is Christ Jesus, and our life is hid in him; this is the secret of the Lord. The radix of the Christian life is as secret as the life itself. How permanently active is the sap in the cedar! In the Christian the divine life is always full of energy—not always in fruit- bearing, but in inward operations. The believer’s graces, are not every one of them in constant motion? but his life never ceases to palpitate within. He is not always working for God, but his heart is always living upon him. As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life.
Evening - October 24
“He began to wash the disciples’ feet.” --- John 13:5.
The Lord Jesus loves his people so much, that every day he is still doing for them much that is analogous to washing their soiled feet. Their poorest actions he accepts; their deepest sorrow he feels; their slenderest wish he hears, and their every transgression he forgives. He is still their servant as well as their Friend and Master. He not only performs majestic deeds for them, as wearing the mitre on his brow, and the precious jewels glittering on his breastplate, and standing up to plead for them, but humbly, patiently, he yet goes about among his people with the basin and the towel. He does this when he puts away from us day by day our constant infirmities and sins. Last night, when you bowed the knee, you mournfully confessed that much of your conduct was not worthy of your profession; and even tonight, you must mourn afresh that you have fallen again into the selfsame folly and sin from which special grace delivered you long ago; and yet Jesus will have great patience with you; he will hear your confession of sin; he will say, “I will, be thou clean”; he will again apply the blood of sprinkling, and speak peace to your conscience, and remove every spot. It is a great act of eternal love when Christ once for all absolves the sinner, and puts him into the family of God; but what condescending patience there is when the Saviour with much long-suffering bears the oft recurring follies of his wayward disciple; day by day, and hour by hour, washing away the multiplied transgressions of his erring but yet beloved child! To dry up a flood of rebellion is something marvellous, but to endure the constant dropping of repeated offences—to bear with a perpetual trying of patience, this is divine indeed! While we find comfort and peace in our Lord’s daily cleansing, its legitimate influence upon us will be to increase our watchfulness, and quicken our desire for holiness. Is it so?
FAITH OF OUR FATHERS
Frederick W. Faber, 1814–1863
Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3)
If you don’t have a cause that is worth dying for, you very likely don’t have anything worth living for.
Often we fail to realize the great price many of our forefathers paid to establish and preserve the Christian faith. It is good for us to be reminded often that the history of the Christian faith is a rich heritage of countless people whose faith in God was considered more dear than life itself. Much could be said about the first century Christians and their persecution by the Roman Empire, or even the religious persecutions of our American forefathers in their quest for a new land where they could enjoy religious freedom.
The “faith of our fathers” referred to in this hymn, however, is the faith of the martyred leaders of the Roman Catholic church during the 16th century. Although he was raised as a Calvinist and later was a minister in the Anglican church, Frederick Faber left the state church and joined the Roman Catholic fold. He became known as Father Wilfrid. Faber began to make it his life’s mission to write hymns that promoted the history and teachings of the Catholic church. Frederick Faber wrote 150 such hymns before his early death at the age of 49. His “Faith of Our Fathers” text first appeared in 1849 in the author’s collection, Jesus and Mary; or Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading. It was always Faber’s hope that someday England would be brought back to the Papal fold.
The three stanzas found in our hymnals, however, are very usable for evangelical worship and can be reinterpreted to challenge our commitment and loyalty to the Gospel that our spiritual fathers often died to defend:
Faith of our fathers, living still in spite of dungeon, fire and sword—O how our hearts beat high with joy whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, were still in heart and conscience free; how sweet would be their children’s fate if they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers, we will love both friend and foe in all our strife; and preach thee too, as love knows how, by kindly words and virtuous life.
Refrain: Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death.
For Today: Psalm 22:4, 5; 1 Timothy 6:13, 14; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 11
Reflect on the great gallery of Old Testament saints listed in Hebrews 11. Ask God to make your Christian faith something that future generations will want to emulate. Carry this tune with you ---
3d. The end of this union.
(1.) He was hereby fitted to be a Mediator. He hath something like to man, and something like to God. If he were in all things only like to man, he would be at a distance from God: if he were in all things only like to God, he would be at a distance from man. He is a true Mediator between mortal sinners and the immortal righteous One. He was near to us by the infirmities of our nature, and near to God by the perfections of the Divine; as near to God in his nature, as to us in ours; as near to us in our nature, as he is to God in the Divine. Nothing that belongs to the Deity, but he possesses; nothing that belongs to the human nature, but he is clothed with. He had both the nature which had offended, and that nature which was offended: a nature to please God, and a nature to pleasure us: a nature, whereby he experimentally knew the excellency of God, which was injured, and understood the glory due to him, and consequently the greatness of the offence, which was to be measured by the dignity of his person: and a nature whereby he might be sensible of the miseries contracted by, and endure the calamities due to the offender, that he might both have compassion on him, and make due satisfaction for him. He had two distinct natures capable of the affections and sentiments of the two persons he was to accord; he was a just judge of the rights of the one, and the demerit of the other. He could not have this full and perfect understanding if he did not possess the perfections of the one, and the qualities of the other; the one fitted him for “things appertaining to God” (Heb. 5:1), and the other furnished him with a sense of the “infirmities of man” (Heb. 4:15).
(2.) He was hereby fitted for the working out the happiness of man. A Divine nature to communicate to man, and a human nature to carry up to God.
[1.] He had a nature whereby to suffer for us, and a nature whereby to be meritorious in those sufferings. A nature to make him capable to bear the penalty, and a nature to make his sufferings sufficient for all that embraced him. A nature, capable to be exposed to the flames of Divine wrath, and another nature, incapable to be crushed by the weight, or consumed by the heat of it: a human nature to suffer, and stand a sacrifice in the stead of man; a Divine nature to sanctify these sufferings, and fill the nostrils of God with a sweet savor, and thereby atone his wrath: the one to bear the stroke due to us, and the other to add merit to his sufferings for us. Had he not been man, he could not have filled our place in suffering; and could he otherwise have suffered, his sufferings had not been applicable to us; and had he not been God, his sufferings had not been meritoriously and fruitfully applicable. Had not his blood been the blood of God, it had been of as little advantage as the blood of an ordinary man, or the blood of the legal sacrifices (Heb. 9:12). Nothing less than God could have satisfied God for the injury done by man. Nothing less than God could have countervailed the torments due to the offending creature. Nothing less than God could have rescued us out of the hands of the jailor, too powerful for us.
[2.] He had, therefore, a nature to be compassionate to us, and victorious for us. A nature sensibly to compassionate us, and another nature, to render those compassions effectual for our relief; he had the compassions of our nature to pity us, and the patience of the Divine nature to bear with us. He hath the affections of a man to us, and the power of a God for us: a nature to disarm the devil for us, and another nature to be insensible of the working of the devil in us, and against us. If he had been only God, he would not have had an experimental sense of our misery; and if he had been only man, he could not have vanquished our enemies; had he been only God, he could not have died; and had he been only man, he could not have conquered death.
[3.] A nature efficaciously to instruct us. As man, he was to instruct us sensibly; as God, he was to instruct us infallibly. A nature, whereby he might converse with us, and a nature, whereby he might influence us in those converses. A human mouth to minister instruction to man, and a Divine power to imprint it with efficacy.
[4.] A nature to be a pattern to us. A pattern of grace as man, as Adam was to have been to his posterity: a Divine nature shining in the human, the image of the invisible God in the lass of our flesh, that he might be a perfect copy for our imitation (Col. 1:15), “The image of the invisible God, and the first-born of every creature” in conjunction. The virtues of the Deity are sweetened and tempered by the union with the humanity, as the beams of the son are by shining through a colored glass, which condescends more to the weakness of our eye. Thus the perfections of the invisible God, breaking through the first-born of every creature, glittering in Christ’s created state, became more sensible for contemplation by our mind, and more imitiable for conformity in our practice.
[5.] A nature to be a ground of confidence in our approach to God. A nature wherein we may behold him, and wherein we may approach to him. A nature for our comfort, and a nature for our confidence. Had he been only man, he had been too feeble to assure us; and had he been only God, he had been too high to attract us: but now we are allured by his human nature, and assured by his Divine, in our drawing near to heaven. Communion with God was desired by us, but our guilt stifled our hopes, and the infinite excellency of the Divine nature would have damped our hopes of speeding; but since these two natures, so far distant, are met in a marriage-knot, we have a ground of hope, nay, an earnest, that the Creator and believing creature shall meet and converse together. And since our sins are expatiated by the death of the human nature in conjunction with the Divine, our guilt, upon believing, shall not hinder us from this comfortable approach. Had he been only man, he could not have assured us an approach to God: had he been only God, his justice would not have admitted us to approach to him; he had been too terrible for guilty persons, and too holy for polluted persons to come near to him: but by being made man, his justice is tempered, and by his being God and man, his mercy is ensured. A human nature he had, one with us, that we might be related to God, as one with him.
[6.] A nature to derive all good to us. Had he not been man, we had had no share or part in him: a satisfaction by him had not been imputed to us. If he were not God, he could not communicate to us divine graces and eternal happiness; he could not have had power to convey so great a good to us, had he been only man; and he could not have done it, according to the rule of inflexible righteousness, had he been only God. As man, he is the way of conveyance; as God, he is the spring of conveyance. From this grace of union, and the grace of unction, we find rivers of waters flowing to make glad the city of God. Believers are his branches, and draw sap from him, as he is their root in his human nature, and have an endless duration of it from his Divine. Had he not been man, he had not been in a state to obey the law; had he not been God as well as man, his obedience could not have been valuable to be imputed to us. How should this mystery be studied by us, which would afford us both admiration and content! Admiration, in the incomprehensibleness of it; contentment, in the fitness of the Mediator. By this wisdom of God we receive the props of our faith, and the fruits of joy and peace. Wisdom consists in choosing fit means, and conducting them in such a method, as may reach with good success the variety of marks which are aimed at. Thus hath the wisdom of God set forth a Mediator, suited to our wants, fitted for our supplies, and ordered so the whole affair by the union of these two natures in the person of the Redeemer, that there could be no disappointment, by all the bustle hell and hellish instruments could raise against it.
4. The wisdom of God is seen in this way of redemption, in vindicating the honor and righteousness of the law, both as to precept and penalty. The first and irreversible design of the law was obedience. The penalty of the law had only entrance upon transgression. Obedience was the design, and the penalty was added to enforce the observance of the precept (Gen. 2:17): “Thou shalt not eat;” there is the precept: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die;” there is the penalty. Obedience was our debt to the law, as creatures; punishment was due from the law to us, as sinners: we are bound to endure the penalty for our first transgression, but the penalty did not cancel the bond of future obedience; the penalty had not been incurred without transgressing the precept; yet the precept was not abrogated by enduring the penalty. Since man so soon revolted, and by this revolt fell under the threatening, the justice of the law had been honored by man’s sufferings, but the holiness and equity of the law had been honored by man’s obedience. The wisdom of God finds out a medium to satisfy both: the justice of the law is preserved in the execution of the penalty; and the holiness of the law is honored in the observance of the precept. The life of our Saviour is a conformity to the precept, and his death is a conformity to the penalty; the precepts are exactly performed, and the curse punctually executed, by a voluntary observing the one, and a voluntary undergoing the other. It is obeyed, as if it had not been transgressed, and executed as if it had not been obeyed. It became the wisdom, justice, and holiness of God, as the Rector of the world, to exact it (Heb. 2:10), and it became the holiness of the Mediator to “fulfil all the righteousness of the law” (Rom. 8:3; Matt. 3:15). And thus the honor of the law was vindicated in all the parts of it. The transgression of the law was condemned in the flesh of the Redeemer, and the righteousness of the law was fulfilled in his person: and both these acts of obedience, being counted as one righteousness, and imputed to the believing sinner, render him a subject to the law, both in its perceptive and minatory part. By Adam’s sinful acting we were made sinners, and by Christ’s righteous acting we are made righteous (Rom. 5:19): “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” The law was obeyed by him, that the righteousness of it might be fulfilled in us (Rom. 8:4). It is not fulfilled in us, or in our actions, by inherency, but fulfilled in us by imputation of that righteousness which was exactly fulfilled by another. As he died for us, and rose again for us, so he lived for us. The commands of the law were as well observed for us, as the threatenings of the law were endured for us. This justification of a sinner, with the preservation of the holiness of the law in truth, in the inward parts, in sincerity of intention, as well as conformity in action, is the wisdom of God, the gospel wisdom which David desires to know (Psalm 51:6): “Thou desirest truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom;” or, as some render it, “the hidden things of wisdom.” Not an inherent wisdom in the acknowledgments of his sin, which he had confessed before, but the wisdom of God in providing a medicine, so as to keep up the holiness of the law in the observance of it in truth, and the averting the judgment due to the sinner. In and by this way methodized by the wisdom of God, all doubts and troubles are discharged. Naturally, if we take a view of the law to behold its holiness and justice, and then of our hearts, to sec the contrariety in them to the command, and the pollution repugnant to its holiness; and after this, cast our eyes upward, and beholding a flaming sword, edged with curses and wrath; is there any matter, but that of terror, afforded by any of these? But when we behold, in the life of Christ, a conformity to the mandatory part of the law, and in the cross of Christ, a sustaining the minatory part of the law, this wisdom of God gives a wellgrounded and rational dismiss to all the horrors that can seize upon us.
5. The wisdom of God in redemption is visible in manifesting two contrary affections at the same time, and in one act: the greatest hatred of sin, and the greatest love to the sinner. In this way he punishes the sin without ruining the sinner, and repairs the ruins of the sinner without indulging the sin. Here is eternal love and eternal hatred; a condemning the sin to what it merited, and an advancing the sinner to what he could not expect. Herein is the choicest love and the deepest hatred manifested: an implacableness against the sin, and a placableness to the sinner. His hatred of sin hath been discovered in other ways: in punishing the devil without remedy; sentencing man to an expulsion from paradise, though seduced by another; in accursing the serpent, an irrational creature, though but a misguided instrument. The whole tenor of his threatenings declare his loathing of sin, and the sprinklings of his judgments in the world, and the horrible expectations of terrified consciences confirm it. But what are all these testimonies to the highest evidence that can possibly be given in the sheathing the sword of his wrath in the heart of his Son? If a father should order his son to take a mean garb below his dignity, order him to be dragged to prison, seem to throw off all affection of a father for the severity of a judge, condemn his son to a horrible death, be a spectator of his bleeding condition, withhold his hand from assuaging his misery, regard it rather with joy than sorrow, give him a bitter cup to drink, and stand by to see him drink it off to the bottom, dregs and all, and flash frowns in his face all the while; and this not for any fault of his own, but the rebellion of some subjects he undertook for, and that the offenders might have a pardon sealed by the blood of the son, the sufferer: all this would evidence his detestation of the rebellion, and his affection to the rebels i his hatred to their crime, and his love to their welfare. This did God do. He “delivered Christ up for our offences” (Rom. 8:32); the Father gave him the cup (John 18:18); the Lord bruised him with pleasure (Isa. 53:10), and that for sin. He transferred upon the shoulders of his Son the pain we had merited, that the criminal might be restored to the place he had forfeited. He hates the sin so as to condemn it forever, and wrap it up in the curse he had threatened; and loves the sinner, believing and repenting, so as to mount him to an expectation of a happiness exceeding the first estate, both in glory and perpetuity. Instead of an earthly paradise, lays the foundation of an heavenly mansion, brings forth a weight of glory from a weight of misery, separates the comfortable light of the sun from the scorching heat we had deserved at his hands. Thus hath God’s hatred of sin been manifested. He is at eternal defiance with sin, yet nearer in alliance with the sinner than he was before the revolt; as if man’s miserable fall had endeared him to the Judge. This is the wisdom and prudence of “grace wherein God hath abounded” (Eph. 1:9) a wisdom in twisting the happy restoration of the broken amity, with an everlasting curse upon that which made the breach, both upon sin the cause, and upon Satan the seducer to it. Thus is hatred and love, in their highest glory, manifested together: hatred to sin, in the death of Christ, more than if the torments of hell had been undergone by the sinner; and love to the sinner, more than if he had, by an absolute and simple bounty, bestowed upon him the possession of heaven; because the gift of his Son, for such an end, is a greater token of his boundless affections, than a reinstating man in paradise. Thus is the wisdom of God seen in redemption, consuming the sin, and recovering the sinner.
6. The wisdom of God is evident in overturning the devil’s empire by the nature he had vanquished, and by ways quite contrary to what that malicious spirit could imagine. The devil, indeed, read his own doom in the first promise, and found his ruin resolved upon, by the means of the “Seed of the woman;” but by what seed was not so easily known to him. And the methods whereby it was to be brought about was a mystery kept secret from the malicious devils, since it was not discovered to the obedient angels. He might know, from Isa. 53, that the Redeemer was assured to divide the spoil with the strong, and rescue a part of the lost creation out of his hands; and that this was to be effected by making his soul an offering for sin: but could he imagine which way his soul was to be made such an offering? He shrewdly suspected Christ, just after his inauguration into his office by baptism, to be the Son of God but did he ever dream that the Messiah, by dying as a reputed malefactor, should be a sacrifice for the expiation of the sin the devil had introduced by his subtilty? Did he ever imagine a cross should dispossess him of his crown, and that dying groans should wrest the victory out of his hands? He was conquered by that nature he had cast headlong into ruin: a woman, by his subtilty, was the occasion of our death; and a woman, by the conduct of the only wise God, brings forth the Author of our life, and the Conqueror of our enemies. The flesh of the old Adam had infected us, and the flesh of the new Adam cures us (1 Cor. 15:21): “By man came death; by man also came the resurrection from the dead.” We are killed by the old Adam, and raised by the new; as among the Israelites, a fiery serpent gave the wound, and a brazen serpent administers the cure. The nature that was deceived bruiseth the deceiver, and raiseth up the foundations of his kingdom. Satan is defeated by the counsels he took to secure his possession, and loses the victory by the same means whereby he thought to preserve it. His tempting the Jews to the sin of crucifying the Son of God, had a contrary success to his tempting Adam to eat of the tree. The first death he brought upon Adam, ruined us, and the death he brought by his instruments upon the second Adam, restored us. By a tree, if one may so say, he had triumphed over the world, and by the fruit of a tree, one hanging upon a tree, he is discharged of his power over us (Heb. 2:14): “Through death he destroyed Him that had the power of death.” And thus the devil ruins his own kingdom while he thinks to confirm and enlarge it; and is defeated by his own policy, whereby he thought to continue the world under his chains, and deprive the Creator of the world of his purposed honor. What deeper counsel could he resolve upon for his own security, than to be instrumental in the death of him, who was God, the terror of the devil himself, and to bring the Redeemer of the world to expire with disgrace in the sight of a multitude of men? Thus did the wisdom of God shine forth in restoring us by methods seemingly repugnant to the end he aimed at, and above the suspicion of a subtle devil, whom he intended to baffle. Could he imagine that we should be healed by stripes, quickened by death, purified by blood, crowned by a cross, advanced to the highest honor by the lowest humility, comforted by sorrows, glorified by disgrace, absolved by condemnation, and made rich by poverty? That the sweetest honey should at once spring out of the belly of a dead lion, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and out of the bosom of the living God? How wonderful is this wisdom of God! that the Seed of the woman, born of a mean virgin, brought forth in a stable, spending his days in affliction, misery, and poverty, without any pomp and splendor, passing some time in a carpenters shop, with carpenter’s tools (Mark 6:6), and afterwards exposed to a horrible and disgraceful death, should, by this way, pull down the gates of hell, subvert the kingdom of the devil, and be the hammer to break in pieces that power, which he had so long exercised over the world! Thus became he the author of our life, by being bound for a while in the chains of death, and arrived to a principality over the most malicious powers, by being a prisoner for us, and the anvil of their rage and fury.
7. The wisdom of God appears, in giving us this way the sureest ground of comfort, and the strongest incentive to obedience. The rebel is reconciled, and the rebellion shamed; God is propitiated, and the sinner sanctified, by the same blood. What can more contribute to our comfort and confidence, than God’s richest gift to us? What can more enflame our love to him, than our recovery from death by the oblation of his Son to misery and death for us? It doth as much engage our duty as secure our happiness. It presents God glorious and gracious, and therefore every way fit to be trusted in regard of the interest of his own glory in it, and in regard of the effusions of his grace by it. It renders the creature obliged in the highest manner, and so awakens his industry to the strictest and noblest obedience. Nothing so effectual as a crucified Christ to wean us from sin, and stifle all motions of despair; a means, in regard of the justice signalized in it, to make man to hate the sin which had ruined him; and a means, in regard of the love expressed to make him delight in that law he had violated (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). The love of Christ, and therefore the love of God expressed in it, constrains us no longer to live to ourselves.
(1.) It is a ground of the highest comfort and confidence in God. Since he hath given such an evidence of his impartial truth to his threatening for the honor of his justice, we need not question but he will be as punctual to his promise for the honor of his mercy. It is a ground of confidence in God, since he hath redeemed us in such a way as glorifies the steadiness of his veracity, as well as the severity of his justice; we may well trust him for the performance of his promise, since we have experience of the execution of his threatening; his merciful truth will as much engage him to accomplish the one, as his just truth did to inflict the other. The goodness which shone forth in weaker rays in the creation, breaks out with stronger beams in redemption. And the mercy which before the appearance of Christ was manifested in some small rivulets, diffuseth itself like a brnindless ocean. That God, that was our Creator, is our Redeemer, the repairer of our breaches, and the restorer of our paths to dwell in. And the plenteous redemption from all iniquity, manifest ed in the incarnation and passion of the Son of God, is much more a ground of hope in the Lord than it was in past ages, when it could not be said, “The Lord hath, but the Lord shall, redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:8). It is a full warrant to cast ourselves into his arms.
The Existence and Attributes of God