Ezekiel 1 - 4
Ezekiel in BabylonEzekiel 1:1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), 3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the LORD was upon him there.
The Glory of the LORD4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. 5 And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, 6 but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: 9 their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. 12 And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. 13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14 And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. 16 As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. 17 When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. 18 And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. 19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. 20 Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. 23 And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. 24 And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. 25 And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings.
26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
Ezekiel’s CallEzekiel 2:1 And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
8 “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” 9 And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
Ezekiel 3Ezekiel 3:1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
4 And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8 Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. 9 Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” 10 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. 11 And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”
12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the LORD from its place!” 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. 14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. 15 And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.
A Watchman for Israel16 And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 20 Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”
22 And the hand of the LORD was upon me there. And he said to me, “Arise, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you.” 23 So I arose and went out into the valley, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell on my face. 24 But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me, “Go, shut yourself within your house. 25 And you, O son of man, behold, cords will be placed upon you, and you shall be bound with them, so that you cannot go out among the people. 26 And I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house. 27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house.
The Siege of Jerusalem SymbolizedEzekiel 4:1 “And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. 2 And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around. 3 And you, take an iron griddle, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel.
4 “Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. 5 For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment. So long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. 6 And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah. Forty days I assign you, a day for each year. 7 And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared, and you shall prophesy against the city. 8 And behold, I will place cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege.
9 “And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them. During the number of days that you lie on your side, 390 days, you shall eat it. 10 And your food that you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from day to day you shall eat it. 11 And water you shall drink by measure, the sixth part of a hin; from day to day you shall drink. 12 And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.” 13 And the LORD said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations where I will drive them.” 14 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.” 15 Then he said to me, “See, I assign to you cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.” 16 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, behold, I will break the supply of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. 17 I will do this that they may lack bread and water, and look at one another in dismay, and rot away because of their punishment.
What I'm Reading
You Need to Be a Leader if You Hope to Lead People to Truth
By J. Warner Wallace 8/25/2017
Of all the topics I read about on Christian Case Making (apologetics) blogs, I seldom find anyone writing about leadership. But this aspect of theChristian life, while it is often overlooked, is critical to our success as Case Makers. When we think about what’s required to be a good Christian Case Maker, we need to remember that leadership is key; we’ll never lead anyone to the truth unless we learn how to become good leaders, and leaders, by definition, have followers. It’s really as simple as that. You may not consider yourself much of a leader, but I bet someone is looking to you for answers in some aspect of your life. Are you a mom or a dad? You’re leading your kids. Are you the senior employee at your job? You’re leading the junior members. Are you the person people rely on for an answer in your group? You’re leading those who are less informed. If you’re living in community with others, you are inevitably leading (and being led). If you hope to make a case for Christianity, you need to identify those you lead and become a good leader:
Followers Respect Their Leaders | While it’s true that excellence often elevates people to positions of leadership, excellence alone is not enough. I’ve worked for many excellent detectives who were terrible leaders once they were promoted. Leadership takes more than excellence; in fact, excellence is the baseline to which all of us should aspire (leaders and followers alike). Respect, however, requires much more. Have you been demonstrating Christian character to those who look to you for answers? Leaders go first; do the people in your world see you as a servant? Are your conversations about Christian evidence seen as an effort to demonstrate your knowledge or an effort to serve them? Are your conversations focused on what you know, or are they focused on the people you hope to influence? Followers respect leaders who are selfless rather than selfish; they can “sniff out” people who are more concerned about status than service.
Followers Trust Their Leaders | If there’s one thing law enforcement will teach you about leadership, it’s that trust is key in difficult situations, and trust requires time. When push comes to shove, I want to align myself with leaders who have proven themselves over the long haul. I’ve seen them do it before and I trust they can do it again. As a Christian Case Maker, I sometimes find myself thinking that the only people I am called to reach are folks who come to a talk or conference session. Meanwhile, there are lots of people in my life who have an extended relationship with me. They know me beyond the sixty minute presentation. They already trust me, because they’ve known me for years. These are the folks that I am most able to reach, yet I seldom think of them as an audience to whom I am called. I bet you’re in a similar situation. There are people who already trust you; these are the folks you can reach with the truth.
Followers Listen to Their Leaders | I’ve had the privilege of working with leaders who commanded the attention of their followers. They didn’t have to try hard; we simply quieted down when they began to speak. We respected them. We trusted them. We listened to them. But no one’s going to listen to leaders who don’t make an effort to say something! Are there people in your life who are waiting for you to talk to them about Jesus? While I typically have no problem making a case for Christianity to strangers, it’s often far more difficult to make the case to my father or to friends whom I’m afraid of alienating. Yet these are the people with whom I have the deepest relationship. These are the folks who respect and trust me. I already have their attention, why am I afraid to speak?
If you’re like me, you may have underestimated the power of leadership. Make an assessment of your situation today so you can become a good leader. Do the people in your life think you’re more concerned about the argument than their well-being? Do they think you’re more concerned about building a blog audience or a ministry than you are about sharing the truth? Have you taken the time to develop the depth of relationship necessary to have a real impact? Do people trust you? And finally, are you bold enough to speak up and share the truth with people you sometimes take for granted? You’re already a leader in some aspect of your life; take the time now to lead someone to the truth.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
To the King Eternal (Prayer)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
OUR God and Father, draw us to Thyself by Thy Spirit, and may the few minutes that we spend in prayer be full of the true spirit of supplication. Grant that none of us with closed eyes may yet be looking abroad over the fields of vanity, but may our eyes be really shut to everything else now but that which is spiritual and Divine. May we have communion with God in the secret of our hearts, and find Him to be to us as a little sanctuary.
O Lord, we do not find it easy to get rid of distracting thoughts, but we pray Thee help us to draw the sword against them and drive them away, and as when the birds came down upon his sacrifice Abraham drove them away, so may we chase away all cares, all thoughts of pleasure, everything else, whether it be pleasing or painful, that would keep us away from real fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
We would begin with adoration. We worship from our hearts the Three in One, the infinitely glorious Jehovah, the only living and true God. We adore the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. We are not yet ascended to the place where pure spirits behold the face of God, but we shall soon be there, perhaps much sooner than we think, and we would be there in spirit now, casting our crowns upon the glassy sea before the throne of the Infinite Majesty, and ascribing glory and honour, and power and praise, and dominion and might to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
All the Church doth worship Thee, O God, every heart renewed by grace takes a delight in adoring Thee, and we, among the rest, though least and meanest of them all, yet would bow as heartily as any worshipping, loving, praising, in our soul, being silent unto God because our joy in Him is altogether inexpressible.
Lord help us to worship Thee in life as well as lip. May our whole being be taken up with Thee. As when the fire fell down on Elijah's sacrifice of old and licked up even the water that was in the trenches, so may the consuming fire of the Divine Spirit use up all our nature, and even that which might seem to hinder, even out of that may God get glory by the removal of it. Thus would we adore.
But, oh ! dear Saviour, we come to Thee, and we remember what our state is, and the condition we are in encourages us to come to Thee now as beggars, as dependents upon Thy heavenly charity. Thou art a Saviour, and as such Thou art on the outlook for those that need saving, and here we are, here we come. We are the men and women Thou art looking for, needing a Saviour.
Great Physician, we bring Thee our wounds and bruises and putrifying sores, and the more diseased we are and the more conscious we are to-day of the depravity of our nature, of the deep-seated corruption of our hearts, the more we feel that we are the sort of beings that Thou art seeking for, for the whole have no need of a physician but they that are sick.
Glorious Benefactor, we can meet Thee on good terms, for we are full of poverty, we are just as empty as we can be. We could not be more abjectly dependent than we are. Since Thou wouldest display Thy mercy here is our sin ; since Thou wouldest show Thy strength here is our weakness ; since Thou wouldest manifest Thy lovingkindness here are our needs ; since Thou wouldest glorify Thy grace here are we, such persons as can never have a shadow of a hope except through Thy grace, for we are undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving, and if Thou do not magnify Thy grace in us we must perish for ever.
And somehow we feel it sweet to come to Thee in this way. If we had to tell Thee that we had some good thing in us which Thou didst require of us, we should be questioning whether we were not flattering ourselves and presumptuously thinking that we were better than we are. Lord Jesus, we come just as we are ; this is how we came at first, and this is how we come still, with all our failures, with all our transgressions, with all and everything that is what it ought not to be we come to Thee. We do bless Thee that Thou dost receive us and our wounds, and by Thy stripes we are healed ; Thou dost receive us and our sins, and by Thy sinbearing we are set clear and free from sin. Thou dost receive us and our death, even our death, for Thou art He that liveth and was dead, and art alive for evermore.
We just come and lie at Thy feet, obedient to that call of Thine, "Come unto Me all ye that labour and I will give you rest." Let us feel sweet rest, since we do come at Thy call. May some come that have never come till this day, and may others who have been coming- these many years consciously come again, coming unto Thee as unto a living stone, chosen of God and precious, to build our everlasting hopes upon.
But, Lord, now that we are come so near Thee, and on right terms with Thee, we venture to ask Thee this, that we that love Thee may love Thee very much more. Oh! since Thou hast been precious, Thy very name has music in it to our ears, and there are times when Thy love is so inexpressibly strong upon us that we are carried away with it. We have felt that we would gladly die to increase Thine honour. We have been willing to lose our name and our repute if so be Thou mightest be glorified, and truly we often feel that if the crushing of us would lift Thee one inch the higher, we would gladly suffer it.
For oh ! Thou blessed King, we would set the crown on Thy head, even if the sword should smite our arm off at the shoulder blade. Thou must be King whatever becomes of us ; Thou must be glorified whatever becomes of us.
But yet we have to mourn that we cannot get always to feel as we should this rapture and ardour of love. Oh ! at times Thou dost manifest Thyself to us so charmingly that heaven itself could scarce be happier than the world becomes when Thou art with us in it. But when Thou art gone and we are in the dark, oh ! give us the love that loves in the dark, that loves when there is no comfortable sense of Thy presence. Let us not be dependent upon feeling-, but may we ever love Thee, so that if Thou didst turn Thy back on us by the year together we would think none the less of Thee, for Thou art unspeakably to be beloved whatsoever Thou doest, and if Thou dost give us rough words, yet still we would cling to Thee, and if the rod be used till we tingle again, yet still will we love Thee, for Thou art infinitely to be beloved of all men and angels, and Thy Father loved Thee. Make our hearts to love Thee evermore the same. With all the capacity for love that there is in us, and with all the more that Thou canst give us, may we love our Lord in spirit and in truth.
Help us, Lord, to conquer sin out of love to Thee. Help some dear strugglers that have been mastered by sin sometimes, and they are struggling against it ; give them the victory, Lord, and when the battle gets very sharp, and they are tempted to give way a little, help them to be very firm and very strong, never giving up hope in the Lord Jesus, and resolving that if they perish they will perish at His feet and nowhere else but there.
Lord raise up in our churches many men and women that are all on fire with love to Christ and His Divine Gospel. Oh! give us back again men like Antipas, Thy faithful martyr, men like Paul, Thy earnest servant who proclaimed Thy truth so boldly. Give us Johns, men to whom the Spirit may speak, who shall bid us hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Lord revive us! Lord revive us ; revive Thy work in the midst of the years in all the churches. Return unto the Church of God in this country, return unto her. Thine adversaries think to have it all their own way, but they will not, for the Lord liveth, and blessed be our Rock.
Because of truth and righteousness, we beseech Thee lay bare Thine arm in these last days. O Shepherd of Israel, deal a heavy blow at the wolves and keep Thy sheep in their own true pastures, free from the poisonous pastures of error. O God we would stir Thee up. We know Thou sleepest not, and yet sometimes it seems as if Thou didst sleep awhile and leave things to go on in their own way.
We beseech Thee awake. Plead Thine own cause. We know Thine answer, "Awake! awake! put on thy strength, O Zion." This we would do, Lord, but we cannot do it unless Thou dost put forth Thy strength to turn our weakness into might.
Great God, save this nation ! O God of heaven and earth, stay the floods of infidelity and of filthiness that roll over this land. Would God we might see better days ! Men seem entirely indifferent now. They will not come to hear the Word as once they did. God of our fathers let Thy Spirit work again among the masses. Turn the hearts of the people to the hearing of the Word, and convert them when they hear it. May it be preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
Our hearts are weary for Thee, thou King, Thou King forgotten in thine own land. Thou King despised among Thine own people, when wilt Thou yet be glorious before the eyes of all mankind? Come, we beseech Thee, come quickly, or if Thou comest not personally, send forth the Holy Spirit with a greater power than ever that our hearts may leap within us as they see miracles of mercy repeated in our midst.
Father glorify Thy Son. Somehow our prayer always comes to this before we have done. "Father glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee," and let the days come when He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. Bless all work done for Thee, whether it be in the barn or in the cathedral, silently and quietly at the street door, or in the Sunday-school or in the classes, O Lord bless Thy work. Hear also prayers that have been put up by wives for their husbands, children for their parents, parents for their children. Let the holy service of prayer never cease, and let the intercession be accepted of God, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
How to Fight for Faith in the Dark Three Lessons for Depression
By Stephen Altrogge 4/19/2017
I’ve often said that depression is like wearing tinted glasses. Everywhere you look, things look dark. Bleak. Black. Hopeless. Helpless. The waiting room for depression says, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
Depression is both a physical and spiritual affliction. Neurons and synapses fail to fire properly, leading to chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances cause the depressed person to feel awful, like their entire world is a raw catastrophe hovering over the depths of despair. When everything is a catastrophe, it’s easy for faith to falter and stumble.
Normally, the prescription for faith is somewhat straightforward. We read the promises of God, let them diffuse throughout our hearts, and then embrace them fully. As we embrace these promises, our faith rises. When we have more faith, there is often a physical feeling of encouragement and hope.
But with clinical depression (and most other forms of mental illness), things don’t work quite that way. Depression usually causes a person to feel only gloom and despair, no matter what they’re thinking. Filling your mind with God’s promises is necessary, but it doesn’t usually alter the way you feel. It’s like having a migraine. Believing God’s word is essential, but it won’t take away the migraine (usually).
From Gloom Toward Gladness | When all you feel is gloom, it becomes very hard to have hope, no matter what you read in Scripture. As someone who labored under a lot of depression and anxiety throughout my life, I know that it usually doesn’t help a depressed person to say, “Just believe God’s word more!”
Stephen Altrogge is a husband, dad, and writer. His most recent book is entitled, Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine. He also writes regularly at The Blazing Center.Stephen Altrogge Books:
- 1 Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff
- 2 Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine
- 3 The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence
- 4 Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes
- 5 Twists and Turns: Short Stories About Strange Situations
- 6 The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts On Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds of Finding Your Soul Mate
- 7 The Last Superhero
- 8 The Chip
Theology Learned in the Flames of Adversity
By Steven J. Lawson 8/11/2017
In 1527, Martin Luther experienced a trial so severe that church historian Philip Schaff described that year simply as “the disastrous year.” It was the time of Luther’s “severest spiritual and physical trials.” As the leading figure of the Reformation, Luther paid a high price in the struggle for truth, and his physical condition deteriorated under the movement’s mounting demands. On April 22, 1527, Luther was so overcome by dizziness in the pulpit that he stopped preaching and was forced to retire. Other physical problems followed for the Reformer, including severe heart problems, digestive ailments, and fainting spells. He also began to wear down emotionally, suffering bouts of discouragement and depression.
On July 6, another attack struck Luther. He was entertaining friends for dinner when he felt an intense buzzing in his left ear. He had to be carried to bed, where he frantically called for water or else, he believed, he would die. Luther became so chilled that he was convinced he had seen his last night. In a desperate prayer, he surrendered himself to the will of God and prepared to meet his Maker. Though Luther remained seriously ill for days, he eventually regained his strength.
In August, the Black Plague rapidly spread among the people in Wittenberg. Many died, and others fled for their lives. The University of Wittenberg moved to Jena, Germany. Frederick urged Luther to escape to spare his own life. Adding to the danger, Katie was pregnant and they had a one-year-old child, Hans. Luther, however, considered it his moral duty to remain and minister to the sick.
Weighty trials rested heavily upon Luther’s shoulders. Death surrounded him on every side. He watched people die in his house and in the streets. He chose to transform his spacious house into a hospital to care for those suffering from the plague. Hans became desperately ill, and Luther became so heavily burdened that he could not eat for eleven days. He was deeply concerned for Katie’s safety and grew weak with despair.
In a letter to his trusted friend and coworker Philip Melanchthon, Luther acknowledged his increasing bouts of depression:
- 1 The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 2 The Kind of Preaching God Blesses
- 3 The Daring Mission of William Tyndale (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 4 The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 5 The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 6 Holman Old Testament Commentary - Psalms 76-150
- 7 The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 8 Holman Old Testament Commentary - Psalms
- 9 Famine in the Land
- 10 The Expository Genius of John Calvin (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 11 The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
- 12 Pillars of Grace
- 13 Made in Our Image: The Fallacy of the User-Friendly God
- 14 Foundations of Grace
- 15 The Attributes of God Study Guide
- 16 Pillars of Grace (A Long Line of Godly Men, Volume Two)
- 17 When All Hell Breaks Loose: You May Be Doing Something Right : Surprising Insights from the Life of Job
- 18 The Legacy: Ten Core Values Every Father Must Leave His Child
- 19 In It to Win It: Pursuing Victory in the One Race that Really Counts
- 20 As Firmes Resoluções de Jonathan Edwards (Portuguese Edition)
- 21 Faith Under Fire: Standing Strong When Satan Attacks
- 22 Absolutely Sure: Settle the Question of Eternal Life
- 23 Men Who Win: Pursuing the Ultimate Prize
- 24 Final Call
- 25 Heaven Help Us!: Truths About Eternity That Will Help You Live Today Insights from the Book of Rev Elation (Christian living)
Fellowship With The Unorthodox? Some Thoughts On A Recent Controversy
By Wesley Hill 8/8/2017
In recent days, there’s been a discussion of the boundaries of orthodoxy in some corners of the evangelical blogosphere. James K.A. Smith, the prolific writer and professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, kicked off the discussion. Since his opening salvo, there have been a number of responses — by Alastair Roberts, Derek Rishmawy, Alan Jacobs, and others. Here’s the gist of Smith’s argument:
"Now, no one for a second can deny that [male-and-female, ordered-to-procreation] views of sexual morality and marriage have been the historic teaching of the church. … But it is surely also worth pointing out that conciliar standards of orthodoxy do not articulate such standards. If the adjective “orthodox” is untethered from such ecumenical standards, it quickly becomes a cheap epithet we idiosyncratically attach to views and positions in order to write off those we disagree with as “heretics” and unbelievers. If “orthodox” becomes an adjective that is unhooked from these conciliar canons, then it becomes a word we use to make sacrosanct the things that matter to “us” in order to exclude “them.” And then you can start folding all kinds of things into “orthodoxy” like mode of baptism or pre-tribulation rapture or opposition to the ordination of women—which then entails writing off swaths of Christians who affirm conciliar orthodoxy."
"So perhaps we should be more careful with how we use the adjective orthodox. It can’t be a word we flippantly use to describe what is important to us. The word is reserved to define and delineate those affirmations that are at the very heart of Christian faith—and God knows they are scandalous enough in a secular age."
Smith’s concern is that speaking of traditional Christian sexual ethics as orthodox (as opposed to calling them biblical or traditional) is not only a category confusion but a potentially dangerous one: If we decouple orthodoxy from its conciliar definition, who knows what content might arise to fill it out? Meanwhile Smith’s critics have replied that if we don’t see the traditional scriptural sexual ethic as entailed by the ecumenical creeds, then we’re in danger of downplaying the seriousness of its rejection in vast swaths of the modern church.
Without entering fully into the fray, I want simply to offer a kind of exegetical footnote to the debate, as well as a question for those — including most of us who blog here at Covenant — who choose to remain in a Christian communion in which there exists profound disagreement over the matter of what constitutes sexual morality (i.e., in particular provinces of the Anglican Communion: the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church in Wales, and others).
I discovered a love for Scripture and theology while an undergraduate at Wheaton College where I majored in Ancient Languages. From there, I began a long and winding journey into the Anglican fold and was confirmed in the Church of England while in graduate school at Durham University. My teaching and research interests are shaped by the conviction that the study of Scripture and attention to the church’s creedal and doctrinal traditions belong together in the theological task. I try to help my students understand how attention to Scripture formed the church’s creedal heritage and, likewise, how that heritage can now help us to read Scripture afresh as the word of the Triune God for us today.
Wesley Hill Books:
Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters
Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian
The Coming of the Kingdom part 9
By Dr. Andrew Woods 9/29/2012
Because today's evangelical world believes that the church is experiencing the messianic kingdom, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. This earthly kingdom is anticipated in the office of Theocratic Administrator that was lost in Eden, in the biblical covenants, in the predictions of the Old Testament prophets, and in the earthly theocracy governing Israel from the time of Moses to Zedekiah. This theocratic arrangement terminated with the initiation of the "Times of the Gentiles" when the nation had no king reigning on David’s Throne as Judah was trampled by various Gentile powers. Against that backdrop entered Jesus Christ, the rightful Heir to David's Throne. Had first-century Israel enthroned Christ, the earthly kingdom would have become a reality. Despite this unprecedented opportunity, Israel rejected the kingdom offer ( Matt. 12 ) leading to the kingdom's postponement. Due to this postponement, Christ began to explain the spiritual conditions that would prevail during the kingdom's absence. This interim program includes His revelation of the kingdom mysteries ( Matt. 13 ) and the church ( Matt. 16:18 ). Regarding the kingdom mysteries of Matthew 13, as explained in previous articles, when the parables of Matthew 13 are understood together, we can gain a picture of the course of the present “mystery age.”
Beginning Of The Church Age
The second aspect of the interim phase during the Messianic kingdom's postponement is Christ's revelation of the church ( Matt. 16:18 ). The church consists of all people, including both the Jewish remnant as well as Gentiles, who have trusted in the very Messiah Israel rejected. Unlike Israel, which was a national identity, the church is a spiritual organism consisting of all nations and ethnicities ( Gal. 3:28; Rom. 10:19; Eph. 2:14 ). The Church Age began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and will conclude with the future rapture of the church from the earth. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, used the expression “intercalation” to describe God’s work in the present Church Age.  This phrase simply means an interruption, interpolation, or interval. This concept best describes what God is presently doing through the church. He is not currently fulfilling Israel's kingdom promises in any sense. He will fulfill these promises in the future kingdom. Rather, in the present, He is doing an entirely new work through the church that interrupts God’s past dealings and future dealings with national Israel.
There are at least four reasons for believing that the church began in Acts 2.  First, the initial reference to the church is found in Christ's prophecy in Matthew 16:18, which says, "I will build My church."
Interestingly, the verb translated "I will build" (oikodomeo) is in the future tense, thereby indicating that the church did not exist either contemporaneously with or before He made the statement. In other words, the church was destined to come into existence in the future and therefore did not exist in either the Old Testament era or during the time of Christ.
Second, the concept of the church, or a new spiritual organism consisting of both believing Jews and Gentile as co-heirs with equal spiritual status, is categorized by the New Testament as a mystery ( Eph. 2:14-15; 3:9 ). This word "mystery" simply means a previously unknown truth now disclosed ( Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:26 ). Vine explains, “In the N.T., it [mysterion] denotes, not the mysterious (as with the Eng. word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those who are illumined by His Spirit.”  Because the church itself is a mystery, it is something that could not have existed in previous eras. Thus, Paul designated the church as a "new man" ( Eph. 2:15 ).
Third, the church could not have existed prior to Christ's Ascension ( Acts 1 ). Christ is the head of the church ( Eph. 5:23 ). He did not assume this position until after His Resurrection and Ascension ( Eph. 1:20-22 ). Thus, the church could not have existed prior to His Ascension. If the church had existed prior to this point in time, it would have been functioning with no head. Similarly, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are necessary in order for the church to experience edification ( 1 Cor. 12:7; 14:26b ). Yet, these gifts did not come into existence until after the Ascension ( Eph. 4:7-11 ). Had the church existed before this point, it would have existed without the means of being built up and edified. Thus, when all the data is considered, it is easy to see why the church could not have existed prior to Acts 1.
Fourth, the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit began in Acts 2. This ministry involves the Spirit's work in taking men and women at the point of personal faith in Christ and uniting them with the body of Christ, the church. First Corinthians 12:13 says, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." The verb baptize (baptizo) simply means to identify. Such spiritual identification is not something that the believer must seek. Rather, it is something that the Spirit has already performed in the believer's life at the moment of conversion.
If we can pinpoint when the Spirit's work of uniting Christians with Christ's body, the church, began, we can similarly identify when the church or the body of Christ began. In other words, when did the Spirit begin to form the body of Christ and initiate His work of uniting believers with this new spiritual body called the church? This work must have started some time after the Ascension. Just before He ascended, Christ put the baptizing work of the Spirit into the future. He explained to the disciples, "for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" ( Acts 1:5 ). The church also must have started some time prior to Acts 11:15-16. Here, Peter put the launching of the Spirit's baptizing ministry into the past. In Acts 11:15-16, while seeking to validate the conversion of Cornelius, the first Gentile believer ( Acts 10 ), he testified to the Jerusalem church,
"And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'"
Thus, the Spirit's baptizing ministry began some time after Acts 1:5 but before Acts 11:15-16. The only event between these two verses that could logically describe the Spirit's baptizing ministry is Acts 2. Here, the Spirit descended upon the disciples ( Acts 2:1-4 ), and about three thousand people were saved ( Acts 2:37-41 ). When all of the Scripture is considered, we can surmise that the church, the body of Christ, began on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. It is at this specific point in time that the Spirit began taking believers in Christ and uniting them into a new spiritual organism called the body of Christ or the church.
The church, which began in Acts 2, exists for three specific, divinely-ordained reasons. First, the church exists to glorify God ( Eph. 3:21 ). Second, the church exists to edify or build up its members. God has placed spiritual gifts in the body of Christ for the purpose of being faithfully employed so that the church members can be built up, become spiritually mature, and reach unity ( Eph. 4:11-16 ). Third, the church exists for the purpose of accomplishing world evangelism ( Mark 16:15 ) and to fulfill the Great Commission ( Matt. 28:18-20 ). During this present Church Age, which has lasted roughly two thousand years so far, the church, rather than national Israel, comprises the preeminent servants of God on earth. During this time, God is busy "...taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name" ( Acts 15:14 ).
The Church Is Not The Kingdom
What is critical to understand is that God’s present work in and through the church is not to be confused with God's program concerning the coming kingdom. Several reasons lead us to this conclusion.  First, Christ is nowhere directly called the "king of the church." Although He is referred to as the head of His body the church ( Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18 ) or the groom of His bride the church ( Eph. 5:25 ), He is never specifically designated as the king of His church. Such a glaring omission has long been recognized by dispensational, premillennial scholars. According to Peters:
"Jesus is called, and by right, and in the covenanted manner, is, 'the King of the Jews,' 'King of Nations,' 'King of the World,' but is never called 'the King of the Church.'" 
Larkin similarly notes,
"Christ is the 'Head' of His Church ( Eph. 1:22; 4:15; Col. 1:18 ), but He is never spoken of as its King." 
McClain quotes Andrews as follows:
"'It is as its Head that He rules over it [the Church], not as its King; for this latter title is never used of this relation." 
Fruchtenbaum also observes,
"The problem Amillennialism faces is that while the Bible portrays the relationship between Christ and the Church in various metaphors (head and body, groom and bride, vine and branches, foundation and stones of the building, etc.), king and kingdom is not one of them...Christ is indeed referred to as the head of the Church, but never its king." Continue Reading (Part 10 on Aug 31 web page)
ENDNOTES Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, (Dallas: Dallas Seminary, 1948), 4:41.
 Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 463, 66.
 W. E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Nelson, 1996), 424.
 For a more in depth treatment of this issue, see Kevin Quick, “The Glory of the Kingdom,” online: www.kevinquick.com, accessed 10 August 2012, 718-27.
 George Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1952), 1:597.
 Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truth (Philadelphia, PA: Larkin Estate, 1920), 74.
 Alva McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 437.
 Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Israelology (Tustin, CA: Ariel, 1994), 190.
Dr. Andrew Woods Books
Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.
Reconciling the Irreconcilable
By Daniel Martins 3/1/2015
For as long as I have been an Anglican Christian and a member of the Episcopal Church, which exceeds four decades now, my ecclesial environment has never been free of dramatic conflict. The first General Convention that I paid attention to in real time (1976) dealt with the twin quagmires of Prayer Book revision and women's ordination. Every three years thereafter, the rhetorical decibel level has spiked.
In 2003, however, the baseline level of underlying conflict escalated not just incrementally, but exponentially. There has, since then, been a "new normal" in the way we engage one another over areas about which we are in fundamental disagreement. A relative trickle of Episcopalians departed in the 1970s over issues of liturgy and sacraments, forming what became a dizzying array of "alphabet soup" ecclesial entities. (Of course, there had been a notable schism a century before that over sacramental theology, resulting in the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church.) But these ruptures were mere blips, wrinkles, compared with with the departures that ensued in the wake of 2003. Solid (indeed, in all but one case, overwhelming) majorities in the conventions of five dioceses voted to separate themselves from the General Convention. Tens of thousands of Episcopalians and former Episcopalians have either engaged in protracted litigation, or walked away from buildings and financial assets, or both. A new generation of ecclesial acronyms has appeared, and multiplied, and been culled. Out of that soup, the Anglican Church in North America has emerged as an entity that appears to have some staying power, having made what looks like a successful transition from the first to the second generation of top leadership.
Of course, in our shrinking world, turmoil in North America creates waves for Anglicans in other regions. In recent decades, while TEC has been growing precipitously smaller, Anglican Christianity has been growing markedly larger, both numerically and in vitality, in Africa and Asia, in provinces that have become known as the Global South. These provinces, many of which are on a frontier with militant Islam, tend to be much more conservative on issues of sexual morality and marriage than their developed world counterparts. Most of them find the notion of condoning, via blessing, same-sex partnerships (let alone "marriage") to be unimaginable, a violation of core precepts of the Christian faith as revealed by God. Many (most?) within the Global South have made various alliances with Episcopalians and former Episcopalians in the U.S. who share their assessment of how the dominant thinking has evolved in TEC around sexuality and marriage.
The question that arises, then, is, Are these extramural Anglican entities in North America actually ... Anglican? And that, in turn, raises the question, What defines "Anglican"? The classic answer to the latter question, which would have been widely agreed to before the post-2003 fissiparation, is that "Anglican" denotes full sacramental communion with and recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury. By that standard, ACNA, despite the first 'A' in its acronym, is not Anglican, because Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is on record that he does not consider them a province of the Anglican Communion. On the other hand, the Diocese of South Carolina, which separated from the Episcopal Church late in 2012, and is not part of ACNA, has been given a foster home by the Global South under the provisions of an agreement developed by the primates of the whole Anglican Communion (reportedly including TEC's Presiding Bishop) in Dromantine, Ireland in 2005 and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2007. This is arguably an official mechanism, endorsed by two of the four of the Anglican Communion's Instruments of Unity, and, I have it on good authority, is precisely why South Carolina chose to go that route rather than join ACNA.
Yet, there is another coalition within the Global South that muddies the waters. This is the Global Anglican Futures Conference, known widely by the acronym GAFCON. GAFCON does fully recognize ACNA as part of the Anglican fellowship, and for the most part withholds such recognition from the Episcopal Church, and while its leaders profess reverence for the historic role that the See of Canterbury has played as a sign of Anglican unity, they have at times seemed to proffer a narrative that Anglicanism could, in concept and if necessary, legitimately exist apart from a relationship with that ancient See. I think it can be safely said that the provinces and dioceses represented by GAFCON comprise a solid majority of those around the world who can currently claim to be Anglican even by the classical standard. So ... it's complicated, with lots of eddies and tide pools and countervaiing forces.
Daniel Hayden Martins, aka Dan (to my friends), Danny Boy (to some of my Brazilian relatives), Big Guy (to my kids and their friends), Bishop Daniel among those with whom I work, and probably some other aliases I'm not aware of. I'm an Anglican bishop, a Baby Boomer who was born in Brazil, raised in the Chicago suburbs (at the end of a runway at O'Hare), and has lived in both central and southern California, western Oregon, southeast Wisconsin, and south Louisiana. Married 43 years to Brenda, father of three fabulous grown children, and now serving the Diocese of Springfield (Episcopal Church).
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 95Let Us Sing Songs of Praise
1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
By K. Scott Oliphint 6/01/2012
When was the last time you withdrew? Not the last time you were the only person in the room or in the house — when was the last time you withdrew from contact with anyone else? Jesus “would withdraw” from the crowds “to deslolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). He knew that His busy schedule required time alone — completely alone — with His heavenly Father.
In the twenty-first century, being alone and withdrawing mean much more than being the only person in the room. They mean being unplugged. In our appreciation for the help that technology can bring, we have perhaps been unaware of its more subtle dangers. And its dangers are not simply located in the content that technology can deliver, harmful as that may be. Its dangers lie also in the behavior that is required by its use. Owning a smartphone creates the peer pressure of immediate communication. How many times a day do you check your email — by phone, computer, laptop, or tablet? How many times do you check it even when you’re in the middle of a conversation? Also, with the reality of our new penchant to be in constant contact comes the reality of others’ constant expectations of us. Owning a cell phone brings expectations that one should never be alone.
One of the historical paradigm shifts in neurology came when the “standard view” of the brain as a hardwired machine was shown to be false. Instead, studies have shown, the brain is a pliable organ. It is shaped and molded, in large part, not simply by what we think but by the manner or way that we choose to inform our brains. This phenomenon of pliability is called “neuroplasticity.” The brain is a kind of soft and supple clay. Like clay, it can be formed and conformed; but like clay, it can gain a rigidity over time, once formed in a particular way. If we train the brain to be distracted, it will “learn” that distraction is its normal mode of operation. It will also “learn” that contemplation and thinking are foreign to its practice.
It was Marshall McLuhan who coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” What McLuhan was setting forth with that phrase was that it was not only the content of a particular medium that is important to recognize. For instance, it is not only the images that a television communicates that are important. Perhaps even more important, because it is more subtle, is that it communicates by way of images. The medium — that is, the communication of images on the television — is the message. Images are two-dimensional; they cannot communicate depth. They are not context dependent; they are their own context. Images are unable to communicate concepts like universals or the content of emotion (though they can communicate the emotion itself).
With the ever-burgeoning advances in technology, we have become a society (and a church?) that has committed itself, perhaps unwittingly, to distraction. The problem of distraction is serious enough, but the power of that distraction to train our plastic brains can be deadly for Christian growth. If the brain is really molded by how we think, then it is possible that our addiction to distraction will eventually train us not to think at all. We will be so mastered by our constant urge to check and answer our email, to look at our smartphones every time they buzz, to check the scores of our favorite teams, to “text” notes that our ability to think, to pray, to savor the truth of God will be all but gone.
Like Christ, Christians must withdraw, unplug. It is time to make sure that we are molding our plastic brains in a way that they will be trained again to think carefully, to concentrate, to work through difficulties, to meditate on God’s character, to revel in His glory. The Apostle Paul commanded us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us. It might be possible to fulfill that command by reading and memorizing Scripture. The adverb, however, is all-important. The word of Christ is to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). The adverb expresses a depth and abundance that can come to us only if that Word that we read, even memorize, takes its place in our minds such that we contemplate and meditate on its truths. If the medium is the message, then the Word of God in Scripture is given to us so that we might continue to renew and train our plastic minds to think God’s thoughts after Him.
When the crowds pressed in on Jesus, He knew that obedience to His heavenly Father required that He must at times withdraw to focus on that relationship, and on it alone, in order to meet and confront a needy and hostile world afterward. A Christian who is serious about growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ will make technology a resourceful servant, not a mind-numbing master, and will commit to making a habit of withdrawing from it all in order to mold the mind, more and more, in conformity to the depth and truth of the Christian faith.
K. Scott Oliphint Books
- Things That Cannot Be Shaken: Holding Fast to Your Faith in a Relativistic World
- One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life
- The Defense of the Faith
- Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith
- Christian Apologetics Past and Present (Volume 1, To 1500): A Primary Source Reader
- Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
- Know Why You Believe (KNOW Series)
- Christian Theistic Evidences
- The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith
- Thomas Aquinas (Great Thinkers)
- Common Grace and the Gospel
- The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God
- Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology
- Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics
- Should You Believe in God? (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) (Apologia)
- Christianity and the Role of Philosophy (Christian Answers to Hard Questions)
- Unshakable: Standing Firm in a Shifting Culture
- If I Should Die Before I Wake: What's Beyond This Life?
- Justified in Christ: God's Plan for us in Justification
- Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith by K. Scott Oliphint (2013-07-31)
- If I Should Die Before I Wake: Help for Those Who Hope for Heaven
- A Christian Worldview
- Hoping for Heaven: A Look Beyond This Life
- God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God
- Cornelius Van Til And The Reformation Of Christian Apologetics
- Christianity and the Role of Philosophy (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) (Apologia) by K. Scott Oliphint (2013-08-16)
The Church and Idolatry
By Jared Wilson 6/01/2012
“Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God” (1 Chron. 22:19). All sin is idolatry because every sin is an exercise in trust of something or someone other than the one true God to satisfy, fulfill, or bless. It is not difficult to see how violations of commandments two through ten are automatic violations of commandment one. This truth reveals that the hottest “worship war” going is the one taking place daily in the sanctuary of our own hearts. But we must wage this war because none of us is a bystander to idol worship.
In Isaiah 44:12–17, we find a powerful and revelatory description of just how easy it is to slip into idolatry. We see in the passage that ironsmiths are simply working their tools over the coals, fashioning them with their hammers. Carpenters measure out cuts and notches. Artists capture the physical form in sketches and sculpture. Men chop down trees to build houses, then they plant more trees to replace them. They build fire, bake bread. Ah, look at what we’ve created.
The transition is seamless from everyday, workaday living to “he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it” (v. 15). Of the same fire he has used for warmth and cooking, the workman says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” (v. 17).
The move is subtle. The switch from ordinary human achievement to blasphemy requires no explanation. It just flatout happens. Isaiah 44:12–17 demonstrates that there is only one step to becoming an idolater, and it is simply to mind your own business.
The implication for our churches is huge. On Sundays, our sanctuaries fill with people seeking worship, and not one person comes in set to neutral. We must take great care, then, not to assume that even in our religious environments, where we put the Scriptures under so many noses, that it is Jesus the exalted Christ who is being worshiped.
Every weekend in churches everywhere, music is performed to the glory of human skill and artistry. Once upon a time, I sat through a little ditty in a church service in which the congregation was led to sing, “I can change the world with these two hands,” and the question struck me like a lightning bolt: “Who exactly am I worshiping right now?”
Likewise, every weekend men and women file into church buildings in order to exult in the rhetorical skill of their preacher, to admire him and think of their church as his church, not Christ’s church. Many of us file in each week to enjoy the conspicuous spiritual exercises of our brethren. We worship the worship experience; we tithe with expectation of return from heaven’s slot machine; we dress to impress; and we serve and lead to compensate for the inadequacies in our hearts that only Christ can fill. Every weekend, hundreds of preachers extol a therapeutic gospel from the pages of the same Bible where the real gospel lies. We Reformed are not exempt, as too often our affections are poured totally into doctrine with only vague admiration reserved for doctrine’s Author.
A church will become idolatrous in a heartbeat because it’s already there. So, we cannot set our worship on autopilot. We cannot mistake the appearance of busy religiosity for worship in spirit and truth. We see in Exodus 32:5 that even the worshipers of the golden calf ascribed their worship to the covenant Lord Yahweh.
The gospel imperative, then, is to return again and again to the gospel indicative. Our first duty is “gospel obedience” (Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17), which is to stand at attention to Christ upon the gospel’s “tenhut.” Our hearts and minds flow through the rut of idolatry, but the deliberate proclamation of Jesus at every possible turn will force us off our idolatrous course. Martin Luther advises us:
I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.
Tim Keller elaborates: “So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.”
The proclamation of the good news of Jesus and the extolling of His eternal excellencies is always an interruption, always a disruption. It alone will bring the sword of division between where even our religious hearts are set and where they ought to be. For this reason, we cannot go about minding our own business any more. We must mind God’s (Col. 3:1–4).
By John Walvoord
Prophecy In The Gospels | General Prophecies In The Gospels
Prophecies in the Gospels have a special character because most of them are prophecies made by Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus was present in the Gospels also gives these prophecies a special significance because Jesus Himself was and is fulfilling prophecies in His person, His works, and His teachings. The prophecies of the Gospels form an important bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and they present a prophetic revelation in contrast to the four hundred years preceding, during which there were no prophets. The events of the Gospels lay a new platform for the complete revelation in the New Testament.
Most of the prophecies in the four Gospels are general in nature and cover a wide variety of prophetic subjects. There are certain passages, however, which provide a special prophetic emphasis. The Sermon on the Mount ( Matt. 5–7 ) has a special prophetic emphasis. Likewise, Matthew 13, dealing with prophecy concerning the present age, and the Olivet Discourse ( Matt. 24–25 ) provide a special presentation of prophecies concerning the end of the age. Also emphasized in the Gospels are prophecies concerning the death and resurrection of Christ. These areas of special revelation will be considered after general prophecies in the Gospels are examined.
The Prophecy of the Birth of John the Baptist
Luke 1:5–25. An introductory statement relating to the birth of John the Baptist provides an important prophetic introduction to the contents of the gospel. Zechariah, a priest, had been chosen by lot to burn incense, representing his division of the priesthood. He had a good reputation as one who kept the law. Zechariah and his wife were concerned because they were getting older and had no children (v. 7 ).
Zechariah, while performing his duties at the temple, was confronted by an angel standing at the altar of incense (v. 11 ). Zechariah was informed by the angel, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (vv. 13–17; cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:1–18; John 1:6–8, 15–37 ). Because Zechariah and his wife were both old and childless, he asked for confirmation of this prophecy, and “the angel answered, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time’” ( Luke 1:19–20; cf. vv. 63–64 ).
When Zechariah left the temple he was unable to speak to the people who were waiting for him (vv. 21–22 ). After he returned home, his wife became pregnant in fulfillment of the prophecy. In due time the prophecy was literally fulfilled in all of the details given to Zechariah and forms an important background to the birth of Christ Himself.
Prophecy of the Birth of Jesus
Luke 1:26–38. Just as the angel Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah, six months later he appeared to Mary, described as “a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David” (v. 27 ).
The angel greeted her: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (v. 28 ).
Because Mary was troubled by this greeting, Scripture records the angel’s announcement to Mary: “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end’” (vv. 30–33 ).
The prophecy was too extensive for her to grasp immediately. She probably could not comprehend why He should be called Jesus, which means Savior. He also was to be “Son of the Most High” (v. 32 ), meaning that He would be the Son of God. Though Mary was acquainted with the hope of Israel for a Messiah and a Redeemer, it is undoubtedly true that she did not comprehend completely the fact that her Son would have the throne of His father David, that He would reign over this kingdom forever, and that His kingdom would never end ( Ps. 89:36; Jer. 23:5–8 ). Only time would let her contemplate the full extent of the prophecy. She was concerned, however, with the question as to how she would have a Son when she was not yet married.
Psalm 89:36 (NASB95)
36 “His descendants shall endure forever
And his throne as the sun before Me.
Jeremiah 23:5–8 (NASB95)
5 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land.
6 “In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called,
‘The LORD our righteousness.’
7 “Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when they will no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’
8 but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they will live on their own soil.”
Accordingly, Mary asked the angel, “How will this be ... since I am a virgin?” ( Luke 1:34 ).
The angel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God” (vv. 35–27; cf. Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:21–22, 25; Luke 2:1–8 ).
Mary’s simple response was, “I am the Lord’s servant.... May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38 ). Most of the prophecies itemized by Gabriel were fulfilled in the lifetime of Christ. The prophecy concerning Christ’s reign on the throne of David is related eschatologically to the second coming of Christ when the Davidic kingdom will be revived and will continue in some form forever.
Of particular importance to the subject of eschatology is the fact that Christ was predicted to reign on the throne of David. Because many have attempted to limit the prophecy of the Davidic kingdom to the Old Testament and to claim that the New Testament interprets the prophecy in a nonliteral sense as being fulfilled today, this is an important interpretive passage in the New Testament, reaffirming that the Davidic kingdom would be restored literally. This announcement established the hope of the revival of the Davidic kingdom as a New Testament prophecy and gave a basis for a belief in the premillennial return of Christ to be followed by the millennial kingdom and the Davidic kingdom. Apparently, the Davidic kingdom will be an aspect of the millennial kingdom of Christ and will concern Israel and her regathered situation in the Promised Land. Mary had the expectation, as did the people of Israel, of a future Messiah who would literally revive the Davidic kingdom. The angel confirmed this by asserting that Christ would reign on the throne of David. The literal political revival of Israel in relation to the second coming of Christ is not an erroneous interpretation into which the people of Israel had fallen but rather precisely what the Old Testament predicted and what the New Testament here confirms.
Elizabeth’s Prophecy concerning Jesus
Luke 1:39–45. Apparently, about the time that Mary realized she was pregnant, she left Nazareth to visit Zechariah’s wife. Upon her arrival in Zechariah’s home, further confirmation of the angel’s message to Mary was recorded: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’” (vv. 41–42 ). Elizabeth continued, “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (vv. 43–45 ).
Mary’s Song of Praise
Luke 1:46–56. Mary was greatly reassured by the greeting of Elizabeth, which at once confirmed the prophecies concerning John and the prophecies concerning Jesus. In reply, Mary delivered a prophetic poem, often called the “Magnifcat.”
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” (vv. 46–55 )
The declaration of Mary, no doubt, was inspired by the Holy Spirit but also revealed in Mary an amazing spiritual maturity for a young woman and an intelligent faith in God that comprehended both the historic and the prophetic aspects of her experience.
In her declaration Mary stated that her rejoicing was in God because He had taken her from her humble state and now all generations would call her blessed. She stated that God’s mercy extended to those who fear Him and that God performs mighty deeds, bringing down rulers and establishing others. He has filled the hungry and sent the rich away. Most important, He has remembered His promises to Abraham and his descendants. In this declaration Mary was calling attention to the fact that prophecies concerning Abraham and the Davidic kingdom may be expected to have literal fulfillment.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth until just before the birth of John and then returned to Nazareth.
Prophecy concerning John’s Birth Fulfilled
Luke 1:57–66. In fulfillment of the prophecy concerning John, in due time Elizabeth gave birth, and there was great rejoicing. When some wanted to name him after his father, Zechariah, Scriptures record, “But his mother spoke up and said, ‘No! He is to be called John’” (v. 60 ). “He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John’” (v. 63 ). Then for the first time since he received the announcement, Zechariah was able to speak, and in his praise to God he indicated that the birth of John was an important prophetic event.
Zechariah’s Prophetic Song
Luke 1:67–80. As the Scripture indicates, Zechariah, being filled with the Holy Spirit, delivered his prophetic message:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us — to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all of our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (vv. 68–79 )
In his prophecy, Zechariah, referring to Christ, declared that God had raised up someone to bring deliverance through the house of David. He pointed out that the coming of Christ was in fulfillment of God’s solemn oath to Abraham (v. Luke 1:73 ).
Genesis 22:16–17 (NASB95)
16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,
17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.
Hebrews 6:13 (NASB95)
13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
In regard to John, Zechariah predicted, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High” (v. 76 ). Zechariah also predicted that John would serve as the forerunner to prepare the way for Christ (vv. 76–79 ). The prophecies through Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were clearly a confirmation of the expectation of the Jews that a Son of David would literally appear and would literally deliver His people from their enemies and bring great blessing and salvation to Israel.
A brief statement concluded the narrative concerning John, indicating that he grew up to be a strong young man and that he lived in the desert until the time of his introduction of Christ (v. 80 ).
Background Of Jesus As The Son Of David | Matthew’s Genealogy
Matthew 1:1–17. The gospel of Matthew is unique in presenting both the life of Christ from a particular point of view and an explanation of why the Old Testament prophecies concerning the kingdom on earth were not fulfilled at the first coming of Christ. Unlike the gospel of Luke, which is designed to set forth a true historical record of the facts concerning Christ ( Luke 1:1–4 ), the gospel of Matthew has the specific purpose of explaining to Jews, who expected their Messiah to be a conquering and glorious King, why, instead, Christ lived among men, died on a cross, and rose again. In keeping with this objective, the gospel of Matthew provides a bridge between the Old Testament prophecies and expectation of the coming of the Messiah of Israel and its fulfillment in the birth and life of Christ.
Accordingly, in the gospel of Matthew, the lineage of Jesus was traced back to Abraham and David. The genealogy of Matthew ended with Joseph the husband of Mary. Matthew made clear that Jesus was not the son of Joseph but that Mary was His mother ( Matt. 1:16 ). By contrast, the genealogy of Mary was given in Luke 3:23–37, assuring that Christ is a genuine descendant of David. The genealogy of Matthew supports the concept that Jesus is the legitimate heir to the throne of David through Joseph His father. Even though Joseph was not the human father of Jesus, the right of the royal throne was nevertheless passed through Joseph to Jesus. Accordingly, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament expectation that a Son of David would reign on the throne of David forever as Gabriel had announced to Mary ( Luke 1:32–33 ).
A careful study of Matthew’s genealogy reveals that it was not intended to be a complete genealogy as only fourteen generations were selected from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and a third fourteen from the Exile to the time of the birth of Jesus. Matthew 1:13–15 records people in the genealogy of Jesus who are not listed in the Old Testament. Likewise, some names in the Old Testament are not included in the genealogy as in the case of Uzziah, who was declared to be the son of Jehoram when actually he was the great-great-grandson of Jehoram ( Matt. 1:9; cf. 2 Kings 8:25; 13:1–15:38; 2 Chron. 22–25 ). The fact that the New Testament includes some names not in the Old Testament and the Old Testament includes some names not in the New Testament is one of the reasons why it is impossible to take genealogies as a basis for determining the antiquity of the human race, as the Scriptures themselves make plain that this was not the divine intent. On the other hand, it does not justify the point of view that the human race is many thousands of years older than the Scriptures seem to indicate.
Another unusual feature of the genealogies is the prominence of four women who would not normally be included in a genealogy. Each of them has a special background.
Tamar ( Matt. 1:3 ) actually got into the line by playing the harlot ( Gen. 38:1–30 ). Rahab the harlot was protected by Joshua when Jericho was captured and became part of the messianic line ( Josh. 2:1–6; 6:25 ). Rahab was declared to be the wife of Salmon, the father of Boaz, and this was revealed only in the New Testament ( Matt. 1:5 ).
Only Ruth, who is the subject of a beautiful portrayal in the book of Ruth, had an unspotted record, but even she was not an Israelite. Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, who had formerly been the wife of Uriah, had an adulterous relationship with David that resulted in the murder of her husband ( 2 Sam. 11:1–12:25 ). The fact that these women were in the genealogy also put a stop to any Jewish pride. Undoubtedly, Mary also had to withstand the burden of gossip concerning her Son, who was conceived before she was taken by Joseph as his bride.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Acts 8:14)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 30Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. ESV
The Pentecostal gift of the Spirit was not granted to these Samaritan converts immediately. They came of a schismatic group who were intensely jealous of their own claims to being the chosen people, as were the Jews to the south of them. They had to learn definitely that “salvation is of the Jews” as our Lord had declared (John 4:22), so they had to wait until the apostles came from Jerusalem before they were baptized into the one body of Christ.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is to be distinguished both from new birth by the Spirit and from the gifts of the Spirit. All believers are born of the Spirit, by the Word of God when they believe the gospel (1 Peter 1:23-25). The gifts of the Spirit are the graces or talents He divides “to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11), in order that we may work for God in our various spheres. But the gift of the Spirit is the Holy One Himself, who indwells believers and by whose baptism we are made members of Christ and so added to the Lord.
John 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
1 Peter 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. ESV
“One spirit with the Lord;”
Oh, blessed, wondrous word!
What heavenly light, what pow’r divine,
Doth that sweet word afford!
“One spirit with the Lord;”
Jesus, the glorified,
Esteems the Church for which He bled,
His Body and His Bride.
And though by storms assailed
And though by trials pressed,
Himself our Life, He bears us up,
Right onward to the rest.
--- Mary Bowley
- Virtue In Distress
- Messing Up Love
2 Stan Gaede | Gordon College
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
He was once one of America’s greatest generals. During the Revolution, he captured Fort Ticonderoga with Ethan Allen, and defeated the British at Saratoga. But it was on this date, August 30, 1780, that General Benedict Arnold conspired with General Clinton of Britain to surrender West Point for twenty thousand pounds. When discovered, George Washington wrote: “Treason of the blackest dye… General Arnold… was about to… give the American cause a deadly wound if not fatal stab…. Its [discovery] affords the most convincing proof that the Liberties of America are the object of divine Protection.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Do not have your concert first,
and then tune your instrument afterwards.
Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer,
and get first of all into harmony with Him.
--- Hudson Taylor
This modern emphasis only on personal salvation makes us lose sight of the grandeur and glory of God’s church. I am not minimizing our personal experience with Christ, but I am affirming that it is not the primary goal that God has in mind. He is building His church. He is building up the Body of Christ. The glory and greatness of our personal salvation is but a reflection of what God is doing corporately in and through His church.
--- Warren Wiersbe Prayer Basic Training
Order my footsteps by Thy Word,
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
Humility or self-abasement … humility does not consist in criticizing yourself, or wearing ragged clothes, or walking around submissively wherever you go. Humility consists in a realistic opinion of yourself, namely, that you are an unworthy person.
--- Jeremy Taylor (“Excerpts from The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living” Devotional Classics and Richard Foster Note: unworthy is not the same as worthless
People do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts them.
--- E. Paul Hovey
... from here, there and everywhere
In case you are wondering, this is not a post in which I am going to bash the church. Far from it. I love the church. But I am going to point out a “weakness” that we urgently need to address (see Proverbs 27:6).
How can I claim that Christians are so insecure? For the past decade, I have been role-playing an atheist at camps, conferences, churches, and other Christian events. I have done this in youth groups of ten students and in stadiums up to six thousand people. And I have done my role-play with parents, youth pastors, businessmen, and a variety of other groups from a myriad of denominations. During the presentation, I put on my “atheist glasses,” do my best to make the case for atheism, and then have two volunteers take microphones out into the audience so people can raise questions and challenges. People typically ask questions about morality, the origin of the universe, and evolution. And I simply respond back with the answers many of my atheist friends have given me.
Inevitably, people tend to get defensive, agitated, and quite upset. In fact, after the role-play is over, I often ask the audience to use individual words to describe how they treated me and “hostile” is one of the most common responses. Sure, there are undoubtedly people who are gracious and kind. But, in my experience it’s the exception to encounter a Christian who can engage the “atheist” both thoughtfully and graciously. Even though people know I am merely role-playing, I have had people call me names, yell at me across the room, walk out, and even threaten me—seriously!
This experience has caused me to ask the following question for some time: why do we Christians get so defensive? There can certainly be a variety of issues, but as I write in A New Kind of Apologist, there is one pressing reason we often overlook: Most Christians do not know what they believe and why. As a result, when I push back on their beliefs as an “atheist,” many get defensive.
It is human nature to get defensive when someone challenges us and we’re ill equipped to respond. If we really haven’t thought through how we know the Bible is true, why God allows evil and suffering, and how to reconcile science and faith, then when someone presses us to explain our beliefs, we have two options: admit we don’t know the answer, which takes humility, or get defensive. In reality, many Christians get defensive because they simply don’t have thoughtful answers to these big questions.
I don’t write this blog from a position of higher ground. I have fallen short many times in my interactions with non-Christians. Trust me, this post comes from my own frequent shortcomings. But I have seen firsthand the confidence training in apologetics brings to the church as a whole and students in particular.
Training in apologetics is especially important today because we find ourselves, as a church, increasingly at odds with the wider culture. If you believe the Bible is true, especially on issues related to sexuality, then you may find yourself getting tagged as hateful, intolerant, bigoted, and homophobic. We simply cannot respond with defensiveness. Rather, we must respond truthfully, but with kindness and charity. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6).
Sure, some people learn apologetics and become haughty. There’s no question about that! But the problem is not with apologetics per se, but that it is often not coupled with grace. Here’s the bottom line: we Christians often get defensive because we don’t really know why we believe what we believe. If we want to be confident ambassadors of the faith, who can interact with both kindness and substance, we must get training in apologetics.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Surrender Of Gischala; While John Flies Away From It To Jerusalem.
1. Now no place of Galilee remained to be taken but the small city of Gischala, whose multitude yet were desirous of peace; for they were generally husbandmen, and always applied themselves to cultivate the fruits of the earth. However, there were a great number that belonged to a band of robbers, that were already corrupted, and had crept in among them, and some of the governing part of the citizens were sick of the same distemper. It was John, the son of a certain man whose name was Levi, that drew them into this rebellion, and encouraged them in it. He was a cunning knave, and of a temper that could put on various shapes; very rash in expecting great things, and very sagacious in bringing about what he hoped for. It was known to every body that he was fond of war, in order to thrust himself into authority; and the seditious part of the people of Gischala were under his management, by whose means the populace, who seemed ready to send ambassadors in order to surrender, waited for the coming of the Romans in battle-array. Vespasian sent against them Titus, with a thousand horsemen, but withdrew the tenth legion to Scythopolis, while he returned to Cesarea with the two other legions, that he might allow them to refresh themselves after their long and hard campaign, thinking withal that the plenty which was in those cities would improve their bodies and their spirits, against the difficulties they were to go through afterwards; for he saw there would be occasion for great pains about Jerusalem, which was not yet taken, because it was the royal city, and the principal city of the whole nation, and because those that had run away from the war in other places got all together thither. It was also naturally strong, and the walls that were built round it made him not a little concerned about it. Moreover, he esteemed the men that were in it to be so courageous and bold, that even without the consideration of the walls, it would be hard to subdue them; for which reason he took care of and exercised his soldiers beforehand for the work, as they do wrestlers before they begin their undertaking.
2. Now Titus, as he rode out to Gischala, found it would be easy for him to take the city upon the first onset; but knew withal, that if he took it by force, the multitude would be destroyed by the soldiers without mercy. [Now he was already satiated with the shedding of blood, and pitied the major part, who would then perish, without distinction, together with the guilty.] So he was rather desirous the city might be surrendered up to him on terms. Accordingly, when he saw the wall full of those men that were of the corrupted party, he said to them, That he could not but wonder what it was they depended on, when they alone staid to fight the Romans, after every other city was taken by them, especially when they have seen cities much better fortified than theirs is overthrown by a single attack upon them; while as many as have intrusted themselves to the security of the Romans' right hands, which he now offers to them, without regarding their former insolence, do enjoy their own possessions in safety; for that while they had hopes of recovering their liberty, they might be pardoned; but that their continuance still in their opposition, when they saw that to be impossible, was inexcusable; for that if they will not comply with such humane offers, and right hands for security, they should have experience of such a war as would spare nobody, and should soon be made sensible that their wall would be but a trifle, when battered by the Roman machines; in depending on which they demonstrate themselves to be the only Galileans that were no better than arrogant slaves and captives.
3. Now none of the populace durst not only make a reply, but durst not so much as get upon the wall, for it was all taken up by the robbers, who were also the guard at the gates, in order to prevent any of the rest from going out, in order to propose terms of submission, and from receiving any of the horsemen into the city. But John returned Titus this answer: That for himself he was content to hearken to his proposals, and that he would either persuade or force those that refused them. Yet he said that Titus ought to have such regard to the Jewish law, as to grant them leave to celebrate that day, which was the seventh day of the week, on which it was unlawful not only to remove their arms, but even to treat of peace also; and that even the Romans were not ignorant how the period of the seventh day was among them a cessation from all labors; and that he who should compel them to transgress the law about that day would be equally guilty with those that were compelled to transgress it: and that this delay could be of no disadvantage to him; for why should any body think of doing any thing in the night, unless it was to fly away? which he might prevent by placing his camp round about them; and that they should think it a great point gained, if they might not be obliged to transgress the laws of their country; and that it would be a right thing for him, who designed to grant them peace, without their expectation of such a favor, to preserve the laws of those they saved inviolable. Thus did this man put a trick upon Titus, not so much out of regard to the seventh day as to his own preservation, for he was afraid lest he should be quite deserted if the city should be taken, and had his hopes of life in that night, and in his flight therein. Now this was the work of God, who therefore preserved this John, that he might bring on the destruction of Jerusalem; as also it was his work that Titus was prevailed with by this pretense for a delay, and that he pitched his camp further off the city at Cydessa. This Cydessa was a strong Mediterranean village of the Tyrians, which always hated and made war against the Jews; it had also a great number of inhabitants, and was well fortified, which made it a proper place for such as were enemies to the Jewish nation.
4. Now, in the night time, when John saw that there was no Roman guard about the city, he seized the opportunity directly, and, taking with him not only the armed men that were about him, but a considerable number of those that had little to do, together with their families, he fled to Jerusalem. And indeed, though the man was making haste to get away, and was tormented with fears of being a captive, or of losing his life, yet did he prevail with himself to take out of the city along with him a multitude of women and children, as far as twenty furlongs; but there he left them as he proceeded further on his journey, where those that were left behind made sad lamentations; for the farther every one of them was come from his own people, the nearer they thought themselves to be to their enemies. They also affrighted themselves with this thought, that those who would carry them into captivity were just at hand, and still turned themselves back at the mere noise they made themselves in this their hasty flight, as if those from whom they fled were just upon them. Many also of them missed their ways, and the earnestness of such as aimed to outgo the rest threw down many of them. And indeed there was a miserable destruction made of the women and children; while some of them took courage to call their husbands and kinsmen back, and to beseech them, with the bitterest lamentations, to stay for them; but John's exhortation, who cried out to them to save themselves, and fly away, prevailed. He said also, that if the Romans should seize upon those whom they left behind, they would be revenged on them for it. So this multitude that run thus away was dispersed abroad, according as each of them was able to run, one faster or slower than another.
5. Now on the next day Titus came to the wall, to make the agreement; whereupon the people opened their gates to him, and came out to him, with their children and wives, and made acclamations of joy to him, as to one that had been their benefactor, and had delivered the city out of custody; they also informed him of John's flight, and besought him to spare them, and to come in, and bring the rest of those that were for innovations to punishment. But Titus, not so much regarding the supplications of the people, sent part of his horsemen to pursue after John, but they could not overtake him, for he was gotten to Jerusalem before; they also slew six thousand of the women and children who went out with him, but returned back, and brought with them almost three thousand. However, Titus was greatly displeased that he had not been able to bring this John, who had deluded him, to punishment; yet he had captives enough, as well as the corrupted part of the city, to satisfy his anger, when it missed of John. So he entered the city in the midst of acclamations of joy; and when he had given orders to the soldiers to pull down a small part of the wall, as of a city taken in war, he repressed those that had disturbed the city rather by threatenings than by executions; for he thought that many would accuse innocent persons, out of their own private animosities and quarrels, if he should attempt to distinguish those that were worthy of punishment from the rest; and that it was better to let a guilty person alone in his fears, that to destroy with him any one that did not deserve it; for that probably such a one might be taught prudence, by the fear of the punishment he had deserved, and have a shame upon him for his former offenses, when he had been forgiven; but that the punishment of such as have been once put to death could never be retrieved. However, he placed a garrison in the city for its security, by which means he should restrain those that were for innovations, and should leave those that were peaceably disposed in greater security. And thus was all Galilee taken, but this not till after it had cost the Romans much pains before it could be taken by them.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
and a forbidden woman like a narrow well.
28 She lies in wait to snatch her prey
and adds to the number of faithless men.
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
Am I convinced by Christ?
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not …, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
--- Luke 10:19, 20.
Jesus Christ says, in effect, Don’t rejoice in successful service, but rejoice because you are rightly related to Me. The snare in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service, to rejoice in the fact that God has used you. You never can measure what God will do through you if you are rightly related to Jesus Christ. Keep your relationship right with Him, then whatever circumstances you are in, and whoever you meet day by day, He is pouring rivers of living water through you, and it is of His mercy that He does not let you know it. When once you are rightly related to God by salvation and sanctification, remember that wherever you are, you are put there by God; and by the reaction of your life on the circumstances around you, you will fulfil God’s purpose, as long as you keep in the light as God is in the light.
The tendency to-day is to put the emphasis on service. Beware of the people who make usefulness their ground of appeal. If you make usefulness the test, then Jesus Christ was the greatest failure that ever lived. The lodestar of the saint is God Himself, not estimated usefulness. It is the work that God does through us that counts, not what we do for Him. All that Our Lord heeds in a man’s life is the relationship of worth to His Father. Jesus is bringing many sons to glory.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The night my father got me
His mind was not on me;
He did not plague his fancy
To muse if I should be
The son you see.
The day my mother bore me
She was a fool and glad,
For all the pain I cost her,
That she had borne the lad
That borne she had.
My mother and my father
Out of the light they lie;
The warrant would not find them,
And here 'tis only I
Shall hang so high.
Oh let not man remember
The soul that God forgot,
But fetch the county kerchief
And noose me in the knot,
And I will rot.
For so the game is ended
That should not have begun.
My father and my mother
They had a likely son,
And I have none.
The reasons for keeping kosher are obscure to most people. The ignorance of and irreverence toward kashrut is epitomized by a brief tale and commentary from Woody Allen’s collection Getting Even :
Rabbi Zwi Chaim Yisroel, an Orthodox scholar of the Torah and a man who developed whining into an art unheard of in the West, was unanimously hailed as the wisest man of the Renaissance by his fellow Hebrews, who totaled a sixteenth of one percent of the population. Once, while he was on his way to the synagogue to celebrate the sacred Jewish holiday commemorating God’s reneging on every promise, a woman stopped him and asked the following question: “Rabbi, why are we not allowed to eat pork?”
“We’re not??” The Reb said incredulously. “Uh-oh.”
This is one of those few stories in all Hasidic literature that deals with Hebrew law. The rabbi knows he shouldn’t eat pork; he doesn’t care, though, because he likes pork. Not only does he like pork; he gets a kick out of rolling Easter eggs. In short, he cares very little about traditional Orthodoxy and regards God’s covenant with Abraham as “just so much chin music.” Why pork was proscribed by Hebraic law is still unclear, and some scholars believe that the Torah merely suggested not eating pork at certain restaurants.
Many people have been brought up believing that the avoidance of pork is for health reasons. They cite the prevalence of trichinosis in the ancient world, assuming that the rules of the Torah were to make us healthier. The Torah, however, never mentions hygiene. One could, in fact, keep all the laws of kashrut as outlined by the Bible and Talmud and eat a pretty unhealthy diet—low in fiber, high in fat and calories. Leviticus, as understood by the Rabbis, gives a clear rationale for the kosher laws—holiness.
Some say “You are what you eat.” The Rabbis said “You are how you eat.” They insisted that Jews find sanctity in every act, even in something as mundane as eating. When we assume it’s for health reasons, we consign kashrut to the past. When keeping kosher is to make us holy, then it can continue to serve a meaningful purpose in our lives.
There are all sorts of reasons why people observe religious traditions. Our Midrash teaches us that some reasons are better than others.
A woman maintains a kosher kitchen—buying only kosher foods, never cooking or serving dairy and meat together, using two sets of dishes and silverware and pots. When asked by a friend why she holds on to this ancient tradition, the woman explains, “Even though my mother is gone now ten years, I feel that she would be very disappointed in me if I didn’t keep a kosher home.”
An elderly man insists on fasting on Yom Kippur, despite the fact that he has medical problems. His doctor has told him that he should eat, and his children have pleaded with him not to fast. Even the rabbi has been enlisted to try to talk sense to the man. “Sol, I’m deeply impressed with your desire to do this mitzvah. But given your condition, you really shouldn’t.” “Rabbi, I can’t explain it. I just have a fear that God will punish me if I eat on Yom Kippur.”
A pair of twins—a girl and a boy—have been lighting Shabbat candles and making Kiddush every Friday night since they celebrated their Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Their parents are thrilled that their children have taken on these rituals. What they aren’t aware of is that the twins have made a bet to see which one can keep their “mitzvah streak” going longer than the other.
Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah would certainly be happy that the woman kept a kosher home. But he would think that there were many positive reasons why she should do so: adding holiness to her life; fulfilling God’s will; building up her self-discipline; strengthening her Jewish identity; showing consideration for animals. Maintaining the traditions out of a sense of guilt would not be high on his list.
He would also be pleased that the old man continued to have such strong feelings about his religious rituals. The Rabbi would, no doubt, quote the teaching that insisted that a sick person not fast, and would remind him that it was a mitzvah to eat if life and health were at stake. He would also teach him that the reason we observe our rituals is not out of fear of punishment, but because we believe that the rituals enrich our lives. Fasting is a way to show God our regret; it is a concrete act of contrition; it is a way of reminding ourselves that for at least twenty-four hours we can control our physical instincts; and it is a way of sensitizing ourselves to those who are without food so that we might resolve to reach out and help them.
Rabbi Elazar would surely understand that many people—adults as well as teenagers—embark on the observance of a particular mitzvah for the wrong reason, but in time end up doing it for the right reason. He might be amused at the twins and their “competition.” But he would teach them that candlelighting and Kiddush help make an otherwise ordinary day into sacred time, and that sacred times help to give our lives deeper meaning and purpose.
The Jewish people are strengthened by every mitzvah that they do. The people who do those mitzvot would be even more strengthened by searching for positive reasons for doing them.
He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. --- Psalm 33:9.
The power of God appears in preserving the souls of believers amidst the many dangers to which they are exposed and bringing them safely to glory. (Thomas Boston, “Of God and His Perfections,” downloaded from The Boston Homepage at www.geocities.com/~thomasboston, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) They have many enemies without: a legion of subtle and powerful devils, a wicked and ensnaring world. They have many strong lusts and corruptions within, and their graces are but weak, in their infancy while they are here. It [is a] wonder how they are preserved. But the apostle tells us that they “through faith are shielded by God’s power” until salvation (1 Peter 1:5). Indwelling corruption would soon quench grace in their hearts if that grace were not kept alive by a divine power. But Christ’s power moderates the violence of temptations, supports his people under them, [and] defeats the power of Satan.
The power of God appears in the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ. Thus in Scripture Christ is called the power as well as the wisdom of God. This is the most admirable work that God ever brought forth in the world.
More particularly, the power of God shines in Christ’s miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin. The power of the Highest overshadowed her (Luke 1:35), and by a creative act framed the humanity of Christ of the substance of the virgin’s body and united it to the divinity. If God will accomplish that stupendous wonder, much more will he rescue his people from their adversaries.
The power of God shines in uniting the divine and human nature in the person of Christ, without any confusion of the two natures or changing the one into the other. One nature does not swallow up another and make a third distinct from both. But they are distinct and yet united; the properties of each nature are preserved entire. What a wonder of power that two natures, divine and human, infinitely distant, should meet together in a personal conjunction! Here the Creator and the creature are miraculously allied in the same being. Here a God of unmixed blessedness is linked personally with a man of perpetual sorrows. That is an admirable expression, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Nothing less than an omnipotent power could bring about what an infinite and incomprehensible wisdom projected in this matter.
Two Martyrs August 30
Christianity became firmly rooted in North Africa in the 200s, but the Roman emperors exerted every effort to pull it up. Among their targets: an urban bishop and a small-town pastor. The urban bishop was Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus, who had turned his back on a promising political career to represent Christ. Though a relatively new convert, Cyprian was appointed bishop of Carthage in 248. “The stain of my earlier life had been washed away by the help of the water of birth [baptism],” he wrote, “and the second birth restored me so as to make me a new man.”
He served for ten years, steering the Carthage church through stormy days of persecution. At length, Roman Emperor Decius ordered the liquidation of all leading Christian bishops. News came of bishops executed in Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, Caesarea. Then the soldiers came for Cyprian, too. He was beheaded on August 30, 258.
Several years later, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, a village pastor outside Carthage faced similar jeopardy. The persecution unleashed by Diocletian was the worst of all. Churches were destroyed, Bibles burned, and all civil rights of Christians were suspended. Diocletian required everyone to sacrifice to the gods. When Roman magistrates came to the village, they summoned leading Christians and ordered them to surrender their Bibles. The believers replied that their Pastor Felix had them in his possession, and he was away in Carthage. When Felix returned the next day, he was surrounded by troops who demanded he turn over the Bibles.
He refused. “It is better that I should be burnt myself than the Scriptures,” he told them. They gave him three days to reconsider his answer, then sent him to the proconsul in Carthage who suggested he wriggle out of the dilemma by offering some old Bibles and spare books.
Felix refused. “I have Bibles,” he said, “but I will not surrender them.” He was escorted to the lowest cell in the city’s filthiest prison for a month of misery, then shipped to Italy bound in heavy chains. He died en route on August 30, 303, in the hold of a ship carrying horses.
I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. … So I command you to love each other. If the people of this world hate you, just remember that they hated me first.John 15:16-18.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 30
“Wait on the Lord.” --- Psalm 27:14.
It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God’s warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before him; tell him your difficulty, and plead his promise of aid. In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is sweet to be humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord. It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly, and are heartily willing to be guided by the will of God. But wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in him; for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord. Believe that if he keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet he will come at the right time; the vision shall come and shall not tarry. Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because you are under the affliction, but blessing your God for it. Never murmur against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the case as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God, saying, “Now, Lord, not my will, but thine be done. I know not what to do; I am brought to extremities, but I will wait until thou shalt cleave the floods, or drive back my foes. I will wait, if thou keep me many a day, for my heart is fixed upon thee alone, O God, and my spirit waiteth for thee in the full conviction that thou wilt yet be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower.”
Evening - August 30
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.”
--- Jeremiah 17:14.
“I have seen his ways, and will heal him.”
--- Isaiah 57:18.
It is the sole prerogative of God to remove spiritual disease. Natural disease may be instrumentally healed by men, but even then the honour is to be given to God who giveth virtue unto medicine, and bestoweth power unto the human frame to cast off disease. As for spiritual sicknesses, these remain with the great Physician alone; he claims it as his prerogative, “I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal;” and one of the Lord’s choice titles is Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee. “I will heal thee of thy wounds,” is a promise which could not come from the lip of man, but only from the mouth of the eternal God. On this account the psalmist cried unto the Lord, “O Lord, heal me, for my bones are sore vexed,” and again, “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” For this, also, the godly praise the name of the Lord, saying, “He healeth all our diseases.” He who made man can restore man; he who was at first the creator of our nature can new create it. What a transcendent comfort it is that in the person of Jesus “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily!” My soul, whatever thy disease may be, this great Physician can heal thee. If he be God, there can be no limit to his power. Come then with the blind eye of darkened understanding, come with the limping foot of wasted energy, come with the maimed hand of weak faith, the fever of an angry temper, or the ague of shivering despondency, come just as thou art, for he who is God can certainly restore thee of thy plague. None shall restrain the healing virtue which proceeds from Jesus our Lord. Legions of devils have been made to own the power of the beloved Physician, and never once has he been baffled. All his patients have been cured in the past and shall be in the future, and thou shalt be one among them, my friend, if thou wilt but rest thyself in him this night.
I SURRENDER ALL
Judson W. Van De Venter, 1855–1939
Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38, 39)
The Bible teaches us that brokenness is a prerequisite to blessing and usefulness. No one ever achieves spiritual greatness until he has fully surrendered himself to God. Victorious living comes only as we abandon ourselves to the Lordship of Christ, becoming His loving bond slave. God’s best for our lives is not the result of struggle. Rather, it is simply the acceptance of His perfect will and the recognition of His authority in every area of our lives.
Higher than the highest heaven,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered:
Grant me now my supplication,
None of self and all of Thee.
Judson Van De Venter wrote this text after surrendering his many talents to his all-wise Savior:
For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life, I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing.
After making his decision to devote his life to Christian service, Van De Venter ministered with much blessing in extensive evangelistic work both at home and abroad. Billy Graham is one of many who claim that Judson Van De Venter had greatly influenced their lives and ministry.
All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I free give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow; worldly pleasures all forsaken, take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender, make me, Savior, wholly Thine; let me feel the Holy Spirit—truly know that Thou art mine.
All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee; fill me with Thy love and power; let Thy blessings fall on me.
Chorus: I surrender all, I surrender all, all to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
For Today: Romans 6:8-14; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; Ephesians 3:16, 17
If you have lost the enthusiasm for Christ that you once had, make a fresh surrender to His will and Lordship. Sing as you go ---
DISCOURSE III - ON GOD’S BEING A SPIRIT
2. If God be a pure Spirit, “it is unreasonable to frame any image or picture of God.” Some heathens have been wiser in this than some Christians; Pythagoras forbade his scholars to engrave any shape of him upon a ring, because he was not to be comprehended by sense, but conceived only in our minds: our hands are as unable to fashion him, as our eyes to see him. The ancient Romans worshipped their gods one hundred and seventy years before any material representations of them; and the ancient idolatrous Germans thought it a wicked thing to represent God in a human shape; yet some, and those no Romanists, labor to defend the making images of God in the resemblance of maji, because he is so represented in Scripture: “He may be,” saith one, “conceived so in our minds, and figured so to our sense.” If this were a good reason, why may he not be pictured as a lion, horn, eagle, rock, since he is under such metaphors shadowed to us? The same ground there is for the one as for the other. What though man be a nobler creature, God hath no more the body of a man than that of an eagle; and some perfections in other creatures represent some excellencies in his nature and actions which cannot be figured by a human shape, as strength by the lion, swiftness and readiness by the wings of the bird. But God hath absolutely prohibited the making “any image” whatsoever of him, and that with terrible threatenings (Exod. 20:5): “I, the Lord, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon their children,” and Deut. 5:8, 9. After God had given the Israelites the commandment wherein he forbade them to have any other gods before him, he forbids all figuring of him by the hand of man; not only images, but any likeness of him, either by things in heaven, in the earth, or in the water. How often doth he discover his indignation by the prophets, against them that offer to mould him in a creature form! This law was not to serve a particular dispensation, or to endure a particular time, but it was a declaration of his will, invariable in all places and all times; being founded upon the immutable nature of his being, and therefore agreeable to the law of nature, otherwise not chargeable upon the heathens; and therefore when God had declared his nature and his works in a stately and majestic eloquence, he demands of them, “To whom they would liken him, or what likeness they would compare unto him?” (Isa. 40:18); where they could find anything that would be a lively image and resemblance of his infinite excellency? founding it upon the infiniteness of his nature, which necessarily implies the spirituality of it, God is infinitely above any statue: and those that think to draw God by a stroke of a pencil, or form him by the engravings of art, are more stupid than the statues themselves. To show the unreasonableness of it, consider,
1. It is impossible to fashion any image of God. If our more capacious souls cannot grasp his nature, our weaker sense cannot frame his image; it is more possible, of the two, to comprehend him in our minds, than to frame him in an image to our sense. He inhabits inaccessible light; as it is impossible for the eye of man to see him, it is impossible for the art of man to paint him upon walls, and carve him out of wood. None knows him but himself, none can describe him but himself. Can we draw a figure of our own souls, and express that part of ourselves, wherein we are most like to God? Can we extend this to any bodily figure, and divide it into parts? How can we deal so with the original copy, whence the first draught of our souls was taken, and which is infinitely more spiritual than men or angels? No corporeal thing can represent a spiritual substance; there is no proportion in nature between them. God is a simple, infinite, immense, eternal, invisible, incorruptible being; a statue is a compounded, finite, limited, temporal, visible, and corruptible body. God is a living spirit; but a statue nor sees, nor hears, nor perceives anything. But suppose God had a body, it is impossible to mould an image of it in the true glory of that body; can the statue of an excellent monarch represent the majesty and air of his countenance, though made by the skilfullest workman in the world? If God had a body in some measure suited to his excellency, were it possible for man to make an exact image of him, who cannot picture the light, heat, motion, magnitude, and dazzling property of the sun? The excellency of any corporeal nature of the (east creature, the temper, instinct, artifice, are beyond the power of a carving tool; much more is God.
2. To make any corporeal representations of God is unworthy of God. It is a disgrace to his nature. Whosoever thinks a carnal corruptible image to be fit for a representation of God, renders God no better than a carnal and a corporeal being. It is a kind of debasing an angel, who is a spiritual nature, to represent him in a bodily shape, who is as far removed from any fleshliness as heaven from earth; much more to degrade the glory of the divine nature to the lineaments of a man. The whole stock of images is but a lie of God (Jer. 10:8, 14); a doctrine of vanities and falsehood; it represents him in a false garb to the world, and sinks his glory into that of a corruptible creature. It impairs the reverence of God in the minds of men, and by degrees may debase men’s apprehensions of God, and be a means to make them believe he is such a one as themselves; and that not being free from the figure, he is not also free from the imperfections of the bodies. Corporeal images of God were the fruits of base imaginations of him; and as they sprung from them, so they contribute to a greater corruption of the notions of the divine nature: the heathens begun their first representations of him by the image of a corruptible man, then of birds, till they descended not only to four-footed beasts but creeping things, even serpents, as the apostle seems to intimate in his enumeration (Rom. 1:23): it had been more honorable to have continued in human representations of him, than have sunk so low as beasts and serpents, the baser images; though the first had been infinitely unworthy of him, he being more above a man, though the noblest creature, than man is above a worm, a toad, or the most despicable creeping thing upon the earth. To think we can make an image of God of a piece of marble, or an ingot of gold, is a greater debasing of him, than it would be of a great prince, if you should represent him in the statue of a frog. When the Israelites represented God by a calf it is said “they sinned a great sin” (Exod. 32:31): and the sin of Jeroboam, who intended only a representation of God by the calves at Dan and Bethel, is called more emphatically, “the wickedness of your wickedness,” the very scum and dregs of wickedness. As men deba sed God by this, so God debased men for this; he degraded the Israelites into captivity, under the worst of their enemies, and punished the heathens with spiritual judgments, as uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts (Rom. 1:24); which is repeated again in other expressions (ver. 26, 27), as a meet recompense for their disgracing the spiritual nature of God. Had God been like to man, they had not offended in it; but I mention this, to show a probable reason of those base lusts which are in the midst of us, that have scarce been exceeded by any nation, viz., the unworthy and unspiritual conceits of God, which are as much a debasing of him as material images were when they were more rife in the world; and may be as well the cause of spiritual judgments upon men, as the worshipping molten and carve images were the cause of the same upon the heathen.
3. Yet this is natural to man. Wherein we may see the contrariety of man to God. Though God be a Spirit, yet there is nothing man is more prone to, than to represent him under a corporeal form. The most famous guides of the heathen world have fashioned him, not only according to the more honorable images of men, but bestialized him in the form of a brute. The Egyptians, whose country was the school of learning to Greece, were notoriously guilty of this brutishness in worshipping an ox for an image of their God; and the Philistines their Dagon, in a figure composed of the image of a woman and a fish: such representations were ancient in the oriental parts. The gods of Laban, that he accuseth Jacob of stealing from him, are supposed to be little figures of men. Such was the Israelites’ golden calf; their worship was not terminated on the image, but they worshipped the true God under that representation; they could not be so brutish as to call a calf their deliverer, and give him so great a title (“These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,” Exod. 32:4): or that which they knew belonged to the true God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” They knew the calf to be formed of their ear-rings, but they had consecrated it to God as a representation of him; though they chose the form of the Egyptian idol, yet they knew that Apis, Osiris, and Isis, the gods of the Egyptians adored in that figure, had not wrought their redemption from bondage, but would have used their force, had they been possessed of any, to have kept them under the yoke, rather than have freed them from it; the feast also which they celebrated before that image, is called by Aaron the feast of the Lord (Exod. 32:5); a feast to Jehovah, the incommunicable name of the creator of the world; it is therefore evident, that both the priest and the people pretended to serve the true God, not any false divinity of Egypt; that God who had rescued them from Egypt, with a mighty hand, divided the Red Sea before them, destroyed their enemies, conducted them, fed them by miracle, spoken to them from Mount Sinai, and amazed them by his thunderings and lightnings when he instructed them by his law; a God whom they could not so soon forget. And with this representing God by that image, they are charged by the Psalmist (Psalm 106:19, 20), “they made a calf in Horeb, and changed their glory into a similitude of an ox that eateth grass:” they changed their glory, that is, God, the glory of Israel; so that they took this figure for the image of the true God of Israel, their own God; not the God of any other nation in the world. Jeroboam intended no other by his calves, but symbols of the presence of the true God; instead of the ark and the propitiatory which remained among the Jews.
We see the inclination of our natures in the practice of the Israelites; a people chosen out of the whole world to bear up God’s name, and preserve his glory; and in that the images of God were so soon set up in the Christian church; and to this day, the picture of God, in the shape of an old man, is visible in the temple of the Romanists. It is prone to the nature of man,
4. To represent God by a corporeal image; and to worship him in and by that image, is idolatry. Though the Israelites did not acknowledge the calf to be God, nor intended a worship to any of the Egyptian deities by it; but worshipped that God in it, who had so lately and miraculously delivered them from a cruel servitude; and could not in natural reason judge him to be clothed with a bodily shape, much less to be like an ox that eateth grass; yet the apostle brings no less a charge against them than that of idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7); he calls them idolaters, who before that calf kept a feast to Jehovah, citing Exod. 32:5. Suppose we could make such an image of God as might perfectly represent him; yet since God hath prohibited it, shall we be wiser than God? He hath sufficiently manifested himself in his works without images: He is seen in the creatures, more particularly in the heavens, which declare his glory His works are more excellent representations of him, as being the works of his own hands, than anything that is the product of the art of man.
His glory sparkles in the heavens, sun, moon, and stars, as being magnificent pieces of his wisdom and power; yet the kissing the hand to the sun or the heavens, as representatives of the excellency and majesty of God, is idolatry in Scripture account, and a denial of God; a prostituting the glory of God to a creature. Either the worship is terminated on the image itself, and then it is confessed by all to be idolatry, because it is a giving that worship to a creature which is the sole right of God, or not terminated in the image, but in the object represented by it; it is then a foolish thing; we may as well terminate our worship on the true object without, as with an image. An erected statue is no sign or symbol of God’s special presence, as the ark, tabernacle, temple were. It is no part of divine institution; has no authority of a command to support it; no cordial of a promise to encourage it; and the image being infinitely distant from, and below the majesty and spirituality of God, cannot constitute one object of worship with him. To put a religious character upon any image formed by the corrupt imagination of man, as a representation of the invisible and spiritual Deity, is to think the Godhead to be like silver and gold, or stone graven by art and man’s device.
III. doctrine will direct us in our conceptions of God, as a pure perfect Spirit, than which nothing can be imagined more perfect, more pure, more spiritual.
1. We cannot have an adequate or suitable conception of God: He dwells in inaccessible light; inaccessible to the acuteness of our fancy, as well as the weakness of our sense. If we could have thoughts of him, as high and excellent as his nature, our conceptions must be as infinite as his nature. All our imaginations of him cannot represent him, because every created species is finite; it cannot therefore represent to us a full and substantial notion of an infinite Being. We cannot speak or think worthily enough of him, who is greater than our words, vaster than our understandings. Whatsoever we speak or think of God, is handed first to us by the notice we have of some perfection in the creature, and explains to us some particular excellency of God, rather than the fulness of his essence. No creature, nor all creatures together, can furnish us with such a magnificent notion of God, as can give us a clear view of him. Yet God in his word is pleased to step below his own excellency, and point us to those excellencies in his works, whereby we may ascend to the knowledge of those excellencies which are in his nature. But the creatures, whence we draw our lessons, being finite, and our understandings being finite, it is utterly impossible to have a notion of God commensurate to the immensity and spirituality of his being. “God is not like to visible creatures, nor is there any proportion between him and the most spiritual.” We cannot have a full notion of a spiritual nature, much less can we have of God, who is a Spirit above spirits. No spirit can clearly represent him: the angels, that are great sphits, are bounded in their extent, finite in their being, and of a mutable nature. Yet though we cannot have a suitable conception of God, we must not content ourselves without any conception of him. It is our sin not to endeavor after a true notion of him: it is our sin to rest in a mean and low notion of him, when our reason tells us we are capable of having higher: but if we ascend as high as we can, though we shall then come short of a suitable notion of him, this is not our sin, but our weakness. God is infinitely superior to the choicest conceptions, not only of a sinner, but of a creature. If all conceptions of God below the true nature of God were sin, there is not a holy angel in heaven free from sin; because, though they are the most capacious creatures, yet they cannot have such a notion of an infinite Being as is fully suitable to his nature, unless they were infinite as he himself is.
2. But, however, we must by no means conceive of God under a human or corporeal shape. Since we cannot have conceptions honorable enough for his nature, we must take heed we entertain not any which may debase his nature; though we cannot comprehend him as he is, we must be careful not to fancy him to be what he is not. It is a vain thing to conceive him with human lineaments: we must think higher of him than to ascribe to him so mean a shape we deny his spirituality when we fancy him under such a form. He is spiritual, and between that which is spiritual and that which is corporeal, there is no resemblance. Indeed, Daniel saw God in a human form (Dan. 7:9): “The Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hairs of his head like pure wool:” he is described as coming to judgment; it is not meant of Christ probably, because Christ (ver. 13) is called the Son of Man coming near to the Ancient of days. This is not the proper shape of God, for no man hath seen his shape. It was a vision wherein such representations were made, as were accommodated to the inward sense of Daniel; Daniel saw him in a rapture or ecstacy, wherein outward senses are of no use. God is described, not as he is in himself, of a human form, but in regard of his fitness to judge: “white,” notes the purity and simplicity of the Divine nature; “Ancient of days,” in regard of his eternity; “white hair,” in regard of his prudence and wisdom, which is more eminent in age than youth, and more fit to discern causes and to distinguish between right and wrong. Visions are riddles, and must not be understood in a literal sense.
We are to watch against such determinate conceptions of God. Vain imaginations do easily infest us; tinder will not sooner take fire than our natures kindle into wrong notions of the Divine Majesty. We are very apt to fashion a god like ourselves; we must therefore look upon such representations of God, as accommodated to our weakness: and no more think them to be literal descriptions of God, as he is in himself, than we will think the image of the sun in the water, to be the true sun in the heavens. We may, indeed, conceive of Christ as man, who hath in heaven the vestment of our nature, and is Deus figuratus, though we cannot conceive the godhead under a human shape.
1. To have such a fancy is to disparage and wrong God. A corporeal fancy of God is as ridiculous in itself, and as injurious to God, as a wooden statue. The caprices of our imagination are often more mysterious than the images which are the works of art; it is as irreligious to measure God’s essence by our line, his perfections by our imperfections, as to measure his thoughts and actings by the weakness and unworthiness of our own. This is to limit an infinite essence, and pull him down to our scanty measures, and render that which is unconceivably above us, equal with us. It is impossible we can conceive God after the manner of a body, but we must bring him down to the proportion of a body, which is to diminish his glory, and stoop him below the dignity of his nature. God is a pure Spirit, he hath nothing of the nature and tincture of a body; whosoever, therefore, conceives of him as having a bodily form, though he fancy the most beautiful and comely body, instead of owning his dignity, detracts from the super-eminent excellency of his nature and blessedness. When men fancy God like themselves in their corporeal nature, they will soon make a progress, and ascribe to him their corrupt nature; and while they clothe him with their bodies, invest him also in the infirmities of them. God is a jealous God, very sensible of any disgrace, and will be as much incensed against an inward idolatry as an outward: that command which forbade corporeal images, would not indulge /carnal imaginations; since the nature of God is as much wronged by unworthy images, erected in the fancy, as by statues carved out of stone or metals: one as well as the other is a deserting of our true spouse, and committing adultery; one with a material image, and the other with a carnal notion of God. Since God humbles himself to our apprehensions, we should not debase him in thinking him to be that in his nature, which he makes only a resemblance of himself to us.
2. To have such fancies of God, will obstruct and pollute our worship of him. How is it possible to give him a right worship, of whom we have so debasing a notion? We shall never think a corporeal deity worthy of a dedication of our spirits. The hating instruction, and casting God’s word behind the back, is charged upon the imagination they had, that “God was such a one as themselves” (Psalm 50:17, 21). Many of the wiser heathens did not judge their statues to be their gods, or their gods to be like their statues; but suited them to their politic designs; and judged them a good invention to keep people within the bounds of obedience and devotion, by such visible figures of them, which might imprint a reverence and fear of those gods upon them; but these are false measures; a despised and undervalued God is not an object of petition or affection. Who would address seriously to a God he has low apprehensions of? The more raised thoughts we have of him, the viler sense we shall have of ourselves; they would make us humble and self-abhorrent in our supplications to him (Job 42:6): “wherefore I abhor myself,”
3. Though we must not conceive of God, as of a human or corporeal shape; yet we cannot think of God, without some reflection upon our own being. We cannot conceive him to be an intelligent being, but we must make some comparison between him and our own understanding nature to come to a knowledge of him. Since we are enclosed in bodies, we apprehend nothing but what comes in by sense, and what we in some sort measure by sensible objects. And in the consideration of those things which we desire to abstract from sense, we are fain to make use of the assistance of sense and visible things: and therefore when we frame the highest notion, there will be some similitude of some corporeal thing in our fancy; and though we would spiritualize our thoughts, and aim at a more abstracted and raised understanding, yet there will be some dregs of matter sticking to our conceptions; yet we still judge by argument and reasoning, what the thing is we think of under those material images. A corporeal image will follow us, as the shadow doth the body. While we are in the body, and surrounded with fleshly matter, we cannot think of things without some help from corporeal representations: something of sense will interpose itself in our purest conceptions of spiritual things; for the faculties which serve for contemplation, are either corporeal, as the sense and fancy, or so allied to them, that nothing passes into them but by the organs of the body; so that there is a natural inclination to figure nothing but under a corporeal notion, till by an attentive application of the mind and reason to the object thought upon, we separate that which is bodily from that which is spiritual, and by degrees ascend to that true notion of that we think upon, and would have a due conception of in our mind. Therefore God tempers the declaration of himself to our weakness, and the condition of our natures. He condescends to our littleness and narrowness, when he declares himself by the similitude of bodily members. As the light of the sun is tempered, and difuseth itself to our sense through the air and vapors, that our weak eyes may not be too much dazzled with it; without it we could not know or judge of the sun, because we could have no use of our sense, which we must have before we can judge of it in our understanding; so we are not able to conceive of spiritual beings in the purity of their own nature, without such a temperament, and such shadows to usher them into our minds. And therefore we find the Spirit of God accommodates himself to our contracted and teddered capacities, and uses such expressions of God as are suited to us in this state of flesh wherein we are. And therefore because we cannot apprehend God in the simplicity of his own being, and his undivided essence, he draws the representations of himself from several creatures and several actions of those creatures: as sometimes he is said to be angry, to walk, to sit, to fly; not that we should rest in such conceptions of him, but take our rise from this foundation, and such perfections in the creatures, to mount up to a knowledge of God’s nature by those several steps, and conceive of him by those divided excellencies, because we cannot conceive of him in the purity of his own essence. We cannot possibly think or speak of God, unless we transfer the names of created perfections to him; yet we are to conceive of them in a higher manner when we apply them to the Divine nature, than when we consider them in the several creatures formally, exceeding those perfections and excellencies which are in the creature, and in a more excellent manner: “as one saith, though we cannot comprehend God without the help of such resemblances, yet we may, without making an image of him; so that inability of ours excuseth those apprehensions of him from any way offending against his Divine nature.” These are not notions so much suite to the nature of God as the weakness of man. They are helps to our meditations, but ought not to be formal conceptions of him. We may assist ourselves in our apprehensions of him, by considering the subtilty and spirituality of air; and considering the members of a body, without thinking him to be air, or to have any corporeal member. Our reason tells us, that whatsoever is a body, is limited and bounded; and the notion of infiniteness and bodiliness, cannot agree and consist together: and therefore what is offered by our fancy should be purified by our reason.
4. Therefore we are to elevate and refine all our notions of God, and spiritualize our conceptions of him. Every man is to have a conception of God; therefore he ought to have one of the highest elevation. Since we cannot have a full notion of him, we should endeavor to make it as high and as pure as we can. Though we cannot conceive of God, but some corporeal representations or images in our minds will be conversant with us, as motes in the air when we look upon the heavens, yet our conceptions may and must rise higher. As when we see the draught of the heavens and earth in a globe, or a kingdom in a map, it helps our conceptions, but doth not terminate them: we conceive them to be of a vast extent, far beyond that short description of them. So we should endeavor to refine every representation of God, to rise higher and higher, and have our apprehensions still more purified; separating the perfect from the imperfect, casting away the one, and greatening the other; conceive him to be a Spirit diffused through all, containing all, perceiving all. All the perfections of God are infinitely elevated above the excellencies of the creatures; above whatsoever can be conceived by the clearest and most piercing understanding. The nature of God as a Spirit is infinitely superior to whatsoever we can conceive perfect in the notion of a created spirit. Whatsoever God is, he is infinitely so: he is infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness, infinite Knowledge, infinite Power, infinite Spirit; infinitely distant from the weakness of creatures, infinitely mounted above the excellencies of creatures: as easy to be known that he is, as impossible to be comprehended what he is. Conceive of him as excellent, without any imperfection; a Spirit without parts; great without quantity; perfect without quality; everywhere without place; powerful without members; understanding without ignorance; wise without reasoning; light without darkness; infinitely more excelling the beauty of all creatures, than the light in the sun, pure and unviolated, exceeds the splendor of the sun dispersed and divided through a cloudy and misty air: and when you have risen to the highest, conceive him yet infinitely above all you can conceive of spirit, and acknowledge the infirmity of your own minds. And whatsoever conception comes into your minds, say, This is not God; God is more than this: if I could conceive him, he were not God; for God is incomprehensibly above whatsoever I can say, whatsoever I can think and conceive of him.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXXIV. — THIS one thing, however, my friend Erasmus, I entreat of you — do not consider that I conduct this cause more according to my temper, than according to my principles. I will not suffer it to be insinuated, that I am hypocrite enough to write one thing and believe another. I have not (as you say of me) been carried so far by the heat of defensive argument, as to ‘deny here “Free-will” altogether for the first time, having conceded something to it before.’ Confident I am, that you can find no such concession any where in my works. There are questions and discussions of mine extant, in which I have continued to assert, down to this hour, that there is no such thing as “Free-will;” that it is a thing formed out of an empty term; (which are the words I have there used). And I then thus believed and thus wrote, as overpowered by the force of truth when called and compelled to the discussion. And as to my always conducting discussions with ardour, I acknowledge my fault, if it be a fault: nay, I greatly glory in this testimony which the world bears of me, in the cause of God: and may God Himself confirm the same testimony in the last day! Then, who more happy than Luther — to be honoured with the universal testimony of his age, that he did not maintain the Cause of Truth lazily, nor deceitfully, but with a real, if not too great, ardour! Then shall I be blessedly clear from that word of Jeremiah, “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully!” (Jer. xlviii. 10).
But if I seem to be somewhat more severe than usual upon your Diatribe — pardon me. I do it not from a malignant heart, but from concern; because I know, that by the weight of your name you greatly endanger this cause of Christ: though, by your learning, as to real effect, you can do nothing at all. And who can always so temper his pen as never to grow warm? For even you, who from a show of moderation grow almost cold in this book of yours, not unfrequently hurl a fiery and gall-dipped dart: so much so, that if the reader were not very liberal and kind, he could not but consider you virulent. But however, this is nothing to the subject point. We must mutually pardon each other in these things; for we are but men, and there is nothing in us that is not touched with human infirmity.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Howard Gray | Georgetown Universty
1: Presupposition and
2: Principle and Foundation
3: Dynamic, Graces, Direction
4: Kingdom Meditation and
Infancy of Christ
5: Defining Discipleship with Christ
6: Public Ministry of Christ
Howard Gray | Georgetown Universty
7: Making an Election in the
Context of the Exercises
8: Passion and Death of Jesus
10: Contemplation to Attain Divine Love