The Parable of the SowerMatthew 13 1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“ ‘ “You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
The Parable of the Sower Explained18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
The Parable of the Weeds24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
The Mustard Seed and the Leaven31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Prophecy and Parables34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
The Parable of the Weeds Explained36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
The Parable of the Net47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
New and Old Treasures51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
The Death of John the BaptistMatthew 14 1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Jesus Walks on the Water22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Traditions and Commandments15 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
What Defiles a Person10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Jesus Heals Many29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
What I'm Reading
Cumulative Evidence and the Case for God’s Existence
By J. Warner Wallace 10/1/2013
My cold cases are typically built on circumstantial evidence. Cumulative circumstantial cases are incredibly powerful when considered in their totality; the more diverse the forms of evidence (and the more abundant their existence), the more reasonable the conclusion. As jurors consider these large collections of evidence implicating a particular suspect, they must ask themselves a simple question: “Could this guy just be incredibly unlucky, or is he the cause of all this evidence because he is truly guilty?” The more the evidence repeatedly points to the defendant, the less likely it is merely a matter of coincidence. The cumulative case for God’s existence is similarly powerful. There are a number of circumstantial lines of evidence pointing to the existence of God, and the diverse, collective nature of this evidence is most reasonably explained by the existence of a Creator. This month, we’re featuring a free downloadable Bible insert summarizing a brief cumulative case for God’s existence, built on just five lines of circumstantial evidence:
(1) The Temporal Nature of the Cosmos (Cosmological) (a) The Universe began to exist
(b) Anything that begins to exist must have a cause
(c) Therefore, the Universe must have a cause
(d) This cause must be eternal (uncaused), non-spatial, immaterial, atemporal, and personal (having the ability to willfully cause the beginning of the universe)
(e) The cause fits the description we typically assign to God
(2) The Appearance of Design (Teleological)
(a) Human artifacts (like watches) are products of intelligent design
(b) Many aspects and elements of our universe resemble human artifacts
(c) Like effects typically have like causes
(d) Therefore, it is highly probable the appearance of design in the Universe is simply the reflection of an intelligent designer
(d) Given the complexity and expansive nature of the Universe, this designer must be incredibly intelligent and powerful (God)
(3) The Existence of Objective Moral Truth (Axiological)
(a) There is an objective (transcendent) moral law
(b) Every law has a law giver
(c) Therefore, there is an objective (transcendent) moral law giver
(d) The best explanation for this objective (transcendent) law giver is God
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Do You Look Like Your Father?
By Jon Bloom 10/7/2017
Each of us who is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is a unique child of God. Each of us is conformed to the glorious image of God the Son, the very image of the invisible God, in unique ways (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:3). “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7) Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
But all of us are meant to bear the glorious family resemblance.
How God Reveals His Glory
“Please show me your glory,” Moses pled with God (Exodus 33:18). God granted Moses this request saying, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’”(Exodus 33:19). Then God called Moses to ascend Mount Sinai and he hid Moses in a cleft of a rock, shielding him from a lethal dose of his holy glory and proclaiming,
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“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7)
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
Scripture: Our Inerrant and Infallible Authority
By Dr. Stephen J. Nichols 10/6/2017
It’s one of those moments we wish we could have seen firsthand. It took place in the square before the Water Gate. At daybreak, Ezra brought out the law. He unrolled the scroll and began reading. He kept on until noon, and all the while the great crowd gave their rapt attention. The law was read, interpreted, and studied. Nehemiah 8, which records this event, also tells us that this Bible study session resulted in worship. The people were humbled, and their faces looked to the ground. They bowed before God as He revealed Himself in His holy Word.
This event from the Old Testament is a precedent-setting moment. God’s people gather, they hear God’s Word read, they hear God’s Word interpreted and taught, and they worship. This is how it’s supposed to be. As the decades pass and generations come and go, however, God’s Word sadly recedes from the center of His people’s lives and from prominence in His congregation. The Old Testament prophets spoke of a famine of the Word of God. As we look through the pages of the Bible and through church history, we find such times of famine. One of the severest of these times of famine came on the eve of the Reformation.
Martin Luther originally launched his protest against the church over the issue of indulgences. He wanted a debate. While he was involved in various disputations in the wake of posting the Ninety-Five Theses, he finally got a real and true debate at Leipzig. Over the summer months, Luther squared off with Johann Eck, Rome’s premier theologian. Over the course of the debate, Luther declared the Reformation plank of sola Scriptura, the firm and unwavering commitment to the absolute authority of Scripture. Luther’s writings and the reports of these debates convinced Pope Leo X that this German monk was a heretic. The date and the time was set for the ultimate showdown: April 17–18, 1521, at the Imperial Diet, or meeting, at Worms.
Worms is another one of those moments that we all wish we could have seen first-hand. Luther, adorned in his simple monk’s garb, stood before—and against—princes and nobles, cardinals and priests, all wearing the trappings of their offices. On the throne sat the twenty-one-year-old Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor. Luther’s books were spread out on a table before him. He was commanded, “Revoco!” —to recant his writings, to recant his views of sola fide (faith alone as the instrument of justification) and of sola Scriptura. That was April 17. Luther asked for a day to consider, and he was granted it. He spent the night in prayer and appeared again the next day. Then, he delivered his famous speech:
I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. May God help me. Amen.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols Books | Go to Books Page
By Kevin Gardner 1/01/2015
Some years ago, it was common to see young evangelicals sporting a peculiar fashion accessory: the WWJD bracelet. These bracelets — the initials woven therein standing for “What Would Jesus Do?” — served to remind the wearer to consider the example of Christ in all his daily activities. We Are Not Alone Doctrine Matters Judgment Is Coming
For some, these bracelets likely also had a secondary function: evangelism. This was the case for a friend of mine who worked among many non-Christians. He told me one day that he wore the bracelet in order to elicit curiosity among his coworkers, in hopes that they would see it, along with his upstanding behavior, and ask him what the bracelet meant.
But what then? My friend did not want to rock the boat at his office by being verbally open about his faith. But at some point, the gospel must be preached, for the need of our neighbors is great. Let us look at three reasons why behavior and other externals cannot take the place of preaching the gospel.
It is not unusual to find non-Christians whose upright be-havior matches or exceeds that of even the most sanctified among us. We should not be surprised at this. Paul says God has given each of us a conscience, and that conscience serves to guide and correct even unbelievers (Rom. 2:14-15). So, while our good works bear witness to the work of the Spirit in our lives, they are not sufficient in themselves for evangelistic purposes.
Nearly a century ago, J. Gresham Machen clashed with those who sought to define the Christian faith as a life rather than a doctrine. Such a view has the appearance of godliness, he said, but it is radically flawed. For the Bible records not simply the ethical teachings of Jesus, as if that were enough, but also a singular, epochal event in the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God (1 Cor. 15:3-8). And the Bible goes further, telling us what that event means. Machen says:
The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message… . “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”—that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me”—that is doctrine.
The life change wrought by the Spirit in the wake of one’s receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation is a wonderful and desirable thing, but it can never be divorced from Christ’s work on the cross, or else it puts the focus on us and our works. Thus, we must always point people to the cross. If it is not merely a life to us, neither is it for them. There is truth that we must grasp, and so must they. And for them to grasp it, they must hear it (Rom. 10:14).
Some in Peter’s time pointed to continuity in life as proof that Christ would not return in judgment: “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Similarly, the ease of modern life lulls us into complacency. The non-Christian tries to console himself with the thought that he need not fear judgment, either because he is a “good person” or because no judgment is coming.
But, Peter says, the scoffers overlook the fact that God has judged the world before, and He will do it again (vv. 5-7). Thus, we must challenge our neighbors. As only those in the ark survived the flood, so only those who are in Christ will survive the judgment.
As we live lives of faithful obedience, we must always be ready. When our neighbors ask why we live the way that we do, we must tell them: we have been freed from the burden of sin because of the work of Christ, and now we live for Him. And we must warn them: a judgment is coming, and their works will not save them — but God, in His love, has made a way for them through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. If they will repent and believe the gospel, they will surely be saved.
We Are Not AloneWe as Christians do not have a monopoly on good behavior. In the West, the legacy of Christendom lingers such that even non-Christians will still often profess a moral code that borrows heavily from the Scriptures. In the East, kindness and humility are cardinal virtues. For every story of a Christian saint, there is a Gandhi or a Buddha.
Doctrine MattersWe dare not reduce Christianity to a life well lived, one that can be caught and need not be taught. To do so threatens to water it down to a works-based religion, one based on what we do, rather than what Christ has done.
Judgment Is ComingMany teachings of Christ (Matt. 11:20-24; 25:31-46; Mark 1:14-15) and much of the preaching of the early church (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31; Heb. 9:27-28) focused on the coming judgment and on repentance and faith in Christ as the only way to avoid it.
What Should We Say?
By Jonathan Akin 1/01/2015
“Brother, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Church discipline is both painful and awkward. How should we interact with those under discipline? What should we do when we meet such people while shopping for a birthday present, when we sit next to them at work, or when we see them getting mail from their mailbox? What should we say?
Biblical DirectivesFortunately, the Bible gives us clear direction. Jesus exhorts us to “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). Romans 16:17 says, “avoid them.” Paul orders the church at Corinth not to associate or eat with them (1 Cor. 5:9, 11). Paul concludes in 2 Thessalonians: “Have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (3:14-15).
Practical ApplicationWhile the Bible’s directives are clear, practical application can be difficult. What exactly does it mean “not to associate with” someone under discipline? Here are a few things we try to practice:
Recover biblical community. The consumer-driven model adopted by many American churches makes it difficult to carry out biblical church discipline. People hop from church to church for superficial reasons such as music style and children’s programming. The New Testament model of a congregation that is committed to one another and takes care of one another is rare; thus, discipline often does not have its intended effect. People who have been confronted for their sin often think, “Fine! I’ll just go down the street and join another church,” and may be accepted into membership without question. Nothing is really lost in church discipline. In the Old Testament, when someone was expelled from the community, he could not simply go down the street to join another people. Being separated from God’s people was devastating, and we see the same picture in the New Testament. We need to recover biblical community where the church is a family that shares life together, where exclusion means something.
Excommunicate those who refuse to repent. Under Christ’s authority, the church should remove the person from membership and treat him like a lost person. This tragic action is necessary in order to keep unchecked sin from contaminating the entire body and to avoid sullying the name of Christ (1 Cor. 5). But from what else should the church remove the person? Should they be removed from corporate worship, small groups, or from taking the Lord’s Supper? Certainly, the unrepentant should be barred from the Lord’s Table as well as other benefits of church life.
Each church will have to determine the extent of these actions for itself. If a church practices the “one another” commands of the New Testament, then the excommunicated could potentially attend corporate worship while still feeling the force of their dismissal because they no longer share life with their brothers in the same way (for example, they do not break bread together anymore). However, if a church is not practicing biblical community well, then I would argue that they must bar the person from corporate worship so that the force of the excommunication is felt.
Do not eat with those under discipline. Scholars debate Paul’s exhortation not to eat with the excommunicated. Does he mean the Lord’s Table only, or does this prohibition extend to any meal with the unrepentant? Table fellowship in the New Testament seems to include the Lord’s Table but extend beyond it (Acts 2:46). Therefore, meals in a home or at a restaurant that were previously enjoyed cannot continue. Also, in many churches, the significance of the Lord’s Table needs to be recovered — perhaps by observing it weekly — so that being barred from participating in it is perceived as a real loss.
Interact with those under discipline only to call them to repentance. The purpose of this break in relationship is to wake the unrepentant up to the danger they face. But church members should never be rude to this person. They should be friendly, but not close friends. One thing that is clear in Paul’s guidelines to the churches is that he does not intend for the excommunicated to be completely shunned. Paul exhorts the church at Thessalonica to “have nothing to do with him,” and then in the next verse to “warn him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:14-15). So, while not completely ignoring him, you also do not act as if nothing has changed. When you see him in the store, you should not ignore him. Rather, you treat him as someone in danger and in need of an intervention by calling him to repentance.
Pray and act for eventual repentance and restoration. The intended outcome from this painful separation is always repentance and reconciliation. Brothers and sisters should continually pray that the action of the church under the authority and approval of Christ would bring restoration. What should we say to those who are under discipline? We should lovingly call them to repent, and as we do, they should hear the words as if they were coming from Jesus Himself. Dr. Jonathan Akin is senior pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., and director of Baptist21. He is also an adjunct professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
When You Don’t Feel Like Singing
By Randall Van Meggelen 1/01/2015
Over the past one hundred years, Christians have sung, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free” countless times. Despite what one might think about “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” the hymn rings true in that our joy and freedom in Christ make us want to sing. Yet, sometimes we are not happy and do not feel like singing in corporate worship. It is therefore helpful to consider some aspects of sung praises in order to properly address this feeling.
PurposeGod saved us to proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9). He seeks true worshipers (John 4:23) who express their worship in song. Singing is an important means of glorifying and enjoying God. Singing expresses our covenant relationship with God and submission to His will. It demonstrates the unity we enjoy in God with His people. We sing to offer adoration, praise, and gratitude to God for His name, perfections, Word, and works. Singing helps us remember and celebrate God’s past saving deeds, rejoice in His present goodness, and rehearse our future heavenly worship. Singing is also a command, gift, and spiritual discipline that is formative not only for what we believe, but how we live. Therefore, proclaim God’s praises.
PassionWorship rightly evokes feelings, but it is not chiefly about how we feel. Our feelings must be informed by God’s Word and subject to Christ’s lordship, not to the whims of personal preference. Scripture commands us to rejoice in the Lord. Singing enlivens our minds, wills, and feelings in ways that words alone cannot. When we engage our whole selves by presenting our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1), He does not despise our worship, but is pleased to bless our obedience with a greater hunger for and joy in Him. Therefore, sing even when you do not feel like it.
PresenceFind great encouragement in the knowledge that in worship, Christ is with us. By His blood, we may boldly enter the Most Holy Place (Heb. 10:19). He is our ever-present High Priest who inhabits our praises (Ps. 22:3), sings with us, praises God, and declares His name to us (Heb. 2:12; Ps. 22:22; Rom. 15:9). His presence is our joy (Ps. 16:11) and His joy is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Therefore, pray for Christ’s mercy and aid.
ProvisionGod gives us all we need for life and godliness. Genuine joyful singing, like every discipline, is the work of God’s grace. We cannot muster up joy in our own strength. God gives us the desire and strength to obey Him. Philippians is helpful in showing the relationships among God’s precepts, promises, and provisions: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (2:13); “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (4:13); “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). Therefore, trust in God’s full provision.
PriorityGive priority to grateful praise and communion with God in all of life (Ps. 34:1; 113:3; Heb. 13:15). The Psalms model the believer’s desire to be in God’s presence. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’ ” (Ps. 122:1; see Pss. 26:8; 27:4). As with any ritual, corporate worship is only as meaningful as the relationship, activity, or event to which it points. If Christ’s Word dwells richly in our minds and hearts, joyful corporate worship will follow (Col. 3:16-17). Therefore, prioritize the practice of daily communion with God via His Word, prayer, and song.
PenitenceIf we are not seeking the Lord throughout the week but are living in unrepentant disobedience, we will not feel like singing to the Lord. Our joy will be sapped, our lips silenced, and our vitality dried up (Ps. 32:3-4). We must pray for God to search us, give us repentant hearts, renew our spirits, restore our joy, and open our lips to show forth His praise (51:10-15). Seek the forgiveness of those against whom you have sinned, forgive those who have sinned against you, and remove all bitterness. God promises that in Christ, the genuinely repentant may have full assurance of faith and a clear conscience (Heb. 10:19- 25). Therefore, find true joy in the forgiveness of your sins.
PreparationSinging is not a passive activity. We are commanded to love, worship, and sing to God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30; Ps. 138:1), in spirit and truth (John 4:24), and with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). We must be spiritually prepared, physically rested, mentally alert, emotionally expectant, and ready to commune with God in worship. The Songs of Ascents (Pss. 120-134) are helpful in refocusing our attention on the joy of entering God’s presence. Therefore, prepare to meet God in corporate worship.
ConclusionSinging to the Lord, in all its fullness, is not simply reciting a text set to a tune, but expressing the offering of our whole selves to God in vital, personal communion. May God “take my voice, and let me sing, always, only, for my King.” Randall Van Meggelen is chief musician at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and adjunct professor of sacred music at Reformation Bible College.
Preaching and Teaching
By R.C. Sproul 1/01/2015
Over the years, I’ve made no secret of my admiration for men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who were so instrumental in the recovery of the gospel during the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. I’m amazed by their towering intellects and their ability to stand firm amid much danger. Their love for biblical truth is an example to follow, and as I approach twenty years of weekly preaching at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, I’m particularly grateful for their pastoral model. Both of these men were “celebrities” in their day, but neither of them spent his years traveling Europe in order to consolidate a movement of followers. Instead, both of them devoted themselves to their primary vocation of preaching and teaching the Word of God. Both men were tireless preachers — Luther in Wittenberg, Germany, and Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland. They took the ministry of the Word of God seriously, so when they talk about the task of the preacher, I pay close attention.
More than a decade ago, I was invited to give a lecture on Martin Luther’s view of preaching, and I found that preparing for that exercise was invaluable for my own work as a preacher. I also discovered that what Luther had to say about preaching was not only for the pastor but also for the entire church, and it’s amazing how timely his words remain in our day.
One of the emphases that we find again and again in Luther’s writings is that a preacher must be “apt to teach.” In many ways, this is no great insight, for he’s just restating the qualifications that are set forth in the New Testament for church elders (1 Tim. 3:2). Yet given what we expect from our preachers today, Luther’s words — echoing biblical revelation — need to be heard anew. The concept that the primary task of the minister is to teach is all but lost in the church today. When we call ministers to our churches we often look for these men to be adept administrators, skilled fundraisers, and good organizers. Sure, we want them to know some theology and the Bible, but we don’t make it a priority that these people be equipped to teach the congregation the things of God. Administrative tasks are seen as more important.
This is not the model that Jesus Himself commended. You remember the encounter that Jesus had with Peter after His resurrection. Peter had denied Jesus publicly three times, and Jesus went about restoring the Apostle, telling him three times to “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19). By extension, this calling is given to the elders and ministers of the church because the people of God who are assembled in the congregations of churches all over the world belong to Jesus. They are His sheep. And every minister who is ordained is consecrated and entrusted by God with the care of those sheep. We call it the “pastorate” because ministers are called to care for the sheep of Christ. Pastors are Christ’s undershepherds, and what shepherd would so neglect his sheep that he never took the time or trouble to feed them? The feeding of our Lord’s sheep comes principally through teaching.
Typically, we distinguish between preaching and teaching. Preaching involves such things as exhortation, exposition, admonition, encouragement, and comfort, while teaching is the transfer of information and instruction in various areas of content. In practice, however, there is much overlap between the two. Preaching must communicate content and include teaching, and teaching people the things of God cannot be done in a neutral manner but must exhort them to heed and obey the Word of Christ. God’s people need both preaching and teaching, and they need more than twenty minutes of instruction and exhortation a week. A good shepherd would never feed the sheep only once a week, and that’s why Luther was teaching the people of Wittenberg almost on a daily basis, and Calvin was doing the same thing in Geneva. I’m not necessarily calling for the exact practices in our day, but I’m convinced that the church needs to recapture something of the regular teaching ministry evident in the work of our forefathers in the faith. As they are able, churches should be creating many opportunities to hear God’s Word preached and taught. Things such as Sunday evening worship, midweek services and Bible classes, Sunday school, home Bible studies, and so on give laypeople the chance to feed on the Word of God several times each week. As they are able, laypeople should take advantage of what is available to them by way of instruction in the deep truths of Scripture.
I say this not to encourage the creation of programs for the sake of programs, and I don’t want to put an unmanageable burden on church members or church staffs. But history shows us that the greatest periods of revival and reformation the church has ever seen occur in conjunction with the frequent, consistent, and clear preaching of God’s Word. If we would see the Holy Spirit bring renewal to our churches and our lands, it will require preachers who are committed to the exposition of Scripture, and laypeople who will look for shepherds to feed them the Word of God and take full advantage of the opportunities for biblical instruction that are available.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 108With God We Shall Do Valiantly
108 A Song. A Psalm Of David.
108:7 God has promised in his holiness:
“With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Valley of Succoth.
8 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah my scepter.
9 Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 Oh grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
13 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.
Chapter 2 | The Ten Primitive Persecutions
The Sixth Persecution, Under Maximus, A.D. 235A.D. 235, was in the time of Maximinus. In Cappadocia, the president, Seremianus, did all he could to exterminate the Christians from that province.
The principal persons who perished under this reign were Pontianus, bishop of Rome; Anteros, a Grecian, his successor, who gave offence to the government by collecting the acts of the martyrs, Pammachius and Quiritus, Roman senators, with all their families, and many other Christians; Simplicius, senator; Calepodius, a Christian minister, thrown into the Tyber; Martina, a noble and beautiful virgin; and Hippolitus, a Christian prelate, tied to a wild horse, and dragged until he expired.
During this persecution, raised by Maximinus, numberless Christians were slain without trial, and buried indiscriminately in heaps, sometimes fifty or sixty being cast into a pit together, without the least decency.
The tyrant Maximinus dying, A.D. 238, was succeeded by Gordian, during whose reign, and that of his successor Philip, the Church was free from persecution for the space of more than ten years; but in A.D. 249, a violent persecution broke out in Alexandria, at the instigation of a pagan priest, without the knowledge of the emperor.
The Seventh Persecution, Under Decius, A.D. 249This was occasioned partly by the hatred he bore to his predecessor Philip, who was deemed a Christian and was partly by his jealousy concerning the amazing increase of Christianity; for the heathen temples began to be forsaken, and the Christian churches thronged.
These reasons stimulated Decius to attempt the very extirpation of the name of Christian; and it was unfortunate for the Gospel, that many errors had, about this time, crept into the Church: the Christians were at variance with each other; self-interest divided those whom social love ought to have united; and the virulence of pride occasioned a variety of factions.
The heathens in general were ambitious to enforce the imperial decrees upon this occasion, and looked upon the murder of a Christian as a merit to themselves. The martyrs, upon this occasion, were innumerable; but the principal we shall give some account of.
Fabian, the bishop of Rome, was the first person of eminence who felt the severity of this persecution. The deceased emperor, Philip, had, on account of his integrity, committed his treasure to the care of this good man. But Decius, not finding as much as his avarice made him expect, determined to wreak his vengeance on the good prelate. He was accordingly seized; and on January 20, A.D. 250, he suffered decapitation.
Julian, a native of Cilicia, as we are informed by St. Chrysostom, was seized upon for being a Christian. He was put into a leather bag, together with a number of serpents and scorpions, and in that condition thrown into the sea.
Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, "I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish. No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers." Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded.
Nichomachus, being brought before the proconsul as a Christian, was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan idols. Nichomachus replied, "I cannot pay that respect to devils, which is only due to the Almighty." This speech so much enraged the proconsul that Nichomachus was put to the rack. After enduring the torments for a time, he recanted; but scarcely had he given this proof of his frailty, than he fell into the greatest agonies, dropped down on the ground, and expired immediately.
Denisa, a young woman of only sixteen years of age, who beheld this terrible judgment, suddenly exclaimed, "O unhappy wretch, why would you buy a moment's ease at the expense of a miserable eternity!" Optimus, hearing this, called to her, and Denisa avowing herself to be a Christian, she was beheaded, by his order, soon after.
Andrew and Paul, two companions of Nichomachus, the martyr, A.D. 251, suffered martyrdom by stoning, and expired, calling on their blessed Redeemer.
Alexander and Epimachus, of Alexandria, were apprehended for being Christians: and, confessing the accusation, were beat with staves, torn with hooks, and at length burnt in the fire; and we are informed, in a fragment preserved by Eusebius, that four female martyrs suffered on the same day, and at the same place, but not in the same manner; for these were beheaded.
Lucian and Marcian, two wicked pagans, though skilful magicians, becoming converts to Christianity, to make amends for their former errors, lived the lives of hermits, and subsisted upon bread and water only. After some time spent in this manner, they became zealous preachers, and made many converts. The persecution, however, raging at this time, they were seized upon, and carried before Sabinus, the governor of Bithynia. On being asked by what authority they took upon themselves to preach, Lucian answered, 'That the laws of charity and humanity obliged all men to endeavor the conversion of their neighbors, and to do everything in their power to rescue them from the snares of the devil.'
Lucian having answered in this manner, Marcian said, "Their conversion was by the same grace which was given to St. Paul, who, from a zealous persecutor of the Church, became a preacher of the Gospel."
The proconsul, finding that he could not prevail with them to renounce their faith, condemned them to be burnt alive, which sentence was soon after executed.
Trypho and Respicius, two eminent men, were seized as Christians, and imprisoned at Nice. Their feet were pierced with nails; they were dragged through the streets, scourged, torn with iron hooks, scorched with lighted torches, and at length beheaded, February 1, A.D. 251.
Agatha, a Sicilian lady, was not more remarkable for her personal and acquired endowments, than her piety; her beauty was such, that Quintian, governor of Sicily, became enamored of her, and made many attempts upon her chastity without success. In order to gratify his passions with the greater conveniency, he put the virtuous lady into the hands of Aphrodica, a very infamous and licentious woman. This wretch tried every artifice to win her to the desired prostitution; but found all her efforts were vain; for her chastity was impregnable, and she well knew that virtue alone could procure true happiness. Aphrodica acquainted Quintian with the inefficacy of her endeavors, who, enaged to be foiled in his designs, changed his lust into resentment. On her confessing that she was a Christian, he determined to gratify his revenge, as he could not his passion. Pursuant to his orders, she was scourged, burnt with red-hot irons, and torn with sharp hooks. Having borne these torments with admirable fortitude, she was next laid naked upon live coals, intermingled with glass, and then being carried back to prison, she there expired on February 5, 251.
Cyril, bishop of Gortyna, was seized by order of Lucius, the governor of that place, who, nevertheless, exhorted him to obey the imperial mandate, perform the sacrifices, and save his venerable person from destruction; for he was now eighty-four years of age. The good prelate replied that as he had long taught others to save their souls, he should only think now of his own salvation. The worthy prelate heard his fiery sentence without emotion, walked cheerfully to the place of execution, and underwent his martyrdom with great fortitude.
The persecution raged in no place more than the Island of Crete; for the governor, being exceedingly active in executing the imperial decrees, that place streamed with pious blood.
Babylas, a Christian of a liberal education, became bishop of Antioch, A.D. 237, on the demise of Zebinus. He acted with inimitable zeal, and governed the Church with admirable prudence during the most tempestuous times.
The first misfortune that happened to Antioch during his mission, was the siege of it by Sapor, king of Persia; who, having overrun all Syria, took and plundered this city among others, and used the Christian inhabitants with greater severity than the rest, but was soon totally defeated by Gordian.
After Gordian's death, in the reign of Decius, that emperor came to Antioch, where, having a desire to visit an assembly of Christians, Babylas opposed him, and absolutely refused to let him come in. The emperor dissembled his anger at that time; but soon sending for the bishop, he sharply reproved him for his insolence, and then ordered him to sacrifice to the pagan deities as an expiation for his ofence. This being refused, he was committed to prison, loaded with chains, treated with great severities, and then beheaded, together with three young men who had been his pupils. A.D. 251.
Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, about this time was cast into prison on account of his religion, where he died through the severity of his confinement.
Julianus, an old man, lame with the gout, and Cronion, another Christian, were bound on the backs of camels, severely scourged, and then thrown into a fire and consumed. Also forty virgins, at Antioch, after being imprisoned, and scourged, were burnt.
In the year of our Lord 251, the emperor Decius having erected a pagan temple at Ephesus, he commanded all who were in that city to sacrifice to the idols. This order was nobly refused by seven of his own soldiers, viz. Maximianus, Martianus, Joannes, Malchus, Dionysius, Seraion, and Constantinus. The emperor wishing to win these soldiers to renounce their faith by his entreaties and lenity, gave them a considerable respite until he returned from an expedition. During the emperor's absence, they escaped, and hid themselves in a cavern; which the emperor being informed of at his return, the mouth of the cave was closed up, and they all perished with hunger.
Theodora, a beautiful young lady of Antioch, on refusing to sacrifice to the Roman idols, was condemned to the stews, that her virtue might be sacrificed to the brutality of lust. Didymus, a Christian, disguised himself in the habit of a Roman soldier, went to the house, informed Theodora who he was, and advised her to make her escape in his clothes. This being effected, and a man found in the brothel instead of a beautiful lady, Didymus was taken before the president, to whom confessing the truth, and owning that he was a Christian the sentence of death was immediately pronounced against him. Theodora, hearing that her deliverer was likely to suffer, came to the judge, threw herself at his feet, and begged that the sentence might fall on her as the guilty person; but, deaf to the cries of the innocent, and insensible to the calls of justice, the inflexible judge condemned both; when they were executed accordingly, being first beheaded, and their bodies afterward burnt.
Secundianus, having been accused as a Christian, was conveyed to prison by some soldiers. On the way, Verianus and Marcellinus said, "Where are you carrying the innocent?" This interrogatory occasioned them to be seized, and all three, after having been tortured, were hanged and decapitated.
Origen, the celebrated presbyter and catechist of Alexandria, at the age of sixty-four, was seized, thrown into a loathsome prison, laden with fetters, his feet placed in the stocks, and his legs extended to the utmost for several successive days. He was threatened with fire, and tormented by every lingering means the most infernal imaginations could suggest. During this cruel temporizing, the emperor Decius died, and Gallus, who succeeded him, engaging in a war with the Goths, the Christians met with a respite. In this interim, Origen obtained his enlargement, and, retiring to Tyre, he there remained until his death, which happened when he was in the sixty-ninth year of his age.
Gallus, the emperor, having concluded his wars, a plague broke out in the empire: sacrifices to the pagan deities were ordered by the emperor, and persecutions spread from the interior to the extreme parts of the empire, and many fell martyrs to the impetuosity of the rabble, as well as the prejudice of the magistrates. Among these were Cornelius, the Christian bishop of Rome, and Lucius, his successor, in 253.
Most of the errors which crept into the Church at this time arose from placing human reason in competition with revelation; but the fallacy of such arguments being proved by the most able divines, the opinions they had created vanished away like the stars before the sun.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
(Oct 7) Bob Gass
‘A man of too many friends comes to ruin.’
(Pr 18:24) 24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ESV
With few exceptions, your success in life depends on your ability to establish and maintain relationships with the right people. According to a report by the American Management Association the overwhelming consensus of two hundred managers who participated in a survey, was that the most important skill of an executive is his or her ability to get along with people. They rated this ability as more vital than intelligence, decisiveness, knowledge, or job skills. Quite frankly, none of us makes very many true friends in life - at least, we better not! Solomon warns, ‘A man of too many friends comes to ruin.’ Friendship requires time, energy, sacrifice, and investing yourself. And not every so-called friend will prove to be one, as Jeremiah warned King Zedekiah: ‘They misled you and overcame you - those trusted friends of yours. Your feet are sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you’ (Jeremiah 38:22 NIV 2011 Edition). The wrong friend will betray you, as Judas proved with Jesus. So, here’s a good rule of thumb: ‘Be friendly to everyone, but don’t have everyone as a friend.’ Solomon said, ‘The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray’ (Proverbs 12:26 NLT). Charles Spurgeon said, ‘A man is known by the company he shuns, as well as the company he keeps.’ The Hebrew word for ‘choose’ is tur, and in the Old Testament it refers to a man like a surveyor who searches out land. So, if you’re wise, you’ll explore and evaluate your friendships before you enter into them. You say, ‘But I’m lonely.’ As George Washington said, ‘It is better to be alone than in bad company.’
2 Thess 1
by Bill Federer
Henry Muhlenberg died this day, October 7, 1787. He was one of the founders of the Lutheran Church in America. His son John Peter became a U.S. Senator and son Frederick became the first Speaker of the House. Henry Muhlenberg pastored near Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. He commented: “I heard a fine example today, namely that His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God, to put away wickedness… and to practice Christian virtues… The Lord God has… marvelously preserved him from harm in the midst of countless perils.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
CHAPTER V / The Ceaselessness of Prayer
Prayer as Christian freedom, and prayer as Christian life—these are two points I would now expand.
I. First, as to the moral freedom involved and achieved in prayer.
Prayer has been described as religion in action. But that as it stands is not a sufficient definition of the prayer which lives on the Cross. The same thing might be said about the choicest forms of Christian service to humanity. It is true enough, and it may carry us far; but only if we become somewhat clear about the nature of the religion at work. Prayer is certainly not the action of a religion mainly subjective. It is the effective work of a religion which hangs upon the living God, of a soul surer of God than of itself, and living not its own life, but the life of the Son of God. To say prayer is faith in action would be better; for the word “faith” carries a more objective reference than the word “religion.” Faith is faith in another. In prayer we do not so much work as interwork. We are fellow workers with God in a reciprocity. And as God is the freest Being in existence, such co-operant prayer is the freest things that man can do. It we were free in sinning, how much more free in the praying which undoes sin! If we were free to break God’s will, how much more free to turn it or to accept it! Petitionary prayer is man’s cooperation in kind with God amidst a world He freely made for freedom. The world was made by a freedom which not only left room for the kindred freedom of prayer, but which so ordered all things in its own interest that in their deepest depths they conspire to produce prayer. To pray in faith is to answer God’s freedom in its own great note. It means we are taken up into the fundamental movement of the world. It is to realize that for which the whole world, the world as a whole, was made. It is an earnest of the world’s consummation. We are doing what the whole world was created to do. We overleap in the spirit all between now and then, as in the return to Jesus we overleap the two thousand years that intervene. The object the Father’s loving purpose had in appointing the whole providential order was intercourse with man’s soul. That order of the world is, therefore, no rigid fixture, nor is it even a fated evolution. It is elastic, adjustable, flexible, with margins for freedom, for free modification in God and man; always keeping in view that final goal of communion, and growing into it be a spiritual interplay in which the whole of Nature is involved. The goal of the whole cosmic order is the “manifestation of the sons of God,” the realization of complete sonship, its powers and its confidences.
Thus we rise to say that our prayer is the momentary function of the Eternal Son’s communion and intercession with the Eternal Father. We are integrated in advance into the final Christ, for whom, and to whom, all creation moves. Our prayer is more than the acceptance by us of God’s will; it is its assertion in us. The will of God is that men should pray everywhere. He wills to be entreated. Prayer is that will of God’s making itself good. When we entreat we give effect to His dearest will. And in His will is our eternal liberty. In this will of His our finds itself, and is at home. It ranges the liberties of the Father’s house. But here prayer must draw from the Cross, which is the frontal act of our emancipation as well as the central revelation of God’s own freedom in grace. The action of the Atonement and of its release of us is in the nature of prayer. It is the free return of the Holy upon the Holy in the Great Reconciliation.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
People who look on others’ puzzled lives with reverence and pity see God there behind the lives they are looking at. People who look at others’ restless lives with contempt see no God there, but [only] vain and aimless dissatisfaction. If there is no God, whose life and presence, dimly felt, is making people toss and complain, then their tossing and complaining is a contemptible thing. If there is a God to whom they belong, whom they feel through the thinnest of veils, whom they feel even when they do not know that it is he whom they feel—then their restlessness, their hope, their dreams and doubts become solemn and significant.
--- Phillips Brooks
Two things a master commits to his servant’s care–the child and the child’s clothes. It will be a poor excuse for the servant to say, at his master’s return, “Sir, here are all the child’s clothes, neat and clean, but the child is lost.” Much so of the account that many will give to God of their souls and bodies at the great day. “Lord, here is my body; I am very grateful for it; I neglected nothing that belonged to its contents and welfare; but as for my soul, that is lost and cast away forever. I took little care and thought about it.
--- John Flavel
Liberty, when it takes root, is a plant of rapid growth.
--- George Washington
Thanks to Meir Yona
Titus Thought Fit To Encompass The City Round With A Wall; After Which The Famine Consumed The People By Whole Houses And Families Together.
1. And now did Titus consult with his commanders what was to be done. Those that were of the warmest tempers thought he should bring the whole army against the city and storm the wall; for that hitherto no more than a part of their army had fought with the Jews; but that in case the entire army was to come at once, they would not be able to sustain their attacks, but would be overwhelmed by their darts. But of those that were for a more cautious management, some were for raising their banks again; and others advised to let the banks alone, but to lie still before the city, to guard against the coming out of the Jews, and against their carrying provisions into the city, and so to leave the enemy to the famine, and this without direct fighting with them; for that despair was not to be conquered, especially as to those who are desirous to die by the sword, while a more terrible misery than that is reserved for them. However, Titus did not think it fit for so great an army to lie entirely idle, and that yet it was in vain to fight with those that would be destroyed one by another; he also showed them how impracticable it was to cast up any more banks, for want of materials, and to guard against the Jews coming out still more impracticable; as also, that to encompass the whole city round with his army was not very easy, by reason of its magnitude, and the difficulty of the situation, and on other accounts dangerous, upon the sallies the Jews might make out of the city. For although they might guard the known passages out of the place, yet would they, when they found themselves under the greatest distress, contrive secret passages out, as being well acquainted with all such places; and if any provisions were carried in by stealth, the siege would thereby be longer delayed. He also owned that he was afraid that the length of time thus to be spent would diminish the glory of his success; for though it be true that length of time will perfect every thing, yet that to do what we do in a little time is still necessary to the gaining reputation. That therefore his opinion was, that if they aimed at quickness joined with security, they must build a wall round about the whole city; which was, he thought, the only way to prevent the Jews from coming out any way, and that then they would either entirely despair of saving the city, and so would surrender it up to him, or be still the more easily conquered when the famine had further weakened them; for that besides this wall, he would not lie entirely at rest afterward, but would take care then to have banks raised again, when those that would oppose them were become weaker. But that if any one should think such a work to be too great, and not to be finished without much difficulty, he ought to consider that it is not fit for Romans to undertake any small work, and that none but God himself could with ease accomplish any great thing whatsoever.
2. These arguments prevailed with the commanders. So Titus gave orders that the army should be distributed to their several shares of this work; and indeed there now came upon the soldiers a certain divine fury, so that they did not only part the whole wall that was to be built among them, nor did only one legion strive with another, but the lesser divisions of the army did the same; insomuch that each soldier was ambitious to please his decurion, each decurion his centurion, each centurion his tribune, and the ambition of the tribunes was to please their superior commanders, while Caesar himself took notice of and rewarded the like contention in those commanders; for he went round about the works many times every day, and took a view of what was done. Titus began the wall from the camp of the Assyrians, where his own camp was pitched, and drew it down to the lower parts of Cenopolis; thence it went along the valley of Cedron, to the Mount of Olives; it then bent towards the south, and encompassed the mountain as far as the rock called Peristereon, and that other hill which lies next it, and is over the valley which reaches to Siloam; whence it bended again to the west, and went down to the valley of the Fountain, beyond which it went up again at the monument of Ananus the high priest, and encompassing that mountain where Pompey had formerly pitched his camp, it returned back to the north side of the city, and was carried on as far as a certain village called "The House of the Erebinthi;" after which it encompassed Herod's monument, and there, on the east, was joined to Titus's own camp, where it began. Now the length of this wall was forty furlongs, one only abated. Now at this wall without were erected thirteen places to keep garrison in, whose circumferences, put together, amounted to ten furlongs; the whole was completed in three days; so that what would naturally have required some months was done in so short an interval as is incredible. When Titus had therefore encompassed the city with this wall, and put garrisons into proper places, he went round the wall, at the first watch of the night, and observed how the guard was kept; the second watch he allotted to Alexander; the commanders of legions took the third watch. They also cast lots among themselves who should be upon the watch in the night time, and who should go all night long round the spaces that were interposed between the garrisons.
3. So all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews, together with their liberty of going out of the city. Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves; for many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before that fatal hour was come. Nor was there any lamentations made under these calamities, nor were heard any mournful complaints; but the famine confounded all natural passions; for those who were just going to die looked upon those that were gone to rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night, had seized upon the city; while yet the robbers were still more terrible than these miseries were themselves; for they brake open those houses which were no other than graves of dead bodies, and plundered them of what they had; and carrying off the coverings of their bodies, went out laughing, and tried the points of their swords in their dead bodies; and, in order to prove what metal they were made of they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground; but for those that entreated them to lend them their right hand and their sword to despatch them, they were too proud to grant their requests, and left them to be consumed by the famine. Now every one of these died with their eyes fixed upon the temple, and left the seditious alive behind them. Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath.
4. However, when Titus, in going his rounds along those valleys, saw them full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them, he gave a groan; and, spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing; and such was the sad case of the city itself. But the Romans were very joyful, since none of the seditious could now make sallies out of the city, because they were themselves disconsolate, and the famine already touched them also. These Romans besides had great plenty of corn and other necessaries out of Syria, and out of the neighboring provinces; many of whom would stand near to the wall of the city, and show the people what great quantities of provisions they had, and so make the enemy more sensible of their famine, by the great plenty, even to satiety, which they had themselves. However, when the seditious still showed no inclinations of yielding, Titus, out of his commiseration of the people that remained, and out of his earnest desire of rescuing what was still left out of these miseries, began to raise his banks again, although materials for them were hard to be come at; for all the trees that were about the city had been already cut down for the making of the former banks. Yet did the soldiers bring with them other materials from the distance of ninety furlongs, and thereby raised banks in four parts, much greater than the former, though this was done only at the tower of Antonia. So Caesar went his rounds through the legions, and hastened on the works, and showed the robbers that they were now in his hands. But these men, and these only, were incapable of repenting of the wickednesses they had been guilty of; and separating their souls from their bodies, they used them both as if they belonged to other folks, and not to themselves. For no gentle affection could touch their souls, nor could any pain affect their bodies, since they could still tear the dead bodies of the people as dogs do, and fill the prisons with those that were sick.
by D.H. Stern
if nobody gossips, contention stops.
21 As coals are to embers and wood to fire
is a quarrelsome person to kindling strife.
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
For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
--- 2 Cor. 5:21.
Sin is a fundamental relationship; it is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. The Christian religion bases everything on the positive, radical nature of sin. Other religions deal with sins; the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ faced in men was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and its blasting power.
The revelation of the Bible is not that Jesus Christ took upon Himself our fleshly sins, but that He took upon Himself the heredity of sin which no man can touch. God made His own Son to be sin that He might make the sinner a saint. All through the Bible it is revealed that Our Lord bore the sin of the world by identification, not by sympathy. He deliberately took upon His own shoulders, and bore in His own Person, the whole massed sin of the human race—“He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin,” and by so doing He put the whole human race on the basis of Redemption. Jesus Christ rehabilitated the human race; He put it back to where God designed it to be, and anyone can enter into union with God on the ground of what Our Lord has done on the Cross.
A man cannot redeem himself; Redemption is God’s ‘bit,’ it is absolutely finished and complete; its reference to individual men is a question of their individual action. A distinction must always be made between the revelation of Redemption and the conscious experience of salvation in a man’s life.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The flies walk upon the roof top.
The student's eyes are too keen
To miss them. The young girls walk
In the roadway; the wind ruffles
Their skirts. The student does not look.
He sees only the flies spread their wings
And take off into the sunlight
Without sound. There is nothing to do
Now but read in his book
Of how young girls walked in the roadway
In Tyre, and how young men
Sailed off into the red west
For gold, writing dry words
To the music the girls sang.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
One can meet the new threat and challenge of alien truths by refusing to take them seriously. This other life-style, since it is different, is considered insignificant. An attempt to explain and justify one’s own values within the categories of another culture presupposes that the rational framework of the other must be taken seriously by one committed to intellectual honesty. However, if by definition that which is outside one’s culture is considered to have no legitimate claim, then the necessity for justification and explanation ceases: I meet the challenge by justifying the right to ignore it. I feel no compulsion to justify myself in a strange language. I need not explain my spiritual world view within categories which are not born of my tradition.
This method of exclusion insulates an entire body of knowledge from all serious challenges. All problems are answered by denying legitimacy to the questions. In order to make this move of cultural insulation, one has to claim that one’s culture not only defines what a person should do but also what is to count as genuine knowledge—a logical move of one who maintains that his body of knowledge and his way of life are guaranteed authenticity by divine revelation. If God is on his side, then lending significance to alien human claims is the height of irrationality. How can the intelligence of puny man challenge the wisdom and way of God? By committing oneself to a mode of living dictated by God, one excludes any possible claims which human reason can make unaided by divine revelation. Prophets do not have to explain themselves to philosophers. Prophets do not have to give reasons for their claims. They need but announce, “Thus has God spoken.” Since God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts, no common language exists between the human and the divine. There are no common criteria which enable one to question or to require of God that He justify Himself before a human tribunal. Contemporary experience shows that this cultural insulation, this way of exclusion, need not be supported by a divine revelatory claim. There are secular cultures which claim similar insulations from attack and need for justification for their systems of knowledge and values. Reference to God in a religious world can justify insulation; in a secular world naked claims of absolute power and superior-race theories can serve the same end.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. --- Ecclesiastes 11:4.
I like to apply our text to the difficulties that beset our daily work, for we may so fix our eyes on these difficulties that all the strength is taken from the arm. (Wings of the Morning, The (Kregel Classic Sermons)) A person may ruin any work by rashness, as Simon Peter would have ruined the work of Jesus, but remember that if the rash have their perils, there are also perils for the overcautious. Do you remember the parable of the talents? Do you remember why the person with the one talent failed? He said, “I knew that you are a hard man.… So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground” (Matt. 25:24–25). The other servants took the common risks in giving out their money to the changers, but this man would risk absolutely nothing, and, willing to risk nothing, he lost all. Do you imagine it is just a chance that this individual had the one talent? We talk about the perils of genius, but our Savior talked of those of mediocrity. Great men and women have their glow and inspiration; things are worth doing when you can do them greatly. Genius is prodigal and scatters its pearls abroad; genius, like childhood, is equal to its problem. It is those of the one talent and mediocre minds who are tempted to the sin of being overcautious. I have known so many average people who failed because they were waiting for an impossible perfection. They said, “Tomorrow—by and by—I’ll be ready; I’ll have all the information in ten years”—and the ten years hurried by, and they did nothing, except to wish that they had started earlier. Do you think we ministers could ever preach to you if we watched the wind and looked at the clouds? If we waited for inspiration and a glowing brain, could we ever face the inevitable Sunday? The hours will come, and come to everyone, when taskwork quivers and palpitates with life, but perhaps they only come because we have been faithful, with a certain grimness, through the days of gloom. Let people hold to their lifework through mood and melancholy. Let them hold to it through headache and through heartache. For whoever watches the wind will never plant, and whoever looks at the clouds will never reap.
--- George H. Morrison
From The Narratives of George Mueller
When at the end of the year 1829, I left London to labour in the Gospel, a brother in the Lord gave to me a card containing the address of a well-known Christian lady, Miss Paget, who then resided in Exeter, in order that I should call on her. Three weeks I carried this card in my pocket without making an effort to see this lady; but at last I was led to do so. Miss Paget gave me the address of a Christian brother, Mr. Hake, who had a Boarding School for young ladies and gentlemen at Northernhay House. To this place I went. Miss Groves, afterwards my beloved wife, was there. I went week after week. At this time my purpose had been not to marry at all, but to remain free for traveling about in the service of the Gospel; but after some months I saw, for many reasons, that it was better for me as a young pastor under 25 to be married. The question now was, to whom shall I be united? Miss Groves came before my mind; but the prayerful conflict was long before I came to a decision. At last this decided me, I had reason to believe I had gotten an affection in the heart of Miss Groves for me, and therefore I ought to make a proposal of marriage to her. On Aug. 15th, I wrote to her proposing to her to become my wife, and on Aug. 19th, she accepted me. The first thing we did after I was accepted was to fall on our knees and to ask the blessing of the Lord on our intended union. On October 7, 1830, we were united in marriage. Our marriage was of the most simple character. We walked to church, had no wedding breakfast, but in the afternoon had a meeting of Christian friends in Mr. Hake’s house and commemorated the Lord’s death; and then I drove off in the stagecoach with my beloved wife to Teignmough, and the next day we went to work for the Lord.
This was God’s way of giving me an excellent wife.
With all your heart you must trust the LORD
And not your own judgment.
Always let him lead you,
And he will clear the road for you to follow.
--- Proverbs 3:5,6.
The arrangement adopted by this commentary places this passage in a specific historical setting. But from that specific setting emerges a universal truth about God and his ways that is vital for the faith of Jew and Christian: the principle of substitutionary atonement, not only through animal sacrifice as in the day of atonement, but supremely through a willing person.
This is effective atonement when the recipients of the benefits gained through the sacrifice confess their guilt and recognize that one has died for them (53:4–6) and when the sovereign agrees to recognize the atoning effect (53:10–12). Christians have viewed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in these terms and used this passage to interpret and appropriate that meaning (compare Luke 22:37; Mark 10:45 = Matt 20:28; Mark 14:24 = Matt 26:28 = Luke 22:20; and the discussion by R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament
This passage illustrates how past wrongs (the rebellion of Jerusalemites and the death of the sufferer) are hindrances to appropriation of something new and good (the favor of the new emperor). It shows how good can come from something that was wrong. This is only possible when all parties are humbled in recognition of the wrongs and of higher authority and goals. It is further possible because God is prepared to endorse the arrangement. Justice is served, not through vengeance and retribution, but by allowing the death to be a means of atoning reconciliation in order to build a foundation for cooperation, peace, and salvation.
God is shown to be goal-oriented. His justice looks forward, not backward. His drive toward deliverance and salvation, toward restoration and fellowship, can use innocent death to achieve these goals for others.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 7
“Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant?” --- Numbers 11:11.
Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything, it will stand the test. Gilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord’s faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father’s countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” is heaven-born faith. The Lord afflicts his servants to glorify himself, for he is greatly glorified in the graces of his people, which are his own handiwork. When “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope,” the Lord is honoured by these growing virtues. We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress; nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which his vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven, if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Will not peace be sweeter after conflict, and rest more welcome after toil? Will not the recollection of past sufferings enhance the bliss of the glorified? There are many other comfortable answers to the question with which we opened our brief meditation, let us muse upon it all day long.
Evening - October 7
“Now on whom dost thou trust?” --- Isaiah 36:5.
Reader, this is an important question. Listen to the Christian’s answer, and see if it is yours. “On whom dost thou trust?” “I trust,” says the Christian, “in a triune God. I trust the Father, believing that he has chosen me from before the foundations of the world; I trust him to provide for me in providence, to teach me, to guide me, to correct me if need be, and to bring me home to his own house where the many mansions are. I trust the Son. Very God of very God is he—the man Christ Jesus. I trust in him to take away all my sins by his own sacrifice, and to adorn me with his perfect righteousness. I trust him to be my Intercessor, to present my prayers and desires before his Father’s throne, and I trust him to be my Advocate at the last great day, to plead my cause, and to justify me. I trust him for what he is, for what he has done, and for what he has promised yet to do. And I trust the Holy Spirit—he has begun to save me from my inbred sins; I trust him to drive them all out; I trust him to curb my temper, to subdue my will, to enlighten my understanding, to check my passions, to comfort my despondency, to help my weakness, to illuminate my darkness; I trust him to dwell in me as my life, to reign in me as my King, to sanctify me wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and then to take me up to dwell with the saints in light for ever.”
Oh, blessed trust! To trust him whose power will never be exhausted, whose love will never wane, whose kindness will never change, whose faithfulness will never fail, whose wisdom will never be nonplussed, and whose perfect goodness can never know a diminution! Happy art thou, reader, if this trust is thine! So trusting, thou shalt enjoy sweet peace now, and glory hereafter, and the foundation of thy trust shall never be removed.
STAND UP AND BLESS THE LORD
James Montgomery, 1771–1854
Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. (Nehemiah 9:5)
Many excellent opportunities to witness for the Lord are lost each day simply because of our timidity. Or perhaps we are with a group of colleagues when the Lord’s name is blasphemed, the Gospel derided, the church’s hypocrites ridiculed … and we remain silent. How tragic that our noble words of praise on Sunday often leave us during the week when they are needed most.
Ye call Me Master and obey not, Ye call Me Light and see Me not, Ye call Me Way and walk not, Ye call Me Life and desire Me not, Ye call Me Wise and follow Me not, Ye call Me Fair and love Me not, Ye call Me rich and ask Me not, Ye call Me Eternal and see Me not, Ye call Me Noble and serve Me not, Ye call Me Mighty and honor Me not, Ye call Me just and fear Me not.
--- Found on an old slab in the Cathedral of Lubeck, Germany
“Stand Up and Bless the Lord” was written by James Montgomery in 1824 especially for a Sunday school anniversary in Sheffield, England. It was based on Nehemiah 9:5. Montgomery was the editor of a newspaper in Sheffield and was known as an outspoken advocate for many humanitarian causes, especially abolition of slavery. His ideas for social reform were considered so radical that he was imprisoned two times. Other causes he championed included hymn singing in the Anglican church services, foreign missions, and the British Bible Society. James Montgomery wrote more than 400 hymns, earning him a lasting place as one of England’s finest hymn writers. May this challenge help you today.
Stand up and bless the Lord, ye people of His choice; stand up and bless the Lord your God with heart and soul and voice.
Though high above all praise, above all blessing high, who would not fear His holy name and laud and magnify?
O for the living flame, from His own altar brought, to touch our lips, our minds inspire, and wing to heav’n our thought!
God is our strength and song, and His salvation ours; then be His love in Christ proclaimed with all our ransomed pow’rs.
Stand up and bless the Lord— the Lord your God adore; stand up and bless His glorious name henceforth forevermore.
For Today: 1 Chronicles 23:30; Psalm 51:15; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 12:28
Refuse to be intimidated by those who seem hostile or indifferent to our Lord. Speak His praise graciously but boldly. Use this musical truth to help ---
DISCOURSE VIII - ON GOD’S KNOWLEDGE
1. He knows all creatures from the highest to the lowest, the least as well as the greatest. He knows the ravens and their young ones (Job 38:41); the drops of rain and dew which he hath begotten (Job 38:29); every bird in the air, as well as any man doth what he hath in a cage at home (Psalm 50:11): “I know all the fowls in the mountains, and the wild beasts in the field;” which some read creeping things. The clouds are numbered in his wisdom (Job 38:37); every worm in the earth, every drop of rain that falls upon the ground, the flakes of snow, and the knots of hail, the sands upon the sea-shore, the hairs upon the head; it is no more absurd to imagine that God knows them, than that God made them; they are all the effects of his power, as well as the stars which he calls by their names, as well as the most glorious angel and blessed spirit; he knows them as well as if there were none but them in particular for him to know; the least things were framed by his art as well as the greatest; the least things partake of his goodness as well as the greatest; he knows his own arts, and his own goodness, and therefbre all the stamps and impressions of them upon all his creatures; he knows the immediate causes of the least, and therefore the effects of those causes. Since his knowledge is infinite, it must extend to those things which are at the greatest distance from him, to those which approach nearest to not being; since he did not want power to create, he cannot want understanding to know everything he hath created, the dispositions, qualities, and virtues of the minutest creature. Nor is the understanding of God embased, and suffers a diminution by the knowledge of the vilest and most inconsiderable things. Is it not an imperfection to be ignorant of the nature of anything? and can God have such a defect in his most perfect understanding? Is the understanding of man of an impurer alloy by knowing the nature of the rankest poisons? by understanding a fly, or a small insect? or by considering the deformity of a toad? Is it not generally counted a note of a dignifled mind to be able to discourse of the nature of them? Was Solomon, who knew all from the cedar to the hyssop, debased by so rich a present of wisdom from his Creator? Is any glass defiled by presenting a deformed image? Is there anything more vile than the “imaginations, which are only evil, and continually?” Doth not the mind of man descend to the mud of the earth, play the adulterer or idolater with mean objects, suck in the most unclean things? yet God knows these in all their circumstances, in every appearance, inside and outside. Is there anything viler than some thoughts of men? than some actions of men? their unclean beds and gluttonous vomiting, and Luciferian pride? yet do not these fall under the eye of God, in all their nakedness? The Second Person’s taking human nature, though it obscured, yet it did not disparage the Deity, or bring any disgrace to it. Is gold the worse for being formed into the image of a fly? doth it not still retain the nobleness of the metal? When men are despised for descending to the knowledge of mean and vile things, it is because they neglect the knowledge of the greater, and sin in their inquiries after lesser things, with a neglect of that which concerns more the honor of God and the happiness of themselves; to be ambitious of such a knowledge, and careless of that of more concern, is criminal and contemptible. But God knows the greatest as well as the least; mean things are not known by him to exclude the knowledge of the greater; nor are vile things governed by him to exclude the order of the better. The deformity of objects known by God doth not deform him, nor defile him; he doth not view them without himself, but within himself, wherein all things in their ideas are beautiful and comely: our knowledge of a deformed thing is not a deforming of our understanding, but is beautiful in the knowledge, though it be not in the object; nor is there any fear that the understanding of God should become material by knowing material things, any more than our understandings lose their spirituality by knowing the nature of bodies; it is to be observed, therefore, that only those senses of men, as seeing, hearing, smelling, which have those qualities for their objects that come nearest the nature of spiritual things, as light, sounds, fragrant odors, are ascribed to God in Scripture; not touching or tasting, which are senses that are not exercised without a more immediate commerce with gross matter; and the reason may be, because we should have no gross thoughts of God, as if he were a body, and made of matter, like the things he knows.
2. As he knows all creatures, so God knows all the actions of creatures. He counts in particular all the ways of men. “Doth he not see all my ways, and count all my steps” (Job 31:4)? He “tells” their “wanderings,” as if one by one (Psalm 56:8). “His eyes are upon all the ways of man, and he sees all his goings” (Job 34:21); a metaphor taken from men, when they look wistly, with fixed eyes upon a thing, to view it in every circumstance, whence it comes, whether it goes, to observe every little motion of it. God’s eye is not a wandering, but a fixed eye; and the ways of man are not only “before his eyes,” but he doth exactly “ponder them” (Prov. 5:21); as one that will not be ignorant of the least mite in them, but weigh and examine them by the standard of his law; he may as well know the motions of our members, as the hairs of our heads; the smallest actions before they be, whether civil, natural, or religious, fall under his cognizance; what meaner than a man carrying a pitcher, yet our Saviour foretels it (Luke 22:10); God knows not only what men do, but what they would have done, had he not restrained them; what Abimelech would have done to Sarah, had not God put a bar in his way (Gen. 20:6); what a man that is taken away in his youth would have done, had he lived to a riper age; yea, he knows the most secret words as well as actions; the words spoken by the king of Israel in his bed-chamber, were revealed to Elisha (2 Kings 6:12); and indeed, how can any action of man be concealed from God? Can we view the various actions of a heap of ants, or a hive of bees in a glass, without turning our eyes; and shall not God behold the actions of all men in the world, which are less than bees or ants in his sight, and more visible to him than an ant-hill or bee-hive can be to the acutest eye of man?
3. As God knows all the actions of creatures, so he knows all the thoughts of creatures. The thoughts are the most closeted acts of man, hid from men and angels, unless disclosed by some outward expressions; but God descends into the depths and abysses of the soul, discerns the most inward contrivances; nothing is impenetrable to him; the sun doth not so much enlighten the earth, as God understands the heart; all things are as visible to him, as flies and motes enclosed in a body of transparent crystal; this man naturally allows to God. Men often speak to God by the motions of their minds and secret ejaculations, which they would not do, if it were not naturally implanted in them, that God knows all their inward motions; the Scripture is plain and positive in this, “He tries the heart and the reins” (Psalm 7:9), as men, by the use of fire, discern the drossy and purer parts of metals. The secret intentions and aims, the most lurking affections seated in the reins; he knows that which no man, no angel, is able to know, which a man himself knows not, nor makes any particular reflection upon; yea, “he weighs the Spirit” (Prov. 16:2); he exactly numbers all the devices and inclinations of men, as men do every piece of coin they tell out of a heap. “He discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12); all that is in the mind, all that is in the affections, every stirring and purpose; so that not one thought can be withheld from him Job 42:2); yea, “Hell and destruction are before him, much more then the hearts of the children of men” (Prov. 15:11); he works all things in the bowels of the earth, and brings forth all things out of that treasure, say some; but more naturally, God knows the whole state of the dead, all the receptacles and graves of their bodies, all the bodies of men consumed by the earth, or devoured by living creatures; things that seem to be out of all being; he knows the thoughts of the devils and damned creatures, whom he hath cast out of his care forever into the arms of his justice, never more to cast a delightful glance towards them; not a secret in any soul in hell (which he hath no need to know, because he shall not judge them by any of the thoughts they now have, since they were condemned to punishment) is hid from him; much more is he acquainted with the thoughts of living men, the counsels of whose hearts are yet to be manifested, in order to their trial and censure; yea, he knows them before they spring up into actual being (Psalm 139:2): “Thou understandest my thoughts afar off;” my thoughts, that is, every thought; though innumerable thoughts pass through me in a day, and that in the source and fountain, when it is yet in the womb, before it is our thought; if he knows them before their existence, before they can be properly called ours, much more doth he know them when they actually spring up in us: he knows the tendency of them; where the bird will light when it is in flight; he knows them exactly, he is therefore called a “discerner” or criticiser “of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), as a critic discerns every letter, point, and stop; he is more intimate with us than our souls with our bodies, and hath more the possession of us than we have of ourselves; he knows them by an inspection into the heart, not by the mediation of second causes, by the looks or gestures of men, as men may discern the thoughts of one another.
(1.) God discerns all good motions of the mind and will. These he puts into men, and needs must God know his own act; he knew the son of “Jeroboam to have some good thing in him towards the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 14:13); and the integrity of David and Hezekiah; the freest motions of the will and affections to him: “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” saith Peter (John 21:17). Love can be no more restrained, than the will itself can; a man may make another to grieve and desire, but none can force another to love.
(2.) God discerns all the evil motions of the mind and will; “Every imagination of the heart” (Gen. 6:5); the vanity of “men’s thoughts” (Psalm 94:11); their inward darkness, and deceitful disguises. No wonder that God, who fashioned the heart, should understand the motions of it (Psalm 33:13, 15): “He looks from heaven and beholds all the children of men; he fashioneth their hearts alike, and considers all their works.” Doth any man make a watch, and yet be ignorant of its motion? Did God fling away the key to this secret cabinet, when he framed it, and put off the power of unlocking it when he pleased? He did not surely frame it in such a posture as that anything in it should be hid from his eye; he did not fashion it to be privileged from his government; which would follow if he were ignorant of what was minted and coined in it. He could not be a Judge to punish men, if the inward frames and principles of men’s actions were concealed from him; an outward action may glitter to an outward eye, yet the secret spring be a desire of applause, and not the fear and love of God. If the inward frames of the heart did lie covered from him in the secret recesses of the heart; those plausible acts, which in regard of their principles, would merit a punishment, would meet with a reward; and God should bestow happiness where he had denounced misery. As without the knowledge of what is just, he could not be a wise Lawgiver, so without the knowledge of what is inwardly committed, he could not be a righteous Judge: acts that are rotten in the spring, might be judged good by the fair color and appearance. This is the glory of God at the last day, “to manifest the secrets of all hearts” (1 Cor. 4:5); and the prophet Jeremiah links the power of judging and the prerogative of trying the hearts together (Jer. 11:20): “But thou, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart;” and (Jer. 17:10): “I, the Lord, search, the heart, I try the reins;” to what end? even to “give every man according to his way, and according to the fruit of his doings.” And, indeed, his binding up the whole law with that command of not coveting, evidenceth that he will judge men by the inward affections and frames of their hearts. Again, God sustains the mind of man in every act of thinking; in him we have not only the principle of life, but every motion, the motion of our minds as well as of our members: “In him we live and move,” &c. (Acts 17:28). Since he supports the vigor of the faculty in every act, can he be ignorant of those acts which spring from the faculty, to which he doth at that instant communicate power and ability? Now this knowledge of the thoughts of men is,
1st. An incommunicable property, belonging only to the Divine understanding. Creatures, indeed, may know the thoughts of others by divine revelation, but not by themselves; no creature hath a key immediately to open the minds of men, and see all that lodgeth there; no creature can fathom the heart by the line of created knowledge. Devils may have a conjectural knowledge, and may guess at them, by the acquaintance they have with the disposition and constitution of men, and the images they behold in their fancies; and by some marks which an inward imagination may stamp upon the brain, blood, animal spirits, face, &c. But the knowing the thoughts merely as thought, without any impression by it, is a royalty God appropriates to himself, as the main secret of his government, and a perfection declarative of his Deity, as much as any else (Jer. 17:9, 10): “The heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it?” yes, there is one, and but one, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins.” “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7); where God is distinguished by this perfection from all men whatsoever, others may know by revelation, as Elisha did what was in Gehazi’s heart (2 Kings 5:26). But God knows a man more than any man knows himself; what person upon earth understands the windings and turnings of his own heart, what reserves it will have, what contrivances, what inclinations? all which God knows exactly.
2d. God acquires no new knowledge of the thoughts and hearts by the discovery of them in the actions. He would then be but equal in this part of knowledge to his creature; no man or angel but may thus arrive to the knowledge of them; God were then excluded from an absolute dominion over the prime work of his lower creation; he would have made a creature superior in this respect to himself, upon whose will to discover, his knowledge of their inward intentions should depend; and therefore when God is said to search the heart, we must not understand it as if God were ignorant before, and was fain to make an exact scrutiny and inquiry, before he attained what he desired to know; but God condescends to our capacity in the expression of his own knowledge, signifying that his knowledge is as complete as any man’s knowledge can be of the designs of others, after he hath sifted them by a strict and thorough examination, and wrung out a discovery of their intentions, that he knows them as perfectly as if he had put them upon the rack, and and forced them to make a discovery of their secret plottings. Nor must we understand that in Gen. 22:12, where God saith, after Abraham had stretched out his hand to sacrifice his son, “Now I know that thou fearest God,” as though God was ignorant of Abraham’s gracious disposition to him; did Abraham’s drawing his knife furnish God with a new knowledge? no, God knew Abraham’s pious inclinations before (Gen. 18:19): “I know him, that he will command his children after him,” &c. Knowledge is sometimes taken for approbation; then the sense will be, Now I approve this fact as a testimony of thy fear of me, since thy affection to thy Isaac is extinguished by the more powerful flame of affection to my will and command; I now accept thee, and count thee a meet subject of my choicest benefits: or, Now I know, that is, I have made known and manifested the faith of Abraham to himself and to the world: thus Paul uses the word know (1 Cor. 2:2): “I have determined to know nothing;” that is, to declare and teach nothing, to make known nothing but Christ crucified: or else, Now I know, that is, I have an evidence and experiment in this noble fact, that thou fearest me. God often condescends to our capacity in speaking of himself after the manner of men, as if he had (as men do) known the inward affections of others by their outward actions.
4. God knows all the evils and sins of creatures.
(1.) God knows all sin. This follows upon the other. If he knows all the actions and thoughts of creatures, he knows also all the sinfulness in those acts and thoughts. This Zophar infers from God’s punishing men (Job 11:11); for he knows vain man, he sees his wickedness also; he knows every man, and sees the wickedness of every man; he looks down from heaven, and beholds not only the filthy persons, but what is filthy in them (Psalm 14:2, 3), all nations in the world, and every man of every nation; none of their iniquity is hid from his eyes; he searches Jerusalem with candles (Jer. 16:17). God follows sinners step by step, with his eye, and will not leave searching out till he hath taken them; a metaphor taken from one that searches all chinks with a candle, that nothing can be hid from him. He knows it distinctly in all the parts of it, how an adulterer rises out of his bed to commit uncleanness, what contrivances he had, what steps he took, every circumstance in the whole progress; not only evil in the bulk, but every one of the blacker spots upon it, which may most aggravate it. If he did not know evil, how could he permit it, order it, punish it, or pardon it? Doth he permit he knows not what? order to his own holy ends what he is ignorant of? punish or pardon that which he is uncertain whether it be a crime or no? “Cleanse me,” saith David, “from my secret faults” (Psalm 19:12), secret in regard of others, secret in regard of himself; how could God cleanse him from that whereof he was ignorant? He knows sins before they are committed, much more when they are in act; he foreknew the idolatry and apostacy of the Jews; what gods they would serve, in what measure they would provoke him. and violate his covenant (Deut. 31:20, 21); he knew Judas’ sin long before Judas’ actual existence, foretelling it in the Psalms; and Christ predicts it before he acted it. He sees sins future in his own permitting will; he sees sins present in his own supporting act. As he knows things possible to himself, because he knows his own power so he knows things practicable by the creature, because he knows the power and prmeiples of the creature. This sentiment of God is naturally written in the fears of sinners, upon lightning, thunder, or some prodigious operation of God in the world; what is the language of them, but that he sees their deeds, hears their words, knows the inward sinfulness of their hearts; that he doth not only behold them as a mere spectator, but considers them as a just judge. And the poets say, that the sins of men leaped into heaven, and were writ in parchments of Jupiter, scelus in terram geritur, in coelo scribitur: sin is acted on earth, and recorded in heaven. God indeed doth not behold evil with the approving eye; he knows it not with a practical knowledge to be the author of it, but with a speculative knowledge, so as to understand the sinfulness of it; or a knowledge simplicis intelligentioe, of simple intelligence, as he permits them, not positively wills them; he knows them not with a knowledge of assent to them, but dissent from them. Evil pertains to a dissenting act of the mind, and an aversive act of the will; and what though evil formerly taken, hath no distinct conception, because it is a privation; a defect hath no being, and all knowledge is by the apprehension of some being; would not this lie as strongly against our own knowledge of sin? Sin is a privation of the rectitude due to an act; and who doubts man’s knowledge of sin? by his knowing the act, he knows the deficiency of the act; the subject of evil hath a being, and so hath a conception in the mind; that which hath no being cannot be known by itself, or in itself; but will it follow that it cannot be known by its contrary? as we know darkness to be a privation of light, and folly to be a privation of wisdom. God knows good all by himself, because he is the sovereign good; is it strange then, that he should know all evil, since all evil is in some natural good.
(2.) The manner of God’s knowing evil is not so easily known. And indeed, as we cannot comprehend the essence of God, though it is easily intelligible that there is such a Being, so we can as little comprehend the manner of God’s knowledge, though we cannot but conclude him to be an intelligent Being, a pure understanding, knowing all things. As God hath a higher manner of being than his creatures, so he hath another and higher manner of knowing; and we can as little comprehend the manner of his knowing, as we can the manner of his being. But as to the manner, doth not God know his own law? and shall he not know how much any action comes short of his rule? he cannot know his own rule without knowing all the deviations from it. He knows his own holiness, and shall he not see how any action is contrary to the holiness of his own nature? Doth not God know everything that is true? and is it not true that this or that is evil? and shall God be ignorant of any truth? How doth God know that he cannot lie, but by knowing his own veracity? How doth God know that he cannot die, but by knowing his own immutability? and by knowing those, he knows what a lie is, he knows what death is; so if sin never had been, if no creature had ever been, God would have known what sin was, because he knows his own holiness; because he knew what law was fit to be appointed to his creatures if he should create them, and that that law might be transgressed by them. God knows all good, all goodness in himself; he therefore hath a foundation in himself to know all that comes short of that goodness, that is opposite to that holiness: as if light were capable of understanding, it would know darkness only by knowing itself; by knowing itself, it would know what is contrary to itself knows all created goodness which he hath planted in the creature; he knows then all defects from this goodness, what perfection an act is deprived of; what is opposite to that goodness, and that is evil. As we know sickness by health, discord by harmony, blindness by sight, because it is a privation of sight, whosoever knows one contrary knows the other; God knows unrighteousness by the idea which he hath of righteousness, and sees an act deprived of that rectitude and goodness which ought to be in it; he knows evil because he knows the causes whence evil proceeds. A painter knows a picture of his own framing, and if any one dashes any base color upon it, shall not he also know that? God by his hand painted all creatures, impressed upon man the fair stamp and color of his own image; the devil defiles it; man daubs it. Doth not God, that knows his own work, know how this piece is become different from his work? Doth not God, that knows his creatures’ goodness, which himself was the fountain of, know the change of this goodness? Yea, he knew before, that the devil would sow tares where he had sown wheat; and therefore that controversy of some in the schools, whether God knew evil by its opposition to created or uncreated goodness, is needless. We may say God knows sin as it is opposite to created goodness, yet he knows it radically by his own goodness, because he knows the goodness he hath communicated to the creature by his own essential goodness in himself. To conclude this head: The knowledge of sin doth not bespot the holiness of God’s nature; for the bare knowledge of a crime doth not infect the mind of man with the filth and pollution of that crime, for then every man that knows an act of murder committed by another, would, by that bare knowledge, be tainted with his sin; yea, and a judge that condemns a malefactor, may as well condemn himself if this were so: the knowledge of sins infects not the understandings that knows them, but only the will that approves them. It is no discredit to us to know evil, in order to pass a right judgment upon it; so neither can it be to God.
Fourthly, God knows all future things, all things to come. The differences of time cannot hinder a knowledge of all things by him, who is before time, above time, that is not measured by hours, or days, or years; if God did not know them, the hindrance must be in himself, or in the things themselves, because they are things to come: not in himself; if it did, it must arise from some impotency in his own nature, and so we render him weak; or from an unwillingness to know, and so we render him lazy, and an enemy to his own perfection; for, simply considered, the knowledge of more things is a greater perfection than the knowledge of a few; and if the knowledge of a thing includes something of perfection, the ignorance of a thing includes something of imperfection. The knowledge of future things is a greater perfection than not to know them, and is accounted among men a great part of wisdom, which they call foresight; it is then surely a greater perfection in God to know future things, than to be ignorant of them. And would God rather have something of imperfection than be possessor of all perfection? Nor doth the hindrance lie in the things themselves, because their futurition depends upon his will; for as nothing can actually be without his will, giving it existence, so nothing can be future without his will, designing the futurity of it. Certainly if God knows all things possible, which he will not do, he must know all things future, which he is not only able, but resolved to do, or resolved to permit. God’s perfect knowledge of himself, that is, of his own infinite power and concluding will, necessarily includes a foreknowledge of what he is able to do, and what he will do. Again, if God doth not know future things, there was a time when God was ignorant of most things in the world; for before the deluge he was more ignorant than after; the more things were done in the world, the more knowledge did accrue to God, and so the more perfection; then the understanding of God was not perfect from eternity, but in time; nay, is not perfect yet, if he be ignorant of those things which are still to come to pass; he must tarry for a perfection he wants, till those futurities come to be in act, till those things which are to come, cease to be future, and begin to be present. Either God knows them, or desires to know them; if he desires to know them and doth not, there is something wanting to him; all desire speaks an absence of the object desired, and a sentiment of want in the person desiring: if he doth not desire to know them, nay, if he doth not actually know them, it destroys all providence, all his government of affairs; for his providence hath a concatenation of means with a prospect of something that is future: as in Joseph’s case, who was put into the pit, and sold to the Egyptians in order to his future advancement, and the preservation both of his father and his envious brethren. If God did not know all the future inclinations and actions of men, something might have been done by the will of Potiphar, or by the free-will of Pharoah, whereby Joseph might have been cut short of his advancement, and so God have been interrupted in the track and method of his designed providences. He that hath decreed to govern man for that end he hath designed him, knows all the means before, whereby he will govern him, and therefore hath a distinct and certain knowledge of all things; for a confused knowledge is an imperfection in government; it is in this the infiniteness of his understanding is more seen than in knowing things past or present; his eyes are a flame of fire (Rev. 1:14), in regard of the penetrating virtue of them into things impenetrable by any else. To make it further appear that God knows all things future, consider,
The Existence and Attributes of God