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1 Corinthians 12 - 14

1 Corinthians 12

Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:1     Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

1. In the order, fitness, and usefulness of every part. The whole model of the body is grounded upon reason. Every member hath its exact proportion, distinct office, regular motion. Every part hath a particular comeliness, and convenient temperament bestowed upon it, according to its place in the body. The heart is hot, to enliven the whole; the eye clear, to take in objects to present them to the soul. Every member is presented for its peculiar service and action. Some are for sense, some for motion, some for preparing, and others for dispensing nourishment to the several parts: they mutually depend upon and serve one another. What small strings fasten the particular members together, “as the earth, that hangs upon nothing!” Take but one part away, and you either destroy the whole, or stamp upon it some mark of deformity. All are knit together by an admirable symmetry; all orderly perform their functions, as acting by a settled law; none swerving from their rule, but in case of some predominant humor. And none of them, in so great a multitude of parts, stifled in so little a room, or jostling against one another, to hinder their mutual actions; none can be better disposed. And the greatest wisdom of man could not imagine it, till his eyes present them with the sight and connection of one part and member with another.  The Existence and Attributes of God
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13

The Way of Love

1 Corinthians 13:1     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 14

Prophecy and Tongues

1 Corinthians 14:1     Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Orderly Worship

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

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Rapid Response: “Evil Disproves the Existence of God”

By J. Warner Wallace 11/30/2016

     In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “If God is both all-loving and all-powerful, why does He allow evil things to happen? Doesn’t the mere presence of evil disprove the existence of God?” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:

     “In criminal trials, evidence can either inculpate or exculpate a suspect. Inculpating evidence points toward a suspect’s involvement. Exculpating evidence, on the other hand, points away from the suspect’s involvement. So, the real question here is this: Does the presence of evil, either natural or moral evil, exculpate God as the best suspect for the creation of the universe? After all, if there’s an all-powerful, all-loving God, why could He allow evil to exist? Either He’s not all-powerful (so He can’t stop it), or He’s not all-loving (He doesn’t want to stop it), or presence of evil demonstrates that He doesn’t exist at all.

     There’s a problem with this question, however. We would have to know as much as God to understand why God would allow any evil. How would we ever know all the reasons why God might allow evil to exist? In any horrific crime I’ve worked as a detective, if someone were to ask, ‘Why did that happen?’ the answer is always going to involve a variety of hidden factors working together. It’s always a combination of unique (and often unlikely) relationships between events, opportunities, and conditions. In a similar way, there are always a variety of factors we must consider when asking why God would allow any act of evil in the world. At the very least, we must try to understand the role eternity plays, the importance of free agency, the definition of love, the impact evil has in developing our character or drawing us to God, the role justice plays, and the difficulty we should expect in trying to understand how these factors interact. These complex factors must be considered before we render a verdict about God’s existence and involvement. It’s a difficult task, to be sure.

     Let me just offer one quick thought, however. As an atheist (I didn’t become a Christian until I was thirty-five), evil was a problem and concern for me, based on my definition of life and understanding of eternity. Back then, I thought of life as a line segment; starting at my point of birth and extending to my point of death. If life is good, I hoped to get about ninety years between these two points, and as an atheist, I was hoping for the happiest, pain-free years possible. If, for example, I was to get sick at the age of forty, suffer for ten years and then die at the age of fifty, I would have seen this as an insurmountable evil. After all, I expected to get ninety pleasurable, pain-free years. But what if my foundational definition of life was wrong in the first place? What if life isn’t a line segment, but is instead a ray that starts at birth, extends through death and continues off into eternity? If that is the true nature of life, I would have to reevaluate what I believe about the nature of pain and suffering ‘between the two points,’ wouldn’t I?

     All of us have suffered something evil or painful for a short period, but when we compare it with the length of our lives, we’ve seen the role this painful experience had in the larger context. If Christianity is true, we live for more than ninety short years. If Christianity is true, our lives are more than short line segments; we are eternal creatures. Any evil you may suffer in this short temporal life must be considered in the context of eternity, and eternity changes everything.

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     12. I am not, however, so superstitious as to think that all visible representations of every kind are unlawful. But as sculpture and painting are gifts of God, what I insist for is, that both shall be used purely and lawfully,--that gifts which the Lord has bestowed upon us, for his glory and our good, shall not be preposterously abused, nay, shall not be perverted to our destruction. We think it unlawful to give a visible shape to God, because God himself has forbidden it, and because it cannot be done without, in some degree, tarnishing his glory. And lest any should think that we are singular in this opinion, those acquainted with the productions of sound divines will find that they have always disapproved of it. If it be unlawful to make any corporeal representation of God, still more unlawful must it be to worship such a representation instead of God, or to worship God in it. The only things, therefore, which ought to be painted or sculptured, are things which can be presented to the eye; the majesty of God, which is far beyond the reach of any eye, must not be dishonored by unbecoming representations. Visible representations are of two classes--viz. historical, which give a representation of events, and pictorial, which merely exhibit bodily shapes and figures. The former are of some use for instruction or admonition. The latter, so far as I can see, are only fitted for amusement. And yet it is certain, that the latter are almost the only kind which have hitherto been exhibited in churches. Hence we may infer, that the exhibition was not the result of judicious selection, but of a foolish and inconsiderate longing. I say nothing as to the improper and unbecoming form in which they are presented, or the wanton license in which sculptors and painters have here indulged (a point to which I alluded a little ago, supra, s. 7). I only say, that though they were otherwise faultless, they could not be of any utility in teaching.

     13. But, without reference to the above distinction, let us here consider, whether it is expedient that churches should contain representations of any kind, whether of events or human forms. First, then, if we attach any weight to the authority of the ancient Church, let us remember, that for five hundred years, during which religion was in a more prosperous condition, and a purer doctrine flourished, Christian churches were completely free from visible representations (see Preface, and Book 4, c. 9 s. 9). Hence their first admission as an ornament to churches took place after the purity of the ministry had somewhat degenerated. I will not dispute as to the rationality of the grounds on which the first introduction of them proceeded, but if you compare the two periods, you will find that the latter had greatly declined from the purity of the times when images were unknown. What then? Are we to suppose that those holy fathers, if they had judged the thing to be useful and salutary, would have allowed the Church to be so long without it? Undoubtedly, because they saw very little or no advantage, and the greatest danger in it, they rather rejected it intentionally and on rational grounds, than omitted it through ignorance or carelessness. This is clearly attested by Augustine in these words (Ep. 49. See also De Civit. Dei, lib 4 c. 31) "When images are thus placed aloft in seats of honour, to be beheld by those who are praying or sacrificing, though they have neither sense nor life, yet from appearing as if they had both, they affect weak minds just as if they lived and breathed," &c. And again, in another passage (in Ps. 112) he says, "The effect produced, and in a manner extorted, by the bodily shape, is, that the mind, being itself in a body, imagines that a body which is so like its oven must be similarly affected," &c. A little farther on he says, "Images are more capable of giving a wrong bent to an unhappy soul, from having mouth, eyes, ears, and feet, than of correcting it, as they neither speak, nor see, nor hear, nor walk." This undoubtedly is the reason why John (1 John 5:21) enjoins us to beware, not only of the worship of idols, but also of idols themselves. And from the fearful infatuation under which the world has hitherto laboured, almost to the entire destruction of piety, we know too well from experience that the moment images appear in churches, idolatry has as it were raised its banner; because the folly of manhood cannot moderate itself, but forthwith falls away to superstitious worship. Even were the danger less imminent, still, when I consider the proper end for which churches are erected, it appears to me more unbecoming their sacredness than I well can tell, to admit any other images than those living symbols which the Lord has consecrated by his own word: I mean Baptism and the Lord's Supper, with the other ceremonies. By these our eyes ought to be more steadily fixed, and more vividly impressed, than to require the aid of any images which the wit of man may devise. Such, then, is the incomparable blessing of images--a blessing, the want of which, if we believe the Papists, cannot possibly be compensated! [87]

     14. Enough, I believe, would have been said on this subject, were I not in a manner arrested by the Council of Nice; not the celebrated Council which Constantine the Great assembled, but one which was held eight hundred years ago by the orders and under the auspices of the Empress Irene. [88] This Council decreed not only that images were to be used in churches, but also that they were to be worshipped. Every thing, therefore, that I have said, is in danger of suffering great prejudice from the authority of this Synod. To confess the truth, however, I am not so much moved by this consideration, as by a wish to make my readers aware of the lengths to which the infatuation has been carried by those who had a greater fondness for images than became Christians. But let us first dispose of this matter. Those who defend the use of images appeal to that Synod for support. But there is a refutation extant which bears the name of Charlemagne, and which is proved by its style to be a production of that period. It gives the opinions delivered by the bishops who were present, and the arguments by which they supported them. John, deputy of the Eastern Churches, said, "God created man in his own image," and thence inferred that images ought to be used. He also thought there was a recommendation of images in the following passage, "Show me thy face, for it is beautiful." Another, in order to prove that images ought to be placed on altars, quoted the passage, "No man, when he has lighted a candle, putteth it under a bushel." Another, to show the utility of looking at images, quoted a verse of the Psalms "The light of thy countenance, O Lord, has shone upon us." Another laid hold of this similitude: As the Patriarchs used the sacrifices of the Gentiles, so ought Christians to use the images of saints instead of the idols of the Gentiles. They also twisted to the same effect the words, "Lord, I have loved the beauty of thy house." But the most ingenious interpretation was the following, "As we have heard, so also have we seen;" therefore, God is known not merely by the hearing of the word, but also by the seeing of images. Bishop Theodore was equally acute: "God," says he, "is to be admired in his saints;" and it is elsewhere said, "To the saints who are on earth;" therefore this must refer to images. In short, their absurdities are so extreme that it is painful even to quote them.

     15. When they treat of adoration, great stress is laid on the worship of Pharaoh, the staff of Joseph, and the inscription which Jacob set up. In this last case they not only pervert the meaning of Scripture, but quote what is nowhere to be found. Then the passages, "Worship at his footstool"--"Worship in his holy mountain"--"The rulers of the people will worship before thy face," seem to them very solid and apposite proofs. Were one, with the view of turning the defenders of images into ridicule, to put words into their mouths, could they be made to utter greater and grosser absurdities? But to put an end to all doubt on the subject of images, Theodosius Bishop of Mira confirms the propriety of worshipping them by the dreams of his archdeacon, which he adduces with as much gravity as if he were in possession of a response from heaven. Let the patrons of images now go and urge us with the decree of this Synod, as if the venerable Fathers did not bring themselves into utter discredit by handling Scripture so childishly, or wresting it so shamefully and profanely.

     16. I come now to monstrous impieties, which it is strange they ventured to utter, and twice strange that all men did not protest against with the utmost detestation. [89] It is right to expose this frantic and flagitious extravagance, and thereby deprive the worship of images of that gloss of antiquity in which Papists seek to deck it. Theodosius Bishop of Amora fires oft an anathema at all who object to the worship of images. Another attributes all the calamities of Greece and the East to the crime of not having worshipped them. Of what punishment then are the Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs worthy, in whose day no images existed? They afterwards add, that if the statue of the Emperor is met with odours and incense, much more are the images of saints entitled to the honour. Constantius, Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, professes to embrace images with reverence, and declares that he will pay them the respect which is due to the ever blessed Trinity: every person refusing to do the same thing he anathematises and classes with Marcionites and Manichees. Lest you should think this the private opinion of an individual, they all assent. Nay, John the Eastern legate, carried still farther by his zeal, declares it would be better to allow a city to be filled with brothels than be denied the worship of images. At last it is resolved with one consent that the Samaritans are the worst of all heretics, and that the enemies of images are worse than the Samaritans. But that the play may not pass off without the accustomed Plaudite, the whole thus concludes, "Rejoice and exult, ye who, having the image of Christ, offer sacrifice to it." Where is now the distinction of latria and dulia with which they would throw dust in all eyes, human and divine? The Council unreservedly relies as much on images as on the living God. [90]


     [78] 80 The French adds, "voire jusques aux oignons et porreaux;"--they have gone even to onions and leeks.

     [79] Calvin translates the words of the Psalmist as an imprecation, "Similes illis fiant qui faciunt ea;"--Let those who make them be like unto them.

     [80] See Gregory, Ep. ad Serenum Massiliens, Ep. 109. lib. 7; and Ep. 9 lib. 9; images, rather accuses it.

     [81] The French adds, "deux des plus anciens Docteurs de l'Eglise;"--two of the most ancient Doctors of the Church.

     [82] Lact. Inst. Div. lib. 1 c. 15; Euseb. Præf. Evang. lib. 3 c. 3, 4; also August. De Civitate Dei, lib. 4 c. 9, 31.

     [83] The French is "Pourceque la gloire de sa Divinite est vilipendée en une chose si sotte et lourde comme est un marmouset;"--because the glory of his Divinity is degraded into an object so silly and stupid as a marmoset.

     [84] The French is "Neantmoins ils ne disoyent point pour cela au'un Dieu fut divisé;"--nevertheless, they did not therefore say that the unity of God was divided.

     [85] French, "Ne vouloit monstrer sa vertu que sous les images;"--would only show his power under the form of images.

     [86] The two last sentences in French are, "Car laissans là un crucifix, ou une image de leur nostre-dame, ou n'en tenans point grand comte, ils mettent leur devotion à un autre. Pourquoy est-ce qu'ils trotent si loin en pelerinage pour voir un marmouset, duquel ils ont le semblable à leur porte?"--For there passing by a crucifix, or an image of what they call "Our Lady," or making no great account of them, they pay their devotion to another. Why is it that they trot so far on a pilgrimage to see a marmoset, when they have one like it at their door?

     [87] The French is "qu'il n'y ait nulle recompense qui vaille un marmouset guignant à travers et faisant la mine tortue;"--that no compensation can equal the value of a marmoset looking askance and twisting its face.

     [88] 90 The French is "une mechante Proserpine nommée Irene;"--a wicked Proserpine named Irene.

     [89] The French adds, "et qu'il ne se soit trouvé gens qui leur crachassent au visage;"--and that people were not found to spit in their face.

     [90] See Calvin, De Vitandis Superstitionibus, where also see Resp. Pastorum, Tigurin. adver. Nicidenitas. See also Calvin, De Fugiendis Illicitis Sacris.


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion

Learning About the Cosmos From Job (RJS)

By Rev. James V. Schall 11/30/16

     The book of Job, as John Walton and Tremper Longman II point out in their recent book How to Read Job, “contains more extensive discussion of the cosmos and God’s role in it than any other book in the Bible with the possible exception of Psalms.” (p. 120) Today we will look specifically at the discussion of the cosmos in the book of Job.

     he view of the cosmos presented in Job represents an ancient cosmic geography familiar to the original audience of the book.

     From the ancient reader’s perspective the discussions of cosmic geography and the operations of the cosmos do not differ from the opinions affirmed in the rest of the Bible. Furthermore, what we find in Job is basically in line with the thinking of the time throughout the ancient Near East, except with regard to the identity of the controlling deity. (p. 120)

     The major distinction between the book of Job and the thinking of the general ancient Near Eastern culture is the role of God’s justice and wisdom in the operations of the cosmos. There is no modern science hidden within the text – although metaphors are used at times “we cannot maintain that those metaphors conceal a view of the cosmos that was actually much like ours.” (p. 121) Walton and Longman go on to make an important point:

     We all recognize that scientific understanding changes constantly. If God’s revelation were embedded in a particular scientific view, there would be no room for further investigation. Statements about the operation of the world cannot easily be so general as to fit the current knowledge and understanding of any generation. … After all, science is not simply a compilation of fact; it expresses society’s consensual understanding of how the world works. (p. 121)

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     Rev. James V. Schall

Forgery in the Bible: Was Mark’s Gospel Forged?

By Mikel Del Rosario 11/30/16

     Was the Gospel of Mark really just an old forgery? That’s something you might hear liberal scholars say about a lot of books in the New Testament. For example, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy wrote this in a book called the The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?:

     In the first four centuries, every single [New Testament] document was at some time or other branded as heretical or forged! (p.224).

     In a more popular book called Forged, Bart Ehrman said that “the vast majority of these apostolic books were in fact forged” (p.218). For example, he says The Gospel of Mark really wasn’t written by Mark, but that later scribes just added Mark’s name to the book to make it seem more important. But what about this?

     Is the gospel of Mark really just a forged document that somehow made its way into our Bibles? In this post, you’ll learn how to respond to the idea that Mark’s Gospel is nothing but an ancient forgery.

     Who Wrote the Gospel of Mark?

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     Mikel Del Rosario. I’m just a regular guy who’s had the honor of studying under and working with leading Christian apologists while earning my Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics at Biola University and completing my Master of Theology (Th.M) at Dallas Theological Seminary. Today, I teach Christian Apologetics and World Religion for William Jessup University. Here in Dallas, I work with Darrell Bock at the Hendricks Center at DTS where I manage the Table Podcast, and write cultural engagement articles for the theological journal, Bibliotheca Sacra. I help Christians engage the culture, make the case, and defend the faith with confidence, truth and love.

Recycling Christmas

By Noreen Hayes January 1995

Most of its dry needles lost with star
and spheres and angels, the tree we children dragged
the short way to the bonfire, tossed
crushed boxes, giftwrap on the pyre,
handfuls of snow so flames would crackle,
dart up the night to warm
our last caroling circle of the season-
a fragrant burning splendor.

In middle age we fed our mulcher
limb by limb our Christmas trees
drawn and quartered even to the trunk.
Wasting nothing, we husbanded our joys,
returned them layer by layer to earth.

And now grown smaller by Nativities,
our family watches the evening
caretaker wheel our smaller tree
away for curbside pick-up—a harvesting
of still green conifers
bound for lakes as habitats for fish,
for sudden darting, gleaming Chrismons
rippling dark branches in January waters.

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     Noreen Hayes ??

Atheism’s Lucky Bullet Fallacies

By Jonathan Witt 11/29/16

     This month’s blockbuster Marvel comic book movie Dr. Strange will serve as many people’s introduction to the exotic idea of the multiverse, the notion that besides our universe there are a host — maybe an infinity — of unseen other universes, some radically different from our own, some highly similar but distinct in crucial ways.

     The film is a worthy and thought-provoking entertainment, but an idea that serves as a good plot device for imaginative counterfactual play in the realm of fiction becomes something very different when taken as an article of faith and used as an explanatory tool in science.

     You see, there’s a big divide running through physics, astronomy and cosmology, and the idea of a multiverse is at the center of the controversy, serving as a crucial means of explaining away some powerful evidence for intelligent design.

     The Fine-Tuning Problem | On one side of the controversy are scientists who see powerful evidence for purpose in the way the laws and constants of physics and chemistry are finely tuned to allow for life — finely tuned to a mindboggling degree of precision.

     Change gravity or the strong nuclear force or any of dozens of other constants even the tiniest bit, and no stars, no planets, no life. Why are the constants just so? Here’s what Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias concluded: “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”

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     Jonathan Witt is former managing editor of The Stream and now a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is the co-author of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature.

DC Metro Rejects Christmas Ad by Catholic Church

By CBNNEWS 11/30/2017

     When Catholics wanted to put a Christmas ad on public buses and kiosks in Washington D.C., they were told no.

     The Archdiocese of Washington is suing the the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority after it turned down their request to promote its "Find the Perfect Gift" ad.

     The WMATA's legal counsel said the ad violates its guidelines because it depicts "a religious scene and thus seeks to promote religion," the Washington Examiner reports.

     The ad bears the images of stars, shepherds and sheep with the text "Find The Perfect Gift."

     Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said the policy banning ads with religious themes took effect two years ago.

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Biblical Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage

By Charles C. Ryrie     1961

     This survey of the biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage gives special attention to the meaning of the exception clause in  Matthew and preference to the view that it refers to unlawful unions and therefore does not justify divorce for sexual immorality. Since only death, not divorce, breaks the one-flesh relationship, remarriage is permitted only ofter the death of a mate. Reconciliation is always the goal for those in a troubled marriage.

* * *

     Divorce and remarriage are biblical doctrines, and like other doctrines must be formulated on the basis of sound exegesis and biblical theology. Sound exegesis furnishes the raw material, the data; biblical theology correlates the results of exegesis in relation to the progress of revelation. The result provides authoritative instruction for this crucial area of life today. Undebatable authoritative truth comes from revelation. Our experience cannot create it; it should conform to it; certainly it must never compromise it.

I. The Teaching of the Old Testament

A. The Institution of Marriage (Gen 1:26–27; 2:18–25) - 1. The Purpose of Marriage

     Marriage was instituted in the context of creation, making it an ordinance that applies to all regardless of the presence or absence of faith. God’s proposes in giving marriage to all mankind were (1) to supply the lack a man or woman has alone; (2) to encourage a faithful, monogamous relation for the fabric of society; and (3) to establish the one flesh relationship.

     The first relates to the word “helper” in  Gen 2:18. It simply means that each alone lacks what the mate can supply so that together they make a complete whole.

     The second finds its basis in that God made only one wife for Adam and said that he should “cleave” to that wife ( Gen 2:24 ). Cleaving carries with it the idea … of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty. Man is to cleave to his wife ( Gen 2:24 ). Ruth clave to Naomi ( Ruth 1:14 ). The men of Judah clave to David their king during Sheba’s rebellion ( 2 Sam 20:2 ). Shechem loved Dinah and clave to her ( Gen 34:3 ) and Solomon clave in love to his wives ( 1 Kgs 11:2 ).

     Most importantly, the Israelites are to cleave to the Lord in affection and loyalty ( Deut 10:20; 11:22; 13:4 [H 5]; 30:20; Josh 22:5; 23:8 ) if his blessing is to be theirs … In these verses parallel words and phrases that describe this proper attitude to the Lord are: fear, serve, love, obey, swear by his name, walk in his ways, and keep his commandments. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Volume I & II

     The third, to provide the closest relationship, is the meaning of “one flesh.” It not only involves physical union but also a unity of spiritual, moral, and intellectual facets of the husband and wife. Furthermore, “this union is of a totally different nature from that of parents and children; hence marriage between parents and children is entirely opposed to the ordinance of God.” Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament Pentateuch (Volume 1) Consequently, in the Mosaic legislation sexual relations, whether within or outside the marriage relationship, with close relatives were forbidden ( Lev 18:6–18; cf.  Deut 22:30; 27:20, 22–23 ). Leviticus: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) These prohibitions were related not only to literal blood lines but also to “blood” relationships created through marriage (e.g., a brother’s or uncle’s wife). Marriage not only creates vertical blood relationships in the form of children, but also horizontal “blood” relationships between the couple themselves. The Book of Leviticus (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament) In short, “one flesh” is analogous to kinship. Marriage and ministry in the new temple;: A study with special reference to Mt. 19.13-12 and 1.Cor. 11.3-16 (Acta Seminarii Neotestamentic Upsaliensis, 24)

     If these are God’s purposes in marriage, then obviously they are thwarted by unfaithfulness, polygamy, and incestuous relationships.

2. The Elements of Marriage

     Biblical marriage involves three elements. First, the consent of the partners and of the parents ( Gen 21:21; 34:4–6; Judg 14:2–3; Josh 15:16; Eph 6:1–3; 1 Cor 7:37–38 ). Second, the public avowal which could include a marriage contract as well as legal and social customs ( Gen 29:25; 34:12 ). Third, the physical consummation of the union which normally follows. That intercourse alone did not constitute a marriage is evident from the distinction throughout the Old Testament between a person’s wife or wives and his concubines ( Gen 22:24; Judg 8:30–31; 2 Sam 3:7; 5:13; 1 Kgs 11:3 ) and the sequence of events involved in  Deut 22:28–29 (cf.  Exod 22:16–17 ). The legal/contractual aspect was important and made the period of betrothal binding.

3. The Indissolubility of Marriage

     As marriage was originally planned there was no provision for ending it except by death. This concept was behind the Lord’s answer to the Pharisees in  Matt 19:4–6 where he appeals to  Gen 2:24 as the basis of his teaching that marriage is indissoluble.

B. Divorce and Remarriage in the Mosaic Law - 1. Divorce

     The Mosaic Law nowhere provided for divorce, though people who lived during that period practiced it. The importance of this point cannot be overstressed, especially in light of statements by evangelicals who, after discussing  Deut 24:1–3, note that “God permitted divorce within stringently defined limits.” Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible In fact the passage only recognizes that divorce was being practiced, but it never prescribes it. Marriage and ministry in the new temple;: A study with special reference to Mt. 19.13-12 and 1.Cor. 11.3-16 (Acta Seminarii Neotestamentic Upsaliensis, 24)

     Another passage,  Deut 22:13–29, describes two circumstances where divorce is proscribed. One was the case where the husband “turned against” his wife and sought to justify a divorce by accusing her of premarital unchastity. Assuming that the charge was false, the verdict was clear: “And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days” (v  19; NASB is cited, unless indicated otherwise). Does this not say something important to the reason for divorce sometimes offered today, namely, that when love dies, the marriage dies and divorce is recommended?

     The other circumstance involved intercourse with an unbetrothed virgin. In this instance the man was required to marry the girl and never to divorce her (v  29 ). The betrothed couple were legally considered as husband and wife in most respects.

     At the betrothal, the bridegroom, personally or by deputy, handed to the bride a piece of money or a letter, it being expressly stated in each case that the man thereby espoused the woman. From the moment of betrothal both parties were regarded, and treated by law (as to inheritance, adultery, need of formal divorce), as if they had been actually married, except as regarded their living together.” The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

     The story of  Hosea and passages like  Jer 3:1–8 are used by some to conclude that God Himself is a divorcee (having divorced Israel as Hosea did Gomer) and therefore divorce is sometimes justified. Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible

     However, it is far from clear exegetically that Hosea divorced Gomer, so at best this would be a very insecure foundation on which to build a case for legitimate divorce. Dwight Small, who praised Adam’s book, has listed ten reasons why it is not possible to conclude that Hosea divorced Gomer. Furthermore, it is even less tenable to conclude from the story of Hosea that God divorced Israel. The question of  Isa 50:1 is either a rhetorical one presupposing a negative reply or it should be understood as an allegory like  Jer 3:8. If these illustrations are pressed to make God a divorcee, then perhaps he was also a polygamist, since he married both Israel and Judah. Nor should such poetical and metaphorical language be pressed into the service of determining the exact meaning of πορνεία in legal passages in  Matthew’s gospel.

     The point is simply that the story of Hosea and its illustration of God’s relation to Israel furnishes no secure basis for concluding that there are sometimes legitimate divorces.

2. Remarriage

     Deut 24:1–4 has been used by evangelical Protestants to demonstrate that “the divorce permitted or tolerated under the Mosaic economy had the effect of dissolving the marriage bond,” therefore, with reference to our Lord’s teaching in  Matt 5:32 and  19:9 “we should not expect that remarriage would be regarded as adultery.” Divorce In reality this is a misuse of the passage.

     First, notice that … the legislation relates only to particular cases of remarriage; the protasis contains incidental information about marriage and divorce, but does not legislate on those matters. The verses do not institute divorce, but treat it as a practice already known, … The Book of Deuteronomy (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament)

     The passage acknowledges the existence of the practice of divorce; it regards the second marriage of the divorced wife as legal; and it forbids the reinstitution of the first marriage even after the death or divorce of the second husband. In particular, it forbids the remarriage of the first husband on the ground that the one flesh bond with that first husband still exists, even though divorce has been effected. Thus the passage teaches exactly the opposite from what Murray claimed. The first marriage is not “dissolved”; otherwise, there would be no basis for prohibiting that remarriage. Essays on Biblical Law (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, 344)

     The indecency which caused the first husband to divorce his wife has been variously explained. It was not premarital unchastity, since the law specifically dealt with such cases ( Deut 22:28–29 ). Likely it was something short of adultery. Isaksson suggests that it meant the voluntary or involuntary exposure of the wife’s pudendum, which would arouse his loathing. If the husband chose to divorce his wife, he had to forfeit the dowry and may also have had to pay her a kind of alimony.

     Scholars are not agreed on the basis for the prohibition of remarrying the first wife. The suggestion that the entire law was to deter hasty divorces is unlikely. Financial considerations would probably do that. Others suggest that to reconstitute the first marriage would be a type of incest, on the basis of  Gen 2:24 and  Lev 18:6–18, because the one flesh relationship was never dissolved. One thing is certain:  Deut 24:1–4 does not teach a dissolution divorce that breaks the marriage bond as Murray and others have taught and then applied to the teaching of the NT in order to validate remarriage. In fact, the prohibition in v  4 is based on the enduring nature of the one flesh bond of the original marriage. Therefore, a woman cannot return to the first husband even if her second husband dies.

3. Intermarriage ( Ezra 9–10; Neh 13:23–31; Mal 2:10–16 )

     The OT forbade intermarriage with pagan peoples on religious grounds so that Israel’s covenant relation with Yahweh might remain inviolate. Though only marriages with Canaanite women were explicitely forbidden ( Deut 7:1–3 ), and although some like Joseph, Moses, Mahlon and Chilion did marry foreign wives, the prohibition included other non-Israelitish nations, to prevent idolatry (cf.  1 Kgs 16:31–34 ).

     As a scribe Ezra not only knew of this prohibition but also of the existence of a divorce procedure which he used for these cases of intermarriage. He apparently looked on them as unreal marriages which ought to be nullified, and thought that the consequences of such actions were to be borne by the husbands and fathers who contracted the illicit relationships. As long ago as 1890 George Rawlinson observed: “Strictly speaking, he probably looked upon them as unreal marriages, and so as no better than ordinary illicit connections.” Ezra and Nehemiah: Their Lives and Times More recently Wenham wrote:

     In Ezra’s eyes this was not a question of breaking up legitimate marriages but of nullifying those which were contrary to the law. It was forbidden for them to marry the people of the land ( Deuteronomy 7:3 ) and the most serious cases of unlawful unions could be punished by death of both parties, just like adulterers ( Leviticus 20 ).

     But Ezra only demanded divorce, not death (cf.  Num 25:6–15 ).

     In order to marry foreign wives, some Israelites had divorced their Jewish wives, a sin  Malachi severely denounced. “God hates divorce,” he declared, and no exception was made for so-called legitimate divorces. We do well to be reminded of what  Malachi said divorce did, namely: (1) it broke fellowship, so that the Lord did not accept the offerings ( Mal 2:13 ); (2) it broke the marriage covenant (v  14 ); (3) it violated God’s original intention for marriage (v  15 ); (4) it incurred God’s hatred (v  16 ).

     In summary, the OT teaches that marriage should be (1) purposeful, (2) pure (free from incest and heathen entanglements), and (3) permanent. Divorce was practiced but not prescribed. It was proscribed in certain instances, as was the remarriage of a previously divorced partner. And God declared his hatred of divorce.

II. The Teaching of the New Testament

     Most agree that the NT permits divorce only in two instances: προνεία ( Matt 5:32; 19:9 ) and desertion by the unbelieving partner in a spiritually mixed marriage, the mixture having occurred after the marriage ( 1 Cor 7:15 ). These passages contain difficult problems, chiefly the meaning of πορνεία and the question of whether or not remarriage is permitted in either instance.

A. The Teaching of Christ - 1. The Summary of His Teaching

     When the apostle Paul summarized the Lord’s teaching concerning divorce, he did not include any exception to the total prohibition of divorce by Christ ( 1 Cor 7:11 ). This seems to say that Christ taught the indissolubility of marriage and that whatever he meant by πορνεία was an uncommon meaning. Otherwise, Paul might have been expected to include a commonly understood exception to divorce in his summary.

     Furthermore, no exception appears in  Mark 10:11–12 ) and  Luke 16:18 accounts of our Lord’s teaching. Some have attempted to harmonize these accounts with  Matthew’s inclusion of an exception by saying that  Mark and  Luke state the general rule while  Matthew added the exception (usually understood as sexual immorality).

     However, the disciples’ reaction to the Lord’s teaching when the exception was included ( Matt 19:10 ) was not the kind one would expect if they understood the exception to mean immorality in general, for they were greatly startled by his teaching. They evidently thought he was teaching the indissolubility of marriage so clearly that they suggested it might be wiser not to marry at all. In reply the Lord did not recommend celibacy as the better course of action, but the very fact that the disciples rejected (v  10 ) this conception of life and marriage shows that they understood his teaching to be different from what they knew in Judaism. And the Lord did not suggest that they had exaggerated or misunderstood his teaching.

     Everything points to the exception being something uncommon, certainly nothing as common as adultery or immorality in general.

2. The Background

     The Hillel-Shammai debate was certainly in the minds of the Pharisees when they asked the Lord if a Jew could divorce his wife for any cause ( Matt 19:3 ). The school of Hillel interpreted the words עֶרְוַת־דָּבָר in  Deut 24:1 more leniently by disjoining the words and making them read “uncleanness, or anything else.” Naturally this interpretation, like the evangelical Protestant view today, enjoyed more popularity than that advanced by the more strict school of  Shammai, which allowed divorce only for some immodesty, shamelessness, lewdness, or adultery. By asking the Lord to take sides on this question, the Pharisees hoped to lessen his popularity with the people, whichever side he took.

     However, the Lord’s response did not deal with the particulars of  Deuteronomy 24 at all, but rather with God’s original intention for marriage and with an action which would result in one or the other party being involved in committing adultery. The Pharisees were preoccupied with establishing grounds for divorce (and doing the same today is similar to Pharisaism); our Lord was concerned about the indissolubility of marriage.

3. The Interpretations of the Exception Clause

     a. The Patristic View. This view states that when one party was guilty of πορνεία, usually understood to mean adultery, the other party was expected to separate but did not have the right to remarry. This was the view of all the Greek and Latin fathers, save one, in the first five centuries of the Church. It has recently been defended by Protestant scholar G. J. Wenham. In this he follows the three Catholic scholars, Henri Crouzel, Jacques Dupont and Quentin Quesnell.

     This view understands marriage to unite both parties until the death of one. The fathers also denied the right to remarry to the Christian deserted by an unbelieving spouse ( 1 Cor 7:15–16 ). Ambrosiaster, who wrote between A.D. 366 and 383, was the only exception; he allowed remarriage to the “innocent” husband only and to the deserted believer. Today the Catholic view allows remarriage of the deserted believer.

     Quesnell, who is followed by most recent writers, understands the eunuch-saying in v  12 to refer in context to the state of those named in v  9: those who, having put away their wives for πορνεία, would not be able to marry another without committing adultery. They have entered a state of “enforced celibacy” until the partner is reconciled.

     Very important in this view is that the exception clause qualifies only the verb ἀπολύω and not also the verb γαμέω in the protasis of the general condition in  Matt 19:9. Thus, although divorce was permitted for a sexual sin, remarriage was not. The fathers clearly understood that when the two events of the protasis occured, namely, divorce followed by remarriage, then the consequences mentioned in the apodosis resulted, namely, the committing of adultery. This was also Augustine’s understanding.

     While this writer does not agree with making πορνεία equal to adultery or any sexual sin, he does agree that the texts do not allow remarriage without committing adultery. This is very important to the current debate, for the construction of the  Matthean texts applies the exception, whatever it means, only to divorce, and not to remarriage. Had the exception clause come after “marries another” it would have sanctioned remarriage, but it does not. Therefore, it is an assumption read into the texts to conclude that if there is legitimate ground for divorce then there is automatically permission for legitimate remarriage. Actually, the texts say that such remarriage involves adultery.

     b. The Evangelical Protestant View. This view has two variations within it. Some, like Murray, understand πορνεία to be equivalent to μοιχεία. Others give it a wider sense to cover a broad range of sexual sins. James B. Hurley understands it to mean illicit sexual relations which would have called for the death sentence in the OT: adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. Richard DeHaan includes premarital sex, incest, adultery, rabbinically unapproved marriage, homosexuality. John MacArthur concludes that “fornication is the broad word for any kind of unlawful, shameful sexual activity.” All variations see the exception clause as qualifying both verbs (put away and [re]marry), thus permitting both divorce and remarriage in the case of πορνεία. Of course, divorce is not required, but it is permitted and so is remarriage. By this interpretation of πορνεία almost anyone could justify a divorce, especially if adultery is further defined as the Lord does in  Matt 5:28.

     To be sure, πορνεία does sometimes include adultery. But that does not indicate its meaning in these divorce texts, in a gospel that is concerned with legal niceties in which  Matthew clearly distinguishes the two terms. This is evident in  15:19 where πορνεία and μοιχεία appear side by side. Indeed,  Matthew uses πορνεία only in chaps.  5, 15, and  19 and μοιχεία in  15 where he distinguishes it from πορνεία. If he meant adultery in  5 and  19 why did he not use the clear word? The question is not, does πορνεία ever mean adultery, but does it always mean adultery? Lexical evidence does not require the meaning adultery in the divorce texts unless it can be proved (which it cannot) that the word always means adultery.

     No reference in the NT equates πορνεία and μοιχεία as the proponents of this view require. The oft quoted reference of Sir 23:23 as an example of such an equation in pre-Christian Jewish literature is far from sure. J. Jensen, who has done the most scholarly word study in print on πορνεία, translates the passage “she has wantonly committed adultery.” Isaksson noted already in 1965 that πορνεία in Sir 23:23 most likely refers to the “sexual desire” that led the wife to commit adultery. The same is true of πορνεία in Herm. Man. 4.1.3–8 and Tob 8:7.

     Acts 15:20 and  29 furnish clear examples of πορνεία used in a restricted sense and certainly not as a broad word for any kind of unlawful sexual activity.

     The letter of  James to the local churches of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia forbids, in fact, four things proscribed by the Holiness Code of  Lv 17–18, not only for “any man of the house of Israel” but also for “the strangers that sojourn among them” … These were the meat offered to idols ( Lv 17:8–9 ), the eating of blood ( Lv 17:10–12 ), the eating of strangled, i.e., not properly butchered, animals ( Lv 17:15; cf.  Ex 22:31 ), and intercourse with close kin ( Lv 18:6–18 ).

     Here is a clear instance where πορνεία does not mean all kinds of unlawful sexual activity, but one kind only.

     The evangelical Protestant view is faced with another problem: the two different meanings simultaneously given to the verb ἁπολύω. Though this is not impossible, it is potentially confusing, especially when  Matthew is so concerned with legal matters. First, divorce and remarriage is adultery where no instance of πορνεία is involved, implying that ἁπολύω does not terminate marriage. Second, where πορνεία is involved,  Matthew must be using ἁπολύω with the meaning of divorce with the right to remarry because in the evangelical Protestant view the first marriage is terminated.

     In summary, there appears to be three major problems with the evangelical Protestant view. First, it cannot substantiate equating πορνεία with μοιχεία. Second, if it could, then it would not be able to account for the disciples’ reaction in  Matt 19:10. Third, the position of the exception clause in the protasis of  Matt 19:9 does not lead to the conclusion that it modifies both verbs; therefore, even if divorce is permitted, remarriage is not. These last two matters are further complicated if one presses the dictionary definition of πορνεία into the context of  Matt 19:3–12.

     c. The Betrothal View. Few evangelicals realize that this view was the subject of a doctoral dissertation at the University of Uppsala in 1965. The betrothal view builds on the fact that in Judaism a betrothed or engaged couple were considered “husband” and “wife.” Jewish betrothal was a legal contract which could only be broken by formal divorce or by death. If the betrothed proved unfaithful during the period of betrothal or was discovered on the first night not to be a virgin, then the contract could be broken. This is why Joseph was going to divorce Mary when he discovered that she was pregnant ( Matt 1:19 ).

     According to this view, then, πορνεία means premarital sexual intercourse (possibly  John 8:41 ), and the exception then permits breaking the marriage contract with divorce when unfaithfulness is discovered during the betrothal period. The inclusion of the exception clause in  Matthew’s gospel only is explained as appropriate to the Jewish makeup of the audience that would have originally read the gospel. Isaksson points out that this is actually not a divorce, but “it was a matter of cancelling an unfulfilled contract of sale, because one of the parties had tricked the other as to the nature of the goods, when the price was fixed.” This was an exception Jesus had to make if he did not want to side with the swindler instead of the person swindled. Because the marriage would not have been consummated, if unfaithfulness was discovered during the year-long betrothal period, the man would be free to marry someone else.

     This view is quite defensible and easily harmonizes with Paul’s summary of the Lord’s teaching in  1 Cor 7:10–11. No breakup of a marriage is permitted, though dissolving an engagement is, if fornication has occurred. Its weakness lies in the technical meaning given to πορνεία. πορνεία is nowhere else used in the restricted sense of “unchastity during the betrothal period.”

     d. The Unlawful Marriage View. This view, which is the most defended among scholars over all others, has three variations. The least popular form understands πορνεία to refer to marriages to non-Christians since it would be a form of spiritual idolatry and thus unlawful. Another variation sees πορνεία as a reference to intermarriage between a Jewish Christian and a gentile Christian. This could easily be the meaning in  Acts 15:20 and  29 where Jewish Christians, still concerned with obeying the Mosaic law with its prohibition against marrying a gentile ( Deut 7:1–3 ), would be greatly offended if this were happening even between believers of mixed racial backgrounds (cf. Jub. 30:7, 11).

     More commonly, however, πορνεία is understood by those who hold this view to indicate unlawful incestuous marriages, i.e., marriages within the prohibited degrees of kinship proscribed in  Lev 18:6–18. The proponents of this view see the restricted meaning of πορνεία in  1 Cor 5:1 and especially  Acts 15:20 and  29 as the key to understanding its meaning in the  Matthean exception clause.

     This view was published by W. K. Lowther Clarke in 1929, given preference by me in 1954 and more recently supported by F. F. Bruce. Clarke’s explanation of the view is this:

     The Apostolic Decree of  Acts 15:29 promulgated a compromise … Since the first three articles of the compromise are concerned with practices innocent enough to the Gentiles, the fourth must be of a similar nature. The passage in  1 Corinthians gives us the clue. Porneia here means marriage within the prohibited Levitical degrees … [This] was a live issue, and porneia was the word by which it was known.

     Turning to St.  Matthew, the problem we have to account for is the obscuring of the plain rule of St.  Mark by an exception which seems inconsistent with the teaching of our Lord even in St.  Matthew. If the foregoing argument holds, the reference is to the local Syrian problem. One exception is allowed to the universal rule: when a man who has married within the prohibited degrees puts away his wife the word adultery is out of place. Rather the marriage is null … There is no divorce, but causes of nullity may be recognized.

     In addition to this evidence from the NT itself for this particular meaning of πορνεία, Joseph Fitzmyer and James R. Mueller have shown from the Qumran literature that זְנוּת, the Hebrew counterpart to πορνεία, was used in Palestine in the first century specifically of marriage within those prohibited relationships. Thus it was a meaning known to the people of the time when our Lord spoke on divorce.

     This view seems completely defensible. It does not share the weakness of the betrothal view in that πορνεία does have the meaning of incest in passages other than the debated ones both within and outside the NT. It also accounts for the reaction of the disciples and removes any contradiction with the other Gospel accounts and with  1 Cor 7:10–11.

B. The Teaching of Paul - 1. Concerning Marriage ( Rom 7:1–3 )

     In this passage Paul develops the concept that death releases the believer from his obligation to the law. He then illustrates this principle with marriage, stating that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives (and no exceptions). When and only when he dies is she released from the marriage relationship. If a woman is joined (that is, actual marriage, not illicit intercourse, since the same word is used in both parts of v  3 ) to another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress. A second marriage while the first mate is living is adultery.

2. Concerning Divorce ( 1 Cor 7:10–16 )

     The main point of Paul’s counsel is clear: maintain the marriage. If separation occurs (which Paul does not approve of), then only two options remain: remain unmarried or be reconciled to the original partner. In this advice Paul said he was following the teachings of Christ, and he did not mention any exception that would sanction divorce. This reinforces the view that “except for πορνεία” means something uncommon and more peculiar to a Jewish audience.

     In a spiritually mixed marriage Paul’s counsel is the same: stay together. His reasons are: (1) for the sake of the family (v  14 ); (2) for the sake of peace (v  15 ); and (3) for the sake of personal testimony (v  16 ).

     V  15 is understood in two entirely different ways. Some say that Paul permits remarriage if the unbelieving partner gets the divorce. Others insist he says nothing about the possibility of a second marriage for the deserted believer. The privilege to remarry is the so-called Pauline privilege of the Roman Catholic view, and the evangelical Protestant view agrees with it.

     Two things need to be noted. First, the departure of the unsaved spouse is not necessarily a divorce; it may only be a separation which would in no case leave the other party free to remarry. Second, even if it does refer to a divorce initiated by the unsaved partner, Paul says nothing about a second marriage for the believer. Indeed, both vv  14 and  16 make it clear that remarriage is not the subject of v  15 at all. Paul does not introduce that subject until v  39. What is the bondage which the believer is not under? “All that οὐ δεδουλώται clearly means is that he or she need not feel so bound by Christ’s prohibition of divorce as to be afraid to depart when the heathen partner insists on separation.”

     Like the Lord, Paul disallowed divorce. He did recognize that the unbelieving partner in a spiritually mixed marriage might leave (and subsequently divorce) in which case the believer could not prevent it. But in no case was the believer free to remarry. The legal facet of any marriage may be dissolved, but the one flesh relationship and vows made to God do not become non-existent until the death of one of the partners.

     Some attempt to justify the remarriage of divorced persons on a certain interpretation of  1 Cor 7:27–28. It assumes that the phrase “released from a wife (γυναίκος)” includes divorced from a wife.

     However, in v  25 Paul introduces a new subject, signaling the same by using περί δε (cf.  7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1 ); and the subject introduced is τῶν παρθένων, virgins, not divorcees. Furthermore, “released” appears in the perfect tense, referring not to freedom from marriage by divorce, but to a state of freedom, i.e., the single state.

3. Concerning Remarriage

     Since v  15 does not address the question of remarriage, and since v  27 refers to a single person (most likely an engaged couple, τῶν παρθένων being the only instance of the genitive plural in the NT, and παρθένος in the rest of the chapter refers only to women), the only time in  1 Corinthians 7 Paul deals with the question of remarriage is in v  39. The two restrictions he places on remarriage are (1) the death of the first mate (as also implied in  Rom 7:1–3 ) and (2) the necessity of the new partner being a believer. Later Paul also urged younger widows to remarry ( 1 Tim 5:14 ).

C. Summary

     In summary, the NT presents a higher standard than the OT. It was our Lord who announced this superior standard by going further in his teaching than the strictest Jews of his day in that he disallowed divorce altogether. Although he did not blame Moses for allowing a bill of divorce, he replaced Jewish law with God’s ideal state as announced before the fall of man.

     The “exception clause” apparently concerns unlawful unions and is no license to justify divorce for sexual immorality. Even if immorality occurs, forgiveness and reconciliation are the goals, not divorce. Even if a legal divorce should occur, the “one flesh” relationship cannot be severed, and that is why remarriage is disallowed. Even separation, albeit temporary, is not approved, and if it happens, reconciliation is still the goal. Death of a partner alone breaks all that is involved in the “one flesh” relationship.

     Paul’s teaching is the same. Though recognizing that separations may occur, he does not approve of them, and certainly not of divorce. He included no exception for divorce when he summarized the Lord’s teaching, and he only allowed for remarriage after the death of one partner.

     The practical problems of applying this teaching must have been present in the first century as they are in ours. The scripture does not deal with all the cases that can arise, but it does give us the restrictions, the goals, and the reminder of the power of the Holy Spirit. If these were sufficient in those days, they are also sufficient for today.

     Doctrine must never be compromised by cases; cases should always conform to doctrine. Let us obey God’s word and never adjust it for immediate solutions. This is the only way for anyone to have fellowship and fulfillment according to God’s standards. As Bromiley rightly says, people “… must be ready to obey God and not remarry after separation even though they might plead, as they often do, that they have a right to happiness or to the fulfillment of natural desires.”

     Christian marriage is made an example in the NT of the relation between Christ and his Church. That great mystery is concretized in Christian marriage. Among other things, this surely means showing love, forgiving as often as necessary, and being faithful to the vow of commitment each made to the other until death separates.

Dallas Theological Seminary. (1977; 2002). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 134 (134:215–227). Dallas Theological Seminary.

Charles C. Ryrie Books

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 135

Your Name, O LORD, Endures Forever
135 Praise The LORD!

135:1 Praise the name of the LORD,
give praise, O servants of the LORD,
2 who stand in the house of the LORD,
in the courts of the house of our God!
3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession.

5 For I know that the LORD is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

ESV Study Bible

Involuntary Sins

By Jeremy Pierre 6/01/2016

     Trained instincts—that’s how fighter pilots can react immediately to rapidly changing situations as they operate $27 million war machines. When a threat aircraft is closing in, there’s no time for pilots to reason through what to do. They have to rely on instinct—but not just natural instinct. They need instincts shaped deep within them through years of regiment. The countless little decisions they make in the cockpit are automatic, but that doesn’t mean they’re involuntary. The pilot voluntarily trained for them, and in the cockpit he reaps the instinctive benefits of that training.

     This is a good illustration of how unintentional sin works. Can we be guilty for sinful responses that seem to erupt in us automatically? Can we really consider sin voluntary if it is not consciously chosen?

     Scripture’s view of human experience is complex enough to answer yes. Scripture speaks of involuntary sins as including three characteristics: they are (1) from ignorance of God’s will and therefore (2) not deliberately chosen as hostile acts against God, yet (3) they are disobedience nonetheless. Leviticus 5:17 describes unintentional sin as “doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it.” Peter told his law-celebrating Jewish brothers they “killed the Author of life” because they “acted in ignorance” (Acts 3:15, 17). Paul told his idol-loving Greek audience their long artistic history was actually “the times of ignorance” that God had overlooked (Acts 17:30).

     The Jews killed Jesus. The Greeks crafted idols. Both of these actions were instinctive expressions of hearts not conditioned by God’s revealed Word, but by differing (yet equally sinful) sets of beliefs and values. The Jews believed in a legalistic god of their own making and valued their cultural version of righteousness; the Greeks believed in their human-crafted gods and valued the beauty of their own imaginings. Their actions simply expressed these deeper structures of ignorance. The Jews did not intend the killing of Jesus to be a hostile act against God, and the Greeks did not intend their pursuit of earthly pleasure to be direct rebellion against Him. But they were nonetheless.

     So it is with us. Our responses flow from somewhere—from the deeper realities of the hearts we’re stewards of. We are stewards of the deeper realities just as much as we are of the surface expressions. So, we can sin without deliberate choice because we are always acting intuitively out of hearts conditioned by inherited sin. Jesus gave us the general paradigm for this when He told us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).

     Like the fighter pilot’s hours of training, our hearts are under a regimen that gives shape to our intuitive responses—a regimen of beliefs and values that don’t align with Scripture, drilled into us through what we put in our heads, what we receive as wisdom from other sources, what we accept as normal from culture. All of these shape our unintentional sin.

     Think of the way sins such as partiality (James 2:1), jealousy (3:14), or harshness (4:2) function in real life. Rarely do people intentionally decide to show partiality. Yet, they’re instinctively drawn to a beautiful person who comes into the room. Why? Because of their established perception of what is attractive. Jealousy is the automatic impulse that arises when my deep value for a certain thing meets my hidden assumption of personal entitlement to it. Harshness is the result of the quiet desires of my heart smacking up against a person I perceive as withholding those desires from me.

     These sins tend not to have a moment of decisive action; they sort of emanate from our vitality. And in case that’s not bad enough, these basic unintentional sins can emanate in more complex forms, too: partiality can express itself as racism, jealousy as workaholism, harshness as manipulation.

     Sins of ignorance can only be remedied with knowledge. Far from being an excuse for sin, ignorance is the thing that keeps us in it. We become aware of unintentional sins—and more than that, are given the ability to do something about them—only by an external word from God. In Leviticus, this is a man “realizing his guilt” by knowing the will of God as laid down in Scripture (5:17). Peter’s solution to the Jews’ ignorant murder of Jesus is to refer them to Scripture’s prophecies about Him (Acts 3:18). Paul speaks to the Greeks’ idolatry about the one God not made of gold or silver (17:29). Only then, with this new awareness of truth, can they possibly take the proper action against their unintentional sin: “Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (3:19).

     If we’re using it rightly, Scripture is that uncomfortable knife—a sword, in fact—that cuts deep (Heb. 4:12). But as deeply as it cuts, it is for the purpose of God’s sculpting that glorious, instinctive design He put in us when He saved us. When a person believes God’s Word, he is given a mind characterized by the righteousness of Christ, out of which flows new understanding (1 Cor. 2:14–16). The same design that makes human beings able to sin instinctively is now used for good. When people come to faith in Christ, they receive His righteousness—not just as a declaration of right standing before God (justification), but also as a living power that reshapes their core beliefs and values, and therefore the instinctive responses that flow from them (sanctification). Their automatic responses are characterized by greater righteousness. Trained instincts—but now under a new regimen.

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     Dr. Jeremy Pierre is dean of students and assistant professor of biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., a pastor of Clifton Baptist Church, and coauthor of The Pastor and Counseling.

Fox's Book Of Martyrs

By John Foxe 1563

J. Corneford, of Wortham; C. Browne, of Maidstone; J. Herst, of Ashford; Alice Snoth, and Catharine Knight, an Aged Woman

     With pleasure we have to record that these five martyrs were the last who suffered in the reign of Mary for the sake of the Protestant cause; but the malice of the papists was conspicuous in hastening their martyrdom, which might have been delayed until the event of the queen's illness was decided. It is reported that the archdeacon of Canterbury, judging that the sudden death of the queen would suspend the execution, travelled post from London, to have the satisfaction of adding another page to the black list of papistical sacrifices.

     The articles against them were, as usual, the Sacramental elements and the idolatry of bending to images. They quoted St. John's words, "Beware of images!" and respecting the real presence, they urged according to St. Paul, "the things which are seen are temporal." When sentence was about to be read against them, and excommunication to take place in the regular form, John Corneford, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, awfully turned the latter proceeding against themselves, and in a solemn impressive manner, recriminated their excommunication in the following words: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the most mighty God, and by the power of His Holy Spirit, and the authority of His holy Catholic and apostolic Church, we do here give into the hands of Satan to be destroyed, the bodies of all those blasphemers and heretics that maintain any error against His most holy Word, or do condemn His most holy truth for heresy, to the maintenance of any false church or foreign religion, so that by this Thy just judgment, O most mighty God, against Thy adversaries, Thy true religion may be known to Thy great glory and our comfort and to the edifying of all our nation. Good Lord, so be it. Amen."

     This sentence was openly pronounced and registered, and, as if Providence had awarded that it should not be delivered in vain, within six days after, Queen Mary died, detested by all good men and accursed of God!

     Though acquainted with these circumstances, the archdeacon's implacability exceeded that of his great exemplary, Bonner, who, though he had several persons at that time under his fiery grasp, did not urge their deaths hastily, by which delay he certainly afforded them an opportunity of escape. At the queen's decease, many were in bonds: some just taken, some examined, and others condemned. The writs indeed were issued for several burnings, but by the death of the three instigators of Protestant murder-the chancellor, the bishop, and the queen, who fell nearly together, the condemned sheep were liberated, and lived many years to praise God for their happy deliverance.

     These five martyrs, when at the stake, earnestly prayed that their blood might be the last shed, nor did they pray in vain. They died gloriously, and perfected the number God had selected to bear witness of the truth in this dreadful reign, whose names are recorded in the Book of Life; though last, not least among the saints made meet for immortality through the redeeming blood of the Lamb!

     Catharine Finlay, alias Knight, was first converted by her son's expounding the Scriptures to her, which wrought in her a perfect work that terminated in martyrdom. Alice Snoth at the stake sent for her grandmother and godfather, and rehearsed to them the articles of her faith, and the Commandments of God, thereby convincing the world that she knew her duty. She died calling upon the spectators to bear witness that she was a Christian woman, and suffered joyfully for the testimony of Christ's Gospel.

     Among the numberless enormities committed by the merciless and unfeeling Bonner, the murder of this innocent and unoffending child may be ranged as the most horrid. His father, John Fetty, of the parish of Clerkenwell, by trade a tailor, and only twenty-four years of age, had made blessed election; he was fixed secure in eternal hope, and depended on Him who so builds His Church that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. But alas! the very wife of his bosom, whose heart was hardened against the truth, and whose mind was influenced by the teachers of false doctrine, became his accuser. Brokenbery, a creature of the pope, and parson of the parish, received the information of this wedded Delilah, in consequence of which the poor man was apprehended. But here the awful judgment of an ever-righteous God, who is "of purer eyes than to behold evil," fell upon this stone-hearted and perfidious woman; for no sooner was the injured husband captured by her wicked contriving, than she also was suddenly seized with madness, and exhibited an awful and awakening instance of God's power to punish the evil-doer. This dreadful circumstance had some effect upon the hearts of the ungodly hunters who had eagerly grasped their prey; but, in a relenting moment, they suffered him to remain with his unworthy wife, to return her good for evil, and to comfort two children, who, on his being sent to prison, would have been left without a protector, or have become a burden to the parish. As bad men act from little motives, we may place the indulgence shown him to the latter account.

     We have noticed in the former part of our narratives of the martyrs, some whose affection would have led them even to sacrifice their own lives, to preserve their husbands; but here, agreeable to Scripture language, a mother proves, indeed, a monster in nature! Neither conjugal nor maternal affection could impress the heart of this disgraceful woman.

     Although our afflicted Christian had experienced so much cruelty and falsehood from the woman who was bound to him by every tie both human and divine, yet, with a mild and forbearing spirit, he overlooked her misdeeds, during her calamity endeavoring all he could to procure relief for her malady, and soothing her by every possible expression of tenderness: thus she became in a few weeks nearly restored to her senses. But, alas! she returned again to her sin, "as a dog returneth to his vomit." Malice against the saints of the Most High was seated in her heart too firmly to be removed; and as her strength returned, her inclination to work wickedness returned with it. Her heart was hardened by the prince of darkness; and to her may be applied these afflicting and soul-harrowing words, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." Weighing this text duly with another, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," how shall we presume to refine away the sovereignty of God by arrainging Jehovah at the bar of human reason, which, in religious matters, is too often opposed by infinite wisdom? "Broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." The ways of heaven are indeed inscrutable, and it is our bounden duty to walk ever dependent on God, looking up to Him with humble confidence, and hope in His goodness, and ever confess His justice; and where we "cannot unravel, there learn to trust." This wretched woman, pursuing the horrid dictates of a heart hardened and depraved, was scarcely confirmed in her recovery, when, stifling the dictates of honor, gratitude, and every natural affection, she again accused her husband, who was once more apprehended, and taken before Sir John Mordant, knight, and one of Queen Mary's commissioners.

     Upon examination, his judge finding him fixed in opinions which militated against those nursed by superstition and maintained by cruelty, he was sentenced to confinement and torture in Lollard's Tower. Here he was put into the painful stocks, and had a dish of water set by him, with a stone put into it, to what purpose God knoweth, except it were to show that he should look for little other subsistence: which is credible enough, if we consider their like practices upon divers before mentioned in this history; as, among others, upon Richard Smith, who died through their cruel imprisonment touching whom, when a godly woman came to Dr. Story to have leave she might bury him, he asked her if he had any straw or blood in his mouth; but what he means thereby, I leave to the judgment of the wise.

     On the first day of the third week of our martyr's sufferings, an object presented itself to his view, which made him indeed feel his tortures with all their force, and to execrate, with bitterness only short of cursing, the author of his misery. To mark and punish the proceedings of his tormentors, remained with the Most High, who noteth even the fall of a sparrow, and in whose sacred Word it is written, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." This object was his own son, a child of the tender age of eight years. For fifteen days, had its hapless father been suspended by his tormentor by the right arm and left leg, and sometimes by both, shifting his positions for the purpose of giving him strength to bear and to lengthen the date of his sufferings. When the unoffending innocent, desirous of seeing and speaking to its parent, applied to Bonner for permission to do so, the poor child being asked by the bishop's chaplain the purport of his errand, he replied he wished to see his father. "Who is thy father?" said the chaplain. "John Fetty," returned the boy, at the same time pointing to the place where he was confined. The interrogating miscreant on this said, "Why, thy father is a heretic!" The little champion again rejoined, with energy sufficient to raise admiration in any breast, except that of this unprincipled and unfeeling wretch-this miscreant, eager to execute the behests of a remoseless queen-"My father is no heretic: for you have Balaam's mark."

     Irritated by reproach so aptly applied, the indignant and mortified priest concealed his resentment for a moment, and took the undaunted boy into the house, where having him secure, he presented him to others, whose baseness and cruelty being equal to his own, they stripped him to the skin, and applied their scourges to so violent a degree, that, fainting beneath the stripes inflicted on his tender frame, and covered with the blood that flowed from them, the victim of their ungodly wrath was ready to expire under his heavy and unmerited punishment.

     In this bleeding and helpless state was the suffering infant, covered only with his shirt, taken to his father by one of the actors in the horrid tragedy, who, while he exhibited the heart-rending spectacle, made use of the vilest taunts, and exulted in what he had done. The dutiful child, as if recovering strength at the sight of his father, on his knees implored his blessing. "Alas! Will," said the afflicted parent, in trembling amazement, "who hath done this to thee!" the artless innocent related the circumstances that led to the merciless correction which had been so basely inflicted on him; but when he repeated the reproof bestowed on the chaplain, and which was prompted by an undaunted spirit, he was torn from his weeping parent, and conveyed again to the house, where he remained a close prisoner.

     Bonner, somewhat fearful that what had been done could not be justified even among the bloodhounds of his own voracious pack, concluded in his dark and wicked mind, to release John Fetty, for a time at least, from the severities he was enduring in the glorious cause of everlasting truth! whose bright rewards are fixed beyond the boundaries of time, within the confines of eternity; where the arrow of the wicked cannot wound, even "where there shall be no more sorrowing for the blessed, who, in the mansion of eternal bliss shall glorify the Lamb forever and ever." He was accordingly by order of Bonner, (how disgraceful to all dignity, to say bishop!) liberated from the painful bonds, and led from Lollard's Tower, to the chamber of that ungodly and infamous butcher, where he found the bishop bathing himself before a great fire; and at his first entering the chamber, Fetty said, "God be here and peace!" "God be here and peace, (said Bonner,) that is neither God speed nor good morrow!" "If ye kick against this peace, (said Fetty), then this is not the place that I seek for."

     A chaplain of the bishop, standing by, turned the poor man about, and thinking to abash him, said, in mocking wise, "What have we here-a player!" While Fetty was thus standing in the bishop's chamber, he espied, hanging about the bishop's bed, a pair of great black beads, whereupon he said, "My Lord, I think the hangman is not far off: for the halter (pointing to the beads) is here already!" At which words the bishop was in a marvellous rage. Then he immediately after espied also, standing in the bishop's chamber, in the window, a little crucifix. Then he asked the bishop what it was, and he answered, that it was Christ. "Was He handled as cruelly as He is here pictured!" said Fetty. "Yea, that He was," said the bishop. "And even so cruelly will you handle such as come before you; for you are unto God's people as Caiaphas was unto Christ!" The bishop, being in a great fury, said, "Thou art a vile heretic, and I will burn thee, or else I will spend all I have, unto my gown." "Nay, my Lord, (said Fetty) you were better to give it to some poor body, that he may pray for you." Bonner, notwithstanding his passion, which was raised to the utmost by the calm and pointed remarks of this observing Christian, thought it most prudent to dismiss the father, on account of the nearly murdered child. His coward soul trembled for the consequences which might ensue; fear is inseparable from little minds; and this dastardly pampered priest experienced its effects so far as to induce him to assume the appearance of that he was an utter stranger to, namely, MERCY.

     The father, on being dismissed, by the tyrant Bonner, went home with a heavy heart, with his dying child, who did not survive many days the cruelties which had been inflicted on him.

     How contrary to the will of our great King and Prophet, who mildly taught His followers, was the conduct of this sanguinary and false teacher, this vile apostate from his God to Satan! But the archfiend had taken entire possession of his heart, and guided every action of the sinner he had hardened; who, given up to terrible destruction, was running the race of the wicked, marking his footsteps with the blood of the saints, as if eager to arrive at the goal of eternal death.

Deliverance of Dr. Sands

     This eminent prelate, vice-chancellor of Cambridge, at the request of the duke of Northumberland, when he came down to Cambridge in support of Lady Jane Grey's claim to the throne, undertook at a few hours' notice, to preach before the duke and the university. The text he took was such as presented itself in opening the Bible, and a more appropriate one he could not have chosen, namely, the three last verses of Joshua. As God gave him the text, so He gave him also such order and utterance that it excited the most lively emotions in his numerous auditors. The sermon was about to be sent to London to be printed, when news arrived that the duke had returned and Queen Mary was proclaimed.

     The duke was immediately arrested, and Dr. Sands was compelled by the university to give up his office. He was arrested by the queen's order, and when Mr. Mildmay wondered that so learned a man could wilfully incur danger, and speak against so good a princess as Mary, the doctor replied, "If I would do as Mr. Mildmay has done, I need not fear bonds. He came down armed against Queen Mary; before a trator-now a great friend. I cannot with one mouth blow hot and cold in this manner." A general plunder of Dr. Sands' property ensued, and he was brought to London upon a wretched horse. Various insults he met on the way from the bigoted Catholics, and as he passed through Bishopsgate-street, a stone struck him to the ground. He was the first prisoner that entered the Tower, in that day, on a religious account; his man was admitted with his Bible, but his shirts and other articles were taken from him.

     On Mary's coronation day the doors of the dungeon were so laxly guarded that it was easy to escape. A Mr. Mitchell, like a true friend, came to him, afforded him his own clothes as a disguise, and was willing to abide the consequence of being found in his place. This was a rare friendship: but he refused the offer; saying, "I know no cause why I should be in prison. To do thus were to make myself guilty. I will expect God's good will, yet do I think myself much obliged to you"; and so Mr. Mitchell departed.

     With Doctor Sands was imprisoned Mr. Bradford; they were kept close in prison twenty-nine weeks. John Fowler, their keeper, was a perverse papist, yet, by often persuading him, at length he began to favor the Gospel, and was so persuaded in the true religion, that on a Sunday, when they had Mass in the chapel, Dr. Sands administered the Communion to Bradford and to Fowler. Thus Fowler was their son begotten in bonds. To make room for Wyat and his accomplices, Dr. Sands and nine other preachers were sent to the Marshalsea.

     The keeper of the Marshalsea appointed to every preacher a man to lead him in the street; he caused them to go on before, and he and Dr. Sands followed conversing together. By this time popery began to be unsavory. After they had passed the bridge, the keeper said to Dr. Sands: "I perceive the vain people would set you forward to the fire. You are as vain as they, if you, being a young man, will stand in your own conceit, and prefer your own judgment before that of so many worthy prelates, ancient, learned, and grave men as be in this realm. If you do so, you shall find me a severe keeper, and one that utterly dislikes your religion." Dr. Sands answered, "I know my years to be young, and my learning but small; it is enough to know Christ crucified, and he hath learned nothing who seeth not the great blasphemy that is in popery. I will yield unto God, and not unto man; I have read in the Scriptures of many godly and couretous keepers: may God make you one! if not, I trust He will give me strength and patience to bear your hard usage." Then said the keeper, "Are you resolved to stand to your religion?" "Yes," quoth the doctor, "by God's grace!" "Truly," said the keeper, "I love you the better for it; I did but tempt you: what favor I can show you, you shall be assured of; and I shall think myself happy if I might die at the stake with you."

     He was as good as his word, for he trusted the doctor to walk in the fields alone, where he met with Mr. Bradford, who was also a prisoner in the King's Bench, and had found the same favor from his keeper. At his request, he put Mr. Saunders in along with him, to be his bedfellow, and the Communion was administered to a great number of communicants.

     When Wyat with his army came to Southwark, he offered to liberate all the imprisoned Protestants, but Dr. Sands and the rest of the preachers refused to accept freedom on such terms.

     After Dr. Sands had been nine weeks prisoner in the Marshalsea, by the mediation of Sir Thomas Holcroft, knight marshal, he was set at liberty. Though Mr. Holcroft had the queen's warrant, the bishop commanded him not to set Dr. Sands at liberty, until he had taken sureties of two gentlemen with him, each one bound in œ500, that Dr. Sands should not depart out of the realm without license. Mr. Holcroft immediately after met with two gentlemen of the north, friends and cousins to Dr. Sands, who offered to be bound for him.

     After dinner, the same day, Sir Thomas Holcroft sent for Dr. Sands to his lodgings at Westminster, to communicate to him all he had done. Dr. Sands answered: "I give God thanks, who hath moved your heart to mind me so well, that I think myself most bound unto you. God shall requite you, nor shall I ever be found unthankful. But as you have dealt friendly with me, I will also deal plainly with you. I came a freeman into prison; I will not go forth a bondman. As I cannot benefit my friends, so will I not hurt them. And if I be set at liberty, I will not tarry six days in this realm, if I may get out. If therefore I may not get free forth, send me to the Marshalsea again, and there you shall be sure of me."

     This answer Mr. Holcroft much disapproved of; but like a true friend he replied: "Seeing you cannot be altered, I will change my purpose, and yield unto you. Come of it what will, I will set you at liberty; and seeing you have a mind to go over sea, get you gone as quick as you can. One thing I require of you, that, while you are there, you write nothing to me hither, for this may undo me."

     Dr. Sands having taken an affectionate farewell of him and his other friends in bonds, departed. He went by Winchester house, and there took boat, and came to a friend's house in London, called William Banks, and tarried there one night. The next night he went to another friend's house, and there he heard that strict search was making for him, by Gardiner's express order.

     Dr. Sands now conveyed himself by night to one Mr. Berty's house, a stranger who was in the Marshalsea prison with him a while; he was a good Protestant and dwelt in Mark-lane. There he was six days, and then removed to one of his acquaintances in Cornhill; he caused his man Quinton to provide two geldings for him, resolved on the morrow to ride into Essex, to Mr. Sands, his father-in-law, where his wife was, which, after a narrow escape, he effected. He had not been theretwo hours, before Mr. Sands was told that two of the guards would that night apprehend Dr. Sands.

     That night Dr. Sands was guided to an honest farmer's near the sea, where he tarried two days and two nights in a chamber without company. After that he removed to one James Mower's, a shipmaster, who dwelt at Milton-Shore, where he waited for a wind to Flanders. While he was there, James Mower brought to him forty or fifty mariners, to whom he gave an exhortation; they liked him so well that they promised to die rather than he should be apprehended.

     The sixth of May, Sunday, the wind served. In taking leave of his hostess, who had been married eight years without having a child, he gave her a fine handkerchief and an old royal of gold, and said, "Be of good comfort; before that one whole year be past, God shall give you a child, a boy." This came to pass, for, that day twelve-month, wanting one day, God gave her a son.

     Scarcely had he arrived at Antwerp, when he learned that King Philip had sent to apprehend him. He next flew to Augsburg, in Cleveland, where Dr. Sands tarried fourteen days, and then travelled towards Strassburg, where, after he had lived one year, his wife came to him. He was sick of a flux nine months, and had a child which died of the plague. His amiable wife at length fell into a consumption, and died in his arms. When his wife was dead, he went to Zurich, and there was in Peter Martyr's house for the space of five weeks.

     As they sat at dinner one day, word was suddenly brought that Queen Mary was dead, and Dr. Sands was sent for by his friends at Strassburg, where he preached. Mr. Grindal and he came over to England, and arrived in London the same day that Queen Elizabeth was crowned. This faithful servant of Christ, under Queen Elizabeth, rose to the highest distinction in the Church, being successively bishop of Worcester, bishop of London, and archbishop of York.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

The Continual Burnt Offering (Hebrews 11:6)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

December 2
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.    ESV

     Faith is taking God at His Word. He who comes to God in prayer must believe in Him, and must have confidence that He hears the petitions addressed to Him and rewards those who earnestly seek His face. Skeptics may sneer when Christians speak of a God who answers prayer, but all the unbelievers’ sneers cannot invalidate what is known by those who trust in Him. He chooses to give in answer to prayer what He will not give apart from prayer, so that His people may have a positive testimony that they have a relationship with the living personal God. Faith honors Him, and He delights to bless those who thus acknowledge His loving care for His own. He honors them who glorify His name.

Giver of every gift,
Thy choice is best;
All-wise Eternal Love—
In Thee I rest.
Yielding to Thy wise hand,
Safe in Thy will—
Not asking why or how,
Let me be still.
Looking on things unseen,
By faith I see
Glory exceeding great
Worketh for me.
--- Grace E. Troy

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • Lessons from the Fig Tree 1
  • Pt 2
  • Christian Ethics

#3 Rick Langer   Biola University


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Pass it on
     12/2/2017    Bob Gass

     ‘Ask yourself what you want people to do for you…and do it for them.’

(Mt 7:12) 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. ESV

     The Bible says, ‘As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed…self-promoting…dog-eat-dog…the kind…who smooth-talk…and take advantage’ (2 Timothy 3:1-6 MSG). If you don’t believe that, try sliding into a parking space another motorist wants. Or watch shoppers in a checkout line elbowing one another to save thirty seconds. And how about ‘your seat’ in church; you know, the one you’ve been warming for thirty years? The Bible says, ‘Be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves’ (Philippians 2:3-4 CEV). Jesus said, ‘Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.’ In other words, practise putting others first. Nobel Prize-winning medical missionary Albert Schweitzer said, ‘The only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.’ If you need motivation, start looking for the good qualities in people instead of the bad ones. And remember, they have to do the same in your case. Do something to help them. If you really want to get ahead in life, love others a little bit more than they deserve, just like God loves you. Too often we expect everyone else to practise the Golden Rule. Hymnist Henry Burton wrote: ‘Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on. ’Twas not given for thee alone, pass it on. Let it travel down the years, let it wipe another’s tears, till in heaven the deed appears – pass it on.’

Hosea 7-8
2 John

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     A thirty-three year old conquistador landed in Mexico with five hundred men. He was shocked to find the Aztecs taking prisoners of the weaker tribes, ripping their hearts out atop temples, and in a frenzy eating their bodies. This conquistador freed the prisoners, knocked down idols, and erected crosses. His name was Hernando Cortez, and he died this day, December 2, 1547. His personal secretary wrote: “Cortez told them of their blindness… in worshiping many gods and making sacrifices of human blood… He then told them of a single God, Creator of Heaven and earth… whom all men should worship and serve.”

American Minute

Letters To Malcolm, Chiefly On Prayer
     by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God

     The second is this. The following position is gaining ground and is extremely plausible. Mystics (it is said) starting from the most diverse religious premises all find the same things. These things have singularly little to do with the professed doctrines of any particular religion-Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Neo-Platonism, etc. Therefore, mysticism is, by empirical evidence, the only real contact man has ever had with the unseen. The agreement of the explorers proves that they are all in touch with something objective. It is therefore the one true religion. And what we call the "religions" are either mere delusions or, at best, so many porches through which an entrance into transcendent reality can be effected.

  And when he hath the kernel eate,
  Who doth not throw away the shell?

     I am doubtful about the premises. Did Plotinus and Lady Julian and St. John of the Cross really find "the same things?" Even admitting some similarity. One thing common to all mysticisms is the temporary shattering of our ordinary spatial and temporal consciousness and of our discursive intellect. The value of this negative experience must depend on the nature of that positive, whatever it is, for which it makes room. But should we not expect that the negative would always feel the same? If wine-glasses were conscious, I suppose that being emptied would be the same experience for each, even if some were to remain empty and some to be filled with poison and some broken. All who leave the land and put to sea will "find the same things"-the land sinking below the horizon, the gulls dropping behind, the salty breeze. Tourists, merchants, sailors, pirates, missionaries-it's all one. But this identical experience vouches for nothing about the utility or lawfulness or final event of their voyages.

  It may be that the gulfs will wash them down,
  It may be they will touch the Happy Isles.

     I do not at all regard mystical experience as an illusion. I think it shows that there is a way to go, before death, out of what may be called "this world"-out of the stage set. Out of this; but into what? That's like asking an Englishman "Where does the sea lead to?" He will reply, "To every­ where on earth, including Davy Jones's locker, except England." The lawfulness, safety, and utility of the mystical voyage depends not at all on its being mystical-that is, on its being a departure-but on the motives, skill, and constancy of the voyager, and on the grace of God. The true religion gives value to its own mysticism; mysticism does not validate the religion in which it happens to occur.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Vision looks inward and becomes duty.
Vision looks outward and becomes aspiration.
Vision looks upward and becomes faith.
--- Stephen Samuel Wise

To deprive a man of his natural liberty
and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life
is worse then starving the body;
it is starvation of the soul,
the dweller in the body.
--- Mohandas Gandhi

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.
--- Thomas Sowel

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
--- Rainer Maria Rilke

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 29:23-24
     by D.H. Stern

23     The proud will be humbled,
but the humble will be honored.

24     The accomplice of a thief hates himself;
he hears himself put under oath but discloses nothing.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Christian Perfection

     Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.… --- Phil. 3:12.

     It is a snare to imagine that God wants to make us perfect specimens of what He can do; God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. The emphasis of holiness movements is apt to be that God is producing specimens of holiness to put in His museum. If you go off on this idea of personal holiness, the dead-set of your life will not be for God, but for what you call the manifestation of God in your life. ‘It can never be God’s will that I should be sick,’ you say. If it was God’s will to bruise His own Son, why should He not bruise you? The thing that tells for God is not your relevant consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your real vital relation to Jesus Christ, and your abandonment to Him whether you are well or ill.

     Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship to God which shows itself amid the irrelevancies of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that strikes you is the irrelevancy of the things you have to do, and the next thing that strikes you is the fact that other people seem to be living perfectly consistent lives. Such lives are apt to leave you with the idea that God is unnecessary, by human effort and devotion we can reach the standard God wants. In a fallen world this can never be done. I am called to live in perfect relation to God so that my life produces a longing after God in other lives, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God is not after perfecting me to be a specimen in His show-room; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He likes.

My Utmost for His Highest

The Flower
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

                The Flower

I asked for riches.
You gave me the earth, the sea,
          the immensity
of the broad sky.
          I looked at them
and learned I must withdraw
to possess them.
          I gave my eyes
     and my ears, and dwelt
in a soundless darkness
          in the shadow
     of your regard.
          The soul
     grew in me, filling me
with its fragrance.
          Men came
to me from the four
     winds to hear me speak
     of the unseen flower by which
I sat, whose roots were not
in the soil, not its petals the colour
of the wide sea; that was
     its own species with its own
     sky over it, shot
with the rainbow of your coming and going.

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

     Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest

     In order to understand fully the relationship of the individual to community, or of philosophy to Halakhah in Maimonidean thought, it is important that we appreciate how Maimonides led the halakhic Jew from Sinai to creation and then back to Sinai.

     The philosophic Jew, according to Maimonides, need not lose his particular halakhic identity when he appropriates the universal disciplines of the philosophers. The philosophic Jew appropriates the particular forms of his community from the perspective of his rational understanding of the universal God of being. The concrete forms of expression are particular to his tradition; the intellectual passion which infuses these forms is universal. The Halakhah, which is mediated by his membership in the covenant community, provides him with concrete forms for expressing his understanding of the universal God of being.

     This integration of the universal (nature) and the particular (Halakhah) is observed in the way Maimonides, in the Guide, provides a Jewish expression for the universal experience of fear of God. In the first book of the Mishneh Torah, chapters two and four, Maimonides writes:

     And what is the way that will lead to the love of Him and the fear of Him? When a person contemplates His great and wondrous works and creatures and from them obtains a glimpse of His wisdom which is incomparable and infinite, he will straightaway love Him, praise Him, glorify Him, and long with an exceeding longing to know His great Name; even as David said “My soul thirsted for God, for the living God” (
Ps. 42:3). And when he ponders these matters, he will recoil affrighted, and realize that he is a small creature, lowly and obscure, endowed with slight and slender intelligence, standing in the presence of Him who is perfect in knowledge. And so David said “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, … what is man, that You are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:4–5).

     When a man reflects on these things, studies all these created beings, from the angels and spheres down to human beings and so on, and realizes the Divine Wisdom manifested in them all, his love for God will increase, his soul will thirst, his very flesh will yearn, to love God. He will be filled with fear and trembling, as he becomes conscious of his own lowly condition, poverty, and insignificance, and compares himself with any of the great and holy bodies; still more when he compares himself with any one of the pure forms that are incorporeal and have never had association with corporeal substance. He will then realize that he is a vessel full of shame, dishonor, and reproach, empty and deficient.

     This description of yirah reflects the tension characterizing the human experience of love of God. Human reason, the image of God in man, leads to the theocentric world of non-human lovers of God. The intellect of man, however, is tied to his body. The awareness of being human and the inability, even during sublime moments of intellectual love, to transcend the human condition constitutes this experience of yirah.

     (Throughout most of Maimonides’ writings yirah (fear) is presented as a preliminary stage eventually transcended as one approaches the level of love of God. This was explained in the discussion of yirah and ahavah in chapter two. The same approach is repeated in the closing chapter of Hilkhot Teshuvah:

     Let not a man say, “I will observe the precepts of the Torah and occupy myself with its wisdom, in order that I may obtain all the blessings written in the Torah, or to attain life in the world to come; I will abstain from transgressions against which the Torah warns, so that I may be saved from the curses written in the Torah, or that I may not be cut off from life in the world to come.” It is not right to serve Cod after this fashion for whoever does so, serves Him out of fear. This is not the standard set by the Prophets and Sages. Only those serve God in this way, who are illiterate, women, or children whom one trains to serve out of fear, till their knowledge shall have increased when they will serve out of love (X, 1, 2, pp. 92a–b).)

Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest

Take Heart
     December 2

     Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.
--- James 5:13.

     Prayer in trouble implies of sense our impotence, an acknowledgment of God’s power, and dependence on him for help.    Short Sermons On Important Subjects   These considerations reveal the suitability of this duty and the probability of success, if we pray in a right spirit.

     When we are troubled, let us pray for pardon. Perhaps some crime may be the cause of our suffering, which must be pardoned before we can obtain deliverance: “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him… and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14–15).

     In troubles we should pray for counsel. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,… and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). While clouds and darkness roll round us, we know not which way to go, but when we acknowledge God in the duty of prayer, he directs our steps.

     We should pray for a sanctified use of trouble. When trouble is sanctified, it promotes our good, the good of others, and the glory of God. God neither troubles in vain nor willingly grieves us. After an affliction is over, it is pleasing to reflect that, like silver in the furnace, we have lost nothing but dross. In this way, and for this very purpose, God often afflicts his children.

     It is lawful in our troubles to pray for deliverance. When the Israelites wandered in a solitary way and when their soul fainted with hunger and thirst, “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (Ps. 107:6).

     Those in trouble should ask others to join with them in prayer. United petitions are powerful. The prayers of saints ascend before the throne of God like holy incense, and speedy answers are sent down. Hurry, then, to call in the pious, and set great value on their prayers.

     But prayer in troubles does not set aside the use of other means. Every means that prudence may dictate should be used, but all should be mixed with prayer, that God may give his blessing, without which all our endeavors will prove useless.

     The character of the divine Being is an encouragement to pray in troubles. He is full of compassion and waits to do his needy creatures good. He pities people in their troubles, and his arm is stretched out to help and deliver.

--- Jonathan Edmondson

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day   December 2
     Consecrated, Lord, to Thee

     Frances Ridley Havergal received Christ at a young age but struggled for years with Christian victory. I had hoped that a kind of tableland had been reached in my journey, where I might walk awhile in the light, without the weary succession of rock and hollow, crag and morass, stumbling and striving; but I seem borne back into all the old difficulties of the way, with many sin-made aggravations. I think the great root of my trouble and alienation is that I do not make an unreserved surrender of myself to God; until this is done I shall know no peace. I am sure of it.

     She struggled throughout her twenties and thirties, pulled in one direction by the acclaim of great London crowds who loved her singing, and in another direction by the Holy Spirit. Then one day at age 36 she read a booklet entitled “All For Jesus,” which stressed the importance of making Christ King of every corner and cubicle of one’s life. Frances made a fresh, complete consecration to God. Years later her sister asked her about it, and she replied: Yes, it was on Advent Sunday, December 2, 1873, I first saw clearly the blessedness of true consecration. I saw it as a flash of electric light. There must be full surrender before there can be full blessedness. God admits you by the one into the other. He showed me this most clearly.

     Shortly after, Frances found herself spending several days with ten people, some of them unconverted, and others of them Christians not fully surrendered. “Lord,” she prayed, “give me all in this house.” Before she left, all ten were yielded Christians. On the last night of her visit, Frances, too excited to sleep, wrote her “Consecration Hymn,” the song that became her life’s theme. She took its words seriously and prayed earnestly over them every December 2nd, making changes to her life and lifestyle as needed. The first verse says:

  Take my life and let it be,
  Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
  Take my hands and let them move
  At the impulse of Thy love.

     I have been nailed to the cross with Christ. I have died, but Christ lives in me. And I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.
--- Galatians 2:19b,20.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Advent Week One - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
     God Is In The Manger (Day 6)

     Silence: Waiting for God's Word

     We are silent in the early hours of each day, because God is supposed to have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep, because to God also belongs the last word. We are silent solely for the sake of the word, not in order to show dishonor to the word but in order to honor and receive it properly. Silence ultimately means nothing but waiting for God's word and coming away blessed by God's word.... Silence before the word, however, will have its effect on the whole day. If we have learned to be silent before the word, we will also learn to be economical with silence and speech throughout the day. There is an impermissible self-satisfied, prideful, offensive silence. This teaches us that what is important is never silence in itself. The silence of the Christian is a listening silence, a humble silence that for the sake of'humility can also be broken at any time. It is a silence in connection with the word.... In being quiet there is a miraculous power of clarification, of purification, of bringing together what is important. This is a purely profane fact. Silence before the word, however, leads to the right hearing and thus also to the right speaking of the word of God at the right time. A lot that is unnecessary remains unsaid.

     Today is Remembrance Sunday. Will you have a memorial service for B. Riemer? It would be nice, but difficult. Then comes Advent, with all its happy memories for us. It was you who really opened up to me the world of music making that we have carried on during the weeks of Advent. Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent: one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other things that are really of no consequence -- the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.'

  Letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer at Tegel prison to Eberhard Bethge,
  November 21, 1943

God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - December 2

     “Thou art all fair, my love.” --- Song of Solomon 4:7.

     The Lord’s admiration of his Church is very wonderful, and his description of her beauty is very glowing. She is not merely fair, but “all fair.” He views her in himself, washed in his sin-atoning blood and clothed in his meritorious righteousness, and he considers her to be full of comeliness and beauty. No wonder that such is the case, since it is but his own perfect excellency that he admires; for the holiness, glory, and perfection of his Church are his own glorious garments on the back of his own well-beloved spouse. She is not simply pure, or well-proportioned; she is positively lovely and fair! She has actual merit! Her deformities of sin are removed; but more, she has through her Lord obtained a meritorious righteousness by which an actual beauty is conferred upon her. Believers have a positive righteousness given to them when they become “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Nor is the Church barely lovely, she is superlatively so. Her Lord styles her “Thou fairest among women.” She has a real worth and excellence which cannot be rivalled by all the nobility and royalty of the world. If Jesus could exchange his elect bride for all the queens and empresses of earth, or even for the angels in heaven, he would not, for he puts her first and foremost—“fairest among women.” Like the moon she far outshines the stars. Nor is this an opinion which he is ashamed of, for he invites all men to hear it. He sets a “behold” before it, a special note of exclamation, inviting and arresting attention. “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair” (Song of Sol. 4:1). His opinion he publishes abroad even now, and one day from the throne of his glory he will avow the truth of it before the assembled universe. “Come, ye blessed of my Father” (Matt. 25:34), will be his solemn affirmation of the loveliness of his elect.

     Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: he casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, he is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

          Evening - December 2

     “Behold, all is vanity.” --- Ecclesiastes 1:14.

     Nothing can satisfy the entire man but the Lord’s love and the Lord’s own self. Saints have tried to anchor in other roadsteads, but they have been driven out of such fatal refuges. Solomon, the wisest of men, was permitted to make experiments for us all, and to do for us what we must not dare to do for ourselves. Here is his testimony in his own words: “So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What! the whole of it vanity? O favoured monarch, is there nothing in all thy wealth? Nothing in that wide dominion reaching from the river even to the sea? Nothing in Palmyra’s glorious palaces? Nothing in the house of the forest of Lebanon? In all thy music and dancing, and wine and luxury, is there nothing? “Nothing,” he says, “but weariness of spirit.” This was his verdict when he had trodden the whole round of pleasure. To embrace our Lord Jesus, to dwell in his love, and be fully assured of union with him—this is all in all. Dear reader, you need not try other forms of life in order to see whether they are better than the Christian’s: if you roam the world around, you will see no sights like a sight of the Saviour’s face; if you could have all the comforts of life, if you lost your Saviour, you would be wretched; but if you win Christ, then should you rot in a dungeon, you would find it a paradise; should you live in obscurity, or die with famine, you will yet be satisfied with favour and full of the goodness of the Lord.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     December 2


     Latin hymn from 12th century
     English translation by John M. Neale, 1818–1866

     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. (Luke 1:32, 33

     The preparation for the celebration of our Lord’s birth begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. This begins the period known as the Advent season. Advent centers on the Old Testament prophecies concerning a coming Messiah and His establishment of an earthly kingdom. The Messiah’s coming was prophesied 600 years before His birth. At the time the Jewish people were living in captivity in Babylon. For centuries thereafter faithful Jews earnestly anticipated the Deliverer-Messiah with great longing and expectation, echoing the prayer that He would “ransom captive Israel.” And finally the long awaited heavenly announcement came— “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:11).

     “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was originally used in the medieval church liturgy as a series of antiphons—short musical statements that were sung for the week of vesper services just before Christmas Eve. Each of these antiphons greets the anticipated Messiah with one of the titles ascribed Him throughout the Old Testament: Wisdom, Emmanuel, The Lord of Might, The Rod of Jesse, Day Spring, and The Key of David.

     The haunting modal melody for the verses is also of ancient origin. It is based on one of the earliest forms of sacred music known—the Chant or Plain Song.

     O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
     O come, O come, Thou Lord of might who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height, in ancient times didst give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.
     O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; from depths of hell Thy people save and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
     O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here; O drive away the shades of night and pierce the clouds and bring us light.
     O come, Thou Key of David, come and open wide our heav’nly home where all Thy saints with Thee shall dwell—O come, O come, Emmanuel!
     Refrain: Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

     For Today: Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 11:1; 22:22; Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 1:78, 79; Galatians 4:4, 5

     Christ came not only to be the Emmanuel—“God with us”—but even in a more personal way, God in us. Carry this truth throughout the Advent Season.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock

     (1.) If God were not infinitely good, he could not be the object of supreme love. If he were finitely good, there might be other things as good as God, and then God in justice could not challenge our choicest affections to him above anything else: it would be a defect of goodness in him to demand it, because he would despoil that which were equally good with him, of its due and right to our affections, which it might claim from us upon the account of its goodness: God would be unjust to challenge more than was due to him; for he would claim that chiefly to himself which another had a lawful share in. Nothing can be supremely loved that hath not a triumphant excellency above all other things; where is an equality of goodness, neither can justly challenge a supremacy, but only an equality of affection.

     (2.) This attribute of goodness renders him more lovely than any other attribute. He never requires our adoration of him so much as the strongest or wisest, but as the best of beings: he uses this chiefly to constrain and allure us. Why would he be feared or worshipped, but because “there is forgiveness with him” (Psalm 130:4)? it is for his goodness’ sake that he is sued to by his people in distress (Psalm 25:7), “For thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.” Men may be admired because of their knowledge, but they are affected because of their goodness: the will, in all the variety of objects it pursues, centres in this one thing of good as the term of its appetite. All things are beloved by men, because they lave been bettered by them. Severity can never conquer enmity, and kindle love: were there nothing but wrath in the Deity, it would make him be feared, but render him odious, and that to an innocent nature. As the spouse speaks of Christ (Cant. 5:10, 11), so we may of God: though she commends him for his head, the excellency of his wisdom; his eyes, the extent of his omniscience; his hands, the greatness of his power; and his legs, the swiftness of his motions and ways to and for his people; yet the “sweetness of his mouth,” in his gracious words and promises, closes all, and is followed with nothing but an exclamation, that “he is altogether lovely” (ver. 16). His mouth, in pronouncing pardon of sin, and justification of the person, presents him most lovely. His power to do good is admirable, but his will to do good is amiable: this puts a gloss upon all his other attributes. Though he had knowledge to understand the depth of our necessities, and power to prevent them, or rescue us from them, yet his knowledge would be fruitless, and his power useless, if he were of a rigid nature, and not touched with any sentiments of kindness.

     (3.) This goodness therefore lays a strong obligation upon us. It is true he is lovely in regard of his absolute goodness, or the goodness of his nature, but we should hardly be persuaded to return him an affection without his relative goodness, his benefits to his creatures; we are obliged by both to love him.

     [1.] By his absolute goodness, or the goodness of his nature. Suppose a creature had drawn its original from something else wherein God had no influx, and had never received the least mite of a benefit from him, but from some other hand, yet the infinite excellency and goodness of his nature would merit the love of that creature, and it would act sordidly and disingenuously if it did not discover a mighty respect for God: for what ingenuity could there be in a rational creature, that were possessed with no esteem for any nature filled with unbounded goodness and excellency, though he had never been obliged to him for any favor? That man is accounted odious, and justly despicable by man, that reproaches and disesteems, nay, that doth not value a person of a high virtue in himself, and an universal goodness and charity to others, though himself never stood in need of his charity, and never had any benefit conveyed from his hands, nor ever saw his face, or had any commerce with him: a value of such a person is but a just due to the natural claim of virtue. And, indeed, the first object of love is God in the excellency of his own nature, as the first object of love in marriage is the person; the portion is a thing consequent upon it. To love God only for his benefits, is to love ourselves first, and him secondarily: to love God for his own goodness and excellency, is a true love of God; a love of him for himself. That flaming fire in his own breast, though we have not a spark of it, hath a right to kindle one in ours to him.

     [2.] By his relative goodness, or that of his benefits. Though the excellency of his own nature, wherein there is a combination of goodness, must needs ravish an apprehensive mind; yet a reflection upon his imparted kindness, both in the beings we have from him, and the support we have by him, must enhance his estimation. When the excellency of his nature, and the expressions of his bounty are in conjunction, the excellency of his own nature renders him estimable in a way of justice, and the greatness of his benefits renders him valuable in a way of gratitude: the first ravisheth, and the other allures and melts: he hath enough in his nature to attract, and sufficient in his bounty to engage our affections. The excellency of his nature is strong enough of itself to blow up our affections to him, were there not a malignity in our hearts that represents him under the notion of an enemy; therefore in regard of our corrupt state, the consideration of Divine largesses comes in for a share in the elevation of our affections. For, indeed, it is a very hard thing for a man to love another, though never so well qualified, and of an eminent virtue, while he believes him to be his enemy, and one that will severely handle him, though he hath before received many good turns from him; the virtue, valor, and courtesy of a prince, will hardly make him affected by those against whom he is in arms, and that are daily pilfered by his soldiers, unless they have hopes of a reparation from him, and future security from injuries. Christ, in the repetition of the command to “love God with all our mind, with all our heart, and with all our soul,” i. e., with such an ardency above all things which glitter in our eye, or can be created by him, considers him as “our God” (Matt. 22:37). And the Psalmist considers him as one that had kindly employed his power for him, in the eruption of his love (Psalm 18:1), “1 will love thee, O Lord, my strength;” and so in Psalm 116:1, “love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.” An esteem of the benefactor is inseparable from gratitude for the received benefits: and should not then the unparalleled kindness of God advance him in our thoughts, much more than slighter courtesies do a created benefactor in ours? It is an obligation on every man’s nature to answer bounty with gratitude, and goodness with love. Hence you never knew any man, nor can the records of eternity produce any man, or devil, that ever hated any person, or anything as good in itself: it is a thing absolutely repugnant to the nature of any rational creature. The devils hate not God because he is good, but because he is not so good to them as they would have him; because he will not unlock their chains, turn them into liberty, and restore them to happiness; i. e. because he will not desert the rights of abused goodness. But how should we send up flames of love to that God, since we are under his direct beams, and enjoy such plentiful influences! If the sun is comely in itself, yet it is more amiable to us, by the light we see, and the warmth we feel.

     1st. The greatness of his benefits have reason to affect us with a love to him. The impress he made upon our souls when he extracted us from the darkness of nothing; the comeliness he hath put upon us by his own breath; the care he took of our recovery, when we had lost ourselves; the expense he was at for our regaining our defaced beauty; the gift he made of his Son; the affectionate calls we have heard to over-master our corrupt appetites, move us to repentance, and make us disaffect our beloved misery; the loud sound of his word in our ears, and the more inward knockings of his Spirit in our heart; the offering us the gift of himself, and the everlasting happiness he courts us to, besides those common favors we enjoy in the world, which are all the streams of his rich bounty: the voice of all is loud enough to solicit our love, and the merit of all ought to be strong enough to engage our love: “there is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky” (Deut. 33:26).

     2d. The unmeritedness of them doth enhance this. It is but reason to love him who hath loved us first (1 John 4:19). Hath he placed his delight upon any when they were nothing, and after they were sinful; and shall he set his delight upon such vile persons, and shall not we set our love upon so excellent an object as himself? How base are we, if his goodness doth not constrain us to affect him who hath been so free in his favor to us, who have merited the quite contrary at his hands? If “his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9), he ought for it to be esteemed by all his works that are capable of a rational estimation.

     3d. Goodness in creatures makes them estimable, much more should the goodness of God render him lovely to us. If we love a little spark of goodness in this or that creature, if a drop be so delicious to us, shall not the immense Sun of goodness, the ever-flowing Fountain of all, be much more delightful? The original excellency always outstrips what is derived from it; if so mean and contracted an object as a little creature deserves estimation for a little mite communicated to it, so great and extended a goodness as is in the Creator much more merits it at our hands: he is good after the infinite methods of a Deity: a weak resemblance is lovely; much more amiable, then, must be the incomprehensible original of that beauty. We love creatures for what we think to be good in them, though it may be hurtful; and shall we not love God, who is a real and unblemished goodness, and from whose hand are poured out all those blessings that are conveyed to us by second causes? The object that delights us, the capacity we have to delight in it, are both from him; our love, therefore, to him should transcend the affection we bear to any instruments he moves for our welfare. “Among the gods, there is none like thee, O Lord, neither are there any works like unto thy works” (Psalm 86:8): among the pleasantest creatures there is none like the Creator, nor any goodness like unto his goodness. Shall we love the food that nourisheth us, and the medicine that cures us, and the silver whereby we furnish ourselves with useful commodities? Shall we love a horse, or dog, for the benefits we have by them? and shall not the spring of all those draw our souls after it, and make us aspire to the honor of loving and embracing Him who hath stored every creature with that which may pleasure us? But, instead of endeavoring to parallel our affection with his kindness, we endeavor to make our disingenuity as extensive and towering as his Divine goodness.

     4th. This is the true end of the manifestation of his goodness, that he might appear amiable, and have a return of affection. Did God display his goodness only to be thought of, or to be loved? It is the want of such a return, that he hath usually aggravated, from the benefits he hath bestowed upon men. Every thought of him should be attended with a motion suitable to the excellency of his nature and works. Can we think those nobler spirits, the angels, look upon themselves, or those frames of things in the heavens and earth, without starting some practical affection to him for them? Their knowledge of his excellency and works cannot be a lazy contemplation: it is impossible their wills and affections should be a thousand miles distant from their understandings in their operations. It is not the least part of his condescending goodness to court in such methods the affections of us worms, and manifest his desire to be beloved by us. Let us give him, then, that affection he deserves, as well as demands, and which cannot be withheld from him without horrible sacrilege. There is nothing worthy of love besides him; let no fire be kindled in our hearts, but what may ascend directly to him.

     7. The seventh instruction is this: This renders God a fit object of trust and confidence. Since none is good but God, none can be a full and satisfactory ground or object of confidence but God: as all things derive their beings, so they derive their helpfulness to us from God; they are not, therefore, the principal objects of trust, but that goodness alone that renders them fit instruments of our support; they can no more challenge from us a stable confidence, than they can a supreme affection. It is by this the Psalmist allures men to a trust in him; “Taste and see how good the Lord is:” what is the consequence? “Blessed is the man that trusts in thee” (Psalm 34:8), The voice of Divine goodness sounds nothing more intelligibly, and a taste of it produceth nothing more effectually, than this. As the vials of his justice are to make us fear him, so the streams of his goodness are to make us rely on him: as his patience is designed to broach our repentance, so his goodness is most proper to strengthen our assurance in him: that goodness which surmounted so many difficulties, and conquered so many motions that might be made against any repeated exercise of it, after it had been abused by the first rebellion of man; that goodness that after so much contempt of it, appeared in such a majestic tenderness, and threw aside those impediments which men had cast in the way of Divine inclinations this goodness is the foundation of all reliance upon God. Who is better than God? and, therefore, who more to be trusted than God? As his power cannot act anything weakly, so his goodness cannot act anything unbecomingly, and unworthy of his infinite majesty. And here consider,

     (1.) Goodness is the first motive of trust. Nothing but this could be the encouragement to man, had he stood in a state of innocence, to present himself before God; the majesty of God would have constrained him to keep his due distance, but the goodness of God could only hearten his confidence: it is nothing else now that can preserve the same temper in us in our lapsed condition. To regard him only as the Judge of our crimes, will drive us from him; but only the regard of him as the Donor of our blessings, will allure us to him. The principal foundation of faith is not the word of God, but God himself, and God as considered in this perfection. As the goodness of God in his invitations and providential blessings “leads us to repentence” (Rom. 2:4), so, by the same reason, the goodness of God by his promises leads us to reliance. If God be not first believed to be good, he would not be believed at all in anything that he speaks or swears: if you were not satisfied in the goodness of a man, though he should swear a thousand times, you would value neither his word nor oath as any security. Many times, where we are certain of the goodness of a man, we are willing to trust him without his promise. This Divine perfection gives credit to the Divine promises; they of themselves would not be a sufficient ground of trust, without an apprehension of his truth; nor would his truth be very comfortable without a belief of his good will, whereby we are assured that what he promises to give, he gives liberally, free, and without regret. The truth of the Promiser makes the promise credible, but the goodness of the promiser makes it cheerfully relied on. In Psalm 73. (Asaph’s penitential psalm for his distrust of God,) he begins the first verse with an assertion of this attribute (ver. 1), “Truly God is good to Israel;” and ends with this fruit of it (ver. 28), “I will put my trust in the Lord God.” It is a mighty ill nature that receives not with assurance the dictates of Infinite Goodness, (that cannot deceive or frustrate the hopes we conceive of him) that is inconceivably more abundant in the breast and inclinations of the promiser, than expressible in the words of his promise, “All true faith works by love” (Gal. 5:6), and, therefore, necessarily includes a particular eyeing of this excellency in the Divine nature, which renders him amiable, and is the motive and encouragement of a love to him. His power indeed is a foundation of trust, but his goodness is the principal motive of it. His power without good-will would be dangerous, and could not allure affection; and his good will without power would be useless; and though it might merit a love, yet could not create a confidence; both in conjunction are strong gounds of hope, especially since his goodness is of the same infinity with his wisdom and power; and that he can be no more wanting in the effusions of this upon them that seek him, than in his wisdom to contrive, or his power to effect, his designs and works.

     (2.) This goodness is more the foundation and motive of trust under the gospel, than under the law. They under the law had more evidences of Divine power, and their trust eyed that much; though there was an eminency of goodness in the frequent deliverances they had, yet the power of God had a more glorious dress than his goodness, because of the extraordinary and miraculous ways where by he brought those deliverances about. Therefore, in the catalogue of believers in Heb. 11 you shall find the power of God to be the centre of their rest and trust; and their faith was built upon the extraordinary marks of Divine power, which were frequently visible to them. But under the gospel, goodness and love was intended by God to be the chief object of trust; suitable to the excellency of that dispensation, he would have an exercise of more ingenuity in the creatures: therefore, it is said (Hos. 3:5), a promise of gospel times, “They shall fear God and his goodness in the latter days,” when they shall return to “seek the Lord, and David their king.” It is not said, they shall fear God, and his power, but the Lord and his goodness, or the Lord for his goodness: fear is often in the Old Testament taken for faith, or trust. This Divine goodness, the object of faith, is that goodness discovered in David their king; the Messiah, our Jesus. God, in this dispensation, recommends his goodness and love, and reveals it more clearly than other attributes, that the soul might have more prevailing and sweeter attractives to confide in him.

     (3.) A confidence in him gives him the glory of his goodness. Most nations that had nothing but the light of nature, thought it a great part of the honor that was due to God, to implore his goodness, and cast their cares upon it. To do good, is the most honorable thing in the world, and to acknowledge a goodness in a way of confidence, is as high an honor as we can give to it, and a great part of gratitude for what it hath already expressed. Therefore we find often, that an acknowledgment of one benefit received, was attended with a trust in him for what they should in the future need (Psalm 56:13): “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling?” So, 2 Cor. 1:10: and they who have been most eminent for their trust in him, have had the greatest eulogies and commendations from him. As a diffidence doth disparage this perfection, thinking it meaner and shallower than it is so confidence highly honors it. We never please him more, than when we trust in him; “The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 147:11). He takes it for an honor to have this attribute exalted by such a carriage of his creature. He is no less offended when we think his heart straitened, as if he were a parsimonious God; than when we think his arm shortened, as if he were an impotent and feeble God. Let us, therefore, make this use of his goodness, to hearten our faith. When we are scared by the terrors of his justice, when we are dazzled by the arts of his wisdom, and confounded by the splendor of his majesty, we may take refuge in the sanctuary of his goodness; this will encourage us, as well as astonish us; whereas, the consideration of his other attributes would only amaze us, but can never refresh us, but when they are considered marching under the conduct and banners of this. When all the other perfections of the Divine nature are looked upon in conjunction with this excellency, each of them send forth ravishing and benign influences upon the applying creature. It is more advantageous to depend upon Divine bounty, than our own cares; we may have better assurance upon this account in his cares for us, than in ours for ourselves. Our goodness for ourselves is finite; and besides, we are too ignorant: his goodness is infinite, and attended with an infinite wisdom; we have reason to distrust ourselves, not God. We have reason to be at rest, under that kind influence we have so often experimented; he hath so much goodness, that he can have no deceit: his goodness in making the promise, and his goodness in working the heart to a reliance on it, are grounds of trust in him; “Remember thy word to thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope” (Psalm 119:49). If his promise did not please him, why did he make it? If reliance on the promise did not please him, why did his goodness work it? It would be inconsistent with his goodness to mock his creature, and it would be the highest mockery to publish his word, and create a temper in the heart of his supplicant, suited to his promise which he never intended to satisfy. He can as little wrong his creature, as wrong himself; and, therefore, can never disappoint that faith which in his own methods casts itself into the arms of his kindness, and is his own workmanship, and calls him Author. That goodness that imparted itself so freely in creation, will not neglect those nobler creatures that put their trust in him. This renders God a fit object for trust and confidence.

     8. The eighth instruction: This renders God worthy to be obeyed and honored. There is an excellency in God to allure, as well as sovereignty to enjoin obedience: the infinite excellency of his nature is so great, that if his goodness had promised us nothing to encourage our obedience, we ought to prefer him before ourselves, devote ourselves to serve him, and make his glory our greatest content; but much more when he hath given such admirable expressions of his liberality, and stored us with hopes of richer and fuller streams of it. When David considered the absolute goodness of his nature, and the relative goodness of his benefits, he presently expresseth an ardent desire to be acquainted with the Divine statutes, that he might make ingenious returns in a dutiful observance; “Thou art good, and thou dost good; teach me thy statutes” (Psalm 119:68). As his goodness is the original, so the acknowledgment of it is the end on all, which cannot be without an observance of his will. His goodness requires of us an ingenuous, not a servile obedience. And this is established upon two foundations.

     [1.] Because the bounty of God hath laid upon us the strongest obligations. The strength of an obligation depends upon the greatness and numerousness of the benefits received. The more excellent the favors are which are conferred upon any person, the more right hath the benefactor to claim an observance from the person bettered by him. Much of the rule and empire which hath been in several ages conferred by communities upon princes, hath had its first spring from a sense of the advantages they have received by them, either in protecting them from their enemies, or rescuing them from an ignoble captivity; in enlarging their territories, or increasing their wealth. Conquest hath been the original of a constrained, but beneficence always the original of a voluntary and free subjection. Obedience to parents is founded upon their right, because they are instrumental in bestowing upon us being and life; and because this of life is so great a benefit, the law of nature never dissolves this obligation of obeying and honoring parents; it is as long-lived as the law of nature, and hath an universal practice, by the strength of that law, in all parts of the world: and those rightful chains are not unlocked, but by that which unties the knot between soul and body: much more hath God a right to be obeyed and reverenced, who is the principal Benefactor, and moved all those second causes to impart to us, what conduced to our advantage. The just authority of God over us results from the superlativeness of his blessings he hath poured down upon us, which cannot be equalled, much less exceeded, by any other. As therefore upon this account he hath a claim to our choicest affections, so he hath also to most exact obedience; and neither one nor other can be denied him, without a sordid and disingenuous ingratitude; God therefore aggravates the rebellion of the Jews from the cares he had in the bringing them up (Isa. 2:2), and the miraculous deliverance from Egypt (Jer. 11:7, 8); implying that those benefits were strong obligations to an ingenuous observance of him.

     [2.] It is established upon this, that God can enjoin the observance of nothing but what is good. He may by the right of his sovereign dominion, command that which is indifferent in its own nature: as in positive laws, the not eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which had not been evil in itself, set aside the command of God to the contrary; and likewise in those ceremonial laws he gave the Jews: but in regard to the transcendent goodness and righteousness of his nature, he will not, he cannot command anything that is evil in itself, or repugnant to the true interest of his creature; and God never obliged the creature to anything but what was so free from damaging it, that it highly conduced to its good and welfare: and therefore it is said, that “his commands are not grievous” (1 John 5:3): not grievous in their own nature, nor grievous to one possessed with a true reason. The command given to Adam in Paradise was not grievous in itself, nor could he ever have thought it so, but upon a false supposition instilled into him by the tempter. There is a pleasure results from the law of God to a holy rational nature, a sweetness tasted both by the understanding and by the will, for they both “rejoice the heart and enlighten the eyes” of the mind (Psalm 19:8). God being essentially wisdom and goodness, cannot deviate from that goodness in any orders he gives the creature; whatsoever he enacts must be agreeable to that rule, and therefore he can will nothing but what is good and excellent, and what is good for the creature; for since he hath put originally into man a natural instinct to desire that which is good, he would never enact any thing for the creature’s observance, that might control that desire imprinted by himself, but what might countenance that impression of his own hand; for if God did otherwise, he would contradict his own natural law, and be a deluder of his creatures, if he impressed upon them desires one way, and ordered directions another. The truth is, all his moral precepts are comely in themselves, and they receive not their goodness from God’s positive command, but that command supposeth their goodness; if everything were good because God loves it, or because God wills it, i. e. that God’s loving it or willing it made that good which was not good before, then, as Camero well argues somewhere, God’s goodness would depend upon his loving himself; he was good because he loved himself, and was not good till he loved himself; whereas, indeed, God’s loving himself, doth not make him good, but supposeth him good: he was good in the order of nature before he love himself; and his being good was the ground of his loving himself, because, as was said before, if there were anything better than God, God would love that; for it is inconsistent with the nature of God and infinite goodness not to love that which is good, and not to love that supremely which is the supreme good. Further to understand it, you may consider, if the question be asked, why God loves himself? You would think it a reasonable answer to say, because he is good. But if the question be asked, why God is good? you would think that answer, because he loves himself, would be destitute of reason; but the true answer would be, because his nature is so, and he could not be God if he were not good: therefore God’s goodness is in order of our conception before his self-love, and not his self-love before his goodness; so the moral things God commands, are good in themselves before God commands them; and such, that if God should command the contrary, it would openly speak him evil and unrighteous. Abstract from Scripture, and weigh things in your own reason; could you conceive God good, if he should command a creature not to love him? could you preserve the notion of a good nature in him, if he did command murder, adultery, tyranny, and cutting of throats? You would wonder to what purpose he made the world, and framed it for society, if such things were ordered, that should deface all comeliness of society: the moral commands given in the word, appeared of themselves very beautiful to mere reason, that had no knowledge of the written law; they are good, and because they are so, his goodness had moved his sovereign authority strictly to enjoin them. Now this goodness, whereby he cannot oblige a creature to anything that is evil, speaks him highly worthy of our observance, and our disobedience to his law to be full of inconceivable malignity: that is the last thing.

     Second Use is of comfort. He is a good without mixture, good without weariness—none good but God, none good purely, none good inexhaustibly, but God; because he is good, we may, upon our speaking, expect his instruction; “Good is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in his way” (Psalm 25:8). His goodness makes him stoop to be the tutor to those worms that he prostrate before him; and though they are sinners full of filth, he drives them not from his school, nor denies them his medicines, if they apply themselves to him as a physician. He is good in removing the punishment due to our crimes, and good in bestowing benefits not due to our merits; because he is good, penitent believers may expect forgiveness; “Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive” (Psalm 86:5). He acts not according to the rigor of the law, but willingly grants his pardon to those that fly into the arms of the Mediator; his goodness makes him more ready to forgive, than our necessities make us desirous to enjoy; he charged not upon Job his impatient expressions in cursing the day of his birth; his goodness passed that over in silence, and extols him for speaking the thing that is right, right in the main, when he charges his friends for not speaking of him the thing that is right, as his servant Job had done (Job 42:7). He is so good, that if we offer the least thing sincerely, he will graciously receive it; if we have not a lamb to offer, a pigeon or turtle shall be accepted upon his altar; he stands not upon costly presents, but sincerely tendered services. All conditions are sweetened by it; whatsoever any in the world enjoy, is from a redundancy of this goodness; but whatsoever a good man enjoys, is from a propriety in this goodness.

     1. Here is comfort in our addresses to him. If he be a fountain and sea of goodness, he cannot be weary of doing good, no more than a fountain or sea are of flowing. All goodness delights to communicate itself; infinite goodness hath then an infinite delight in expressing itself; it is a part of his goodness not to be weary of showing it; he can never, then, be weary of being solicited for the effusions of it; if he rejoices over his people to do them good, he will rejoice in any opportunities offered to him to honor his goodness, and gladly meet with a fit subject for it; he therefore delights in prayer. Never can we so delight in addressing, as he doth in imparting; he delights more in our prayers than we can ourselves; goodness is not pleased with shyness. To what purpose did his immense bounty bestow his Son upon us, but that we should be “accepted” both in our persons and petitions (Eph. 1:6)? “His eyes are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15); he fixes the eye of his goodness upon them, and opens the ears of his goodness for them; he is pleased to behold them, and pleased to listen to them, as if he had no pleasure in anything else; he loves to be sought to, to give a vent to his bounty; “Acquaint thyself with God, and thereby good shall come unto thee” (Job 22:21). The word signifies to accustom ourselves to God; the more we accustom ourselves in speaking, the more he will accustom himself in giving; he loves not to keep his goodness close under lock and key, as men do their treasures. If we knock, he opens his exchequer (Matt. 7:7); his goodness is as flexible to our importunities, as his power is invincible by the arm of a silly worm; he thinks his liberality honored by being applied to, and your address to be a recompense for his expense. There is no reason to fear, since he hath so kindly invited us, but he will as heartily welcome us; the nature of goodness is to compassionate and communicate, to pity and relieve, and that with a heartiness and cheerfulness; man is weary of being often solicited, because he hath a finite, not a bottomless, goodness: he gives sometimes to be rid of his suppliant, not to encourage him to a second approach. But every experience God gives us of his bounty, is a motive to solicit him afresh, and a kind of obligation he hath laid upon himself to “renew it” (1 Sam. 17:37): it is one part of his goodness that it is boundless and bottomless; we need not fear the wasting of it, nor any weariness in him to bestow it. The stock cannot be spent, and infinite kindness can never become niggardly; when we have enjoyed it, there is still an infinite ocean in Him to refresh us, and as full streams as ever to supply us. What an encouragement have we to draw near to God! We run in our straits to those that we think have most good will, as well as power to relieve and protect us. The oftener we come to him, and the nearer we approach to him, the more of his influences we shall feel: as the nearer the sun, the more of its heat insinuates itself into us. The greatness of God, joined with his goodness, hath more reason to encourage our approach to him, than our flight from him, because his greatness never goes unattended with his goodness; and if we were not so good, he would not be so great in the apprehensions of any creature. How may his goodness, in the great gift of his Son, encourage us to apply to him since he hath set him as a day’s man between himself and us, and appointed him an Advocate to present our requests for us, and speed them at the throne of grace; and he never leaves till Divine goodness subscribes a fiat to our believing and just petitions!

     2. Here is comfort in afflictions. What can we fear from the conduct of Infinite Goodness? Can his hand be heavy upon those that are humble before him? They are the hands of Infinite Power indeed, but there is not any motion of it upon his people, but is ordered by a goodness as infinite as his power, which will not suffer any affliction to be too sharp or too long. By what ways soever he conveys grace to us here, and prepares us for glory hereafter, they are good, and those are the good things he hath chiefly obliged himself to give (Psalm 84:11): “Grace and glory” will he “give, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” This David comforted himself with, in that which his devout soul accounted the greatest calamity, his absence from the courts and house of God (ver. 2). Not an ill will, but a good will, directs his scourges; he is not an idle spectator of our combats; his thoughts are fuller of kindness than ours, in any case, can be of trouble: and because he is good, he wills the best good in everything he acts; in exercising virtue, or correcting vice. There is no affliction without some apparent mixtures of goodness; when he speaks how he had smitten Israel (Jer. 2:30), he presently adds (ver. 31), “Have I been a wilderness to Israel, a land of darkness?” Though he led them through a desert, yet he was not a desert to them; he was no land of darkness to them; while they marched through a land of barrenness, he was a caterer to provide them “manna,” and a place of “broad rivers” and streams. How often hath Divine goodness made our afflictions our consolations; our diseases, our medicines, and his gentle strokes, reviving cordials! How doth he provide for us above our deserts, even while he doth punish us beneath our merits! Divine goodness can no more mean ill, than Divine wisdom can be mistaken in its end, or Divine power overruled in its actions. “Charity thinks no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5); charity in the stream doth not, much less doth charity in the fountain. To be afflicted by a hand of goodness hath something, comfortable in it, when to be afflicted by an evil hand is very odious. Elijah, who was loth to die by the hand of a whorish idolatrous Jezebel, was very desirous to die by the hand of God (1 Kings 19:2–4). He accounted it a misery to have died by her hand, who hated him, and had nothing but cruelty; and, therefore, fled from her, when he wished for death, as a desirable thing by the hand of that God who had been good to him, and could not but be good in whatsoever he acted.

     3. The third comfort flowing from this doctrine of the goodness of God, is, it is a ground of assurance of happiness. If God be so good, that nothing is better, and loves himself, as he is good, he cannot be wanting in love to those that resemble his nature, and imitate his goodness: he cannot but love his own image of goodness; wherever he finds it, he cannot but be bountiful to it; for it is impossible there can be any love to any object, without wishing well to it, and doing well for it. If the soul loves God as its chiefest good, God will love the soul as his pious servant: as he hath offered to them the highest allurements, so he will not withhold the choicest communications. Goodness cannot be a deluding thing: it cannot consist with the nobleness and largeness of this perfection to invite the creature to him, and leave the creature empty of him when it comes. It is inconsistent with this perfection to give the creature a knowledge of himself, and a desire of enjoyment larger than that knowledge; a desire to know, and enjoy him perpetually, yet never intend to bestow an eternal communication of himself upon it. The nature of man was erected by the goodness of God, but with an enlarged desire for the highest good, and a capacity of enjoying it. Can goodness be thought to be deceitful, to frustrate its own work, be tired with its own effusions, to let a gracious soul groan under its burden, and never resolve to ease him of it; to see delightfully the aspirings of the creature to another state, and resolve never to admit him to a happy issue of those desires? It is not agreeable to this inconceivable perfection to be unconcerned in the longings of his creature, since their first longings were placed in them by that goodness which is so free from mocking the creature, or falling short of its well-grounded expectations or desires, that it infinitely exceeds them. If man had continued in innocence, the goodness of God, without question, would have continued him in happiness: and, since he hath had so much goodness to restore man, would it not be dishonorable to that goodness to break his own conditions, and defeat the believing creature of happiness, after it hath complied with his terms? He is a believer’s God in covenant, and is a God in the utmost extent of this attribute, as well as of any other; and, therefore, will not communicate mean and shallow benefits, but according to the grandeur of it, sovereign and divine, such as the gift of a happy immortality. Since he had no obligation upon him, to make any promise, but the sweetness of his own nature, the same is as strong upon him to make all the words of his grace good; they cannot be invalid in any one tittle of them as long as his nature remains the same; and his goodness cannot be diminished without the impairing of his Godhead, since it is inseparable from it. Divine goodness will not let any man serve God for nought; he hath promised our weak obedience more than any man in his right wits can say it merits (Matt. 10:42): “A cup of cold water shall not lose its reward.” He will manifest our good actions as he gave so high a testimony to Job, in the face of the devil, his accuser: it will not only be the happiness of the soul, but of the body, the whole man, since soul and body were in conjunction in the acts of righteousness; it consists not with the goodness of God to reward the one, and to let the other lie in the ruins of its first nothing: to bestow joy upon the one for its being principal, and leave the other without any sentiments of joy, that was instrumental in those good works, both commanded and approved by God: he that had the goodness to pity our original dust, will not want a goodness to advance it: and if we put off our bodies, it is but afterwards to put them on repaired and fresher. From this goodness, the upright may expect all the happiness their nature is capable of.

     4. It is a ground of comfort in the midst of public dangers. This hath more sweetness in it to support us, than the malice of enemies hath to deject us; because he is “good,” he is “a stronghold in the day of trouble” (Nah. 1:7). If his goodness extends to all his creatures, it will much more extend to those that honor him: if the earth be full of his goodness, that part of heaven which he hath upon earth shall not be empty of it. He hath a goodness often to deliver the righteous, and a justice to put the wicked in his stead (Prov. 11:8). When his people have been under the power of their enemies, he hath changed the scene, and put the enemies under the power of his people: he hath clapped upon them the same bolts which they did upon his servants. How comfortable is this goodness that hath yet maintained us in the midst of dangers, preserved us in the mouth of lions, quenched kindled fire; hitherto rescued us from designed ruin subtilly hatched, and supported us in the midst of men very passionate for our destruction; how hath this watchful goodness been a sanctuary to us in the midst of an upper hell!

The Existence and Attributes of God

Sacred Calendars - Advent and Christmas
     University of Nottingham



University of Nottingham

1 Corinthians 12-14
     JD Farag

1 Corinthians 12:1-3
What Everyone Should Know
About the Holy Spirit 1
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 12:4-7
What Everyone Should Know
About the Holy Spirit 2
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 12:8-10
What Everyone Should Know
About the Holy Spirit 3
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 12:11-13
What Everyone Should Know
About the Holy Spirit 4
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 12:14-17
What Everyone Should Know
About the Holy Spirit 5
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 12:18-26
What Everyone Should Know
About the Holy Spirit 6
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 12:27-31
What Everyone Should Know
About the Holy Spirit 7
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Love, The Most Excellent Way 1
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love, The Most Excellent Way 2
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Love, The Most Excellent Way 3
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 13:11-13
Love, The Most Excellent Way 4
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:1-4
Practical Worship Guidelines 1
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:5-7
Practical Worship Guidelines 2
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:8-14
Practical Worship Guidelines 3
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:15-20
Practical Worship Guidelines 4
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:21-25
What The Church Should Be Like 1
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:26-32
What The Church Should Be Like 2
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:33-35
What The Church Should Be Like 3
J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 14:36-40
What The Church Should Be Like 4
J.D. Farag

J.D. Farag

1 Corinthians 12
     Jon Courson

1 Corinthians 12
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 12:27
His Body And Our Body
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 12:1-9
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 12:27-31
Be All That You Can Be
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 12:10-31
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson

1 Corinthians 13
     Jon Courson

1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Living In Love
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 13-14
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 13
Love Is Now
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 13
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 13:4-8
A Deeper Look
Jon Courson

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Re-Thinking 1 Corinthians 13
Valentine's Day 2010
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson

1 Corinthians 14
     Jon Courson

1 Corinthians 13-14
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 14:1-33
Jon Courson

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1 Corinthians 14:33-35
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson

1 Corinthians 12-14
     Paul LeBoutillier

1 Corinthians 12 pt 1
Spiritual Gifts - Introduction
07-03-2016 | Paul LeBoutillier

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 pt 2
The Gifts He Gives
07-10-2016 | Paul LeBoutillier

1 Corinthians 12 pt 3
Being the Body of Christ
07-17-2016 | Paul LeBoutillier

1 Corinthians 13
The Most Excellent Way
08-10-2016 | Paul LeBoutillier

1 Corinthians 14 pt 1
The Gift of Tongues Explained
08-07-2016 | Paul LeBoutillier

1 Corinthians 14 pt 2
Order in the Church
08-21-2016 | Paul LeBoutillier

1 Corinthians 14 pt 3
Surrendering to God's Order
08-28-2016 | Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

1 Corinthians 12-14
     Skip Heitzig

1 Corinthians 12:1-8
Calvary Chapel NM

1 Corinthians 12:8
Calvary Chapel NM

1 Corinthians 12:9-10
Calvary Chapel NM

1 Corinthians 12:10
Calvary Chapel NM

1 Corinthians 12:11-13:13
Calvary Chapel NM

1 Corinthians 14:1-35
Calvary Chapel NM

Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM

1 Corinthians 12 - 14
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Synopsis | In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul introduces the idea of a church body to the church at Corinth. Pastor Brett discusses what we need to do to maintain a healthy “body”, which includes eating right, getting exercise and working on coordination, as a normal body. We are asked what our function is in the church body.

The Body Of Christ
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
s1-534 | 05-22-2011

Only audio available | click here

Synopsis | In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks with the church about things we are not to be ignorant of. We also learn about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and what the Bible has to say about them.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-31
m1-552 | 05-25-2011

Only audio available | click here

Synopsis | This Sunday, we take a closer look at I Corinthians 13. Paul talks about the definition of love, and Pastor Brett explains that the love described in this chapter is the perfect picture of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

What's Agape Got To Do With It?
1 Corinthians 13
s1-535 | 05-29-2011

Only audio available | click here

Synopsis | In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul discusses three things with the church at Corinth: speaking in tongues, prophecy and women in the church. Tonight, we see what the Lord has to say about these things and how we can apply them today.

1 Corinthians 14
m1-553 | 06-01-2011

Only audio available | click here


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