Who Is the Greatest?Matthew 18 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Temptations to Sin7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. ( The careful reader can see there is no verse 11. Please see the first article below the Bible Reading portion of this web site in the article section. ) 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
If Your Brother Sins Against You15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Teaching About DivorceMatthew 19 1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
Let the Children Come to Me13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
The Rich Young Man16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
What I'm Reading
The Mysterious Case of Missing Scripture
By G. Gabriel Powell 11/12/2015
No book is more important than the Bible. God’s perfect, inspired, inerrant Word is loved, treasured, and protected by His people. From the first prophets who put the Word of the Lord into writing until now, God’s people have taken the utmost care to keep, copy, and preserve the Word of God. Ancient Texts Down Through the Ages The Making of the English Bible Missing Verses Passages in Question Conclusion
Long before printing presses could ensure consistent copies, Israel and the church fastidiously copied Scripture, not word by word, but letter by letter. Given its uniquely eternal, transcendent nature, God’s people showed meticulous care in transcribing it, preserving it for generations to come. Their painstaking efforts helped fulfill the words of Jesus’ promise, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18, ESV).
It’s no surprise, then, why many people are shocked and upset when a verse in their Bible appears to be missing. We are so used to the chapter/verse addressing system that when a verse number is skipped it’s like our GPS broke down and we’re not sure where to turn.
This brief article is intended to explain why some verses “disappear” from the Bible in modern translations. My hope is not merely to calm fears, but to confirm and build your trust in the Bible you hold in your hands.
Two popular ancient authors are Aristotle and Homer. Aristotle is a world-renowned philosopher from the fourth century B.C. whose ideas continue to be taught in classrooms today. The oldest copies of his writing date to 1,400 years after the original versions. Is it possible that over the course of a millennium his writings were altered? It is impossible to know; there aren’t enough ancient texts to validate the accuracy of the available copies.
Homer’s Iliad has fared better, but not much. The oldest available copies date to 500 years after its original composition. The hundreds of ancient copies available reveal that the copies are about 95% accurate. That’s remarkable.
But when we come to the Bible, not only are the oldest copies less than 100 years from their original compositions, but there are thousands of ancient Greek copies which reveal a 99.5% accuracy among them. That is nothing less than incredible, and it attests to the faithfulness of ancient believers who were devoted to preserving and passing on God’s Word.
While the KJV is an accurate and beautiful translation, Tyndale and his contemporaries could only work with Hebrew and Greek manuscripts available at the time. In the centuries since then, archaeologists have discovered thousands of much older copies. As a result, we are able to compare these thousands of texts and produce a translation that more accurately reflects the original Scriptures.
By comparing these thousands of texts that span hundreds of years, we can see how small errors in copies were introduced over time. There are clear examples where, for example, a scribe added a phrase in Matthew’s gospel that they likely remembered from Luke, but which is absent from the much older copies of Matthew.
While the KJV and the New King James Version (NKJV) have remained largely unchanged from their seventeenth century counterparts, modern translations reflect improved accuracy by marking out words and phrases that were almost certainly not penned by the authors of Scripture. In some translations, as with the English Standard Version (ESV), such passages are removed from the flow of the text and a footnote is provided to explain why.
But what happens when a verse that was assigned a number in the 1500s turns out to not be part of the original text? As mentioned before, some modern translations have determined to remove the verse and add a footnote. But for the uninformed reader, that creates a problem when they read, for example Matthew 18:10-12 in the ESV. There is no verse 11 in the text—it goes from 10 to 12, with only a footnote at the end of 10 offering an explaining (and we must admit, footnotes are often left unread).
To the reader it looks like something is missing — Scripture has been removed! The reality is the Bible text is more accurate to the original, but the address system is broken.
If anything, let the absence of a verse spur you on to more closely examine the version of God’s Word you read and study, and get to know how it differs from other reliable texts. Whether you prefer the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, Holman Christian Standard Version, or another modern translation recommended by evangelical pastors and scholars, you can rest in the confidence that it is a trustworthy translation—that it is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Ancient Texts Down Through the AgesThere are more copies of Scripture in ancient Hebrew, Greek, and other long-dead languages than any other text. For the New Testament, the oldest known copies date back to less than one hundred years from the original manuscripts, and possibly as close to 25 years. The significance of this can only be understood in contrast with other ancient literature.
The Making of the English BibleJohn Wycliff was the first person to translate the Bible into English; he did so in the fourteenth century from the Latin Vulgate. Less than two hundred years later, William Tyndale developed a more accurate English translation using Hebrew and Greek texts. Tyndale’s work—which consisted of the entire New Testament and a portion of the Old—became the foundation of the King James Version (KJV). In fact, the New Testament of the KJV is 83% Tyndale’s translation from the early 1500s.
Missing VersesThe Bible was not written with chapter and verse numbers. In fact, the first English Bible to be printed with both chapter and verse numbers was the Geneva Bible in 1560. The 1611 edition of the King James Bible slightly altered the chapter and verse divisions, and all modern English translations followed suit. Dividing the text this way makes it easy for Christians around the world to teach, preach, write, and speak about the Bible in a way that allows others to follow along easily.
Passages in QuestionSo what verses are missing? The following list reflects the verses that no longer appear in the flowing text of the English Standard Version:
ConclusionSo what do you do when you see a missing verse? First, look for a footnote. There will usually be an explanation on why that particular verse was not included. But even if there isn’t, now you know why Bible verses go missing. In the history of Bible publishing, there have been Bibles with very serious errors—some more famous than others. In every case, publishers have done a great job in stopping the presses when they find errors. So when you find a missing verse, know that it’s not a misprint or something more malicious.
 Despite what some KVJ-Onlyists would have us believe, the 1611 KJV has been modernized in terms of spelling, formatting, and correcting some errors.
 See the following article for some examples. We do not necessarily endorse all the content at this website, but this particular article provides a helpful list of famous Bible publishing mistakes: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/01/famous-bible-translation-mistakes-throughout-history/.
Doubt and Obedience
By R. C. Sproul 2/01/2015
One comment that Christian pastors sometimes hear from people they are counseling is that it would be easier for them to have a strong faith if they could see God doing the same kinds of miracles today as are recorded in the Bible. The unspoken assumption is that seeing is believing — that the people who lived in Jesus’ day found themselves more readily trusting Him because they could see His great works.
Such comments show the need for a closer reading of Scripture, for there are many cases where seeing great miracles didn’t move observers to faith. For example, John 11 records Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead — a convincing sign if there ever was one. Yet the authorities took the miracle as a reason to oppose Jesus, not to believe in Him (vv. 45-53). Scripture also records occasions when even God’s people experienced disbelief after seeing many miracles. Consider Joshua 7, which records what happened at Ai not long after the Israelites conquered Jericho. After the conquest of Jericho, when a shout brought the walls “tumbling down” (chap. 6), you can imagine what the feelings were among the people of Israel. God had delivered them in a dramatic, supernatural way, removing from their path the most formidable obstacle to the conquest of Canaan. He had delivered on His promise that He would give them every place where Joshua set his foot. So, you would think there would be nothing but elation and confidence among the troops and especially in the heart of Joshua. But what transpires is a major comeuppance for Joshua and the Israelites. After a scouting party reports that Ai should be easy to conquer, Joshua sends a force to take the city, but it is quickly routed, and thirty-six people are killed (7:2-5). How does Joshua respond?
Joshua tore his clothes and fell on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening… . And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?” (vv. 6-9)
Here we see Joshua, the one who in the past has always been courageous, the man of faith who gave the good report to the nation that Israel could take Canaan. Now he’s rending his garments and complaining to the Lord, saying, “Why didn’t You just leave well enough alone? We could have lived happily ever after on the other side of the Jordan, but now we’re humiliated and the news of this defeat will go all through the Promised Land.” Joshua, in a moment of disbelief, is saying to God, “What have you done for me lately?” His faith is so fragile that after one minor setback, he loses his confidence and is in mourning. Joshua thought he understood the full measure of God’s commitment to him and to his army, and he is beside himself when this defeat takes place at the hands of an enemy that Israel should have been able to run over without the help of God. Now even with God’s promise, they suffer this humiliating defeat. All of a sudden, Joshua’s wondering, “Was God’s promise of success an illusion? Was I hearing things? God promised that we’d never be defeated, and now we’re defeated.” What Joshua endures here, as we see in his fasting, mourning, and seeking God’s face, is a crisis of faith.
Why were the Israelites defeated? Joshua 7:1 tells us: “The people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan … of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.” Yes, God promised Israel victory, but He also commanded the people to exercise scrupulous obedience to the terms of this conflict. God instituted the ban against the Canaanites, meaning that in this conquest of holy war the soldiers could not take any personal loot or booty. And one man in the army disobeyed. Achan succumbed to the temptation to line his own pockets with the spoils from the victory at Jericho. And because of one man’s sin, God held the whole nation of Israel accountable. Because of this trespass, God’s anger is expressed against Israel, and His providential judgment causes this defeat.
Scripture warns us that on this side of glory, there is not a one-to-one correlation between obedience and blessing. Faithful people are often successful, but sometimes they experience great defeat. The faithless often suffer for their wrongdoing, but sometimes they enjoy many outward successes. Nevertheless, success and strong, confident faith are some of the blessings that the Lord gives to those who keep His commandments (Ps. 1). Though God has not promised to act in the same miraculous manner today as He did in the days of old, we can expect Him to move in our behalf. We don’t merit righteousness before our Father by our obedience, and the Lord’s grace is so vast that He regularly blesses us in spite of our disobedience. Still, perhaps we would see more blessing and experience less doubt if we were to serve Him more faithfully.
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
Our Daily Bread
By Eric Watkins 2/01/2015
This simple request in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer may be one of the most time-and tear-tested portions of prayer itself. About seven years ago, as our economy began to tumble ( 2008 ) and financial insecurities threatened many families, praying for the simple provisions of our lives became a reinvigorated practice. As a pastor, I have to admit that though the church felt the economic effects of that struggle in various ways, it was not all bad.
For many people, it became a moment in which they had to stop and assess what their priorities in life really were. It became a time of husbands and wives holding hands in prayer, and even praying this portion of the Lord’s Prayer together through tears. Children watched as their parents had to cut their excess spending and were humbled in the process. Family worship was renewed, and in the center of it, requesting God’s provision for simple things became a healthfully renewed practice.
It is a pastoral irony to me that so often it proves to be the case that the more we struggle materially, the more we seem to grow spiritually. God frequently helps us grow the most when we have the least, or at least when our focus is less on the things of this world and more on God Himself. If we find this a little perplexing, we can take heart; it is nothing new (1 Cor. 10:13).
(1 Co 10:13) 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ESV
This petition in the Lord’s Prayer has raised a number of questions throughout the centuries of its interpretation, largely due to the fact that the word daily occurs only in the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament. In his commentary on Matthew, James Montgomery Boice noted that the word here for daily was found on a woman’s shopping list from the biblical period, referring to items needed for the next day. He thus takes the petition as asking God to “give us the necessities of life for this day (or the day immediately ahead).”
Such language, as other commentators also point out, takes us back to Israel’s pilgrimage through the wilderness. There, day after day, God provided the manna or “daily bread” that was needed for their physical lives. Proof that God would provide for their future was found in the faithful manner in which he provided for their present. We note with interest what God did the day before the Sabbath. On that day only, the Israelites were allowed to gather twice as much bread, enough for that day and also for the Sabbath day. By granting this provision, God enabled Israel to keep the Sabbath (by not working to gather bread on the Sabbath day). Even more importantly, it showed that God was already granting to them the blessings of the Sabbath even though it had not yet actually come. Through God’s provision of physical bread, He demonstrated His desire to give them even greater things that were yet to come — things such as Sabbath rest.
Reformers such as John Calvin rightly pushed back against allegorical readings of this petition in the Lord’s Prayer, and we appreciate their caution. Yet it would have been hard for a first-century Jew to hear this request for “daily bread” and not think of Israel in the wilderness, including the fact that on the day before the Sabbath, God gave them not only the bread of that day, but tomorrow’s bread as well. That God did this for Israel year after year while they were in the wilderness was meant to serve a catechetical function: they were to learn week after week that God would provide for them, even though they could not yet see how He would do so.
Is not our covenant-keeping God continuing to teach us this same lesson? He teaches us to trust Him not only for our daily bread, but also for the eternal things of His heavenly kingdom. He faithfully gives us the things we need day by day for our material lives, and He also gives us the blessings of heaven through Jesus Christ, who is the bread of life that God has granted us for the salvation of our souls. In Christ, we have already received the blessings of the eternal Sabbath.
God teaches us to prayerfully depend upon Him for all our needs, trusting Him not only when we can see how these things will come to us, but even more when we have to look up with the eyes of faith to behold the glory of the Lord, even in the simplest things of this life — like daily bread. As we pray this petition in the Lord’s Prayer, God continues to return us to the school of first things because too often we love and trust in the blessings of God more than the God of those blessings. Whether God has providentially placed us in an economic wilderness or bountifully blessed us with the milk and honey of prosperity, may we daily humble ourselves before Him in prayerful devotion, and praise our God from whom all blessings flow.
Religion and Politics: An Interview with Russell Moore
By Russell Moore 2/01/2015
Tabletalk: How did you come to pursue a career as a systematic theologian and Christian ethicist?
Russell Moore: I felt a call to ministry early on and preached my first sermon at my home church in Biloxi, Miss., when I was twelve. I then drifted from that calling toward a career in politics. When I was working on Capitol Hill as a very young man, I picked up in the Library of Congress a copy of a Free Will Baptist manual on weddings, funerals, and so forth. After I returned home I wondered, “Why did I want this?” The Lord used that to rekindle my sense of His call to ministry. I never imagined how God would merge these callings together.
TT: What is the mission of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and how does it carry out its work?
RM: We are an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. We have two basic functions. We equip churches to think through moral and ethical concerns in light of the gospel. And we speak for our churches, articulating a gospel vision of the common good to government, media, and culture. In everything, we seek to connect the agenda of the kingdom of God to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the gospel in the world.
TT: What are the biggest challenges for Christians who work in government? What are the best ways that we can pray for and support believers who work there?
RM: One challenge is the temptation to expect too much of government. Our vote for president of the United States is critically important, but our vote to receive members into our local churches is more important. The United States is important, but one day the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument will stand in ruins; every other great power has fallen. Those who are in Christ, however, are the future rulers of the cosmos. The other temptation is to be embarrassed by Jesus. It’s easy to talk about “values, faith, and principles,” but many who do so cringe to hear themselves say things such as “the Bible says” or “the blood of Jesus.” People on Capitol Hill work hard. There are many believers there, and there are some tremendously good churches evangelizing and discipling Christians there.
TT: Is it right for Christians to advocate religious liberty for people of all religions, or should we seek religious liberty only for Christian denominations? Why?
RM: Emphatically, yes, we should advocate religious liberty for all. Religious liberty for everyone is a corollary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No bureaucrat can stand on anyone’s behalf before the judgment seat of Christ, and the government cannot issue regeneration the way it issues driver’s licenses. To give the government oversight over religious beliefs and practice, even over those with whom we disagree, is to confer spiritual lordship on the state, a lordship Jesus never delegated to it. Only a losing religion needs the government to support or enforce it. The gospel is big enough to fight for itself.
TT: The gospel sounds increasingly strange to Americans as our culture becomes more hostile to Christianity. What are two ways that Christians can be effective witnesses in a society increasingly hostile to the Christian faith?
RM: We should embrace the strangeness. Every time Jesus or His Apostles articulated the gospel, the response was the same: people assumed they were insane. In fact, when people didn’t see how crazy the gospel sounded, Jesus would often clarify until they did. When people see Christianity as strange, they are starting to actually hear it. What’s passing away before us, with the slow-motion collapse of the Bible Belt, is nominal, cultural Christianity, or “normal” American religion. J. Gresham Machen identified this as liberalism, no matter its politics. Good riddance. We now have the opportunity for people to see Christianity for what it really is, not a message on how to be a good American but a freakishly strange message of a virgin birth, bloody cross, and empty tomb. That freakishness saves.
At the same time, we must engage the outside world with convictional kindness. This is more than civility — it is active kindness toward those who disagree with us. Paul wrote that we should correct our opponents with gentleness that God might grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 2:25). Such kindness isn’t weakness or passivity. It is, in fact, spiritual warfare. People don’t change when they are vaporized by superior arguments. They change when they are confronted with a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Our end goal is not proving ourselves right; our end goal is to see people reconciled to God and to one another through the gospel (2 Cor. 5).
TT: What are some ways that the church can appropriately defend a biblical view of marriage as our culture increasingly approves of “same-sex marriage”?
RM: The first thing is to learn how to articulate why marriage matters. The outside world assumes that marriage is simply a romantic partnership. For too long, the church has assumed the same thing. Marriage is much more than that. Marriage is an icon of the Christ-church union, an unveiling of the mystery of the universe itself. The church should take it far more seriously than we do. That means disciplining those who unbiblically divorce, repenting of the times our churches have joined together those biblically forbidden to be married (for instance, believers to unbelievers), and spending time in our preaching and teaching showing why marriage is a gospel issue and also a matter of human flourishing.
This will require a church that neither capitulates nor panics. Some will suggest that we could reach the next generation if only we would jettison our sexual ethic, which the next generation cannot accept. They have always told us that. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they told us the “next generation” couldn’t accept miracles. The churches that followed that line died because you can’t build Christian churches with a sub-Christian message. Will the culture find our sexual ethic strange? Yes, and not only on same-sex marriage, but on fornication, cohabitation, divorce, and pornography as well. We need to be ready to say, “Yes, and we believe even stranger things than that.”
Moreover, we should recognize that there will probably be same-sex marriage in all fifty states, probably within just a few years. That’s where the culture and the courts are moving. Even so, that’s not the end of the story. Marriage is resilient; God designed it that way. The sexual revolution cannot keep the promises it makes. We need to be waiting on the other side for a generation of those who, like the woman at the well, are thirsting for living water.
TT: What does the gospel have to say to a man who claims to be a female trapped in a male body or to a woman who claims to be a man trapped in a female body?
RM: All of us are sinners, but none of us are freaks. Jesus was never shocked or disgusted by those He encountered, and neither should we be. There are some people who feel alienated from their identities as men or as women. Of course, that would be the case in a fallen universe in which all of us are alienated in some way from how God created us. Christian congregations must teach the truth that our maleness and femaleness point us to an even deeper reality, to the unity and complementarity of Christ and the church. But we must also be loving and patient toward those who disagree with us, affirming that God loves all people, while calling all people to repentance and offering the reconciliation of the gospel to all who are living apart from God’s design. And we must be patient with those who have embraced Christ out of such a background. All of us have points of vulnerability; that’s why we need the whole body of Christ (Gal. 6:1-2).
TT: How does adoption fit into the church’s mission to work toward eliminating abortion on demand in our culture?
RM: We should recognize that the abortion culture is not a historical accident. From Eden onward, children have always been targeted for destruction. Both Moses and Jesus emerged in a context of a government-sponsored Planned Parenthood campaign from Pharaoh and Herod. The church is called to recognize the dignity of all people based not on their perceived usefulness but on the basis of the image of God. We care then for widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27). That means advocating for the lives of those imperiled by abortion, by helping to keep families together, by ministering to vulnerable mothers who need economic help or emotional support, and by seeking to provide families for children who need them.
TT: What advice do you have for a couple who is considering adoption?
RM: Every Christian is called to care for widows and orphans, but not every Christian is called to adopt. There is one thing worse than someone not adopting who should, and that’s someone adopting who shouldn’t. Ask yourself why you want to adopt. If you seek a risk-free adventure in finding your dream baby, get a cat. A child needs parents who have counted the cost and are willing to risk being hurt in order to love that child, no matter what, for life.
Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. He is a TGC Council member and he blogs at Moore to the Point and you can follow him on Twitter. He is a frequent cultural commentator, an ethicist and theologian by background, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.
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.Russell Moore Books | Go to Books Page
Boots on the Ground
By Samuel Larsen 2/01/2015
In the West, globalization has attracted much attention. One result of globalization has been the movement of ethnicities across national boundaries, bringing great opportunities to reach people groups in our own backyards. Ministries among international students and growing immigrant populations in our cities, and outreach in our workplaces, sporting activities, and community associations all offer opportunities to present Christ to a world that is literally coming to us. But reaching people groups in diaspora, essential as it is, has historically not of itself resulted in claiming their homelands and the majority of their people groups for Christ. That outcome still requires the hard work and sacrifice of “boots on the ground.” Yet if the goal of evangelizing people groups requires such presence, the question must be asked: Whose boots? Should they be those of the foreign missionary, or of the leaders of an emerging and often still “immature” indigenous church? The question is a loaded one.
An alternative approach is to train those from developing, or majority-world countries and cultures at schools in the West. On the surface, it makes sense. Prospective leaders of emerging churches can receive scholarships and a theological education on par with what Western missionaries might receive, and then return to their homelands to teach others what they have learned, adapting it as appropriate. There are, however, two great flaws in relying too heavily on such an approach. First, many who come to the West to study never return to their homelands and are lost to their national churches. Second, those who do return often find that the education they received largely addresses questions their countrymen are not asking, and their leadership and teaching styles have become so acculturated to the West that they are unable to reconnect effectively with their communities of origin. Issues of lifestyle, educational opportunities for their children, customary roles within marriage and parenting, views of time, tasks, and relationship, of what constitutes “honorable” behavior, teaching and learning styles, and more can become roadblocks to reintegration within their communities. That there are enduring biblical principles to guide believers in every culture who seek to live coram Deo (before the face of God) is not the issue. The issue is rather how those biblical principles need to be worked out in particular cultures, and who is best equipped to grapple with the task.
Here is where the global church can both learn from and offer something to churches being planted among people groups in the majority world. An approach gaining traction today is to provide opportunities for proven leaders, already recognized as such among their own people and with clearly evident potential for growth and learning, to study within their own countries of origin, primarily under teachers who also share their heart language and culture. Such study may involve their continuing to serve and apply what they are learning within their own culture as they are being taught. They are not uprooted while they study. Yet the benefits of being challenged to reexamine their own cultural assumptions are still present, as they may receive exposure to visiting teachers whose diversity helps to mitigate the imposition of any single outside culture. Scripture is examined from multiple cultural points of view, and culture is critiqued from multiple biblical perspectives as well.
In the past, the cost of such training was prohibitive, but new technologies are revolutionizing the lives of previously isolated people groups, and smartphones are becoming commonplace even in many remote villages. Ministries such as Third Millennium and Ligonier are bringing quality biblical content to pastors who have little education or pastoral training, as teaching materials are made inexpensively accessible through translation and electronic media. Wycliffe Associates now provides translators with kits that accelerate the process of translating the Bible into languages that do not yet have it. Such supporting technologies make it possible to raise the biblical literacy and theological understanding of grassroots leadership in the churches of the majority world, a priority long recognized but largely unrealized until now. The paradigm of training leaders within their own cultures, with support from schools, occasional outside scholars, and well-trained teachers from within their own country, and enhanced by new communication technologies, is at last beginning to emerge.
Gospel-centered missions is entering a new era.
The question is a loaded one.Missionaries have historically brought the gospel in a form often encumbered by their own cultural baggage. David Livingstone, the great Scottish missionary explorer in Africa in the nineteenth century, popularized the motto “Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization.” By “civilization,” he understood the best aspects of Western civilization alone as the mature fruit of Christianity’s influence. Developed over the centuries, this influence might displace the local cultures where other forces were found to be in opposition. The problem, of course, is that all human cultures are fallen, and all alike need the correcting plumb line of what God has said in His Word. Bantu cultures may at certain points be more aligned with God’s plumb line than Western cultures. Interaction between cultures can provide the “aha!” moment needed to raise our awareness of previously unconscious and unchallenged assumptions about our worldview and values.
Reformed Pastor, President, Professor: An Interview with W. Robert Godfrey
By W. Robert Godfrey 3/01/2015
Tabletalk: Your book An Unexpected Journey: Discovering Reformed Christianity describes how you discovered Reformed Christianity. Please describe why coming to believe Reformed theology was an “unexpected journey” for you.
W. Robert Godfrey: My journey to Reformed Christianity was unexpected in that I was not raised in a Reformed church and was not particularly searching for Christ. In high school, I simply began to talk to a fellow student on our long walk home together after swimming practice. We initially talked of many things, but increasingly our conversation turned to the Bible, Christ, and church. He was a member of the local Christian Reformed Church, which in time I began to attend. Hearing the Bible preached there and studying the Bible in various classes increasingly convinced me that Reformed theology is what is taught in the Bible and drew me to Christ. Decades of study since then have only served to reinforce and validate that original conviction. I really experienced the grace of God leading me to Christ. The Lord unexpectedly used the simple witness and great love of Christians in the church to begin my journey.
TT: Why was Westminster Seminary California founded?
RG: Westminster Seminary California was initially founded as a branch campus of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to provide an education particularly for students in the Western United States and to focus on a strong program of pastoral preparation. Since 1983, Westminster California has been an independent seminary serving students from many Reformed and evangelical denominations from around the world. Our faculty come from the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the United Reformed Churches, and are all committed to serious and faithful preparation of students for ministry according to the Bible and the Reformed confessions.
TT: As pastor, president, and professor, what are the qualities you most wish to see in graduating seminary students? How does Westminster California try to create and nurture those qualities in their students?
RG: My hope is that all our students graduate with a settled assurance that the Bible is the Word of God that provides all that the church needs for its faith and life, and all that the world needs to learn the message of salvation. From that assurance, my hope is that students will develop the abilities they will need for a lifetime of study so that they will continue to grow in the Word themselves and to teach others to do the same. Finally, I hope that assurance and those abilities will strengthen graduates to apply the Word faithfully and carefully at every opportunity. The great work of pastors, and the reason for the character of their seminary education, is to apply the Bible discerningly, interestingly, and helpfully to those who hear them. The seminary works hard to develop the various abilities that students need in Hebrew, Greek, exegesis, systematic theology, church history, and homiletics. That stress on abilities is always in the context of an assured confidence in the Bible and a reflection on the ways in which to apply the Word.
TT: Why is seminary education necessary today, especially when the Internet makes so many resources readily available?
RG: As you cannot learn surgery on the Internet, as you cannot have a church on the Internet, so you cannot get a good pastoral education on the Internet. The Internet is valuable for various kinds of information, but it cannot provide the kind of personal interaction and mentoring necessary for seminary education. The community of faculty and students and the community of students interacting with fellow students are both crucial for learning academic and interpersonal skills.
TT: Is seminary only for men seeking ordination as pastors? Who else should consider attending seminary, and why?
RG: While our seminary is focused vocationally on the education of future pastors, it also offers education in the Bible, theology, and church history to men and women who are interested in learning. They then can use that learning for their own personal edification, to teach in the local church, or to serve churches around the world.
TT: What are two ways that churches can better prepare young men for the pastorate?
RG: First, seminaries need the support of churches to do their work. Prayer and financial support from the churches are vitally necessary for the seminaries to do their work of pastoral preparation. We work for the future of the church, and we need the help of the churches to flourish. Second, churches need to take on seminarians as interns to give them experience and encouragement. Seminary can teach many things, but the actual experience of serving and working in a church can only happen in the church.
TT: What is the main challenge that U.S. Seminaries face today? How is Westminster California working to meet that challenge?
RG: A great challenge that seminaries face today is the increasingly poor preparation that many students receive in their undergraduate education. Too many are not prepared to read analytically, to write research papers, or to study a foreign language. Many also are far less familiar with the English Bible than was the case in earlier generations. So our seminary has introduced a series of entrance exams that determine whether a student needs to take specific remedial courses. We invest a great deal of time in the careful teaching of Greek and Hebrew because they are so foundational to everything else we do. We are excited by the emergence of a college like Reformation Bible College, which we hope will send us much better prepared students.
TT: How important is it for Christians to study church history? Why?
RG: You will not be surprised to hear me say that the study of church history is vitally and foundationally important. Church history helps us to see where we are and how we got here. It enables us to see ourselves and our churches from a dierent angle. Most of us look at the church either from our experience or from the teaching of the Bible. But church history helps us to see how our churches have changed over the centuries, shaped by their developing cultures as well as by theology. I do not want to shock you, but not everyone is motivated solely by theology.
TT: What is the most common misconception that modern protestants have about the Reformation?
RG: Probably the most common misconception of modern Protestants about the Reformation is that our modern churches are very similar to sixteenth-century churches. Especially evangelical Protestants would be very surprised at how comprehensive and detailed Reformation theology was in comparison to the theology of many churches today. They would be shocked to see the way Reformation worship was driven by theology, not by entertainment and evangelism. They would perhaps be uncomfortable with the fact that ministers were selected more for their learning than for their personality. In the Reformation, the institutional church and its public worship was the center and heart of Christian experience, and most decisions about the life of the church were made by the ministers, not the laity. Many contemporary Protestants would be very uncomfortable in Reformation churches.
TT: As a church historian, what would you say to Protestants who are starting to find other traditions such as Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox attractive?
RG: I would want to respond pastorally and sensitively, but my basic message would be: Stop! Don’t! Rome and Orthodoxy are not just alternative “traditions” or “spiritualities.” They are fundamentally different understandings of Christianity, based not on the Bible as the complete, final, and comprehensible revelation of God, but on the Bible plus their own traditions. One can be discouraged by much in contemporary Protestantism, and we need to see a real reformation in doctrine, worship, and church life in our time. But the solution is not to be found in Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. The traditions that they add to the Bible are not genuinely ancient and often stand in contradiction not only to the Bible, but also to the ancient church fathers. Their traditions add to, subtract from, and/or contradict the Bible. For example, the Bible says that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, but Rome declares that Mary also is a mediator. Elevating Mary in this way simply diminishes the centrality of Christ and almost certainly reflects a misunderstanding of His love and care for sinners. Our answers are in the Bible — as the ancient church fathers taught — not in some supposed holy tradition.
W. Robert Godfrey Books | Go to Books Page
The Vox Dei
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/01/2015
There’s something odd about the West’s shift from modernism to postmodernism. On the one hand, we would be wise to remember that the two are kin to each other. We can debate over whether they are father and son, older brother and younger, but no one can deny the family resemblance. Both worldviews share a fundamental common conviction: the Bible is not true. On the other hand, whatever the family relationship, this is not a happy and peaceful family. While both systems affirm that the Bible is not true, they diverge as to their reasons why. Modernism tells us the Bible is not true because science is true, and the Bible is not science. Postmodernism tells us that the Bible is not true because there is no truth, because nothing is true.
Because of the similarities, it is all too easy to confuse the two perspectives. Because of the differences, it is vitally important not to do so. A modernist assault on the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible is radically different from a postmodern assault. The former is a direct attack, a blitzkrieg to the very heart of our defenses. God says He made man out of the dust of the ground; the modernist tells us this is false — man evolved from lower life forms. When dealing with the modernist, we can expose his false assumptions, challenge his affirmations, provide evidence for the truthfulness of God’s Word. We can marshal archeological studies, march through propositions, all while raining cannon fire on the foundations of his strongholds.
The postmodernist, however, is far more subtle, crafty, slick. By flying the false flag of truce, offering a gentlemen’s agreement that we can all agree that none of us is right and none of us wrong, he requires that we lower our banner of truth. He turns straightforward affirmations and truth claims into weaselly, slippery internal matters of the heart. He judges a given statement not on the basis of its accuracy but its emotional potency — “How does that statement make you feel?”
Forty years ago, at least in the church, we were still facing the fading dinosaurs. Angry men denounced the accounts of miracles as primitive ignorance. Through the faithful work of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, however, the inerrancy of Scripture was maintained and championed. From a sheer numbers perspective, the “Battle for the Bible” was a rout and evangelicalism stood firm, and mainline churches and institutions bled members and lost influence.
The serpent, however, is both crafty and persistent. His current assault on the inerrancy of the Bible is more postmodern and therefore more indirect. Now we have people who try to affirm their belief in inerrancy while teaching that the Bible accommodated its message to its audience, that the Bible affirms things that we now know are not true. We have people who try to arm their belief in inerrancy while teaching that what we thought were historical narratives are actually myths. We have people who affirm inerrancy but go on to affirm that we should correct the sexism Paul imbibed from his surrounding culture.
In short, we have people who affirm both that the Bible is inerrant and that it, or at least some of it, is not to be believed. The serpent’s goal from the beginning has been to get us to doubt God’s Word. That he changes the weapons he uses doesn’t mean he’s changed his aim.
This highlights the real issue. Yes, inerrancy as a doctrine is vital. Certainly, inerrancy as an apologetic defense is critical. But ultimately, winning or losing the Battle for the Bible rests here: Do we believe God? That, above all, is what we need — to believe God. Our calling is to believe everything He has said, to believe it in our minds, in our hearts, and out through our fingertips. We are called to ever and always give our humble but exuberant amen to His every word. We are not merely to affirm the truthfulness of His Word in general but are called to submit to His Word at every particular. We are, in short, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
We seek His kingdom best as we hear His voice most. That is just what the Bible is — the vox Dei, the “voice of God.” We are not to worry about our respectability or our reputations, but rather are to be focused on the one needful thing — His direction in His Word. We seek His righteousness as we submit to His law. When it is unfashionable, we submit to His law. When it is difficult, we submit to His law. When it swims against the cultural stream, we submit to His law.
In the end, inerrancy is less about our conclusion about the Bible and more about our submission to the Bible. We do not stand above it in judgment, even when we give it a perfect grade. Instead, it stands above us in judgment. And, to His everlasting glory, it gives those in Christ a perfect grade, despite our pride, our folly, our disobedience. For we are in Him, who is the Word of God incarnate, without error, and without blemish. His Word can no more err than He, the Word, can err. We are in ourselves liars. He is in Himself true.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 109Help Me, O LORD My God
109 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
109:8 May his days be few;
may another take his office!
9 May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow!
10 May his children wander about and beg,
seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
12 Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
13 May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
15 Let them be before the LORD continually,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
Chapter 2 | The Ten Primitive Persecutions
The Ninth Persecution Under Aurelian, A.D. 274
The principal sufferers were: Felix, bishop of Rome. This prelate was advanced to the Roman see in 274. He was the first martyr to Aurelian's petulancy, being beheaded on the twenty-second of December, in the same year.
Agapetus, a young gentleman, who sold his estate, and gave the money to the poor, was seized as a Christian, tortured, and then beheaded at Praeneste, a city within a day's journey of Rome.
These are the only martyrs left upon record during this reign, as it was soon put to a stop by the emperor's being murdered by his own domestics, at Byzantium.
Aurelian was succeeded by Tacitus, who was followed by Probus, as the latter was by Carus: this emperor being killed by a thunder storm, his sons, Carnious and Numerian, succeeded him, and during all these reigns the Church had peace.
Diocletian mounted the imperial throne, A.D. 284; at first he showed great favor to the Christians. In the year 286, he associated Maximian with him in the empire; and some Christians were put to death before any general persecution broke out. Among these were Felician and Primus, two brothers.
Marcus and Marcellianus were twins, natives of Rome, and of noble descent. Their parents were heathens, but the tutors, to whom the education of the children was intrusted, brought them up as Christians. Their constancy at length subdued those who wished them to become pagans, and their parents and whole family became converts to a faith they had before reprobated. They were martyred by being tied to posts, and having their feet pierced with nails. After remaining in this situation for a day and a night, their sufferings were put an end to by thrusting lances through their bodies.
Zoe, the wife of the jailer, who had the care of the before-mentioned martyrs, was also converted by them, and hung upon a tree, with a fire of straw lighted under her. When her body was taken down, it was thrown into a river, with a large stone tied to it, in order to sink it.
In the year of Christ 286, a most remarkable affair occurred; a legion of soldiers, consisting of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men, (666) contained none but Christians. This legion was called the Theban Legion, because the men had been raised in Thebias: they were quartered in the east until the emperor Maximian ordered them to march to Gaul, to assist him against the rebels of Burgundy. They passed the Alps into Gaul, under the command of Mauritius, Candidus, and Exupernis, their worthy commanders, and at length joined the emperor. Maximian, about this time, ordered a general sacrifice, at which the whole army was to assist; and likewise he commanded that they should take the oath of allegiance and swear, at the saame time, to assist in the extirpation of Christianity in Gaul. Alarmed at these orders, each individual of the Theban Legion absolutely refused either to sacrifice or take the oaths prescribed. This so greatly enraged Maximian, that he ordered the legion to be decimated, that is, every tenth man to be selected from the rest, and put to the sword. This bloody order having been put in execution, those who remained alive were still inflexible, when a second decimation took place, and every tenth man of those living was put to death. This second severity made no more impression than the first had done; the soldiers preserved their fortitude and their principles, but by the advice of their officers they drew up a loyal remonstrance to the emperor. This, it might have been presumed, would have softened the emperor, but it had a contrary effect: for, enraged at their perseverance and unanimity, he commanded that the whole legion should be put to death, which was accordingly executed by the other troops, who cut them to pieces with their swords, September 22, 286.
Alban, from whom St. Alban's, in Hertfordshire, received its name, was the first British martyr. Great Britain had received the Gospel of Christ from Lucius, the first Christian king, but did not suffer from the rage of persecution for many years after. He was originally a pagan, but converted by a Christian ecclesiastic, named Amphibalus, whom he sheltered on account of his religion. The enemies of Amphibalus, having intelligence of the place where he was secreted, came to the house of Alban; in order to facilitate his escape, when the soldiers came, he offered himself up as the person they were seeking for. The deceit being detected, the governor ordered him to be scourged, and then he was sentenced to be beheaded, June 22, A.D. 287.
The venerable Bede assures us, that, upon this occasion, the executioner suddenly became a convert to Christianity, and entreated permission to die for Alban, or with him. Obtaining the latter request, they were beheaded by a soldier, who voluntarily undertook the task of executioner. This happened on the twenty-second of June, A.D. 287, at Verulam, now St. Alban's, in Hertfordshire, where a magnificent church was erected to his memory about the time of Constantine the Great. The edifice, being destroyed in the Saxon wars, was rebuilt by Offa, king of Mercia, and a monastery erected adjoining to it, some remains of which are still visible, and the church is a noble Gothic structure.
Faith, a Christian female, of Acquitain, in France, was ordered to be broiled upon a gridiron, and then beheaded; A.D. 287.
Quintin was a Christian, and a native of Rome, but determined to attempt the propagation of the Gospel in Gaul, with one Lucian, they preached together in Amiens; after which Lucian went to Beaumaris, where he was martyred. Quintin remained in Picardy, and was very zealous in his ministry. Being seized upon as a Christian, he was stretched with pullies until his joints were dislocated; his body was then torn with wire scourges, and boiling oil and pitch poured on his naked flesh; lighted torches were applied to his sides and armpits; and after he had been thus tortured, he was remanded back to prison, and died of the barbarities he had suffered, October 31, A.D. 287. His body was sunk in the Somme.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
(Oct 9) Bob Gass
‘He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.’
(Pr 13:20) 20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ESV
The story’s told of a farmer who was being pestered every day by a flock of crows in his cornfield. Deciding he’d had enough, he loaded his shotgun and crawled unseen along the fencerow, determined to blow those pesky crows out of the sky. Turns out this farmer had a very sociable parrot that indiscriminately made friends with everybody, and seeing the flock of crows he flew over and joined them in an effort to be friendly. The farmer saw the crows but didn’t see his parrot, so he took careful aim, fired, then jumped up and ran over to see how many crows he had shot. Lo and behold, there was his parrot lying on the ground with a broken wing and a chipped beak, but still alive. The farmer tenderly picked him up and brought him home, where his children ran out to meet him. Seeing the injured parrot, they tearfully asked, ‘Daddy, what happened?’ But before he could answer, the parrot spoke up: ‘That’s what you get for hanging out with the wrong crowd.’ You can never be at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, if you’re with the wrong crowd. And as a parent, you need to teach this to your children. Monitor their Internet use, and warn them about predators who deliberately prowl online looking for ‘friends’. Web-based horror stories of children being hurt and led astray are multiplying daily. If this sounds strong and urgent - that’s because it is!
2 Thess 2
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Lewis Cass was born this day, October 9, 1782. He fought in the War of 1812, and later became the Governor of the Michigan Territory. Cass made treaties with the Indians, organized townships and built roads. He was a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State under President Buchanan and the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1848. Lewis Cass stated: “The fate of republican government is indissolubly bound up with the fate of the Christian religion, and a people who reject its holy faith will find themselves the slaves of their own evil passions and of arbitrary power.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
So far this “pray without ceasing” from being absurd because extravagant that every man’s life is in some sense a continual state of prayer. For what is his life’s prayer but its ruling passion? All energies, ambitions and passions are but expressions of a standing nisus in life, of a hunger, a draft, a practical demand upon the future, upon the unattained and the unseen. Every life is a draft upon the unseen. If you are not praying towards God you are towards something else. You pray as your face is set—towards Jerusalem or Babylon. The very egotism of craving life is prayer. The great difference is the object of it. To whom, for what, do we pray? The man whose passion is habitualy set upon pleasure, knowledge, wealth, honour, or power is in a state of prayer to these things or for them. He prays without ceasing. These are his real gods, on whom he waits day and night. He may from time to time go on his knees in church, and use words of Christian address and petition. He may even feel a momentary unction in so doing. But it is a flicker; the other devotion is his steady flame. His real God is the ruling passion and steady pursuit of his life taken as a whole. He certainly does not pray in the name of Christ. And what he worships in spirit and in truth is another God than he addresses at religious times. He prays to an unknown God for a selfish boon. Still, in a sense, he prays. The set and drift of his nature prays. It is the prayer of instinct, not of faith. It is prayer that needs total conversion. But he cannot stop praying either to God or to God’s rival—to self, society, world, flesh, or even devil. Every life that is not totally inert in praying either to God or God’s adversary.
What do we really mean, whom do we mean, when we say, “My God”? In what sense mine? May our God not be but an idol we exploit, and in due course our doom?
There is a fearful and wonderful passage in Kierkegaard’s Entweder-Oder which, if we transfer it to this connection, stirs thoughts deeper than its own tragedy. The seduced, heart-broken, writes to the seducer.
“John! I do not say my John. That I now see you never were. I am heavily punished for ever letting such an idea be my joy. Yet—yet, mine you are—my seducer, my deceiver, my enemy, my murderer, the spring of my calamity, the grave of my joy, the abyss of my misery. I call you mine, and I am yours—your curse for ever. Oh, do not think I will slay you and put a dagger into you. But flee where you will, I am yours, to the earth’s end yours. Love a hundred others but I am yours. I am yours in your last hour, I am yours, yours, yours—your curse.”
Beware lest the whole trend of the soul fix on a diety that turns a doom. There is the prayer which makes God our judgment as well as one which makes Him our joy.
Prayer is the nature of our hell as well as our heaven.
Our hell is ceaseless, passionate, fruitless, hopeless, gnawing prayer. It is the heart churning, churning grinding itself out in misery. It is life’s passion and struggle surging back on itself like a barren, salt, corroding sea. It is the heart’s blood rising like a fountain only to fall back on us in red rain. It is prayer which we cannot stop, addressed to nothing, and obtaining nothing. It calls into space and night. Or it is addressed to self, and it aggravates the wearing action of self on self. Our double being revolves on itself, like two millstones with nothing to grind.
And prayer is our heaven. It goes home to God, and attains there, and rests there. We are “in Christ,” whose whole existence is prayer, who is wholly prsz tsn Qesn for us. He is there to extinguish our hell and make our heaven—far more to quench our wrath and our seething than God’s.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
When wealth is lost, nothing is lost;
when health is lost, something is lost;
when character is lost, all is lost.
--- Billy Graham
Sooner or later, man has always had to decide
whether he worships his own power
or the power of God.
--- Arnold J. Toynbee
Father, I abandon myself into your hands, do with me what you will. For whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all, let only your will be done in me, as in all your creatures.
--- Charles de Foucauld
Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.
--- John Bunyan
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Hereupon some of the deserters, having no other way, leaped down from the wall immediately, while others of them went out of the city with stones, as if they would fight them; but thereupon they fled away to the Romans. But here a worse fate accompanied these than what they had found within the city; and they met with a quicker despatch from the too great abundance they had among the Romans, than they could have done from the famine among the Jews; for when they came first to the Romans, they were puffed up by the famine, and swelled like men in a dropsy; after which they all on the sudden overfilled those bodies that were before empty, and so burst asunder, excepting such only as were skillful enough to restrain their appetites, and by degrees took in their food into bodies unaccustomed thereto. Yet did another plague seize upon those that were thus preserved; for there was found among the Syrian deserters a certain person who was caught gathering pieces of gold out of the excrements of the Jews' bellies; for the deserters used to swallow such pieces of gold, as we told you before, when they came out, and for these did the seditious search them all; for there was a great quantity of gold in the city, insomuch that as much was now sold [in the Roman camp] for twelve Attic [drams], as was sold before for twenty-five. But when this contrivance was discovered in one instance, the fame of it filled their several camps, that the deserters came to them full of gold. So the multitude of the Arabians, with the Syrians, cut up those that came as supplicants, and searched their bellies. Nor does it seem to me that any misery befell the Jews that was more terrible than this, since in one night's time about two thousand of these deserters were thus dissected.
5. When Titus came to the knowledge of this wicked practice, he had like to have surrounded those that had been guilty of it with his horse, and have shot them dead; and he had done it, had not their number been so very great, and those that were liable to this punishment would have been manifold more than those whom they had slain. However, he called together the commanders of the auxiliary troops he had with him, as well as the commanders of the Roman legions, [for some of his own soldiers had been also guilty herein, as he had been informed,] and had great indignation against both sorts of them, and said to them, "What! have any of my own soldiers done such things as this out of the uncertain hope of gain, without regarding their own weapons, which are made of silver and gold? Moreover, do the Arabians and Syrians now first of all begin to govern themselves as they please, and to indulge their appetites in a foreign war, and then, out of their barbarity in murdering men, and out of their hatred to the Jews, get it ascribed to the Romans?" for this infamous practice was said to be spread among some of his own soldiers also. Titus then threatened that he would put such men to death, if any of them were discovered to be so insolent as to do so again; moreover, he gave it in charge to the legions, that they should make a search after such as were suspected, and should bring them to him. But it appeared that the love of money was too hard for all their dread of punishment, and a vehement desire of gain is natural to men, and no passion is so venturesome as covetousness; otherwise such passions have certain bounds, and are subordinate to fear. But in reality it was God who condemned the whole nation, and turned every course that was taken for their preservation to their destruction. This, therefore, which was forbidden by Caesar under such a threatening, was ventured upon privately against the deserters, and these barbarians would go out still, and meet those that ran away before any saw them, and looking about them to see that no Roman spied them, they dissected them, and pulled this polluted money out of their bowels; which money was still found in a few of them, while yet a great many were destroyed by the bare hope there was of thus getting by them, which miserable treatment made many that were deserting to return back again into the city.
6. But as for John, when he could no longer plunder the people, he betook himself to sacrilege, and melted down many of the sacred utensils, which had been given to the temple; as also many of those vessels which were necessary for such as ministered about holy things, the caldrons, the dishes, and the tables; nay, he did not abstain from those pouring vessels that were sent them by Augustus and his wife; for the Roman emperors did ever both honor and adorn this temple; whereas this man, who was a Jew, seized upon what were the donations of foreigners, and said to those that were with him, that it was proper for them to use Divine things, while they were fighting for the Divinity, without fear, and that such whose warfare is for the temple should live of the temple; on which account he emptied the vessels of that sacred wine and oil, which the priests kept to be poured on the burnt-offerings, and which lay in the inner court of the temple, and distributed it among the multitude, who, in their anointing themselves and drinking, used [each of them] above an hin of them. And here I cannot but speak my mind, and what the concern I am under dictates to me, and it is this: I suppose, that had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against these villains, that the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder as the country of Sodom 20 perished by, for it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical than were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed.
7. And, indeed, why do I relate these particular calamities? while Manneus, the son of Lazarus, came running to Titus at this very time, and told him that there had been carried out through that one gate, which was intrusted to his care, no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies, in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus, [Nisan,] when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus [Tamuz]. This was itself a prodigious multitude; and though this man was not himself set as a governor at that gate, yet was he appointed to pay the public stipend for carrying these bodies out, and so was obliged of necessity to number them, while the rest were buried by their relations; though all their burial was but this, to bring them away, and cast them out of the city. After this man there ran away to Titus many of the eminent citizens, and told him the entire number of the poor that were dead, and that no fewer than six hundred thousand were thrown out at the gates, though still the number of the rest could not be discovered; and they told him further, that when they were no longer able to carry out the dead bodies of the poor, they laid their corpses on heaps in very large houses, and shut them up therein; as also that a medimnus of wheat was sold for a talent; and that when, a while afterward, it was not possible to gather herbs, by reason the city was all walled about, some persons were driven to that terrible distress as to search the common sewers and old dunghills of cattle, and to eat the dung which they got there; and what they of old could not endure so much as to see they now used for food. When the Romans barely heard all this, they commiserated their case; while the seditious, who saw it also, did not repent, but suffered the same distress to come upon themselves; for they were blinded by that fate which was already coming upon the city, and upon themselves also.
by D.H. Stern
are lips that burn [with friendship] over a hating heart.
24 He who hates may hide it with his speech;
but inside, he harbors deceit.
25 He may speak pleasantly, but don’t trust him;
for seven abominations are in his heart.
26 His hatred may be concealed by deceit,
but his wickedness will be revealed in the assembly.
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
Pull yourself together
Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. --- Romans 6:13–22.
I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot atone for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot make right what is wrong, pure what is impure, holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. Have I faith in what Jesus Christ has done? He has made a perfect Atonement, am I in the habit of constantly realizing it? The great need is not to do things, but to believe things. The Redemption of Christ is not an experience, it is the great act of God which He has performed through Christ, and I have to build my faith upon it. If I construct my faith on my experience, I produce that most unscriptural type, an isolated life, my eyes fixed on my own whiteness. Beware of the piety that has no presupposition in the Atonement of the Lord. It is of no use for anything but a sequestered life; it is useless to God and a nuisance to man. Measure every type of experience by our Lord Himself. We cannot do anything pleasing to God unless we deliberately build on the presupposition of the Atonement.
The Atonement of Jesus has to work out in practical, unobtrusive ways in my life. Every time I obey, absolute Deity is on my side, so that the grace of God and natural obedience coincide. Obedience means that I have banked everything on the Atonement, and my obedience is met immediately by the delight of the supernatural grace of God.
Beware of the piety that denies the natural life, it is a fraud. Continually bring yourself to the bar of the Atonement—where is the discernment of the Atonement in this thing, and in that?
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Summer is here.
Once more the house has its
Spray of martins, Proust's fountain
Of small birds, whose light shadows
Come and go in the sunshine
Of the lawn as thoughts do
In the mind. Watching them fly
Is my business, not as a man vowed
To science, who counts their returns
To the rafters, or sifts their droppings
For facts, recording the wave-length
Of their screaming; my method is so
To have them about myself
Through the hours of this brief
Season and to fill with their
Movement, that it is I they build
In and bring up their young
To return to after the bitter
Migrations, knowing the site
Inviolate through its outward changes.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The third option contains elements of the second, yet is significantly different. Unable to sever thought from practice, as the person utilizing the previous option of dualism is able to do, the individual refuses to sacrifice his body for his mind. He chooses to reject his own tradition completely, since he cannot separate the system of moral and religious rituals from theoretical claims.
Individuals using options two and three agree that the truths of reason are in complete disharmony with the cognitive principles of the tradition. Neither of them allows tradition to define truth. Put in religious terms, they both agree that knowledge-claims cannot be justified by an exclusive appeal to revelation, but must be scrutinized to determine whether they are agreeable to human reason.
A mind that is loyal to the claims of reason may find the claims of revelation degrading and insulting. The claim that divine thoughts are not human thoughts becomes, for this individual, not a justification for submission to revelation but a reason for its rejection. He finds himself incapable of accepting a divine truth which is false by human standards. Appeal to authority does not convince a mind that views loyalty to tradition as an obstacle to the growth of understanding. The independent human mind then becomes the judge as to what is to count as truth.
The first option, the way of insulation, rejected knowledge which is unconfirmed by tradition. The second option rejected the truth-claims of tradition but accepted its practical demands. The third option rejects both the cognitive and the practical on the grounds that it is impossible to sever the private, theoretical self from the public, active self. A man choosing the third option cannot subscribe to a tradition—even though that tradition only affects actions—if in order to justify those actions, he must posit specific theological claims (e.g., a god of history, revelation) which he knows to be false.
However the unified and integrated person may not have to reject tradition. There can be another way to resolve the conflict of tradition and reason.
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” --- Luke 1:46–47.
Mary’s Magnificat was a song of faith. Spurgeon's Sermons on Old Testament Women, Vol. 1: (C. H. Spurgeon Sermon Series) Have you ever realized the difficulties under which this hymn was composed and sung? If not, permit me to remind you that the wondrous birth, which had been promised to her, had not then been accomplished, and in her mind there must have been a consciousness that many would doubt her statements. The visitation of the angel and all its consequences would seem to be ridiculous and even impossible to many to whom she might venture to mention the circumstances—no, more than that—would subject her to many cruel insinuations, which would scandalize her character. That which conferred on her the highest honor that ever fell to woman would, in the judgment of many, bring on her the greatest possible dishonor. We know what suspicions even Joseph had and that it was only a revelation from God that could remove them. Mary must have been sorely troubled if she had been influenced by her natural feelings and had been swayed by external circumstances.
It was only her wondrous faith—in some respects, her matchless faith, for no other woman had ever had such a blessed trial of faith as she had—only her matchless faith that she would be the mother of the holy child, Jesus, sustained her. Even before there was an accomplishment of the things that were told her by the angel, she could sing, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Unbelief would have said, “Wait.” Fear would have said, “Be silent.” But faith could not wait and could not be silent; she must sing, and sing she did most sweetly. I call your attention to this fact because when we ourselves have a song to sing to the Lord, we may perhaps be tempted not to sing it until our hopes are accomplished and our faith has been exchanged for fact. Do not wait, for your song will spoil if you do. There is another song to be sung for the accomplished mercy, but there is a song to be sung now for the promised mercy; therefore, do not let the present hour lose the song that is due to it.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
The modern Baptist movement began in the early 1600s; and though its leaders suffered imprisonment and death at the hands of British officials, they persevered. Among them was Benjamin Keach, born in 1640. He was converted to Christ at 18 and began pastoring ten years later. He served the Horsley Down Baptist Church in Southwark near London where he was described by associates as “earnest, self-educated, intensely evangelical, his outlook narrowed to the denomination and almost to the congregation, but wielding great influence within those limits.”
Keach loved both children and singing—and that’s what got him into trouble. Wanting to explain Baptist beliefs to the young, he wrote a primer for them. The children loved it. The king didn’t. British constables arrested him, and on October 9, 1664 he stood a prisoner in the court of Aylesbury while the Chief Justice roared: Benjamin Keach, you are convicted of writing and publishing a seditious and scandalous book; you shall go to prison for a fortnight and the next Saturday stand in a pillory for two hours from eleven o’clock until one with a paper upon your head with this inscription: “For writing and printing and publishing a schismatical book entitled, The Child Instructor or A New and Easy Primer,” and the next Thursday to stand in the same manner and for that same time in the market at Winslow, and there your book shall openly be burnt before your face by the common hangman in disgrace of you and your doctrine, and you shall forfeit to the king’s majesty the sum of twenty pounds.
Keach actually spent two months in prison and paid one hundred pounds, but he didn’t learn his lesson. Some time afterward he got into trouble again, this time for publishing a hymnal. English-speaking churches had previously sung only the Psalms of David, usually to ponderous tunes. In 1691 Keach published Spiritual Melody, a book of 300 lively hymns. Such a radical innovation upset his congregation, and he watched with alarm as many members left. But Keach nevertheless spent the rest of his life in the seditious and scandalous pursuits of teaching children and singing hymns.
Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the Morning. Write down copies. …
--- Deuteronomy 6:6-8.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 9
“Able to keep you from falling.” --- Jude 24.
In some sense the path to heaven is very safe, but in other respects there is no road so dangerous. It is beset with difficulties. One false step (and how easy it is to take that if grace be absent), and down we go. What a slippery path is that which some of us have to tread! How many times have we to exclaim with the Psalmist, “My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped.” If we were strong, sure-footed mountaineers, this would not matter so much; but in ourselves, how weak we are! In the best roads we soon falter, in the smoothest paths we quickly stumble. These feeble knees of ours can scarcely support our tottering weight. A straw may throw us, and a pebble can wound us; we are mere children tremblingly taking our first steps in the walk of faith, our heavenly Father holds us by the arms or we should soon be down. Oh, if we are kept from falling, how must we bless the patient power which watches over us day by day! Think, how prone we are to sin, how apt to choose danger, how strong our tendency to cast ourselves down, and these reflections will make us sing more sweetly than we have ever done, “Glory be to him, who is able to keep us from falling.” We have many foes who try to push us down. The road is rough and we are weak, but in addition to this, enemies lurk in ambush, who rush out when we least expect them, and labour to trip us up, or hurl us down the nearest precipice. Only an Almighty arm can preserve us from these unseen foes, who are seeking to destroy us. Such an arm is engaged for our defence. He is faithful that hath promised, and he is able to keep us from falling, so that with a deep sense of our utter weakness, we may cherish a firm belief in our perfect safety, and say, with joyful confidence,
“Against me earth and hell combine,
But on my side is power divine;
Jesus is all, and he is mine!”
Evening - October 9
“But he answered her not a word.” --- Matthew 15:23.
Genuine seekers who as yet have not obtained the blessing, may take comfort from the story before us. The Saviour did not at once bestow the blessing, even though the woman had great faith in him. He intended to give it, but he waited awhile. “He answered her not a word.” Were not her prayers good? Never better in the world. Was not her case needy? Sorrowfully needy. Did she not feel her need sufficiently? She felt it overwhelmingly. Was she not earnest enough? She was intensely so. Had she no faith? She had such a high degree of it that even Jesus wondered, and said, “O woman, great is thy faith.” See then, although it is true that faith brings peace, yet it does not always bring it instantaneously. There may be certain reasons calling for the trial of faith, rather than the reward of faith. Genuine faith may be in the soul like a hidden seed, but as yet it may not have budded and blossomed into joy and peace. A painful silence from the Saviour is the grievous trial of many a seeking soul, but heavier still is the affliction of a harsh cutting reply such as this, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Many in waiting upon the Lord find immediate delight, but this is not the case with all. Some, like the jailer, are in a moment turned from darkness to light, but others are plants of slower growth. A deeper sense of sin may be given to you instead of a sense of pardon, and in such a case you will have need of patience to bear the heavy blow. Ah! poor heart, though Christ beat and bruise thee, or even slay thee, trust him; though he should give thee an angry word, believe in the love of his heart. Do not, I beseech thee, give up seeking or trusting my Master, because thou hast not yet obtained the conscious joy which thou longest for. Cast thyself on him, and perseveringly depend even where thou canst not rejoicingly hope.
YE CHRISTIAN HERALDS
Bourne H. Draper, 1775–1843
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
Many of us are often guilty of taking our pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders for granted. Seldom do we take time to really know them as persons or to let them know how much we appreciate their ministries.
Where would our world be today had there never been any missionaries and ministers of the Gospel? Wherever the Gospel has been preached, churches, schools, hospitals, social improvements, and advances in civilization have followed. Even in our own local communities it is often the rescue missions and other Christian organizations that are doing the most effective work in meeting the total needs of people. How important it is, then, that we as God’s children support these leaders and organizations with our prayers and financial gifts.
“Ye Christian Heralds” is taken from a seven-verse poem titled “Farewell to Missionaries,” which first appeared in an English newspaper in about 1803. Two years later it was reprinted in a hymnal with the title “On the Departure of the Missionaries.” One of the poem’s omitted verses not found in our hymnals is of interest:
Set up thy throne where Satan reigns, on Africa shores, on India’s plains;
On wilds and continents unknown, and be the universe thine own.
The author of this text, Bourne Draper, was a Baptist minister who served most of his life in the Baptist church in Southampton, England. Although he authored a number of other works, Draper is best known today for this one hymn written as a young man while he was preparing for the Christian ministry.
Ye Christian heralds, go proclaim salvation through Emmanuel’s name;
to distant climes the tidings bear, and plant the Rose of Sharon there.
God shield you with a wall of fire; with holy zeal your hearts inspire;
bid raging winds their fury cease, and calm the tempests into peace.
And when our labors all are o’er, then we shall meet to part no more;
meet with the ransomed throng to fall, and crown our Savior Lord of all!
For Today: Psalm 96; Isaiah 6:8; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:13–15; 1 Corinthians 3:9
Determine to read in the near future a biography of some great missionary statesman. Also write a personal letter to one of your church missionaries. Then let your pastor know how much you appreciate his ministry. Reflect again on this hymn ---
DISCOURSE VIII - ON GOD’S KNOWLEDGE
1. It is an unworthy conceit of God in any to exclude him from the knowledge of these things.
(1.) It will be a strange contracting of him to allow him no greater a knowledge than we have ourselves. Contingencies are known to us when they come into act, and pass from futurit to reality; and when they are present to us, we can order our airs accordingly; shall we allow God no greater a measure of knowledge than we have, and make him as blind as ourselves, not to see things of that nature before they come to pass? Shall God know them no more? Shall we imagine God knows no otherwise than we know? and that he doth, like us, stand gazing with admiration at events? man can conjecture many things; is it fit to ascribe the same uncertainty to God, as though he, as well as we, could have no assurance till the issue appear in the view of all? If God doth not certainly foreknow them, he doth but conjecture them; but a conjectural knowledge is by no means to be fastened on God; for that is not knowledge, but guess, and destroys a Deity by making him subject to mistake; for he that only guesseth, may guess wrong; so that this is to make God like ourselves, and strip him of an universally acknowledged perfection of omniscience. A conjectural knowledge, saith one, is as unworthy of God as the creature is unworthy of omniscience. It is certain man hath a liberty to act many things this or that way as he pleases; to walk to this or that quarter, to speak or not to speak; to do this or that thing, or not to do it; which way a man will certainly determine himself, is unknown before to any creature, yea, often at the present to himself, for he may be in suspense; but shall we imagine this future determination of himself is concealed from God?
Those that deny God’s foreknowledge in such cases, must either say, that God hath an opinion that a man will resolve rather this way than that; but then if a man by his liberty determine himself contrary to the opinion of God, is not God then deceived? and what rational creature can own him for a God that can be deceived in anything? or else they must say that God is at uncertainty, and sustends his opinion without determining it any way; then he cannot now free acts till they are done; he would then depend upon the creature for his information; his knowledge would be every instant increased, as things, he knew not before, came into act; and since there are every minute an innumerable multitude of various imaginations in the minds of men, there would be every minute an accession of new knowledge to God which he had not before; besides, this knowledge would be mutable according to the wavering and weathercock resolutions of men, one while standing to this point, another while to that, if he depended upon the creature’s determination for his knowledge.
(2.) If the free acts of men were unknown before to God, no man can see how there can be any government of the world by him. Such contingencies may happen, and such resolves of men’s free-wills unknown to God, as may perplex his affairs, and put him upon new counsels and methods for attaining those ends which he settled at the first creation of things; if things happen which God knows not of before, this must be the consequence; where there is no foresight, there is no providence; things may happen so sudden, if God be ignorant of them, that they may give a check to his intentions and scheme of government, and put him upon changing the whole model of it. How often doth a small intervening circumstance, unforeseen by man, dash in pieces a long meditated and well-formed design! To govern necessary causes, as sun and stars, whose effects are natural and constant in themselves, is easy to be imagined; but how to govern the world that consists of so many men of free-will, able to determine themselves to this or that, and which have no constancy in themselves, as the sun and stars have, cannot be imagined; unless we will allow in God as great a certainty of foreknowledge of the designs and actions of men, as there is inconstancy in their resolves. God must be altering the methods of his government every day, every hour, every minute, according to the determinations of men, which are so various and changeable in the whole compass of the world in the space of one minute; he must wait to see what the counsels of men will be, before he could settle his own methods of government; and so must govern the world according to their mutability, and not according to any certainty in himself. But his counsel is stable in the midst of multitudes of free devices in the heart of man (Prov. 19:21), and knowing them all before, orders them to be subservient to his own stable counsel. If he cannot know what to-morrow will bring forth in the mind of a man, how can he certainly settle his own determination of governing him? His decrees and resolves must be temporal, and arise pro re nata, and he must alway be in counsel what he should do upon every change of men’s minds. This is an unworthy conceit of the infinite majesty of heaven, to make his government depend upon the resolves of men, rather than their resolves upon the design of God. ( God's sovereignty )
2. It is therefore certain, that God doth foreknow the free and voluntary acts of man. How could he else order his people to ask of him things to come, in order to their deliverance, such things as depended upon the will of man, if he foreknew not the motions of their will (Isa. 45:11)?
(Is 45:11) 11 Thus says the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
“Ask me of things to come;
will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? ESV
(1.) Actions good or indifferent depending upon the liberty of man’s will as much as any whatsoever. Several of these he hath foretold; not only a person to build up Jerusalem was predicted by him, but the name of that person, Cyrus (Isa. 44:28). What is more contingent, or is more the effect of the liberty of man’s will, than the names of their children? Was not the destruction of the Babylonish empire foretold, which Cyrus undertook, not by any compulsion, but by a free inclination and resolve of his own will? And was not the dismission of the Jews into their own country a voluntary act in that conqueror? If you consider the liberty of man’s will, might not Cyrus as well have continued their yoke, as have struck off their chains, and kept them captive, as well as dismissed them? Had it not been for his own interest, rather to have strengthened the fetters of so turbulent a people, who being tenacious of their religion and laws different from that professed by the whole world, were like to make disturbances more when they were linked in a body in their own country, than when they were transplanted and scattered into the several parts of his empire? It was in the power of Cyrus (take him as a man) to choose one or the other; his interest invited him to continue their captivity, rather than grant their deliverance; yet God knew that he would willingly do this rather than the other; he knew this which depended upon the will of Cyrus; and why may not an infinite God foreknow the free acts of all men, as well as of one? If the liberty of Cyrus’ will was no hindrance to God’s certain and infallible foreknowledge of it, how can the contingency of any other thing be a hindrance to him? for there is the same reason of one and all; and his government extends to every village, every family, every person, as well as to kingdoms and nations. So God foretold, by his prophet, not only the destruction of Jeroboam’s altar, but the name of the person that should be the instrument of it (1 Kings 13:2), and this about 300 years before Josiah’s birth. It is a wonder that none of the pious kings of Judah, in detestation of idolatry, and hopes to recover again the kingdom of Israel, had in all that space named one of their sons by that name of Josiah, in hopes that that prophecy should be accomplished by him; that Manasseh only should do this, who was the greatest imitator of Jeroboam’s idolatry among all the Jewish kings, and indeed went beyond them; and had no mind to destroy in another kingdom what he propagated in his own. What is freer than the imposition of a name? yet this he foreknew, and this Josiah was Manasseh’s son (2 Kings 21:26). Was there anything more voluntary than for Pharaoh to honor the butler by restoring him to his place, and punish the baker by hanging him on a gibbet? yet this was foretold (Gen. 40:8). And were not all the voluntary acts of men, which were the means of Joseph’s advancement, foreknown by God, as well as his exaltation, which was the end he aimed at by those means? Many of these may be reckoned up. Can all the free acts of man surmount the infinite capacity of the Divine understanding? If God singles out one voluntary action in man as contingent as any, and lying among a vast number of other designs and resolutions, both antecedent and subsequent, why should he not know the whole mass of men’s thoughts and actions, and pierce into all that the liberty of man’s will can effect? why should he not know every grain, as well as one that lies in the midst of many of the same kind? And since the Scripture gives so large an account of contingents, predicted by God, no man can certainly prove that anything is unforeknown to him. It is as reasonable to think he knows every contingent, as that he knows some that he as much hid from the eye of any creature, since there is no more difficulty to an infinite understanding to know all, than to know some. Indeed, if we deny God’s foreknowledge of the voluntary actions of men, we must strike ourselves off from the belief of scripture predictions that yet remain unaccomplished, and will be brought about by the voluntary engagements of men, as the ruin of antichrist, &c. If God foreknows not the secret motions of man’s will, how can he foretel them? if we strip him of this perfection of prescience, why should we believe a word of scripture predictions? all the credit of the word of God is torn up by the roots. If God were uncertain of such events, how can we reconcile God’s declaration of them to his truth; and his demanding our belief of them to his goodness? Were it good and righteous in God to urge us to the belief of that he were uncertain of himself, how could he be true in predicting things he were not sure of? or good, in requiring credit to be given to that which might be false? This would necessarily follow, if God did not foreknow the motions of men’s wills, whereby many of his predictions were fulfilled, and some remain yet to be accomplished.
(2.) God foreknows the voluntary sinful motions of men’s wills. First, God had foretold several of them. Were not all the minute sinful circumstances about the death of our blessed Redeemer, as the piercing him, giving him gall to drink, foretold, as well as the not breaking his bones, and parting his garments? What were those but the free actions of men, which they did willingly without any constraint? and those foretold by David, Isaiah, and other prophets; some above a thousand, some eight hundred, and some more, some fewer years before they came to pass; and the events punctually answered the prophesies. Many sinful acts of men, which depended upon their free will, have been foretold. The Egyptians’ voluntary oppressing Israel (Gen. 15:13); Pharaoh’s hardening his heart against the voice of Moses (Exod. 3:19); that Isaiah’s message would be in vain to the people (Isa. 6:9); that the Israelites would be rebellious after Moses’ death, and turn idolaters (Deut. 31:16); Judas’ betraying of our Saviour, a voluntary action (John 6. ult.); he was not force to do what he did, for he had some kind of repentance for it; and not violence, but voluntariness falls under repentance. Second, His truth had depended upon this foresight. Let us consider that in Gen. 15:16, “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again;” that is, the posterity of Abraham shall come into Canaan, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. God makes a promise to Abraham, of giving his posterity the land of Canaan, not presently, but in the fourth generation; if the truth of God be infallible in the performance of his promise, his understanding is as infallible in the foresight of the Amorites’ sin; the fullness of their iniquity was to precede the Israelites’ possession. Did the truth of God depend upon an uncertainty? did he make the promise hand over head (as we say)? How could he, with any wisdom and truth, assure Israel of the possession of the land in the fourth generation, if he had not been sure that the Amorites would fill up the measure of their iniquities by that time? If Abraham had been a Socinian, to deny God’s knowledge of the free acts of men, had he not a fine excuse for unbelief? What would his reply have been to God? Alas, Lord, this is not a promise to be relied upon, the Amorites’ iniquity depends upon the acts of their free will, and such thou canst have no knowledge of; thou canst see no more than a likelihood of their iniquity being full, and therefore there is but a likelihood of thy performing thy promise, and not a certainty!
Would not this be judged not only, a saucy, but a blasphemous answer? And apon these principles the truth of the most faithful God had been dashed to uncertainty and a peradventure. Third, God provided a remedy for man’s sin, and therefore foresaw the entrance of it into the world by the fall of Adam. He had a decree before the foundation of the world, to manifest his wisdom in the gospel by Jesus Christ, an “eternal purpose in Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:11), and a decree of election past before the foundation of the world;—a separation of some to redemption, and forgiveness of sin in the blood of Christ, in whom they were from eternity chosen, as well as in time accepted in Christ (Eph. 1:4, 6, 7), which is called a “purpose in himself” (ver. 9); had not sin entered, there had been no occasion for the eath of the Son of God, it being everywhere in Scripture laid upon that score;—a decree for the shedding of blood, supposed a decree for the permission of sin, and a certain foreknowledge of God, that it would be committed by man. An uncertainty of foreknowledge, and a fixedness of purpose, are not consistent in a wise man, much less in the only wise God. God’s purpose to manifest his wisdom to men and angels in this way might have been defeated, had God had only a conjectural foreknowledge of the fall of man; and all those solemn purposes of displaying his perfections in those methods had been to no purpose; the provision of a remedy supposed a certainty of the disease. If a sparrow fall not to the ground without the will of God, how much less could such a deplorable ruin fall upon mankind, without God’s will permitting it, and his knowledge foreseeing it? It is not hard to conceive how God might foreknow it? he indeed decreed to create man in an excellent state; the goodness of God could not but furnish him with a power to stand; yet in his wisdom he might foresee that the devil would be envious to man’s happiness, and would, out of envy, attempt his subversion. As God knew of what temper the faculties were he had endued man with, and how far they were able to endure the assaults of a temptation, so he also foreknew the grand subtelties of Satan, how he would lay his mine, and to what point he would drive his temptation; how he would propose and manage it, and direct his battery against the sensitive appetite, and assault the weakest part of the fort; might he not foresee that the efficacy of the temptation would exceed the measure of the resistance; cannot God know how far the malice of Satan would extend, what shots he would, according to his nature, use, how high he would charge his temptation without his powerful restraint, as well as an engineer judge how many shots of a cannon will make a breach in a town, and how many casks of powder will blow up a fortress, who never yet built the one, nor founded the other? We may easily conclude God could not be deceived in the judgment of the issue and event, since he knew how far he would let Satan loose, how far he would permit man to act; and since he dives to the bottom of the nature of all things, he foresaw that Adam was endued with an ability to stand; as he foresaw that Benhadad might naturally recover of his disease; but he foresaw also that Adam would sink under the allurements of the temptation, as he foresaw that Hamel would let Benhadad live (2 Kings 8:10). Now since the whole race of mankind lies in corruption, and is subject to the power of the devil (1 John 3:18), may not God, that knows that corruption in every man’s nature, and the force of every man’s spirit, and what every particular nature will incline him to upon such objects proposed to him, and what the reasons of the temptation will be, know also the issues? is there any difficulty in God’s foreknowing this, since man knowing the nature of one he is well acquainted with, can conclude what sentiments he will have, and how he will behave himself upon presenting this or that object to him? If a man that understands the disposition of his child or servant, knows before what he will do upon such an occasion, may not God much more, who knows the inclinations of all his creatures, and from eternity run with his eyes over all the works he intended? Our wills are in the number of causes; and since God knows our wills, as causes, better than we do ourselves, why should he be ignorant of the effects? God determines to give grace to such a man, not to give it to another, but leave him to himself, and suffer such temptations to assault him; now God knowing the corruption of man in the whole mass, and in every part of it, is it not easy for him to foreknow what the future actions of the will will be, when the tinder and fire meet together, and how such a man will determine himself, both us to the substance and manner of the action? Is it not easy for him to know how a corrupted temper and a temptation will suit? God is exactly privy to all the gall in the hearts of men, and what principles they will have, before they have a being. He “knows their thoughts afar off” (Psalm 139:2), as far off as eternity, as some explain the words, and thoughts are as voluntary as anything; he knows the power and inclinations of men in the order of second causes; he understands the corruption of men, as well as “the poison of dragons, and the venom of asps;” this is “laid up in store with him, and sealed among his treasures” (Deut. 32:33, 34): among the treasures of his foreknowledge, say some. What was the cruelty of Hazael, but a free act? yet God knew the frame of his heart, and what acts of murder and oppression would spring from that bitter fountain, before Hazael had conceived them in himself (2 Kings 8:12), as a man that knows the minerals through which the waters pass, may know what relish they will have before they appear above the earth, so our Saviour knew how Peter would deny him; he knew what quantity of powder would serve for such a battery, in what measure he would let loose Satan, how far he would leave the reins in Peter’s hands, and then the issue might easily be known; and so in every act of man, God knows in his own will what measure of grace he will give, to determine the will to good, and what measure of grace he will withdraw from such a person, or not give to him; and, consequently, how far such a person will fall or not. God knows the inclinations of the creature; he knows his own permissions, what degrees of grace he will either allow him, or keep from him, according to which will be the degree of his sin. This may in some measure help our conceptions in this, though, as was said before, the manner of God’s foreknowledge is not so easily explicable.
(3.) God’s foreknowledge of man’s voluntary actions doth not necessitate the will of man. The foreknowledge of God is not deceived, nor the liberty of man’s will diminished. I shall not trouble you with any school distinctions, but be as plain as I can, laying down several propositions in this case.
Prop. I. It is certain all necessity doth not take away liberty, indeed a compulsive necessity takes away liberty, but a necessity of immutability removes not liberty from God; why should, then, a necessily of infallibility in God remove liberty from the creature? God did necessarily create the world, because he decreed it; yet freely, because his will from eternity stood to it, he freely decree it and freely created it, as the apostle saith in regard of God’s decrees, “Who hath been his counsellor” (Rom. 11:34)? so in regard of his actions I may say, Who hath been his compeller? he freely decreed, and he freely created. Jesus Christ necessarily took our flesh, because he had covenanted with God so to do, yet he acted freely and voluntarily according to that covenant, otherwise his death had not been efficacious for us. A good man doth naturally, necessarily, love his children, yet voluntarily: it is part of the happiness of the blessed to love God unchangeably, yet freely, for it would not be their happiness if it were done by compulsion.
What is done by force cannot be called felicity, because there is no delight or complacency in it; and, though the blessed love God freely, yet, if there were a possibility of change, it would not be their happiness, their blessedness would be damped by their fear of falling from this love, and consequently from their nearness to God, in whom their happiness consists: God foreknows that they will love him forever, but are they therefore compelled forever to love him? If there were such a kind of constraint, heaven would be rendered burdensome to them, and so no heaven. Again, God’s foreknowledge of what he will do, doth not necessitate him to do: he foreknew that he would create a world, yet he freely created a world. God’s foreknowledge doth not necessitate himself; why should it necessitate us more than himself? We may instance in ourselves: when we will a thing, we necessarily use our faculty of will; and when we freely will any thing, it is necessary that we freely will; but this necessity doth not exclude, but include, liberty; or, more plainly, when a man writes or speaks, whilst he writes or speaks, those actions are necessary, because to speak and be silent, to write and not to write, at the same time, are impossible; yet our writing or speaking doth not take away the power not to write or to be silent at that time if a man would be so; for he might have chose whether he would have spoke or writ. So there is a necessity of such actions of man, which God foresees; that is, a necessity of infallibility, because God cannot be deceived, but not a coactive necessity, as if they were compelled by God to act thus or thus.
Prop. II. No man can say in any of his voluntary actions that he ever found any force upon him. When any of us have done anything according to our wills, can we say we could not have done the contrary to it? were we determined to it in our own intrinsic nature, or did we not determine ourselves? did we not act either according to our reason, or according to outward allurements? did we find anything without us, or within us, that did force our wills to the embracing this or that? Whatever action you do, you do it because you judge it fit to be done, or because you will do it. What, though God foresaw that you would do so, and that you would do this or that, did you feel any force upon you? did you not act according to your nature? God foresees that you will eat or walk at such a time; do you find anything that moves you to eat, but your own appetite? or to walk, but your own reason and will? If prescience had imposed any necessity upon man, should we not probably have found some kind of plea from it in the mouth of Adam? he knew as much as any man ever since knew of the nature of God, as discoverable in creation; he could not in innocence fancy an ignorant God, a God that know nothing of future things; he could not be so ignorant of his own action, but he must have perceived a force upon his will, had there been any; had he thought that God’s prescience imposed any necessity upon him, he would not have omitted the plea, especially when he was so daring as to charge the providence of God in the gift of the woman to him, to be the cause of his crime. (Gen. 3:12) How come his posterity to invent new charges against God, which their father Adam never thought of, who had more knowledge than all of them? He could find no cause of his sin but the liberty of his own will; he charges it, not upon any necessity from the devil, or any necessity from God; nor doth he allege the gift of the woman as a necessary cause of his sin, but an occasion of it, by giving the fruit to him. Judas knew that our Saviour did foreknow his treachery, for he had told him of it in the hearing of his disciples (John 13:21–26), yet he never charged the necessity of his crime upon the foreknowledge of his Master; if Judas had not done it freely, he had had no reason to repent of it; his repentance justifies Christ from imposing any necessity upon him by that foreknowledge. No man acts anything, but he can give an account of the motives of his action; he cannot father it upon a blind necessity; the will cannot be compelled, for then it would cease to be the will: God doth not root up the foundations of nature, or change the order of it, and make men unable to act like men, that is, as free agents. God foreknows the actions of irrational creatures; this concludes no violence upon their nature, for we find their actions to be according to their nature, and spontaneous.
The Existence and Attributes of God