Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-TwoLuke 10 1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Woe to Unrepentant Cities13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The Return of the Seventy-Two17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Jesus Rejoices in the Father’s Will21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Martha and Mary38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The Lord’s PrayerLuke 11:1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
Jesus and Beelzebul14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Return of an Unclean Spirit24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
True Blessedness27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
The Sign of Jonah29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
The Light in You33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
Woes to the Pharisees and Lawyers37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. ( This contrasts inner virtues with external ceremonies. Alms are to be given not for show, but as an expression of a faithful heart (cf. Matt. 6:1–4)—and the true almsgiving is not the external act, but one’s attitude before God. ) ESV MacArthur Study Bible, Personal Size
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
‘Disprove that and Disprove the Faith’ – Atheist’s Two-Year, Investigative Quest to Debunk the Christian Faith Hinged on One Story
By Billy Hallowell 12/09/16
After an extensive, two-year investigation into the claims surrounding Jesus Christ's life, an atheist journalist sat down and intensely contemplated every statistic and detail he had heard and explored.
It was Nov. 1981, when Lee Strobel found himself internally processing and meticulously pouring over the materials he had collected in an effort to reach a verdict surrounding whether he believed the claim that Jesus truly is God’s son.
“I sat down … and after two years of doing this investigation, my mind was full of all the statistics and evidence,” Strobel recently told Faithwire. “I decided to take my yellow legal pad and to write all the information I encountered during the investigation, and so I wrote page after page and then I put down my pen and said, ‘Wait a second.'”
The reporter suddenly realized he had been faced with an “avalanche of evidence” that was so compelling it forced him to confront an uncomfortable reality — the idea that Christianity is valid after all, and that Jesus, its figurehead, is, indeed, who he claimed to be.
Clearly, Strobel came to a crossroads, and was faced with a decision about where he’d let the investigation take him.
Billy Hallowell has been working in journalism and media for more than a decade. His writings have appeared in Deseret News, TheBlaze, Human Events, Mediaite and on FoxNews.com, among other outlets. Hallowell has a B.A. in journalism and broadcasting from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York.
In Honor of Thomas Oden: Seven Essential Lessons Learned from an Evangelical Scholar in the Secular Academy
By Michael J. Kruger 12/09/2016
I just learned here that the well-known evangelical scholar Thomas Oden has passed away. Oden was known for starting out as a classic liberal scholar and later becoming orthodox–a rare feat in today’s world.
A number of years ago, I had the joy of meeting Tom when he came to RTS Charlotte to speak at our Harold O.J. Brown Lecture series. He was a delight. In honor of his passing, I republish below an article I did in 2015 on his book, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir.
I think that book (and the summary below) captures the essence of his life’s story. And it has a number of things to teach evangelical scholars in the academy today. If you have a scholar in your life, and are looking for a good Christmas gift, buy them Oden’s book.
When I originally published the article (see here), I received a kind email from Tom saying how much he appreciated it. That was encouraging to me. So, I publish the article again here and hope it is encouraging to you:
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament
The Crown, The Pastorate, and Hidden Vulnerability
By Trevin Wax 12/08/2016
One of the themes in The Crown, Netflix’s lavish retelling of the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, is the unique responsibility of royal leadership in the modern world.
Shortly before her death, Elizabeth’s grandmother, the Queen Mary, tells her that the monarchy is God’s gift intended to dignify the world, and therefore, the crown answers only to him, not to the people.
Winston Churchill regularly warns of members of the royal family asserting their “individuality” or showing too much personality, because giving the public too large a window into the life of the royals might “break the spell.”
Even the decision to televise Elizabeth’s coronation, hailed by her husband, Prince Philip, as a way of inviting the country into the ceremony, comes with a caveat: the most sacred moment must happen without the cameras present. Behold, a moment too holy to be captured on film!
When Elizabeth and Philip have a falling out that results in raised voices, they are horrified to find that reporters have caught the altercation on camera. A humbled Elizabeth (humble, yet still the queen) politely suggests that their spat is all-too-common in ordinary marriages, and despite the extraordinary circumstances of this argument within this marriage, she expects them not to release the tawdry details. The reporter hands her the film canister.
An Identity Found in Christ (RJS)
By RJS 12/08/16
The traditional and modern sources of identity – found by looking outward to society, cultural roles, and affirmation or inward, following one’s desires and finding affirmation there, are unsatisfactory … inherently insecure. The traditional model can be suffocating, while the modern model is crushing. In contrast Tim Keller (Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical) argues that we should look upward. An identity found in Christ is not suffocated by traditional chains or crushed by the fads of modernity. He quotes Paul (1 Cor. 4:3-4) “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” An identity found in Christ is free from the demands and whims of the world. This is an identity that is not achieved by belonging to the correct family or through performing well, but is received from God through Christ. We are loved.
And now in Christ it is literally true that the person we adore most in the universe adores us. In the eyes of God, in the opinion of the only one in the universe whose opinion ultimately counts, we are more valuable than all the jewels that lie beneath the earth.
An identity found in Christ provides a new motivation for life. “You serve him not in order to coerce him to love you but because he already does.” If we follow Christ, there is the expectation (even the command) that we obey his commandments. (e.g. Mt. 7) However, God is not a petty dictator, ready to condemn his serfs for minor offenses of omission or commission; rather he is a loving father shaping his children. This doesn’t abolish the activities of the world (family, career, public service …), but “they are, as it were, demoted to being just good things.” Our self-worth rests in being created in the image of God and adoption to sonship (whether male or female) through Jesus Christ.
When we stop building our identity on career, or our race, or our family, or any other created thing and rest in God, the fears and drives that enslave us recede, and we experience a new freedom and security.
Walking with God, who always sees us and loves us, brings a new integrity of self. We cannot and do not simply blend into each new setting, saying the things we need to say to get the most benefit out of the situation. We are not merely a set of dramatic roles, changing every time we play to a new set of spectators, because God is our primary audience every moment.
Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of more than fifty books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades.
Scot McKnight Books:
- 1 Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science
- 2 The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
- 3 The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
- 4 A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God's Design for Life Together
- 5 The Letter of James (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)
- 6 The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
- 7 Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary)
- 8 One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow
- 9 Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary)
- 10 1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary)
- 11 The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus
- 12 The Hum of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us
- 13 Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series)
- 14 Junia Is Not Alone
- 15 A Community Called Atonement: Living Theology
- 16 The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About Life to Come
- 17 Fasting (The Ancient Practices)
- 18 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed
- 19 Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today
- 20 The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research
- 21 Galatians: Living in Freedom and Love (Bringing the Bible to Life)
- 22 Embracing Grace
- 23 Who Was Jesus? (RZIM Critical Questions Discussion Guides)
- 24 Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory
- 25 A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Studying the Historical Jesus)
- 26 Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels
- 27 A Companion Guide to The Jesus Creed
- 28 Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy
- 29 Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy
- 30 The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scot McKnight (2011-09-25)
- 31 Introducing New Testament Interpretation (Guides to New Testament Exegesis)
- 32 The Synoptic Gospels
- 33 Light Among the Gentiles: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period
- 34 The Story of the Christ
- 35 1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight (1996-04-01)
- 36 The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About Life to Come by Scot McKnight (2015-10-06)
His Winnowing Fork Is in His Hand
By Albert Mohler 12/02/2016
The Christian celebration of Christmas brings essential truths into clearer view. The central fact of the incarnation of the Son of God looms before us as the dividing line of all human history and the fulfillment of God’s promises. Priests and prophets and kings had long awaited the coming of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. At Christmas we declare what the angelic host announced to shepherds on a Bethlehem night: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” [Luke 2:14].
There is no more important message than this — the greatest good news the world has ever heard. Arrayed before us today is the December 2016 graduating class of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They are ready to take their place in that long line of faithful ministry and preaching that reaches back to the apostles and continues throughout the centuries until this day. They are called by God to the Christian ministry and to serve the cause of Christ, to preach the good news of the Gospel, to shepherd the church of God.
An outsider looking in on this event today would recognize its basic form and its intentional formality. Something of consequence is happening here — and it shows. But the outsider would almost surely fail to understand what makes this graduating class of Christian ministers so different from other graduating classes at other institutions. It is a distinction we dare not miss.
My text is from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 3, verses 1-12:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 DALETH
119:25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
Thinking about Change
By Tim Challies 1/01/2016
As Christians, we look with ultimate hope to our ultimate future—the sure hope that we will be with God forever in a world free of sin and all its ugly effects. Christ will return, and what He has prepared for us will be more glorious than all we can ask or even imagine. It’s the immediate future that causes us anxiety, though. Our future and the futures of our children and grandchildren—these trouble us and cause us to fear.
We live in a world where one of the few constants in life is change. Yet, God has given us the ability, the desire, and the mandate to change and shape the world around us. Since the beginning, man has been doing this by creating and implementing new technologies. Technologies are good in that they allow us to carry out our God-given mandate (Gen. 4). But every technology also brings risk; it brings change. Innovations subtly shift our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. They lead us to form new customs and new habits. We have an uneasy relationship with technology, since we create technologies in our image and over time they tend to return the favor.
Historically, the pace of technological change has been slow. But over the past five hundred years that pace has consistently increased. Today we can hardly keep up. By the time we purchase and enjoy a great new gadget, the next one (and the one after that) is already being finalized and perfected in the labs. The newest, greatest, and most expensive device is built with a planned obsolescence that may be only three or four years away. It seems like every year or two we need to prepare our families and our churches for another big shift, another great innovation, that will call them to learn new skills and adapt to new realities.
With all of the changes—not to mention the speed at which they occur—we can develop a deep uncertainty about the future. Whatever we know about our current situation, the future will be very different. We know that we cannot predict future changes with any degree of accuracy. After all, the technologies we consider so normal today existed only in the realm of science fiction just twenty short years ago. And as a result, many Christians have a nascent fear of the future, wondering what it may hold both for them and their families.
Understanding the past allows us to identify trends and to see that even though the pace may have changed, the pattern has not. Seeing history through the lens of God’s Word comforts us with the sure knowledge that all change is unfolding only and exactly within God’s good and perfect will.
The history of communication is especially compelling. Consider, for example, ancient Roman roads. Roman roads were a marvelous innovation that held the empire together. They were built to quickly transport mighty armies across the empire, to expand Roman influence to new lands, and to crush any hint of rebellion in lands already conquered. And, of course, they were built to consolidate the empire through trade and communications. They were incredibly effective, and Rome’s empire thrived for centuries. But the very same roads that carried soldiers also carried the first Christian missionaries to their destinations all over the Mediterranean. The technology that was meant to extend Rome’s kingdom was used to extend God’s kingdom. And only one of those kingdoms continues to exist today.
Consider the book as well. The book—printed pages bound between two covers—is a relatively new innovation, a new technology. For the vast majority of human history, the book as such did not exist. King David never read a book. Jesus never read a book. They read scrolls. The book as we know it today is a product of developments in the centuries after Christ’s life. First the codex, an ancient form of the modern book, was invented, and then the printing press was invented many centuries later. Yet the book has become so deeply embedded in our society that we cannot imagine the world without it. We even call the Bible a book, as if it had always existed in this format.
It seems comical now, but when the book was introduced to society, people feared it, just as they had feared the rise of writing centuries earlier. People feared that the book would take ideas too far, too fast. They tied knowledge so closely with memorization that they feared the ramifications of recording words on paper instead of in human minds. After all, why would we ever want to store something in our memories if we can store it on paper? And yet today we can see how the book was used to record God’s Word and to spread it across the world. We can see that it sparked a great Reformation. We can see that it sparked revival and awakening. We can see that the Bible quickly became the best-selling book of all time. That technology changed the world. God used that technology for His own purposes.
When the radio was introduced, many people feared it. They feared its intrusion into their homes and families. They feared the consequences of families gathering in the living room to listen to the radio instead of sitting on the front porch to socialize with neighbors. They feared the fast-paced flow of information and the news that came from so far outside their local context.
But again, we can see how God used this technology for His own glory. Countless people have come to faith in Jesus Christ by hearing the gospel on the radio. Countless more have been encouraged in their Christian walk as they have listened to Renewing Your Mind or Grace to You or a host of other great programs. Even today, when radio is regarded as an antiquated technology, it continues to make a deep impact across the globe, and it continues to be used by God to carry out the Great Commission.
Television provides another ready example. There is no doubt that television transformed the family and brought with it changing morals. Yet Christians quickly identified how television could be used to transmit the Good News to the lost and to encourage those who had already been saved. Today we take it for granted that we can watch our favorite teachers and preachers on a screen. It is yet another new technology that brought both risk and great benefits as Christians saw the potential and used it to God’s glory.
Today we are at the dawn of the digital revolution, and we are grappling with many of the very same fears people faced at the dawn of every other communications revolution. We fear the ubiquity of digital devices; we fear living so much of our lives in the glow of little screens; we fear the consequences of recording our thoughts and our lives in apps. But even now we can have hope. We can look to history to see how God has used every technology to carry out his purposes and to do His will. We can look to God’s Word to see that He works all things to His glory. We can have firm confidence that He is over and above and working through all of these things.
It is good and wise for us, as Christians, to consider deeply all of the change going on around us—and within us. It is good for us to consider what happens when the “Good Book” becomes the “Good App,” or when so many of the things we used to do face-to-face become things we do through bits and bytes. It is good for us to keep a wary eye on new technologies and to introduce them to our families and our churches only after due consideration of both their risks and their benefits. We acknowledge that both we and our technologies exist in this sin-stained world, so we should examine them with discernment and consider all we stand to gain or lose. But even as we act with this kind of wisdom, we can act with confidence. We have no reason to fear.
We do not know the future, but as the saying goes, we do know the One who holds the future. And not only do we know that, we know what God is accomplishing in history. We know the end to which God is directing history. We know who will bring this world’s history to its beautiful conclusion.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
The Story of GalileoThe most eminent men of science and philosophy of the day did not escape the watchful eye of this cruel despotism. Galileo, the chief astronomer and mathematician of his age, was the first who used the telescope successfully in solving the movements of the heavenly bodies. He discovered that the sun is the center of motion around which the earth and various planets revolve. For making this great discovery Galileo was brought before the Inquisition, and for a while was in great danger of being put to death.
After a long and bitter review of Galileo's writings, in which many of his most important discoveries were condemned as errors, the charge of the inquisitors went on to declare, "That you, Galileo, have upon account of those things which you have written and confessed, subjected yourself to a strong suspicion of heresy in this Holy Office, by believing, and holding to be true, a doctrine which is false, and contrary to the sacred and divine Scripture- viz., that the sun is the center of the orb of the earth, and does not move from the east to the west; and that the earth moves, and is not the center of the world."
In order to save his life. Galileo admitted that he was wrong in thinking that the earth revolved around the sun, and swore that-"For the future, I will never more say, or assert, either by word or writing, anything that shall give occasion for a like suspicion." But immediately after taking this forced oath he is said to have whispered to a friend standing near, "The earth moves, for all that."
Summary of the InquisitionOf the multitudes who perished by the Inquisoition throughout the world, no authentic record is now discoverable. But wherever popery had power, there was the tribunal. It had been planted even in the east, and the Portuguese Inquisition of Goa was, until within these few years, fed with many an agony. South America was partitioned into provinces of the Inquisition; and with a ghastly mimickry of the crimes of the mother state, the arrivals of viceroys, and the other popular celebrations were thought imperfect without an auto da fe. The Netherlands were one scene of slaughter from the time of the decree which planted the Inquisition among them. In Spain the calculation is more attainable. Each of the seventeen tribunals during a long period burned annually, on an average, ten miserable beings! We are to recollect that this number was in a country where persecution had for ages abolished all religious differences, and where the difficulty was not to find the stake, but the offering. Yet, even in Spain, thus gleaned of all heresy, the Inquisition could still swell its lists of murders to thirty-two thousand! The numbers burned in effigy, or condemned to penance, punishments generally equivalent to exile, confiscation, and taint of blood, to all ruin but the mere loss of worthless life, amounted to three hundred and nine thousand. But the crowds who perished in dungeons of torture, of confinement, and of broken hearts, the millions of dependent lives made utterly helpless, or hurried to the grave by the death of the victims, are beyond all register; or recorded only before HIM, who has sworn that "He that leadeth into captivity, shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword."
Such was the Inquisition, declared by the Spirit of God to be at once the offspring and the image of the popedom. To feel the force of the parentage, we must look to the time. In the thirteenth century, the popedom was at the summit of mortal dominion; it was independent of all kingdoms; it ruled with a rank of influence never before or since possessed by a human scepter; it was the acknowledged sovereign of body and soul; to all earthly intents its power was immeasurable for good or evil. It might have spread literature, peace, freedom, and Christianity to the ends of Europe, or the world. But its nature was hostile; its fuller triumph only disclosed its fuller evil; and, to the shame of human reason, and the terror and suffering of human virtue, Rome, in the hour of its consummate grandeur, teemed with the monstrous and horrid birth of the INQUISITION!
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
By Don Carson 2/25/2018
ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING PICTURES of what might be called a “partial conversion” is found in Luke 11:24-26. Jesus teaches that when an evil spirit comes out of someone, it “goes through arid places seeking rest ant does not find it” – apparently looking for some new person in whom to take up residence. Then the spirit contemplates returning to its previous abode. A reconnoiter finds the former residence surprisingly vacant. The spirit rounds up seven cronies who are even more vile, “and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Apparently the man who has been exorcised of the evil spirit never replaced that spirit with anything else. The Holy Spirit did not take up residence in his life; the man simply remained vacant, as it were.
There are three lessons to learn.
First, “partial conversions” are all too common. A person gets partially cleaned up. He or she is drawn close enough to the Gospel and to the people of God that there is some sort of turning away from godlessness, a preliminary infatuation with holiness, an attraction toward righteousness. But like the person represented by rocky soil in the parable of the sower and the soils (8:4-15), this person may initially seem to be the best of the crop, and yet not endure. There has never been the kind of conversion that spells the takeover of an individual by the living God, a reorientation tied to genuine repentance and enduring faith.
The second lesson follows: a little Gospel is a dangerous thing. It gets people to think well of themselves, to sigh with relief that the worst evils have been dissipated, to enjoy a nice sense of belonging. But if a person is not truly justified, regenerated, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the dollop of religion may serve as little more than an inoculation against the real thing.
The third lesson is inferential. This passage is thematically tied to another large strand of Scripture. Evil cannot simply be opposed – that is, it is never enough simply to fight evil, to cast out a demon. Evil must be replaced by good, the evil spirit by the Holy Spirit. We must “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). For instance, it is difficult to overcome bitterness against someone by simply resolving to stop being bitter; one must replace bitterness by genuine forgiveness and love for that person. It is difficult to overcome greed by simply resolving not to be quite so materialistic; one must fasten one’s affections on better treasure (cf. Luke 12:13-21) and learn to be wonderfully and self-sacrificially generous. Overcome evil with good.
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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Keep your spiritual glasses clean
(Oct 28) Bob Gass
‘Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.’
(Is 52:11) 11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD. ESV
One day a man was getting his windscreen washed at a petrol station. When the attendant finished, the man said, ‘That’s a terrible job. Re-do my windscreen - it’s as dirty as when you started.’ So, the attendant wiped it again. The man looked it over and in frustration said, ‘That window hasn’t changed a bit.’ The man’s wife was sitting next to him in the car fuming. She reached over, pulled off his glasses, wiped them, and gave them back to him. The attendant had been doing his job correctly. The man himself was the problem all along. Spiritually speaking, the glasses you’re looking through determine what you see, and how you see it. When you look through the lens of jealousy and envy, you become resentful of the blessings of others. When you look through the lens of judgementalism, you speak and act without mercy and grace. When you look through the lens of fear and unbelief, you limit God and forfeit what He can do for you. When you look through the lens of selfishness, you put yourself first and your loved ones suffer. When you look through the lens of negativity and cynicism, people begin to avoid you because you’re not enjoyable to be around. ‘Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.’ Just as your glasses need to be wiped clean from the contamination around you, so do your heart and mind. How does this happen? Jesus said, ‘Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you’ (John 15:3 KJV). Through prayer and daily Bible reading, your perspective on life is kept right.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
The Statue of Liberty was dedicated this day, October 28, 1886, by President Grover Cleveland. It was presented to the U.S. by France as a symbol of friendship. This four hundred and fifty thousand pound statue is supported by a steel structure build by Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower. The Statue of Liberty was designed by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, who wrote: “The statue was born for this place which inspired its conception. May God be pleased to bless my efforts and my work, and to crown it with success, the duration and the moral influence which it ought to have.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
“A beautifully executed and deeply moving little book:” --- Saturday Review
In the form of warm, relaxed letters to a close friend, C. S. Lewis meditates on many puzzling questions concerning the intimate dialogue between man and God. He considers practical and metaphysical aspects of prayer, such as when we pray and where. He questions why we seek to inform God in our prayers if He is omniscient, whether there is an ideal form of prayer, and which of our many selves we show to God while praying. The concluding letter contains provocative thoughts about “liberal Christians,” the soul, and resurrection.
C.S. LEWIS 1898-1963) gained international renown for an impressive array of beloved works both popular and scholarly: literary criticism, children's literature, fantasy literature, and numerous books on theology. Among his most celebrated achievements are Out of the Silent Planet, The Chronicles Of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, and Surprised by Joy.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
--- William Cowper
Power is of two kinds.
One is obtained by the fear of punishment
and the other by acts of love.
Power based on love
is a thousand times more effective and permanent
then the one derived from fear of punishment.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.
--- Will Smith
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Titus Upon The Celebration Of His Brothers And Fathers Birthdays Had Many Of The Jews Slain. Concerning The Danger The Jews Were In At Antioch, By Means Of The Transgression And Impiety Of One Antiochus, A Jew.
1. While Titus was at Cesarea, he solemnized the birthday of his brother [Domitian] after a splendid manner, and inflicted a great deal of the punishment intended for the Jews in honor of him; for the number of those that were now slain in fighting with the beasts, and were burnt, and fought with one another, exceeded two thousand five hundred. Yet did all this seem to the Romans, when they were thus destroyed ten thousand several ways, to be a punishment beneath their deserts. After this Caesar came to Berytus, 4 which is a city of Phoenicia, and a Roman colony, and staid there a longer time, and exhibited a still more pompous solemnity about his father's birthday, both in the magnificence of the shows, and in the other vast expenses he was at in his devices thereto belonging; so that a great multitude of the captives were here destroyed after the same manner as before.
2. It happened also about this time, that the Jews who remained at Antioch were under accusations, and in danger of perishing, from the disturbances that were raised against them by the Antiochians; and this both on account of the slanders spread abroad at this time against them, and on account of what pranks they had played not long before; which I am obliged to describe without fail, though briefly, that I may the better connect my narration of future actions with those that went before.
3. For as the Jewish nation is widely dispersed over all the habitable earth among its inhabitants, so it is very much intermingled with Syria by reason of its neighborhood, and had the greatest multitudes in Antioch by reason of the largeness of the city, wherein the kings, after Antiochus, had afforded them a habitation with the most undisturbed tranquillity; for though Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, laid Jerusalem waste, and spoiled the temple, yet did those that succeeded him in the kingdom restore all the donations that were made of brass to the Jews of Antioch, and dedicated them to their synagogue, and granted them the enjoyment of equal privileges of citizens with the Greeks themselves; and as the succeeding kings treated them after the same manner, they both multiplied to a great number, and adorned their temple gloriously by fine ornaments, and with great magnificence, in the use of what had been given them. They also made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks perpetually, and thereby after a sort brought them to be a portion of their own body. But about this time when the present war began, and Vespasian was newly sailed to Syria, and all men had taken up a great hatred against the Jews, then it was that a certain person, whose name was Antiochus, being one of the Jewish nation, and greatly respected on account of his father, who was governor of the Jews at Antioch 5 came upon the theater at a time when the people of Antioch were assembled together, and became an informer against his father, and accused both him and others that they had resolved to burn the whole city in one night; he also delivered up to them some Jews that were foreigners, as partners in their resolutions. When the people heard this, they could not refrain their passion, but commanded that those who were delivered up to them should have fire brought to burn them, who were accordingly all burnt upon the theater immediately. They did also fall violently upon the multitude of the Jews, as supposing that by punishing them suddenly they should save their own city. As for Antiochus, he aggravated the rage they were in, and thought to give them a demonstration of his own conversion, arm of his hatred of the Jewish customs, by sacrificing after the manner of the Greeks; he persuaded the rest also to compel them to do the same, because they would by that means discover who they were that had plotted against them, since they would not do so; and when the people of Antioch tried the experiment, some few complied, but those that would not do so were slain. As for Antiochus himself, he obtained soldiers from the Roman commander, and became a severe master over his own citizens, not permitting them to rest on the seventh day, but forcing them to do all that they usually did on other days; and to that degree of distress did he reduce them in this matter, that the rest of the seventh day was dissolved not only at Antioch, but the same thing which took thence its rise was done in other cities also, in like manner, for some small time.
4. Now, after these misfortunes had happened to the Jews at Antioch, a second calamity befell them, the description of which when we were going about we premised the account foregoing; for upon this accident, whereby the four-square market-place was burnt down, as well as the archives, and the place where the public records were preserved, and the royal palaces, [and it was not without difficulty that the fire was then put a stop to, which was likely, by the fury wherewith it was carried along, to have gone over the whole city,] Antiochus accused the Jews as the occasion of all the mischief that was done. Now this induced the people of Antioch, who were now under the immediate persuasion, by reason of the disorder they were in, that this calumny was true, and would have been under the same persuasion, even though they had not borne an ill-will at the Jews before, to believe this man's accusation, especially when they considered what had been done before, and this to such a degree, that they all fell violently upon those that were accused, and this, like madmen, in a very furious rage also, even as if they had seen the Jews in a manner setting fire themselves to the city; nor was it without difficulty that one Cneius Collegas, the legate, could prevail with them to permit the affairs to be laid before Caesar; for as to Cesennius Petus, the president of Syria, Vespasian had already sent him away; and so it happened that he was not yet come back thither. But when Collegas had made a careful inquiry into the matter, he found out the truth, and that not one of those Jews that were accused by Antiochus had any hand in it, but that all was done by some vile persons greatly in debt, who supposed that if they could once set fire to the market-place, and burn the public records, they should have no further demands made upon them. So the Jews were under great disorder and terror, in the uncertain expectations of what would be the upshot of these accusations against them.
Son Of Man / Wisdom
Luke 11:49, the speaker in this saying (in the words of R. Bultmann) is ‘a supra-historical entity namely, [the pre-existent] Wisdom’, (R. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, trans, from the second edition by John Marsh; rev. ed. (New York 1968), p. 114.) who sends the prophets and messengers of God, and who, in Sir. 24, receives from God himself the Temple in Jerusalem as her dwelling place. According to Sir. 1:15, Wisdom builds her nest among the God-fearers, while in Sir. 14:26 the wise man builds his nest in the branches of Wisdom, which thereby becomes the Tree of Life. The LXX of Prov. 16:16 understands the קנה or קנות of the MT as ‘nest’, קֵן , and translates it with νοσσία σοΦίας or νοσσία φρονήσεως, an indication that the motif of Wisdom as mother bird and refuge, following older models where this picture is applied to God (Job 39:26f.; Deut. 32:11; Ps. 84:3, and often), was not unusual. The verdict on the Holy City is thus as unconditional and absolute as that on ‘this generation’ in Luke 11:49. Her inhabitants have continually slain the messengers of God and rejected the offer of salvation by the Wisdom of God, who hovers about them like an anxious mother bird. Here again, there is not a word about the sending or the fate of Jesus. By the continual rejection of the offer of salvation, the disobedience of the city of God leads to a catastrophic end. The passivum divinum ἀΦίεται with the dativus incommodi ὑμῖν announces that the presence of Wisdom on Zion (Sir. 24:10ff.), that God’s presence in the Temple has an end. Analogous to this is the later rabbinic concept that the Shekinah, or the Holy Spirit, dwelt in the Tabernacle and later on Zion, but then forsook Israel because she had despised God’s prophets. A similar thought is expressed in Mark 15:38 by the tearing of the curtain to the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The wisdom of God withdraws from Jerusalem just as, according to Ezek. 10:18ff. and Josephus, War 6.300 (cf. Tacitus, Hist. 5.13), God forsakes the Temple. The ‘you will not see me until’ refers to the wisdom, who, having been rejected on earth, returns to Heaven. Not until the coming of the Kingdom of God will its inhabitants—whether they wish it or not—greet the ‘One Who Comes’ for the Judgement in the figure of the Son of Man, with the words of the Hallel Psalm 118:26, the same cry with which the Galileans accompanying Jesus acclaimed him at his entry in Jerusalem (Mark 11:9). Indeed, the unstated relationship between the wisdom of God as the representative of the now closed, failed salvation-history of Israel, and the coming Son of Man-Judge indicates the antiquity of the logion, not yet ‘christologically alienated’ from its origin.
Studies in Early Christology
Ver. 17.—And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy Name. How wavering and hesitating the faith of the chosen followers of Jesus was, even at this late period of his public ministry, is clear from this frank confession of surprise at their powers. They were contrasting the present with what had lately happened at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, where the disciples were utterly unable to heal the possessed boy. What a contrast do these true writers of the gospel story paint between themselves and their Master! They never seem to tire in their self-depreciatory de scriptions. They describe with the same careful, truthful pen their slowness to understand what afterwards became so clear to them—their mutual jealousies, their cove tous hopes of a brilliant future, their shrink ing from pain and suffering, their utter failure when they try to imitate their Master; and now we find them marvelling at their own—to them—unexpected success in their imitation of him.
Ver. 18.—And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. The Lord’s words here were prophetic rather than descriptive of what had taken, or was then taking place. The seventy were telling him their feelings of joy at finding that his Name in their mouths enabled them to cast out evil spirits from the possessed. Their Master replied in an exalted and exultant strain—strange and rare sounds on the lips of the Man of sorrows—telling them how he had been looking—not on a few spirits of evil driven out of unhappy men, but on the king and chief of all evil falling from his sad eminence and throne of power like a flash of lightning. Jesus Christ saw, in the first success of these poor servants of his, an earnest of that wonderful and mighty victory which his followers, simply armed with the power of his Name, would shortly win over paganism. He saw, too, in the dim far future, many a contest with and victory over evil in its many forms. He looked on, we may well believe, to the final defeat which at length his servants, when they should have learned the true use and the resistless power of that glorious Name of his, should win over the restless enemy of the souls of men.
Ver. 19.—Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. The older authorities read here, “I have given.” The only recorded instance of a literal fulfilment of this promise was in the case of Paul at Melita, after the shipwreck (Acts 24:3–5). A similar promise was made during the “forty days” (Mark 16:17, 18). It seems, however, best, in the case of this peculiar promise, to interpret the Lord’s words as referring to spiritual powers of evil, taking the serpent and scorpion as symbols of these. It should be remembered that the subject of conversation between the Master and his servants was the conflict with and victory over these awful powers restlessly hostile to the human race (see Ps. 91:13).
Ver. 20.—But rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. “After all,” went on the wise and loving Master, “though you have made the glad discovery of the power you possess, if, as my servants, you use aright my Name, after all, your real reason for joy is, not the possession of a new, mighty power. but the fact of your name having been written in the book of life as one of my servants commissioned to do my work.” Many commentators here cautiously point out that even this legitimate Joy should be tempered with fear and trem bling, for even this true title to honour might be blotted out of that golden book of heaven (see Exod. 32:33; Jer. 17:13; Ps. 69:28; Rev. 22:19). In this deep legitimate joy men and women of all callings, who try to follow the Master, in every age, may share.
Ver. 21.—In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit. More than “rejoiced;” the Greek word rather signifies “exulted.” Very rarely in the holy story of the life of lives is a hint given us of any gleam of gladness or of joy irradiating the spirit of the Man of sorrows. The exultation of the Blessed here was based upon his conviction that this first success of his own was but the commencement of a long and weary, but yet, in the end, of a triumphant campaign against the spirits of sin and evil. What these, in their mortal weakness by the aid of their poor imperfect faith in his Name, had been able to accomplish, was an earnest, a pledge, of the mighty work which his followers would, in the power of the same Name, be enabled to effect in the coming ages In that solemn hour did Messiah see, in the far future, of “the travail of his soul,” and was satisfied. The absence of all sign of joy in the life of our Lord is well brought out in that touching legend which we find in the spurious letter of P. Lentulus to the senate, that he wept often, but that no one had ever seen him smile. That thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Looking upon his servants after their return from their successful mission, a group made up certainly for the most part of poor untutored men—fishers, artisans, and the like, children of the people, without rank or position—Jesus thanks the Father that, in the persons of the men chosen to be the instruments of his work, he has looked away from all the ordinary machinery of human influence. As he gazes upon the band of successful missionaries, Jesus thanks the Father that henceforth his servants, if they would be successful, must owe the powers which gave them success entirely to his training, and not to the world’s. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. This is “the only record, outside St. John’s Gospel, of a prayer like that which we find in John 17. For the most part, we may believe, those prayers were offered apart, on the lonely hillside, in the darkness of night; or, it may be, the disciples shrank in their reverence, or perhaps in the consciousness of their want of capacity, from attempting to record what was so unspeakably sacred. But it is noteworthy that in this exceptional instance we find, both in the prayer and the teaching that follows it in St. Matthew and St. Luke, turns of thought and phrase almost absolutely identical with what is most characteristic of St. John. It is as though this isolated fragment of a higher teaching had been preserved by them as a witness that there was a region upon which they scarcely dared to enter, but into which men were to he led after. wards by the beloved disciple, to whom the Spirit gave power to recall what had been above the reach of the other reporters of his Master’s teaching” (Dean Plumptre).
The Pulpit Commentary-Book of Numbers (Old Testament)
by D.H. Stern
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
Justification by faith
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
--- Romans 5:10.
I am not saved by believing; I realize I am saved by believing. It is not repentance that saves me; repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause—It is my obedience that puts me right with God, my consecration. Never! I am put right with God because prior to all, Christ died. When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals I can accept, instantly the stupendous Atonement of Jesus Christ rushes me into a right relationship with God, and by the supernatural miracle of God’s grace I stand justified, not because I am sorry for my sin, not because I have repented, but because of what Jesus has done. The spirit of God brings it with a breaking, all-over light, and I know, though I do not know how, that I am saved.
The salvation of God does not stand on human logic, it stands on the sacrificial Death of Jesus. We can be born again because of the Atonement of Our Lord. Sinful men and women can be changed into new creatures, not by their repentance or their belief, but by the marvellous work of God in Christ Jesus which is prior to all experience. The impregnable safety of justification and sanctification is God Himself. We have not to work out these things ourselves; they have been worked out by the Atonement: The supernatural becomes natural by the miracle of God; there is the realization of what Jesus Christ has already done—“It is finished.”
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
What they are saying is
that there is life there, too;
that the universe is the size it is
to enable us to catch up.
They have gone on from the human;
that shining is a reflection
of their intelligence. Godhead
is the colonisation by mind
of untenanted space. It is its own
light, a statement beyond language
of conceptual truth. Every night
is a rinsing myself of the darkness
that is in my veins. I let the stars inject me
with fire, silent as it is far,
but certain in its cauterising
of my despair. I am a slow
traveller, but there is more than time
to arrive. Resting in the intervals
of my breathing, I pick up the signals
relayed to me from a periphery I comprehend.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Maimonides’ position excludes prophecy from a key portion of halakhic law and maintains that rabbinic argumentation is independent of appeals to divine authority and is thus subject to disagreement. In addition to the certainties of Mosaic prophecy and traditions from Sinai, Maimonides offers the Jew norms developed by men who rationally struggle to resolve problems about which they often disagree, and who never demonstrate that alternate approaches to the law are invalid. It is not surprising to find a strong trend within Judaism opposed to this position. In a legal system based upon revelation, it is natural to expect that individuals would prefer the certainties of prophetic pronouncements and law based on traditions from Sinai rather than laws based on legal reasoning. Tradition-based law, which mediates the content of revelation to man, speaks with unquestioned authority. It offers individuals the security and certainty of knowing precisely what God wills. By eliminating prophets from halakhic argumentation and restricting the scope of tradition-based law, Maimonides weakens the security which results from obedience to traditional authority.
Maimonides was careful to make distinctions which would restrict obedience to authority to certain classes of laws, while legitimizing disagreements based on reason in other classes. Maimonides does not eliminate the appeal to authority in Halakhah. He limits its applicability and is consistently emphatic in excluding it from areas which are not subject to its appeal. These important distinctions have broad spiritual implications. By knowing how to discriminate between the different types of laws, the halakhic Jew avoids an orientation of uncritical obedience to halakhic authority. The keen discernment which Maimonides hopes to encourage is vividly portrayed by him in the following exaggerated, hypothetical situation:
If a Prophet whose claim to prohecy has already been validated by us, as we have explained, tells us—on the Sabbath—to arise, women and men, to set a fire and make in it armaments and girdle ourselves with them and fight against the people of such and such place, today which is the Sabbath, and that we plunder their wealth and conquer their wives, we are obligated—we who are commanded by the Torah of Moses—to arise immediately, without hesitation regarding anything he commands us. And we shall fulfill all that he commands with vivacity and diligence, without hesitation or delay, and we shall believe that all that is done on that day, which is the Sabbath, be it the kindling of fire, the performance of acts of work [melakhot], or engagement in killing and war, is a commandment regarding which we will hope for a reward from God. For we have heeded the command of the Prophet for it is a positive commandment to listen to his words, as God, through Moses, commanded, “him you shall heed” (Deut. 18:15), and we received by tradition, “In all matters, if a prophet tells you to violate the teachings of Torah, listen to him save for idolatry” (T.B. Sanhedrin 90a), for if he telis us worship this day only this form, or offer incense to this star at this time only, behold this prophet is killed, and we do not listen to him.
But [consider] a man who sees himself, according to his imagination, as righteous and just, who is old and of advanced years, and he says to himself, “I am very old, and I am already such and such years old, and I have never violated any of the commandments at all. How can I arise on this day, which is the Sabbath, and violate a prohibition—whose penalty is stoning—and go to war? For I will not add nor detract and there are others to take my place, and many people will fulfill this commandment!”
Behold that man violated the word of God and he deserves death by heavenly decree, for he violated what the Prophet commanded him. And He who commanded that one rest on the Sabbath is He who commanded that one fulfill the words of the Prophet and what he establishes. And whoever violates His commandment deserves what we said. And this is what the Almighty said, “and if anybody fails to heed the words he speaks in My name, I Myself will call him to account” (Deut. 18:19). However, one who ties a permanent knot on this Sabbath day while performing those acts of work and he is not required to tie this knot so as to contribute in any way to what the Prophet commanded, behold this person deserves stoning.
And regarding this prophet himself who commanded whatever he commanded us to do on this day, which is the Sabbath, and whose words we fulfilled, if he [the prophet] says that the Sabbath limit is two thousand less one cubit or two thousand and one cubit and he relates this to [prophetic] inspiration and not to the method of analysis and argument, behold this person is a false prophet and he is killed by strangulation. And by this method shall you judge all that the Prophet commands you.
Maimonides, in his introduction to the Commentary to the Mishnah, did not only elaborate upon the limits of prophetic authority through discursive arguments, but found it necessary to dramatize the halakhic Jew’s discriminating approach to authority: The prophet arrives. He addresses the community which is absorbed in everyday concerns. He mobilizes it for war. Time, place, and enemy are decided according to the prophet’s decree.
The community, Maimonides says, must comply with the prophet. The prophet can compel an entire community to violate one of its most important and symbolic religious events—the Sabbath—as well as to fight, kill, plunder, and, perhaps, die at his bidding. In the context of a community following a prophet to war, Maimonides brings in a seemingly irrelevant detail—the old man. Once the old man is mentioned, one feels compassion for him and is tempted to question Maimonides’ fanatic concern that all obey the prophet. After all, what difference does it make if such an old man is not mobilized? What harm would there be if he were permitted to end his life without having disrupted his orderly pattern of piety? Yet Maimonides is adamant and uncompromising in his insistence that all—even such a man—follow the prophet. The situation of the old man accentuates the disruptive features which accompany a critical approach to authority. Habits of religious behavior can numb one’s consciousness of the base of one’s halakhic behavior. God, who commands one to rest on the Sabbath, can also command one to follow a prophet, thereby violating His established commandment. The authority of God is the ground of religious observance. Lest religious behavior become a self-justifying end, the Jew is constantly aware that his commitment is ultimately to God who, in principle, can disrupt the familiar routine of religious life.
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
The Sadducees held all the high places in the church, yet they had lost all spirituality and all belief in it. The Galilean Accent - Being Some Studies in the Christian Life Religion was all very well, they said, but really, to get things done, you must look only to politics. The axioms of pious people were unprovable and almost certainly untrue. There was no resurrection—no rewards and punishments hereafter; this brief life of ours was really all. A soul? No doubt there was a soul. But don’t brood over that. Give us practical measures of reform for this life here, and the soul will take care of itself. And this [Jesus] was becoming troublesome with his insistence on secondary things and was breeding trouble where they wanted peace and quiet. Yes, they felt, he were better away, and in the council they, too, voted death.
We [today] also are not worrying about immortality, hardly believe in it, or at least are not sure. We, too, have limited ourselves to this dust-speck of time, leaving unclaimed the vast inheritance of which Christ told us. We, too, are putting all our passion and enthusiasm into things of this earth—material things—quite certain that that is the only road to progress and that this chatter about the soul is quite beside the point.
People are so certain, so often animated by lofty motives, so sure that there is no need for Christ. Given a particular panacea, the world will manage very well. To talk about Christ and changing people’s hearts and making us new creatures is to lose precious time and wander from the practical into daydreaming.
Today, too, there is a great shouting for Barabbas, for the man of action; we, too, believe in politics and economics—but religion? Set their circumstances right, and people will need no savior, will soon show that they can take care of themselves! “If… the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23). If the cures and remedies of an age touch none of the roots of the disease, what then? And still Christ holds to it—as he did in his own day, full as ours is now of social sores and economic problems—that in the last resort nothing can save the world but a new race of men and women, with new aims and likings and a new ardor of self-sacrifice. And still that angers people, and they rise up and cast him out. We are all members of the council before which he is tried. And how does your heart vote?
--- Arthur John Gossip
In This Sign Conquer
By the early fourth century, Christianity was straddling the Roman Empire, boasting of churches from Britain to Carthage and Persia. The Gospel had spread mouth-to-mouth, person-to-person, until, despite relentless persecution, it had taken root. “Every time a drop of blood was shed,” said Spurgeon, “that drop became a man.”
The final storm occurred when Emperor Diocletian suddenly unleashed the Great Persecution, fiercest of all purges. But Romans eventually sickened of the blood, and the Christian holocaust created far-reaching sympathy for believers. When Diocletian abdicated, a power struggle erupted between two titans: Constantine and Maxentius. Their armies met at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome; and Constantine, as he later told the historian Eusebius, turned to the Christian God for help. In a dream on October 28, 312 he saw a cross in the sky with the Greek words In This Sign Conquer. Thus encouraged, he advanced and prevailed. After the battle he openly espoused Christianity, and the outcast church suddenly found itself on top of the world.
Constantine extended great liberties to bishops. He abolished crucifixions and ended gladiatorial contests as punishments. He issued the Edict of Milan which said in part: “Every one who has a common wish to follow the religion of the Christians may from this moment freely proceed without any annoyance or disquiet.” He made Sunday a holiday, built church buildings, financed Christian projects, and gathered bishops to discuss theology.
But whether Constantine was genuinely born again is doubted. He treated church leaders as political aides. He banished churchmen he didn’t like and retained paganism he did like. Under his rule the church, while enjoying freedom, deteriorated from an army of noble martyrs to a mixed multitude of semiconverted pagans. An alignment between church and state developed that set the stage for the Middle Ages and that continues to this day in the state churches of Europe.
The “conversion” of Constantine was at once both the best thing that could have happened to the church, and the worst.
Let the name of the LORD be praised now and forever. From dawn until sunset the name of the LORD deserves to be praised.
--- Psalm 113:2-3.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 28
“I have chosen you out of the world.” --- John 15:19.
Here is distinguishing grace and discriminating regard; for some are made the special objects of divine affection. Do not be afraid to dwell upon this high doctrine of election. When your mind is most heavy and depressed, you will find it to be a bottle of richest cordial. Those who doubt the doctrines of grace, or who cast them into the shade, miss the richest clusters of Eshcol; they lose the wines on the less well refined, the fat things full of marrow. There is no balm in Gilead comparable to it. If the honey in Jonathan’s wood when but touched enlightened the eyes, this is honey which will enlighten your heart to love and learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Eat, and fear not a surfeit; live upon this choice dainty, and fear not that it will be too delicate a diet. Meat from the King’s table will hurt none of his courtiers. Desire to have your mind enlarged, that you may comprehend more and more the eternal, everlasting, discriminating love of God. When you have mounted as high as election, tarry on its sister mount, the covenant of grace. Covenant engagements are the munitions of stupendous rock behind which we lie entrenched; covenant engagements with the surety, Christ Jesus, are the quiet resting-places of trembling spirits.
“His oath, his covenant, his blood,
Support me in the raging flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
This still is all my strength and stay.”
If Jesus undertook to bring me to glory, and if the Father promised that he would give me to the Son to be a part of the infinite reward of the travail of his soul; then, my soul, till God himself shall be unfaithful, till Jesus shall cease to be the truth, thou art safe. When David danced before the ark, he told Michal that election made him do so. Come, my soul, exult before the God of grace and leap for joy of heart.
Evening - October 28
“His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.” --- Song of Solomon 5:11.
Comparisons all fail to set forth the Lord Jesus, but the spouse uses the best within her reach. By the head of Jesus we may understand his deity, “for the head of Christ is God” and then the ingot of purest gold is the best conceivable metaphor, but all too poor to describe one so precious, so pure, so dear, so glorious. Jesus is not a grain of gold, but a vast globe of it, a priceless mass of treasure such as earth and heaven cannot excel. The creatures are mere iron and clay, they all shall perish like wood, hay, and stubble, but the ever living Head of the creation of God shall shine on for ever and ever. In him is no mixture, nor smallest taint of alloy. He is for ever infinitely holy and altogether divine. The bushy locks depict his manly vigour. There is nothing effeminate in our Beloved. He is the manliest of men. Bold as a lion, laborious as an ox, swift as an eagle. Every conceivable and inconceivable beauty is to be found in him, though once he was despised and rejected of men.
“His head the finest gold;
With secret sweet perfume,
His curled locks hang all as black
As any raven’s plume.”
The glory of his head is not shorn away, he is eternally crowned with peerless majesty. The black hair indicates youthful freshness, for Jesus has the dew of his youth upon him. Others grow languid with age, but he is for ever a Priest as was Melchizedek; others come and go, but he abides as God upon his throne, world without end. We will behold him to-night and adore him. Angels are gazing upon him—his redeemed must not turn away their eyes from him. Where else is there such a Beloved? O for an hour’s fellowship with him! Away, ye intruding cares! Jesus draws me, and I run after him.
O MASTER, LET ME WALK WITH THEE
Washington Gladden, 1836–1918
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Go labor on: Spend and be spent, my joy to do the Father’s will;
It is the way the Master went, should not the servant tread it still?
--- H. Bonar
As God’s representatives, we must make it our life’s mission to make the invisible Christ visible to lost and needy people through both word and deed. We can do this most effectively by dealing justly with others and by showing compassion and understanding to those who are less privileged than we are.
This hymn, published in 1879, comes from a period of religious history in America when there was much emphasis given to the social implications of the Gospel. The Civil War had ended and the country was in the midst of a great industrial revolution. As is often true in such times, the individual is exploited in the name of economic progress.
Many of our country’s more liberal clergymen became enthusiastic champions for the cause of social justice. One of the recognized leaders of the social Gospel movement was Washington Gladden, known not only for his influential pulpiteering and writing but also for his negotiations in various national labor disputes and strikes. It was always his conviction that it was the duty of the Christian Church to “elevate the masses not only spiritually and morally, but to be concerned about their social and economic welfare as well.” Although Gladden was widely known in his day for his persuasive preaching and writing, he is remembered particularly today for this one hymn text, which teaches us so well that our service for God must always be based on an intimate fellowship with Him.
O Master, let me walk with Thee in lowly paths of service free; tell me Thy secret—help me bear the strain of toil, the fret of care.
Help me the slow of heart to move by some clear, winning word of love; teach me the wayward feet to stay and guide them in the homeward way.
Teach me Thy patience! still with Thee in closer, dearer company, in work that keeps faith sweet and strong, in trust that triumphs over wrong.
In hope that sends a shining ray far down the future’s broad’ning way, in peace that only Thou canst give, with Thee, O Master, let me live.
For Today: Amos 3:3; Matthew 25:31–46; Ephesians 4:1 Philippians 2:5–7; Titus 3:8
Actively seek to do for someone at least one good deed that you might otherwise be hesitant to attempt. Allow this musical message to help ---
2. In neglecting means instituted by God. When men have risings of heart against God’s ordinances, “they reject the counsel of the Lord against themselves,” or, in themselves (Luke 7:30), ἠθέτησαν. They disannulled the wisdom of God, the spring of his ordinances. All neglects are disregards of Divine prescriptions, as impertinent and unavailable to that end for which they were appointed, as not being suited to the common dictates of reason; sometimes out of voluntary humility, such as Peter’s was, when he denied Christ’s condescension to wash his feet (John 13:8), and thereby judged of the comeliness of his Master’s intention and action. Such as continually neglect the great institution of the Lord’s supper, out of a sense of unworthiness, are in the same rank with Peter, and do,
as well as he, fall under the blame and reproof of Christ. Men would be saved, and use the means, but either means of their own appointment, or not at all the means of God’s ordering. They would have God’s wisdom and will condescend to theirs, and not theirs conformed to God’s; as if our blind judgments were fittest to make the election of the paths to happiness.
Like Naaman, who, when he was ordered by the prophet, for the cure of his leprosy, to “wash seven times in Jordan,” would be the prophet’s director, and have him touch him with his hand; as if a patient, sick of a desperate disease, should prescribe to his skilful physician what remedies he should order for his cure, and make his own infirm reason, or his gust and palate, the rule, rather than the physician’s skill.
Men’s inquiries are, “Who will show us any good?” They rather fasten upon any means than that which God hath ordained. We invert the order Divine wisdom hath established, when we would have God save us in our own way, not in his. It is the same thing as if we would have God nourish us without bread, and cure our disease without medicines, and increase our wealth without our industry, and cherish our souls without his word and ordinances. It is to demand of him an alteration of his methods, and a separation of that which he hath by his eternal judgment joined together. Therefore for a man to pray to God to save him when he will not use the means he hath appointed for salvation, when he slights the word, which is the instrument of salvation, is a contempt of the wisdom of Divine institutions. Also in omissions of prayer. When we consult not with God upon emergent occasions, we trust more to our own wisdom than God’s, and imply that we stand not in need of his conduct, but have ability to direct ourselves, and accomplish our ends without his guidance. Not seeking God is, by the prophet, taxed to be a reflection upon this perfection of God (Isa. 31:1, 2): “They look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord” &c. And the like charge he brings against them (Hos. 8:9): “They are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself, not consulting God.”
3. In censuring God’s revelations and actions, if they be not according to our schemes: when we will not submit to his plain will without penetrating into the unrevealed reason of it, nor adore his counsels without controlling them, as if we could correct both law and gospel, and frame a better method of redemption than that of God’s contriving. Thus men slighted the wisdom of God in the gospel, because it did not agree with that philosophical wisdom and reason they had sucked in by education from their masters (1 Cor. 1:21, 22), contrary to their practice in their superstitious worship, where the oracles they thought divine were entertained with reverence, not with dispute, and though ambiguous, were not counted ridiculous by the worshipper. How foolish is man in this wherein he would be accounted wise! Adam, in innocence, was unfit to control the doctrine of God when the eye of his reason was clear; and much more are we, since the depravation of our natures. The revelations of God tower above reason in its purity, much more above reason in its mud and earthiness. The rays of Divine wisdom are too bright for our human understandings, much more for our sinful understandings. It is base to set up reason, a finite principle, against an infinite wisdom; much baser to set up a depraved and purblind reason against an all-seeing and holy wisdom. If we would have a reason for all that God speaks, and all that God acts, our wisdom must become infinite as his, or his wisdom become finite as ours. All the censures of God’s revelations arise from some prejudicate opinions, or traditional maxims, that have enthroned themselves in our minds, which are made the standard whereby to judge the things of God, and receive or reject them as they agree with, or dissent from, those principles (Col. 2:8). Hence it was that the philosophers, in the primitive times, were the greatest enemies to the gospel: and the contempt of Divine wisdom, in making reason the supreme judge of Divine revelation, was the fruitful mother of the heresies in all ages springing up in the church, and especially of that Socinianism, that daily insinuates itself into the minds of men.
This is a wrong to the wisdom of God. He that censures the words or actions of another, implies that he is, in his censure, wiser than the person censured by him. It is as insupportable to determine the truth of God’s plain dictates by our reason, as it is to measure the suitableness or unsuitableness of his actions by the humor of our will. We may sooner think to span the sun, or grasp a star, or see a gnat swallow a Leviathan, than fully understand the debates of eternity. To this we may refer too curious inquiries into Divine methods, and “intruding into those things which are not revealed” (Col. 2:18). It is to affect a wisdom equal with God, and an ambition to be of his cabinet council. We are not content to be creatures, that is, to be every way below God; below him in wisdom, as well as power.
4. In prescribing God’s method of acting. When we pray for a thing without a due submission to God’s will; as if we were his counsellors, yea his tutors, and not his subjects, and God were bound to follow our humors, and be swayed according to the judgment of our ignorance; when we would have such a mercy which God thinks not fit to give, or have it in this method, which God designs to convey through another channel. Thus we would have the only wise God take his measures from our passions; such a controlling of God was Jonah’s anger about a gourd (chap. 4:1): “It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.” We would direct Him how to dispose of us; as though he, that had infinite wisdom to contrive and rear the excellent fabric of the world, had not wisdom enough, without our discretions, to place us in a sphere proper for his own ends, and the use he intends us in the universe. All the speeches of men (would I had been in such an office, had such a charge; would I had such a mercy, in such a method, or by such instruments,) are entrenchments upon God’s wise disposal of affairs. This imposing upon God is a hellish disposition, and in hell we find it. The rich man in hell, that pretends some charity for his brethren on earth, would direct God a way to prevent their ruin, by sending one from the dead to school them, as a more effectual means than “Moses and the prophets” (Luke 16:29, 30). It is a temper also to be found on earth; what else was the language of Saul’s saving the Amalekites’ cattle against the plain command of God (1 Sam. 15:15)? As if God in his fury had overshot himself and overlooked his altar, in depriving it of so great a booty for its service; as if it were an unwise thing in God, to lose the prey of so many stately cattle, that might make the altar smoke with their entrails, and serve to expiate the sins of the people; and therefore he would rectify that which he thought to be an oversight in God, and so magnifies his own prudence and discretion above the Divine. We will not let God act as he thinks fit, but will be directing him, and “teaching him knowledge” (Job 21:22.) As if God were a statue, an idol, that had eyes and saw not, hands, but acted not; and could be turned as an image may be, to what quarter of the heaven we please ourselves. The wisdom of God is unbiassed; he orders nothing but what is fittest for his end, and we would have our shallow brains the bias of God’s acting. And will not God resent such an indignity, as a reflection upon his wisdom as well as authority, when we intimate that we have better heads than he, and that he comes short of us in understanding?
5. In murmuring and impatience. One demands a reason, why he hath this or that cross? Why he hath been deprived of such a comfort, lost such a venture, languisheth under such a sickness, is tormented with such pains, oppressed by tyrannical neighbors, is unsuccessful in such designs? In these, and such like, the wisdom of God is questioned and defamed. All impatience is a suspicion, if not a condemnation of the prudence of God’s methods, and would make human feebleness and folly the rule of God’s dealing with his creatures. This is a presuming to instruct God, and a reproving him for unreasonableness in his proceedings, when his dealings with us do not exactly answer our fancies and wishes; as if God, who made the world in wisdom, wanted skill for the management of his creatures in it (Job 40:2): “Shall he that contends with the Almighty, instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.” We that are not wise enough to know ourselves, and what is needful for us; presume to have wit enough to guide God in his dealing with us. The wisdom of God rendered Job more useful to the world by his afflictions, in making him a pattern of patience, than if he had continued him in a confluence of all worldly comforts, wherein he had been beneficial only in communicating his morsels to his poor neighbors. All murmuring is a fastening error upon unerring Wisdom.
6. In pride and haughtiness of spirit. No proud man, but sets his heart “as the heart of God” (Ezek. 27:2, 3). The wisdom of God hath given to men divers offices, set them its divers places; some have more honorable charges, some meaner. Not to give that respect their offices and places call for, is to quarrel with the wisdom of God, and overturn the rank and order wherein he hath placed things. It is unfit we should affront God in the disposal of his creatures, and intimate to him by our carriage, that he had done more wisely in placing another, and that he hath done foolishly in placing this or that man in such a charge. Sometimes men are unworthy the place they fill; they may be set there in judgment to themselves and others: but the wisdom of God in his management of things, is to be honored and regarded. It is an infringing the wisdom of God, when we have a vain opinion of ourselves, and are blind to others. When we think ourselves monarchs, and treat others as worms or flies in comparison of us. He who would reduce all things to his own honor, perverts the order of the world, and would constitute another order than what the wisdom of God hath established; and move them to an end contrary to the intention of God, and charges God with want of discretion and skill.
7. Distrust of God’s promise is an impeachment of his wisdom.
A secret reviling of it, as if he had not taken due consideration before he past his word; or a suspicion of his power, as if he could not accomplish his word. We trust the physician’s skill with our bodies, and the lawyer’s counsel with our estates; but are loath to rely upon God for the concerns of our lives. If he be wise to dispose of us, why do we distrust him? If we distrust him; why do we embrace an opinion of wisdom? Unbelief also is a contradiction to the wisdom of God in the gospel, &c., but that I have already handled in a discourse of the nature of unbelief.
Use 3. Of comfort. God hath an infinite wisdom, to conduct us in our affairs, rectify us in our mistakes, and assist us in our straits. It is an inestimable privilege to have a God in covenant with us; so wise, to communicate all good, to prevent all evil; who hath infinite ways to bring to pass his gracious intentions towards us. “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33)! His judgments or decrees are incomprehensibly wise, and the ways of effecting them are as wise as his resolves effected by them. We can as little search into his methods of acting, as we can into his wisdom of resolving; both his judgments and ways are unsearchable.
1. Comfort in all straits and afflictions. There is a wisdom in inflicting them, and a wisdom in removing them. He is wise to suit his medicines to the humor of our disease, though he doth not to the humor of our wills: he cannot mistake the nature of our distemper, or the virtue of his own physic. Like a skilful physician, he sometimes prescribes bitter potions, and sometimes cheering cordials, according to the strength of the malady, and necessity of the patient, to reduce him to health. As nothing comes from him, but what is for our good, so nothing is acted by him in a rash and temerarious way. His wisdom is as infinite as his goodness; and as exact in managing, as his goodness is plentiful in streaming out to us. He understands our griefs, weighs our necessities, and no remedies are beyond the reach of his contrivance. When our feeble wits are bewildered in a maze, and at the end of their line for a rescue, the remedies unknown to us are not unknown to God. When we know not how to prevent a danger, the wise God hath a thousand blocks to lay in the way; when we know not how to free ourselves from an oppressive evil, he hath a thousand ways of relief. He knows how to time our crosses, and his own blessings. The heart of a wise God, as well as the heart of a wise man, discerns both time and judgment (Eccles. 8:5). There is as much judgment in sending them, as judgment in removing them. How comfortable is it to think, that our distresses, as well as our deliverances, are the fruits of infinite wisdom! Nothing is done by him too soon or too slow; but in the true point of time, with all its due circumstances, most conveniently for his glory and our good. How wise is God to bring the glory of our salvation out of the depths of a seeming ruin, and make the evils of affliction subservient to the good of the afflicted.
2. In temptations, his wisdom is no less employed in permitting them, than in bringing them to a good issue. His wisdom in leading our Saviour to be tempted of the devil, was to fit him for our succor; and his wisdom in suffering us to be tempted, is to fit us for his own service, and our salvation. He makes a thorn in the flesh to be an occasion of a refreshing grace to the spirit, and brings forth cordial grapes from those pricking brambles, and magnifies his grace by his wisdom, from the deepest subtilties of hell. Let Satan’s intentions be what they will, he can be for him at every turn, to outwit him in his stratagems, to baffle him in his enterprises; to make him instrumental for our good, where he designs nothing but our hurt. The Lord hath his methods of deliverance from him (2 Pet. 2:9). “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation.”
3. In denials, or delays of answers of prayer. He is gracious to hear; but he is wise to answer in an acceptable time, and succor us in a day proper for our salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). We have partial affections to ourselves, ignorance is natural to us (Rom. 8:26). We ask we know not what, because we ask out of ignorance. God grants what he knows, what is fit for him to do, and fit for us to receive; and the exact season wherein it is fittest for him to bestow a mercy. As God would have us bring forth our fruit in season, so he will send forth his mercies in season. He is wise to suit his remedy to our condition, to time it so, as that we shall have an evident prospect of his wisdom in it; that more of Divine skill, and less of human, may appear in the issue. He is ready at our call; but he will not answer, till he see the season fit to reach out his hand. He is wise to prove our faith, to humble us under the sense of our own unworthiness, to wet our affections, to set a better estimate on the blessings prayed for, and that he may double the blessing, as we do our devotion: but when his wisdom sees us fit to receive his goodness, he grants what we stand in need of. He is wise to choose the fittest time, and faithful to give the best covenant mercy.
4. In all evils threatened to the church by her enemies. He hath knowledge to foresee them, and wisdom to disappoint them (Job 5:13); “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.” The church hath the wisdom of God, to enter the lists with the policy of hell.
He defeated the serpent in the first net he laid, and brought a glorious salvation out of hell’s rubbish, and is yet as skilful to disappoint the after-game of the surpentine brood. The policy of hell, and the subtilty of the world, are no better than folly with God (1 Cor. 3:19). All creatures are fools, as creatures, in comparison with the Creator. The angels he chargeth with folly, much more us sinners. Depraved understandings are not fit mates for a pure and unblemished. mind. Pharaoh, with his wisdom, finds a grave in the sea; and Ahitophel’s plots are finished in his own murder. He breaks the enemies by his power, and orders them by his skill to be a feast to his people (Psalm 74:14); “Thou breakest the head of the leviathan, and gavest him to be meat to the people in the wilderness.” The spoils of the Egyptians’ carcasses, cast upon the shore, served the Israelites’ necessities (or were as meat to them); as being a deliverance the church might. feed upon in all ages, in a wilderness condition, to maintain their faith, the vital principle of the soul. There is a wisdom superior to the subtilties of men, which laughs at their follies, and “hath them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). “There is no wisdom or counsel against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30). You never question the wisdom of an artist to use his file, when he takes it into his hand. Wicked instruments are God’s axes and files; let him alone, he hath skill enough to manage them: God hath too much affection to destroy his people, and wisdom enough to beautify them by the worst tools he uses. He can make all things conspire to a perfect harmony for his own ends, and his people’s good, when they see no way to escape a danger feared, or attain a blessing wanted.
Use 4. For Exhortation. I. Meditate on the wisdom of God in creation and government. How little do we think of God when we behold his works! Our sense dwells upon the surface of plants and animals, beholds the variety of their colors, and the progress in their motion; our reason studies the qualities of them; our spirits seldom take a flight to the Divine wisdom which framed them. Our senses engross our minds from God, that we scarce have a thought free to bestow upon the Maker of them, but only on the by. The constancy of seeing things that are common stifles our admiration of God, due upon the sight of them. How seldom do we raise our souls as far as heaven, in our views of the order of the world, the revolutions of the seasons, the nature of the creatures that are common among us, and the mutual assistance they give to each other! Since God hath manifested himself in them, to neglect the consideration of them is to neglect the manifestation of God, and the way whereby he hath transmitted something of his perfections to our understanding. It renders men inexcusably guilty of not glorifying of God (Rom. 1:19, 20). We can never neglect the meditation of the creatures, without a blemish cast upon the Creator’s wisdom. As every river can conduct us to the sea, so every creature points us to an ocean of infinite wisdom. Not the minutest of them, but rich tracts of this may be observed in them, and a due sense of God result from them. They are exposed to our view, that something of God may be lodged in our minds; that, as our bodies extract their quintessence for our nourishment, so our minds may extract a quintessence for the Maker’s praise. Though God is principally to be praised, in and for Christ, yet, as grace doth not rase out the law of nature, so the operations of grace put not the dictates of nature to silence, nor suspend the homage due to God upon our inspection of his works. God hath given full testimonies of this perfection in the heavenly bodies, dispersing their light, and distributing their influences to every part of the world; in framing men into societies, giving them various dispositions for the preservation of governments; making some wise for counsel, others martial for action; changing old empires, and raising new. Which way soever we cast our eyes, we shall find frequent occasions to cry out, “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33)! To this purpose, we must not only look upon the bulk and outside of his works, but consider from what principles they were raised, in what order disposed, and the exact symmetry and proportion of their parts. When a man comes into a city or temple, and only considers the surface of the buildings, they will amaze his sense, but not better his understanding, unless he considers the methods of the work, and the art whereby it was erected.
(1.) This was an end for which they were created. God did not make the world for man’s use only, but chiefly for his own glory; for man’s use to enjoy his creatures, and for his own glory to be acknowledged in his creatures, that we may consider his art in framing them, and his skill in disposing them, and not only gaze upon the glass without considering the image it represents, and acquainting ourselves whose image it is. The creatures were not made for themselves, but for the service of the Creator, and the service of man. Man was not made for himself, but for the service of the Lord that created him. ( Think Rev 4:11) He is to consider the beauty of the creation, that he may thereby glorify the Creator. He knows in art their excellentcy; the creatures themselves, do not. If, therefore, man be idle and unobservant of them, he deprives God of the glory of his wisdom, which he should have by his creatures. The inferior creatures themselves cannot observe it. If man regard it not, what becomes of it? His glory can only be handed to him by man. The other creatures cannot be active instruments of his glory, because they know not themselves, and therefore cannot render him an active praise. Man is, therefore, bound to praise God for himself, and for all his creatures, because he only knows himself, and the perfections of the creatures, and the Author both of himself and them. God created such variety, to make a report of himself to us; we are to receive the report, and to reflect it back to him. To what purpose did he make so many things, not necessary, for the support and pleasure of our lives, but that we should behold him in them, as well as in the other? We cannot behold the wisdom of God in his own essence, and eternal ideas, but by the reflection of it in the creatures: as we cannot steadily behold the sun with our eye, but either through a glass, or by reflection of the image of it in the water. God would have us meditate on his perfections; he therefore chose the same day wherein he reviewed his work and rested from it, to be celebrated by man for the contemplation of him (Gen. 2:2, 3), that we should follow his example, and rejoice, as himself did, in the frequent reviews of his wisdom and goodness in them. In vain would the creatures afford matter for this study, if they were wholly neglected. God offers something to our consideration in every creature. Shall the beams of God shine round about us, and strike our eyes, and not affect our minds? Shall we be like ignorant children, that view the pictures, or point to the letters in a book, without any sense and meaning? How shall God have the homage due to him from his works, if man hath no care to observe them? The 148th Psalm is an exhortation to this. The view of them should often extract from us a wonder of the like nature of that of David’s (Psalm 104:24): “O Lord, how wonderful are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all!” The world was not created to be forgotten, nor man created to be unobservant of it.
(2.) If we observe not the wisdom of God in the views of the creatures, we do no more than brutes. To look upon the works of God in the world, is no higher an act than mere animals perform. The glories of heaven, and beauties of the earth, are visible to the sense of beasts and birds. A brute beholds the motion of a man, as it may see the wheels of a clock, but understands not the inward springs of motion; the end for which we move, or the soul that acts us in our motion; much less that Invisible Power which presides over the creatures, and conducts their motion. If a man do no more than this, he goes not a step beyond a brutish nature, and may very well acknowledge himself with Asaph, a foolish and ignorant beast before God (Psalm 73:22). The world is viewed by beasts, but the Author of it to be contemplated by man. Since we are in a higher rank than beasts, we owe a greater debt than beasts; not only to enjoy the creatures, as they do, but behold God in the creatures, which they cannot do. The contemplation of the reason of God in his works, is a noble and suitable employment for a rational creature: we have not only sense to perceive them, but souls to mind them. The soul is not to be without its operation: where the operation of sense ends, the work of the soul ought to begin. We travel over them by our senses, as brutes; but we must pierce further by our understandings, as men, and perceive and praise Him that lies invisible in his visible manufactures. Our senses are given us as servants to the soul, and our souls bestowed upon us for the knowledge and praise of their and our common Creator.
(3.) This would be a means to increase our humility. We should then flag our wings, and vail our sails, and acknowledge our own wisdom to be as a drop to the ocean, and a shadow to the sun. We should have mean thoughts of the nothingness of our reason, when we consider the sublimity of the Divine wisdom.
Who can seriously consider the sparks of infinite skill in the creature, without falling down at the feet of the Divine Majesty, and acknowledge himself a dark and foolish creature (Psalm 8:4, 5)? When the Psalmist considered the heavens, the moon, and stars, and God’s ordination and disposal of them, the use that results from it is, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” We should no more think to mate him in prudence, or set up the spark of our reason to vie with the sun. Our reason would more willingly submit to the revelation, when the characters of Divine wisdom are stamped upon it, when we find his wisdom in creation incomprehensible to us.
(4.) It would help us in our acknowledgments of God, for his goodness to us. When we behold the wisdom of God in creatures below us, and how ignorant they are of what they possess, it will cause us to reflect upon the deeper impressions of wisdom in the frame of our own bodies and souls, an excellency far superior to theirs; this would make us admire the magnificence of his wisdom and goodness, sound forth his praise for advancing us in dignity above other works of his hands, and stamping on us, by infinite art, a nobler image of himself. And by such a comparison of ourselves with the creatures below us, we should be induced to act excellently, according to the nature of our souls; not brutishly, according to the nature of the creatures God hath put under our feet.
(5.) By the contemplation of the creatures, we may receive some assistance in clearing our knowledge in the wisdom of redemption. Though they cannot of themselves inform us of it, yet since God hath revealed his redeeming grace, they can illustrate some particulars of it to us. Hence the Scripture makes use of the creatures, to set forth things of a higher orb to us: our Saviour is called a Sun, a Vine, and a Lion; the Spirit likened to a dove, fire, and water. The union of Christ and his church, is set forth by the marriage union of Adam and Eve. God hath placed in corporeal things the images of spiritual, and wrapped up in his creating wisdom the representations of his redeeming grace: whence some call the creatures, natural types of what was to be transacted in a new formation of the world, and allusions to what God intended in and by Christ.
(6.) The meditation of God’s wisdom in the creatures is, in part, a beginning of heaven upon earth. No doubt but there will be a perfect opening of the model of Divine wisdom. Heaven is for clearing what is now obscure, and a full discovering of what seems at present intricate (Psalm 36:9.): In his light shall we see light: all the light in creation, government, and redemption. The wisdom of God in the new heavens, and the new earth, would be to little purpose, if that also were not to be regarded by the inhabitants of them. As the saints are to be restored to the state of Adam, and higher; so they are to be restored to the employment of Adam, and higher: but his employment was, to behold God in the creatures. The world was so soon depraved, that God had but little joy in, and man but little knowledge of his works. And since the wisdom of God in creation is so little seen by our ignorance here, would not God lose much of the glory of it, if the glorified souls should lose the understanding of it above? When their darkness shall be expelled, and their advantages improved; when the eye that Adam lost shall be fully restored, and with a greater clearness; when the creature shall be restored to its true end, and reason to its true perfection (Rom. 8:21, 22); when the fountains of the depths of nature and government shall be opened, knowledge shall increase, and according to the increase of our knowledge, shall the admiration of Divine wisdom increase also. The wisdom of God in creation was not surely intended to lie wholly unobserved in the greatest part of it; but since there was so little time for the full observation of it, there will be a time wherein the wisdom of God shall enjoy a resurrection, and be fullycontemplated by his understanding and glorified creature.
Exhort. 2. Study and admire the wisdom of God in redemption. This is the duty of all Christians. We are not called to understand the great depth of philosophy; we are not called to a skill in the intricacies of civil government, or understand all the methods of physic; but we are called to be Christians, that is, studiers of Divine evangelical wisdom. There are first principles to be learned; but not those principles to be rested in without a further progress (Heb. 6:1): “Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection.” Duties must be practised, but knowledge is not to be neglected. The study of Gospel mysteries, the harmony of Divine truths, the sparkling of Divine wisdom, in their mutual combination to the great ends of God’s glory and man’s salvation, is an incentive to duty, a spur to worship, and particularly to the greatest and highest part of worship, that part which shall remain in heaven; the admiration and praise of God, and delight in him. If we acquaint not ourselves with the impressions of the glory of Divine wisdom in it, we shall not much regard it as worthy our observance in regard of that duty. The gospel is a mystery; and, as a mystery, hath something great and magnificent in it worthy of our daily inspection; we shall find fresh springs of new wonders, which we shall be invited to adore with a religious astonishment. It will both raise and satisfy our longings. Who can come to the depths of “God manifested in the flesh?” How amazing is it, and unworthy of a slight thought, that the death of the Son of God should purchase the happy immortality of a sinful creature, and the glory of a rebel be wrought by the ignominy of so great a person! that our Mediator should have a nature whereby to covenant with his Father, and a nature whereby to he a Surety for the creature! How admirable is it, that the fallen creature should receive an advantage by the forfeiture of his happiness! How mysterious is it, that the Son of God should bow down to death upon a cross for the satisfaction of justice; and rise triumphantly out of the grave, as a declaration, that justice was contented and satisfied! that he should be exalted to heaven to intercede for us; and at last return into the world to receive us, and invest us with a glory forever with himself! Are these things worthy of a careless regard, or a blockish amazement? What understanding can pierce into the depths of the divine doctrine of the incarnation and birth of Christ; the indissoluble union of the two natures? What capacity is able to measure the miracles of that wisdom, found in the whole draught and scheme of the gospel? Doth it not merit, then, to be the object of our daily meditation? How comes it to ass, then, that we are so little curious to concern our thoughts in those wonders, that we scarce taste or sip of these delicacies? that we busy ourselves in trifles, and consider what we shall eat, and in what fashion we shall be dressed; please ourselves with the ingeniousness of a lace or feather; admire a moth-eaten manuscript, or some half-worn piece of antiquity, and think our time ill-spent in the contemplating and celebrating that wherein God hath busied himself, and eternity is designed for the perpetual expressions of? How inquisitive are the blessed angels! with what vigor do they renew their daily contemplations of it, and receive a fresh contentment from it; still learning, and still inquiring (1 Pet. 1:12)! Their eye is never off the mercy-seat; they strive to see the bottom of it, and employ all the understanding they have to conceive the wonders of it. Shall the angels be ravished with it and bend themselves down to study it, who have but little interest in it in comparison of us, for whom it was both contrived and dispensed;—and shall not our pains be greater for this hidden treasure? Is not that worthy the study of a rational creature, that is worthy the study of the angelical? There must indeed be pains; it is expressed by “digging” (Prov. 2:4). A lazy arm will not sink to the depth of a mine. The neglect of meditating on it is inexcusable, since it hath the title and character of the wisdom of God. The ancient prophets searched into it, when it was folded up in shadows, when they saw only the fringes of Wisdom’s garment (1 Pet. 1:10); and shall not we, since the sun hath mounted up in our horizon, and sensibly scattered the light of the knowledge of this and the other perfections of God? As the Jewish sabhath was appointed to celebrate the perfections of God, discovered in creation, so is the Christian sabhath appointed to meditate on, and bless God, for the discovery of his perfections in redemption. Let us, therefore, receive it according to its worth: let it be our only rule to walk by. It is worthy to be valued above all other counsels; and we should never think of it without the doxology of the apostle, “To the only wise God be glory through Jesus Christ, for ever!” that our speculations may end in affectionate admirations, and thanksgivings, for that which is so full of wonders. What a little prospect should we have had of God, and the happiness of man, had not his wisdom and goodness revealed these things to us! The gospel is a marvellous light, and should not be regarded with a stupid ignorance, and pursued with a duller practice.
The Existence and Attributes of God