Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet
Psalm 119 1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
17 Deal bountifully with your servant,
that I may live and keep your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
19 I am a sojourner on the earth;
hide not your commandments from me!
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your rules at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
who wander from your commandments.
22 Take away from me scorn and contempt,
for I have kept your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24 Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors.
25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!
41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your rules.
44 I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place,
for I have sought your precepts.
46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.
49 Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
52 When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O LORD.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law.
54 Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O LORD,
and keep your law.
56 This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.
57 The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
64 The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
65 You have dealt well with your servant,
O LORD, according to your word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
68 You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
69 The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
72 The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
73 Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
75 I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame,
because they have wronged me with falsehood;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!
What I'm Reading
By Keith Mathison 2/1/2010
John Newton is best known as the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Were that all he bequeathed to the church, it would be an incredible legacy. There is another small work by Newton, however, that I believe could be of great benefit to the church if it was more widely read. The work to which I refer is a brief letter written by Newton to a fellow minister who was preparing to write an article criticizing another minister for his lack of orthodoxy. In the published collection of Newton’s letters, the editor has titled this one “On Controversy.” I first read this letter a little over a decade ago, and since I often write on controversial topics, I was profoundly affected by it.
Newton begins by recognizing that his friend has truth on his side, and states that he is not concerned about his friend’s ability to win the argument. He is concerned that his friend conquers not only his opponent’s arguments but also that he conquers his own passions as well. Otherwise, he may win the battle but be seriously wounded in the process. He proceeds to offer him advice about his opponent, the reading public, and his own heart.
Regarding his opponent, Newton commends him to prayer. If we pray for those against whom we write, this will affect the way we write. Newton adds that if we consider our opponent to be a fellow believer, albeit a mistaken one, we must remember that the Lord loves him and bears with him as He bears with us. “In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.” If, on the other hand, we think our opponent is an unbeliever, we must remember that were it not for the grace of God, we could be the one outside of the kingdom.
Regarding the reading public, Newton notes that there are three types of readers. For those who differ with us, the same principles stated in connection with our opponent apply here. A second type of reader is one who is undecided on the issue. Although he may not have the ability to judge a theological argument, he probably is able to judge a writer’s tone. He will recognize meekness, humility, and love, or the lack thereof. This type of reader will often use our lack of love as a justification for his contempt of our arguments. “If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit.”
A third type of reader is one who agrees with us. We may edify them if both truth and kindness guide our pen. Otherwise, we may cause them harm. Newton explains: “There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.” He argues that our Calvinism should produce humility, but we often allow it to produce pride. “Selfrighteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments.”
Regarding our own hea r ts, Newton observes that we must contend for the faith, but he also observes that very few writers of controversy have not been hurt by it. “Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?” Newton concludes this extraordinary letter with the following warning: “If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.”
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
An Unpopular Vision
By George Grant 2/1/2010
Henry Cabot Lodge once asserted, “Nearly all the historical work worth doing at the present moment in the English language is the work of shoveling off heaps of rubbish inherited from the immediate past.” What we need, in other words, is not so much “a new perspective” as a very old one. What we need is to recover a memory of those great men and movements obscured by the fashions and fancies of the moment.
Some men’s greatness may be seen in how largely they loom over the movements they launched. But greater men are they whose movements loom large over them — even to the point of obscuring them from view.
Gerhard Groote was just such a man. It would be difficult to find a single page of modern history written about him. But it would be even more difficult to find a single page of modern history that has not been profoundly affected by him. He lived in the tumultuous days of the fourteenth century. A contemporary of John Wycliffe, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Jan Hus, he saw the scourge of the Black Death sweep a quarter of the population of the world away in a wave of pestilence; he saw France and England locked in the intractable conflagration of the Hundred Years War; he saw the Western church sundered by the Great Schism that produced two, sometimes three, sometimes even four, popes; and he saw the rise of the universities and the smothering influence of humanistic scholasticism. Churches were riven by corruption, kingdoms were shaken by instability, families were splintered by adversity, and the very foundations of Christian civilization in the West seemed to be crumbling.
They were dire days indeed. The problems facing men and nations seemed all but insurmountable. Doomsayers had a heyday. Sound familiar?
Groote was raised in the home of a prosperous merchant and received the finest education available. Alas, he found it difficult to take the claims of his academic masters, his ecclesiastical mentors, and his church peers seriously. Like so many of his contemporaries, he concluded that the overt wickedness of the church and the blatant debauchery of the university mitigated against any serious belief in the gospel. As a result, he ran from conviction and spent his youth and his wealth on reckless and heedless dissipation. He moved progressively from spoiled brat to party animal to insufferable boor. When he was finally arrested by grace and converted, he had tasted all the pleasures the medieval world had to offer — and still he yearned for more.
As an ardent new convert in the midst of a church awash in promiscuous impiety, he lifted up an urgent prophetic voice against the evils of his day. He began to model a life of radical discipleship. And he attracted a strong following in his native Dutch lowlands.
Eventually, Groote’s movement came to be known as the Brethren of the Common Life. He and his followers were committed to the authority of the Scriptures first and foremost. They promoted biblical preaching that was practical and accessible to the ordinary Christian. They pioneered vernacular translations of the Bible. And they founded schools to educate young men and women to be wise and discerning believers as well as effective and successful citizens.
The revival wrought by the movement was genuine, vibrant, and even widely admired. Even so, it could hardly have been expected to put a dent in the overwhelming problems of the day. Indeed, the litany of fourteenthcentury woes continued, seemingly unabated. When Groote died, some asserted that his efforts at renewal were ultimately stymied by the fierce reality of the circumstances of the day; he was by all such accounts, a failure.
But throughout his life and ministry, Groote was laying foundations for something that might endure well beyond his own life and ministry. He had a multigenerational plan. He understood that it had taken a very long time for Western civilization to get into the mess that it was in and that no man or movement, no matter how potent or effective, would be able to turn things around overnight. That was why the heart and soul of his plan was to disseminate the Scriptures and build schools. His covenantal theology had led him to have a generational vision, one that enabled him to invest in a future he would likely never see on this earth.
It was a wise strategy. Amazingly, in less than a century and a half the strategy began to bear abundant fruit: it was in those scattered and seemingly insignificant Brethren of Common Life schools that nearly every one of the magisterial reformers would ultimately be educated: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Melancthon, Bucer, and Beza.
An obscure man changed the course of history — albeit generations later — by simply living out the implications of radical grace and covenantal faithfulness right where he was. He faced the impossible odds of a culture gone terribly awry. He implemented a generational vision that laid new foundations for freedom and prosperity simply by equipping and enabling future leaders.
Perhaps by looking back at Groote and his reforming work, we will be able to see our way forward for our own. After all, his was a distinctly biblical vision, a sound vision, and thus a rather unpopular vision. And it still is.
Dr. George Grant is pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Franklin, Tenn., president of King’s Meadow Study Center, and founder of New College Franklin.George Grant Books | Go to Books Page
Two Birds, One Stone
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/1/2010
When error comes into the church we face a set of obligations. First, we must confront the error. The world has embraced a live-and-let-live relativism that will accept any foolishness, but will not accept the wisdom of calling foolishness by its name. Too often the church follows suit. We want to get along, and so pet the wolves in our midst rather than drive them away. Our calling, as faithful soldiers of the kingdom, is to combat error in whatever form it takes. Second, we must not err when confronting the error. If we would have sound and accurate thinking in the church, we must be sound and accurate in what we denounce. We are not serving well the kingdom of God when we fight carnally, using gossip, innuendo, and aiming our fire at our allies. Consider the almost civil war during the time of Joshua. Those tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan, you’ll remember, built an altar. Their brothers prepared to make war against those who would establish false worship within the land. These brothers came to understand, thankfully, that the altar wasn’t built for false worship, but as a reminder of the covenantal union those on the east had with the rest of Israel. Far from an occasion for division, the altar was a monument to unity. Zeal without knowledge, in this instance, could have led to unnecessary division and senseless slaughter. (See Joshua 22 for the full story.)
We are given these stories, told of these events that we might learn from them. Consider, in our own day, the battles in some of our institutions and on the internet over the doctrines taught by N.T. Wright, as well as those doctrines that collectively go by the moniker “Federal Vision.” It is certainly fair to say that the teaching of N.T. Wright has had an impact on what has come to be known as Federal Vision. Often those who celebrate the one celebrate the other, and those who condemn the one condemn the other. Such doesn’t mean, however, that the two should be conflated. We ought not, sloppily, accuse all who appreciate Wright of embracing Federal Vision, nor accuse all who appreciate Federal Vision of embracing Wright. Far less, however, should we be accusing those who embrace neither of embracing both, which has somehow happened to me. I have been charged in the past with Wright’s errors, and though I do not now, nor have I ever embraced Federal Vision theology, I have been charged with its errors too.
This difficult-to-define way of thinking hit most of our radars due to a conference held in 2002 at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Louisiana. The hosts there, noting the concern they had raised the year before, invited four critics to come speak to those concerns. As one of those four, I took the opportunity to argue that Federal Vision’s view of apostasy was, as far as I could tell, a denial, however unintentional, of the biblical doctrine of perseverance of the saints. That is a rather serious problem. One cannot deny perseverance, or affirm a system of thought that leaves little room for perseverance, and still claim to be Reformed or confessional. Neither can one claim to believe in perseverance if one affirms God predestined that some would come to saving faith and then lose that saving faith. The doctrine of perseverance has never merely affirmed that those whom God foreknew would persevere but rather affirmed that all those who trust in the finished work of Christ will persevere, will so trust until their death. In sundry venues, over the years, I have highlighted this same problem and in turn noted a long series of other problem areas within the movement. These include its sanguine approach toward Rome and Orthodoxy and the efficacy of their sacraments; Federal Vision’s often muddled language on the relationship between our works, perseverance, and future justification; and, of course, their often rancorous rhetoric. (To be fair, that particular charge is rightly leveled all around. This peculiar debate has not exactly been marked by gentlemanly behavior.)
Reformed orthodoxy affirms both that people do change, and that people do stay the same. That is, we become soldiers of the King only after God changes our hearts, blessing us with the gift of faith. Before we are drafted into the army of the Lord we are soldiers in the army of the serpent. We are by nature children of wrath. His Spirit changes us. This supernatural work of the Spirit is, of course, irresistible. Once we have been drafted into God’s army, once we have been given a heart of flesh, we can never go back. Our Captain, our King, our L ord, has promised that we shall never again serve the lord of darkness. Jesus has promised that nothing can take us from His hand. We are reminded that those who appear to leave us were ultimately never with us (1 John 2:19). One can no more defect from the L ord’s army than one can be disowned after being adopted into the family of God.
When Jesus commands that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He leaves no room for not seeking the kingdom. Those who seek first the kingdom, by His grace and in His power, will seek always His kingdom. And praise God, He rewards all those who seek Him.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Tilting at Scarecrows
By R.C. Sproul 2/1/2010
“We are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. We are justified by faith by believing in the gospel itself—in other words, that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead.”
—N.T. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” in Justification in Perspective, p. 261
In the past few years, the British bishop and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has emerged as an icon of biblical theology around the world. His excellent work on the resurrection of Christ has influenced many people including his own country’s most famous philosopher and former atheist Antony Flew, who has converted to deism. Wright is also known, however, for being one of the chief architects of the so-called new perspective on Paul, in which he recasts the doctrine of justification in such a way as to transcend the historic dispute between Roman Catholicism and Reformation Protestantism. In a sense, Wright says, “A pox on both your houses,” claiming that both Rome and the Reformation misunderstood and distorted the biblical view of justification. In his response to John Piper’s critique of his work, Wright drips patronizing disdain for Piper and for those who embrace the traditional Protestant view of justification. He is critical of theological traditions that he thinks miss the biblical point.
In the course of debate, one of the most effective and fallacious arguments often used is called the “straw man” fallacy. The value of a scarecrow is that it is a counterfeit human being designed to scare away a few crows. It is an effective device, but not nearly as effective as a real farmer patrolling his fields with a shotgun. The farmer made of straw is not nearly as formidable as the real one. This is usually the case in the difference between the authentic and the counterfeit. The straw man fallacy occurs when one creates a false view of his opponent’s position in a distorted caricature by which he then easily dismantles that position in total refutation.
One of the statements that N.T. Wright employs, using this same stratagem, is the statement that “we are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith.” To intimate that Protestant orthodoxy believes that we are justified by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith is the king of all straw men. It is the Goliath of scarecrows, the King Kong of straw man fallacies. In other words, it is a whopper. I am aware of no theologian in the history of the Reformed tradition who believes or argues that a person can be justified by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith. This is a pure and simple distortion of the Reformed tradition.
In Wright’s statement we see a straw man argument that falls by its own weight. It contains more straw than the stick figure can support. The doctrine of justification by faith alone not only does not teach that justification is by believing in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but in fact, teaches that which is totally antithetical to the idea. The phrase “justification by faith alone” is theological shorthand for saying justification is by Christ alone. Anyone who understands and advocates the doctrine of justification by faith alone knows that the focal point is that which justifies — trust in Christ and not trust in a doctrine.
One of the key terms in the phrase “justification by faith” is the word by, which signals that faith is the means or tool that links us to Christ and His benefits. The concept indicates that faith is the “instrumental” cause of our justification. What is in view in the Protestant formulation is a distinction from the Roman Catholic view of the instrumental cause. Rome declares the sacrament of baptism in the first instance and penance in the second instance to be the instrumental causes of justification. So the dispute of what instrument is the basis by which we are justified was and remains critical to the classical dispute between Rome and Protestantism. The Protestant view, following Paul’s teaching in the New Testament, is that faith is the sole instrument by which we are linked to Christ.
Closely related to this is the hotly disputed issue of the grounds of our justification before God. Here is where the biblical concept of imputation is so important. Those who deny imputation as the grounds of our justification declare it to be a legal fiction, a miscarriage of justice, or even a manifestation of cosmic child abuse. Yet at the same time, it is the biblical explanation for the ground of our redemption. No biblical text more clearly teaches this concept of transfer or imputation than that of Isaiah 53, which the New Testament church singled out as a crucial prophetic explanation of the drama of redemption. The New Testament declares Christ to be our righteousness, and it is precisely our confidence in the righteousness of Christ as the grounds for our justification that is the focus of the doctrine of justification by faith. We understand that believing the doctrine of sola fide will save no one. Faith in a doctrine is not enough to save. However, though we cannot be saved by believing in the doctrine of justification, the denial of that same doctrine can indeed be fatal because to deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone as the apostle Paul indicated in Galatians is to reject the gospel and substitute something else for it, which would result in what Paul declares to be anathema. The gospel is too important to be dismissed by tilting at scarecrows.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Biblical Witness to the Holy Trinity
By Kim Riddlebarger 10/31/2014
It is common to hear claims that Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God’the God of Abraham is often claimed as the father of the three great monotheistic faiths. A survey of the Bible, however, reveals a Triune God completely unlike the god of the Qur’an or even the God of contemporary Judaism. The doctrine of the Trinity is Christianity’s most distinctive doctrine, despite the fact that this doctrine stretches the limits of human language and logic. Admittedly, in many ways the Trinity is beyond our comprehension, yet we confess it because this is how God reveals himself to us in his word.
The biblical witness to the doctrine of the Trinity is extensive and can be set forth in any number of ways. We begin by noting that the Scriptures are absolutely clear that there is only one God. In Deuteronomy 6:4 Moses declares, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” In Isaiah 44:6 we read, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 Paul proclaims, “There is no God but one. For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth’as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords”yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” James writes, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe’and shudder!” (2:19). The Scriptures of both testaments teach there is but one God.
One God in Three PersonsYet the Bible also teaches that, although there is one God, he is revealed in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, the Father declares, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” even as the Spirit of God descends upon Jesus as a dove (Matt. 3:16-17). In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The mission of the church is to go and make disciples by baptizing them in the name (singular) of the three persons of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
In the benediction concluding his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul blesses his readers with, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). In John 14:26, Jesus informs the disciples that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things.” As God in human flesh (cf. John 1:14), Jesus speaks of both the Holy Spirit and the Father as equals.
Another line of biblical evidence for the Trinity is that the same divine attributes of glory and majesty are assigned to each of the three persons of the Godhead. The Scriptures teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are eternal. According to Isaiah, God says, “I am the first and the last” (44:6), and Paul adds that God is “eternal” (Rom. 16:26), without beginning or end. John records the Son saying, “I am the first and the last” (Rev. 22:13), and Micah notes that God’s “coming and going are from everlasting” (5:2). In Hebrews we read of the Holy Spirit as “the eternal Spirit” (9:14). All three’Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’are eternal, without beginning or end.
The Scriptures also teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit created all things. Paul speaks of the “God who created all things” (Eph. 3:9), while the psalmist declares, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his” (Ps. 100:3). Yet in John’s Gospel we read of the Son: “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (1:3). In Colossians 1:15-17, Paul writes that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities’all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Genesis 1:1 tells us that at creation “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are said to have created all things.
As we see from this brief summary of biblical evidence of the work of the Triune God in creation (and we can do the same in a number of other areas, such as redemption), there is good reason to affirm that there is one God who exists in three distinct persons’Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’who are equal in glory, majesty, and power. This is how God reveals himself in his word.
Jesus ChristWhen it comes to Jesus Christ the Son, the Bible affirms that Jesus is true and eternal God, uncreated, and without beginning or end. Given Jesus’ central place in Christianity, no one wants to say anything bad about Jesus, and non-Christian religions often attempt to co-opt Jesus and make him one of their own. But if Jesus is indeed true and eternal God, then the Christian doctrine of God is unique among world religions. The irony is that while virtually all religions honor Jesus as a prophet or teacher, nevertheless most tend to reject (implicitly or explicitly) the main point the New Testament makes about Jesus: that he is God in human flesh (John 1:1-18), something Jesus clearly believed and proclaimed about himself (cf. John 8:58).
That the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ is not the invention of the early church can be seen by merely scanning the pages of Holy Scripture, with its substantial teaching regarding the deity of Jesus in both testaments. Powerful evidence for his deity is found in several Old Testament prophecies written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, such as Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” The Messiah will be miraculously conceived and given the title “God with us.” “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). This too refers to Jesus Christ (cf. Col. 2:9).
In addition to the messianic prophecies in Isaiah, we have a number of messianic psalms (e.g., Pss. 8, 89, 110), in which the Father speaks of the Son as highly exalted and equal in majesty and glory. In Proverbs 8:22-31 the author speaks of “wisdom” personified. When seen through the lens of New Testament fulfillment, this is clearly a reference to the eternal Son who is the wisdom of God ( 1 Cor. 1:30 ). In Micah 5:2, the prophet speaks of the one, Jesus, to be born in Bethlehem as eternal. The coming Messiah is repeatedly identified as the almighty God and eternal Father, the wisdom of God, righteous, highly exalted, yet to be born of a lowly virgin. These prophetic verses can be speaking of only one person: Israel’s coming Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who is the God of Abraham (cf. John 8:58).
In the New Testament, Jesus is said to be eternal and preexistent. In John 1:1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is described by both John and Paul as the creator and sustainer of all things. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3), and in a passage cited above (Col. 1:16-17), Paul says Jesus created all things and holds them together.
Jesus is identified as “God” throughout the pages of the New Testament. In John 20:28, Thomas falls before Jesus and confesses, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus accepts Thomas’s worship. In Titus 2:13, Paul speaks of Jesus’ second coming as “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The author of Hebrews writes of Jesus, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom'” (1:8).
Then there are those attributes applied to Jesus that can only apply to God: Jesus is the object of worship (Matt. 28:16-17); he has the power to raise the dead (John 5:21; 11:25); he is the final judge of humanity (Matt. 25:31-32); and he has universal power and authority (Matt. 28:18), as well as the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7). He not only identifies himself as God (John 14:8-9) but calls himself the Alpha and Omega, “the first and the last”‘a divine self-designation (Rev. 22:13).
Throughout the Bible, Jesus is revealed to us as true and eternal God, the almighty, the second person of the Godhead, the creator of all things, and that one whom we must worship and serve. Although we must keep their persons distinct, whatever we can say of God, we can say of Jesus. The same holds true of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
The Holy SpiritFar too often we hear people speak of the Holy Spirit as an “it,” not a “who.” One reason why this is the case is that the nature of the Holy Spirit’s work is to bring glory to Jesus Christ, not to himself. In light of this, J. I. Packer describes the Holy Spirit as the “shy member of the Trinity.” This self-effacing role of the Spirit does not mean that the Holy Spirit is impersonal, a mere force or power. The Spirit possesses the same divine attributes as the other members of the Trinity. Even as we speak of the Father as God and the Son as God, so we must also speak of the Holy Spirit as God. He is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
While there is not as much biblical evidence for the deity of the Holy Spirit as there is for the deity of Jesus, it would be a mistake to conclude that the evidence is neither clear nor decisive. We start with the Bible’s direct assertion that the Holy Spirit is God. In Acts 5:3-4, we read the story of Ananias and Sapphira, specifically of their deceit and the charge brought against them: “You have not lied to men but to God.” To lie to the Holy Spirit (as they did) is to lie to God. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul tells us that the Spirit who indwells us is God’s Spirit. He makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 6:19. At the very least, both of Paul’s comments are indirect assertions of the deity of the Holy Spirit.
There is also significant evidence for the deity of the Holy Spirit found in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 63:10 the prophet speaks of the Spirit of God, as does the psalmist in Psalm 95:9. In Hebrews 3:7-9 the writer attributes the words spoken by God in Psalm 95 to the Holy Spirit: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test . . . for forty years.'” What the Old Testament prophets attributed to God, the author of Hebrews attributes to the Holy Spirit.
Throughout the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is said to possess divine attributes. In Genesis 1:1-2 we read that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Even as John and Paul attribute the work of creation to the Son (who is true and eternal God), Moses also assigns the work of creation to the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 33:6 the psalmist states that the Holy Spirit (the Ruach, the breath of God) creates all things. As the Son is eternal, so also is the Holy Spirit, who was with God before all things were created.
In Job 33:4 we read, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” As the Father and the Son are said to give us life, so also does the Holy Spirit. But not only does the Holy Spirit grant us life and breath, he also gives the new birth’something only God can do (John 3:5). We cannot enter God’s kingdom until God’s Spirit gives us eternal life.
Then we have a whole catalogue of divine attributes applied to the Spirit. He is omniscient and omnipresent. Psalm 139:7-10 proclaims that the Holy Spirit is everywhere present. In 1 Corinthians 2:11 Paul says the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. The Scriptures also teach that the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. In Isaiah 11:2 the Holy Spirit is described as possessing the power that God alone possesses. He is, in fact, all-powerful because God is all-powerful. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is God.
The Scriptures mention other divine attributes of the Holy Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit is the author of our sanctification (1 Pet. 1:2). He seals us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13-14), ensuring that the work God has begun in us will reach completion (Eph. 4:30). It is through the Holy Spirit that the prophets and apostles spoke (1 Pet. 1:11). Peter proclaims that “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:21). Finally, there are verses that speak of the work of the Spirit in uniting believers to Jesus Christ, enabling them to approach God without fear. The Holy Spirit is described by Paul as the “Spirit of prayer” (Rom. 8:15-16). Indeed, it is the Spirit who unites us to Christ and enables us to cry out to God. It is also the Spirit’s work to ensure that the saving benefits of Christ become ours.
Since the Spirit is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity and is true and eternal God, we must invoke, worship, and serve him, even as we do the Father and the Son. After all, we are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:9); and the apostolic benediction is given in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). Therefore, we must ascribe all glory, majesty, and honor to the Holy Spirit, even as we do to the other members of the Godhead. We pray to the Holy Spirit, we worship the Holy Spirit, and we invoke the blessed Holy Spirit.
Given this vast amount of biblical evidence (which we have barely surveyed) and given the confusion of our age regarding the God of the Bible, it is important for Christians to confess with boldness and clarity that we worship the one true God in unity and the Godhead in tri-unity. For God is one, yet he reveals himself to us in three distinct persons, who are each God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Click here to go to source
Kim Riddlebarger is pastor of Christ United Reformed Church (Anaheim, California) and co-host of The White Horse Inn radio broadcast. He is author of A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times and Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth about the Antichrist (Baker, 2006). Kim blogs at www.kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com.
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger is senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, Calif. He is cohost of The White Horse Inn.
Kim Riddlebarger Books:
By Don Carson 7/7/2018
The account of the Gibeonite deception (Josh. 9) has its slightly amusing elements, as well as its serious point. There are the Israelites, poking around in moldy bread and holding serious conversations about the distance these emissaries must have traveled. Yet the sad fact is that they were snookered. What lessons should we learn from this?
First, many believers who have the courage to withstand direct assault do not have the sense to withstand deception. That is why in Revelation 13 the dragon has two beasts—one whose opposition is overt and cruel, and the other who is identified as the false prophet (see the meditation for December 22). That is also why in Acts 20 Paul warns the Ephesian elders not only of rapacious wolves that will try to ravage the flock of God, but also of the fact that from among their own number men will arise who will “distort the truth” (Acts 20:30). Such people never announce what they are doing: “We are now going to distort the truth!” The danger they represent lies in the fact that they are viewed as “safe,” and then from this secure vantage they advocate “progressive” positions that distort the Gospel.
The deceptive power may be tied to such overt tricks as flattery—the very device used by the Gibeonites (9:9-10). In our day, deception becomes all the easier to arrange because so many Christians are no longer greatly shaped by Scripture. It is difficult to unmask subtle error when it aligns with the culture, deploys spiritual God-talk, piously cites a passage or two, and “works.”
Second, the failure depicted in 9:14 has haunted many believers, and not only the ancient Israelites: “The men of Israel sampled their [the Gibeonites’] provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.” Doubtless their inquiring of the Lord would have been direct; perhaps the priests would have resorted to Urim and Thummim (see meditation for March 17). We shall never know, because the people felt they did not need the Lord’s guidance. Perhaps the flattery had made them cocksure. The fact that their decision was based on their estimate of how far these Gibeonites had come makes it obvious that they were aware of the danger of treaties with the Canaanites. The failure must therefore not be taken as a mere breach of devotions that day, a hastiness that forgot a magic step. The problem is deeper: there is an unseemly negligence that betrays an overconfidence that does not think it needs God in this case. Many a Christian leader has made disastrous mistakes when he or she has not taken time to seek God’s perspective, probing Scripture and asking him for the wisdom he has promised to give (James 1:5).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 72Give the King Your Justice
72 Of Solomon.
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
OF THE LORD'S SUPPER, AND THE BENEFITS CONFERRED BY IT.
This chapter is divided into two principal heads.--I. The first part shows what it is that God exhibits in the Holy Supper, sec. 1-4; and then in what way and how far it becomes ours, sec. 5-11. II. The second part is chiefly occupied with a refutation of the errors which superstition has introduced in regard to the Lord's Supper. And, first, Transubstantiation is refuted, sec. 12-15. Next, Consubstantiation and Ubiquity, sec. 16-19. Thirdly, It is shown that the institution itself is opposed to those hyperbolical doctors, sec. 20-25. Fourth, The orthodox view is confirmed by other arguments derived from Scripture, sec. 26-27. Fifth, The authority of the Fathers is shown to support the same view. Sixth, The presence for which opponents contend is overthrown, and another presence established, sec. 29-32. Seventh, What the nature of our communion ought to be, sec. 33, 34. Eighth, The adoration introduced by opponents refuted. For what end the Lord's Supper was instituted, sec. 35-39. Lastly, The examination of communicants is considered, sec. 40-42. Of the external rites to be observed. Of frequent communion in both kinds. Objections refuted, sec. 43-50.
1. Why the Holy Supper was instituted by Christ. The knowledge of the sacrament, how necessary. The signs used. Why there are no others appointed.
2. The manifold uses and advantages of this sacrament to the pious.
3. The Lord's Supper exhibits the great blessings of redemption, and even Christ himself. This even evident from the words of the institution. The thing specially to be considered in them. Congruity of the signs and the things signified.
4. The chief parts of this sacrament.
5. How Christ, the Bread of Life, is to be received by us. Two faults to be avoided. The receiving of it must bear reference both to faith and the effect of faith. What meant by eating Christ. In what sense Christ the bread of life.
6. This mode of eating confirmed by the authority of Augustine and Chrysostom.
7. It is not sufficient, while omitting all mention of flesh and blood, to recognise this communion merely as spiritual. It is impossible fully to comprehend it in the present life.
8. In explanation of it, it may be observed,--I. There is no life at all save in Christ. II. Christ has life in a twofold sense; first, in himself, as he is God; and, secondly, by transfusing it into the flesh which he assumed, that he might thereby communicate life to us.
9. This confirmed from Cyril, and by a familiar example. How the flesh of Christ gives life, and what the nature of our communion with Christ.
10. No distance of place can impede it. In the Supper it is not presented as an empty symbol, but, as the apostle testifies, we receive the reality. Objection, that the expression is figurative. Answer. A sure rule with regard to the sacraments.
11. Conclusion of the first part of the chapter. The sacrament of the Supper consists of two parts--viz. corporeal signs, and spiritual truth. These comprehend the meaning, matter, and effect. Christ truly exhibited to us by symbols.
12. Second part of the chapter, reduced to nine heads. The transubstantiation of the Papists considered and refuted. Its origin and absurdity. Why it should be exploded.
13. Transubstantiation as feigned by the Schoolmen. Refutation. The many superstitions introduced by their error.
14. The fiction of transubstantiation why invented contrary to Scripture, and the consent of antiquity. The term of transubstantiation never used in the early Church. Objection. Answer.
15. The error of transubstantiation favoured by the consecration, which was a kind of magical incantation. The bread is not a sacrament to itself, but to those who receive it. The changing of the rod of Moses into a serpent gives no countenance to Popish transubstantiation. No resemblance between it and the words of institution in the Supper. Objection. Answer.
16. Refutation of consubstantiation; whence the idea of ubiquity.
17. This ubiquity confounds the natures of Christ. Subtleties answered.
18. Absurdities connected with consubstantiation. Candid exposition of the orthodox view.
19. The nature of the true presence of Christ in the Supper. The true and substantial communion of the body and blood of the Lord. This orthodox view assailed by turbulent spirits.
20. This view vindicated from their calumnies. The words of the institution explained in opposition to the glosses of transubstantiators and consubstantiators. Their subterfuges and absurd blasphemies.
21. Why the name of the thing signified is given to the sacramental symbols. This illustrated by passages of Scripture; also by a passage of Augustine.
22. Refutation of an objection founded on the words, This is. Objection answered.
23. Other objections answered.
24. Other objections answered. No question here as to the omnipotence of God.
25. Other objections answered.
26. The orthodox view further confirmed. I. By a consideration of the reality of Christ's body. II. From our Saviour's declaration that he would always be in the world. This confirmed by the exposition of Augustine.
27. Refutation of the sophisms of the Ubiquitists. The evasion of visible and invisible presence refuted.
28. The authority of Fathers not in favour of these errors as to Christ's presence. Augustine opposed to them.
29. Refutation of the invisible presence maintained by opponents. Refutation from Tertullian, from a saying of Christ after his resurrection, from the definition of a true body, and from different passages of Scripture.
30. Ubiquity refuted by various arguments.
31. The imaginary presence of Transubstantiators, Consubstantiators, and Ubiquitists, contrasted with the orthodox doctrine.
32. The nature of our Saviour's true presence explained. The mode of it incomprehensible.
33. Our communion in the blood and flesh of Christ. Spiritual not oral, and yet real. Erroneous view of the Schoolmen.
34. This view not favoured by Augustine. How the wicked eat the body of Christ. Cyril's sentiments as to the eating of the body of Christ.
35. Absurdity of the adoration of sacramental symbols.
36. This adoration condemned. I. By Christ himself. II. By the Council of Nice. III. By ancient custom. IV. By Scripture. This adoration is mere idolatry.
37. This adoration inconsistent with the nature and institution of the sacrament. Ends for which the sacrament was instituted.
38. Ends for which the sacrament was instituted.
39. True nature of the sacrament, contrasted with the Popish observance of it.
40. Nature of an unworthy approach to the Lord's table. The great danger of it. The proper remedy in serious self-examination.
41. The spurious examination introduced by the Papists. Refutation.
42. The nature of Christian examination.
43. External rites in the administration of the Supper. Many of them indifferent.
44. Duty of frequent communion. This proved by the practice of the Church in its purer state, and by the canons of the early bishops.
45. Frequent communion in the time of Augustine. The neglect of it censured by Chrysostom.
46. The Popish injunction to communicate once a-year an execrable invention.
47. Communion in one kind proved to be an invention of Satan.
48. Subterfuges of the Papists refuted.
49. The practice of the early Church further considered.
1. After God has once received us into his family, it is not that he may regard us in the light of servants, but of sons, performing the part of a kind and anxious parent, and providing for our maintenance during the whole course of our lives. And, not contented with this, he has been pleased by a pledge to assure us of his continued liberality. To this end, he has given another sacrament to his Church by the hand of his only-begotten Son--viz. a spiritual feast, at which Christ testifies that he himself is living bread (John 6:51), on which our souls feed, for a true and blessed immortality. Now, as the knowledge of this great mystery is most necessary, and, in proportion to its importance, demands an accurate exposition, and Satan, in order to deprive the Church of this inestimable treasure, long ago introduced, first, mists, and then darkness, to obscure its light, and stirred up strife and contention to alienate the minds of the simple from a relish for this sacred food, and in our age, also, has tried the same artifice, I will proceed, after giving a simple summary adapted to the capacity of the ignorant, to explain those difficulties by which Satan has tried to ensnare the world. First, then, the signs are bread and wine, which represent the invisible food which we receive from the body and blood of Christ. For as God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption, so we have said that he performs the office of a provident parent, in continually supplying the food by which he may sustain and preserve us in the life to which he has begotten us by his word. Moreover, Christ is the only food of our soul, and, therefore, our heavenly Father invites us to him, that, refreshed by communion with him, we may ever and anon gather new vigour until we reach the heavenly immortality. But as this mystery of the secret union of Christ with believers is incomprehensible by nature, he exhibits its figure and image in visible signs adapted to our capacity, nay, by giving, as it were, earnests and badges, he makes it as certain to us as if it were seen by the eye; the familiarity of the similitude giving it access to minds however dull, and showing that souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine. We now, therefore, understand the end which this mystical benediction has in view--viz. to assure us that the body of Christ was once sacrificed for us, so that we may now eat it, and, eating, feel within ourselves the efficacy of that one sacrifice,--that his blood was once shed for us so as to be our perpetual drink. This is the force of the promise which is added, "Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you" (Mt. 26:26, &c.). The body which was once offered for our salvation we are enjoined to take and eat, that, while we see ourselves made partakers of it, we may safely conclude that the virtue of that death will be efficacious in us. Hence he terms the cup the covenant in his blood. For the covenant which he once sanctioned by his blood he in a manner renews, or rather continues, in so far as regards the confirmation of our faith, as often as he stretches forth his sacred blood as drink to us.
2. Pious souls can derive great confidence and delight from this sacrament, as being a testimony that they form one body with Christ, so that everything which is his they may call their own. Hence it follows, that we can confidently assure ourselves, that eternal life, of which he himself is the heir, is ours, and that the kingdom of heaven, into which he has entered, can no more be taken from us than from him; on the other hand, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from the guilt of which he absolves us, seeing he has been pleased that these should be imputed to himself as if they were his own. This is the wondrous exchange made by his boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of Man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness.
3. To all these things we have a complete attestation in this sacrament, enabling us certainly to conclude that they are as truly exhibited to us as if Christ were placed in bodily presence before our view, or handled by our hands. For these are words which can never lie nor deceive--Take, eat, drink. This is my body, which is broken for you: this is my blood, which is shed for the remission of sins. In bidding us take, he intimates that it is ours: in bidding us eat, he intimates that it becomes one substance with us: in affirming of his body that it was broken, and of his blood that it was shed for us, he shows that both were not so much his own as ours, because he took and laid down both, not for his own advantage, but for our salvation. And we ought carefully to observe, that the chief, and almost the whole energy of the sacrament, consists in these words, It is broken for you: it is shed for you. It would not be of much importance to us that the body and blood of the Lord are now distributed, had they not once been set forth for our redemption and salvation. Wherefore they are represented under bread and wine, that we may learn that they are not only ours, but intended to nourish our spiritual life; that is, as we formerly observed, by the corporeal things which are produced in the sacrament, we are by a kind of analogy conducted to spiritual things. Thus when bread is given as a symbol of the body of Christ, we must immediately think of this similitude. As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our bodily life, so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate and keep alive the soul. When we behold wine set forth as a symbol of blood, we must think that such use as wine serves to the body, the same is spiritually bestowed by the blood of Christ; and the use is to foster, refresh, strengthen, and exhilarate. For if we duly consider what profit we have gained by the breaking of his sacred body, and the shedding of his blood, we shall clearly perceive that these properties of bread and wine, agreeably to this analogy, most appropriately represent it when they are communicated to us.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/1/2013 | The Assurance of Discipline
The older I get, the more I wish my father had disciplined me more than he did, and the more I grow in Christ, the more I pray for my heavenly Father’s loving discipline. When we’re immature we see discipline as a negative thing, but as we grow we begin to see it as one of the most enduring blessings of life. Discipline assures us that we’re loved and cared for. It shows us to whom we belong. It demonstrates we are worth another’s time and energy. It makes us confront, confess, and repent of our sins. It humbles us, brings us to our knees to weep over our sin, and draws us close into the embracing arms of our loving protector. Discipline is a blessing.
Those without discipline are orphans. Parents who don’t discipline their children are emotionally and spiritually abusing their children, and are setting them on a path of self-destruction. Pastors who don’t discipline their people by preaching the unvarnished Word of God in season and out of season are not good shepherds but masked thieves. Churches that do not consistently practice church discipline are not churches at all. And if we do not receive the discipline of God, it means we are not his children and that He is not our Father. For “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” (Heb. 12:6–8). The Lord disciplines those He loves—those He adores and has adopted into His family. Discipline is one of the surest signs of our adoption—that we belong to God and are loved by God in a special, saving way. Without it, we are illegitimate—children of the devil, not children of God (John 8:44).
Without sin, discipline would not be necessary. And to be made aware that we are sinners—to be awakened to the reality of our deadness in sin—is the first stage of discipline. Our conversion to Christ is God’s first gracious act of discipline in our lives—bringing us to repentance and faith in the One who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, upon whom was the Father’s ultimate discipline that brought us peace, and by whose wounds we are healed (Isa. 53:5).
Although discipline is painful for a moment, it leads to lasting, restorative joy. As members of the church, we are all under church discipline in that we have submitted ourselves to the discipline of the church and attend weekly to the discipline of the preached Word. The first step of discipline is admonition, and we come each week because we know how desperately we need to be admonished, to repent of our sins, to reaffirm our confession of Christ, and to receive our Father’s assurance of pardon and benediction that carries us through the week, reminding us that our loving Father lifts up the light of His countenance upon us and makes His face to shine upon us that we might be blessed and kept to live coram Deo, before His smiling face.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Hawaii became a U.S. Territory this day, July 7, 1898, as President McKinley signed the Treaty of Annexation. Discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778, the islands were soon united by King Kamehamaha. After his death, his son, with his mother as prime minister, abolished their pagan religion which included human sacrifice. The next year the first missionaries arrived from New England, creating a written language and translating the Bible. Hawaii’s Motto, “The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness,” was first uttered by Queen Ke’opuolani as she was baptized into the Christian faith.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
It is the distortion of vision that passion produces,
the exaggeration of the present that temptation creates,
making the small look like the great
and discrediting the value of the thing lost.
--- Hugh Black
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour towards creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Enemies, A Love Story
Study it carefully, think of it prayerfully,
Till in your heart its precepts dwell;
Slight not its history, ponder its mystery,
None can e’er prize it too fondly or well.
--- Philip P. Bliss
The Lives of the Eminent American Evangelists Dwight Lyman Moody and Ira David Sankey: Together with an Account of Their Labors in Great Britain and ... the Lives of Philip P. Bliss and Eben Tourjée
We can only be absolutely dependent upon God as we are absolutely independent in our own souls, and only absolutely independent in our own souls as we are absolutely dependent on God. A saved soul, in other words, is a soul true to itself because, with its mind on God’s will of love and not on itself, it stands in God’s world unbribable and undismayed, having freedom as it has piety and piety as it is free.
--- John Wood Oman, Grace and Personalit
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 17 / The Torah, the Heart,
Following the initial commandment to love God with all our being, the first paragraph of the Shema now continues:
And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up.
“These words which I command you this day” is rather ambiguous. What is the antecedent of “these words”: The words of the Shema up to this point? All the words of the Shema? The words of the Torah in general?
When they draw upon this passage as a source of halakhic discussion and analysis, the talmudic Sages take “these words” to mean the words of the Shema itself. That is, the Torah here instructs us how to read the Shema. But when the Rabbis expand the scope of “these words” to encompass the entirety of the Torah, they move beyond halakhic technicality into the realm of spiritual, ethical, and psychological instruction—much of which helps orient us when the Shema is recited. We shall analyze the verses for such enlightenment phrase by phrase, although obviously a great many of the commentaries in the sources refer to more than one phrase at a time.
The halakhic interpretation of our passage originates in the Mishnah (Berakhot 2:1), which discusses what happens when, in the course of studying Deuteronomy, the reader comes across and recites the passages we call the Shema. The Mishnah teaches that the reader does not fulfill the requirement of “Reading of the Shema” as a religious duty unless he specifically intended to fulfill that particular mitzvah. A casual reading of these verses, without kavvanah, is inadequate; one must repeat the Shema with the proper thoughts in mind.
The Gemara (Berakhot 13a, b), elaborating on this cryptic remark of the Mishnah, goes on to ask how much of the Shema requires kavvanah: the entire first paragraph or only up to “these words”? Or does this stricture perhaps imply not that this first part of the Shema alone requires intention, the rest of the first paragraph requiring enunciation (“reading”) even without intention, but rather the opposite: that kavvanah is mandated for the entire paragraph, but “reading” (aloud) is required only up to the phrase “these words”? The Halakha decides that only the very first verse, “Hear O Israel,” requires intention (in the sense of knowing what one is saying). (1)
(1) Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 60:5
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Jews Fight A Great Battle With Sabinus's Soldiers, And A Great Destruction Is Made At Jerusalem.
1. Now before Caesar had determined any thing about these affairs, Malthace, Arehelaus's mother, fell sick and died. Letters also were brought out of Syria from Varus, about a revolt of the Jews. This was foreseen by Varus, who accordingly, after Archelaus was sailed, went up to Jerusalem to restrain the promoters of the sedition, since it was manifest that the nation would not be at rest; so he left one of those legions which he brought with him out of Syria in the city, and went himself to Antioch. But Sabinus came, after he was gone, and gave them an occasion of making innovations; for he compelled the keepers of the citadels to deliver them up to him, and made a bitter search after the king's money, as depending not only on the soldiers which were left by Varus, but on the multitude of his own servants, all which he armed and used as the instruments of his covetousness. Now when that feast, which was observed after seven weeks, and which the Jews called Pentecost, [i. e. the 50th day,] was at hand, its name being taken from the number of the days [after the passover], the people got together, but not on account of the accustomed Divine worship, but of the indignation they had ['at the present state of affairs']. Wherefore an immense multitude ran together, out of Galilee, and Idumea, and Jericho, and Perea, that was beyond Jordan; but the people that naturally belonged to Judea itself were above the rest, both in number, and in the alacrity of the men. So they distributed themselves into three parts, and pitched their camps in three places; one at the north side of the temple, another at the south side, by the Hippodrome, and the third part were at the palace on the west. So they lay round about the Romans on every side, and besieged them.
2. Now Sabinus was affrighted, both at their multitude, and at their courage, and sent messengers to Varus continually, and besought him to come to his succor quickly; for that if he delayed, his legion would be cut to pieces. As for Sabinus himself, he got up to the highest tower of the fortress, which was called Phasaelus; it is of the same name with Herod's brother, who was destroyed by the Parthians; and then he made signs to the soldiers of that legion to attack the enemy; for his astonishment was so great, that he durst not go down to his own men. Hereupon the soldiers were prevailed upon, and leaped out into the temple, and fought a terrible battle with the Jews; in which, while there were none over their heads to distress them, they were too hard for them, by their skill, and the others' want of skill, in war; but when once many of the Jews had gotten up to the top of the cloisters, and threw their darts downwards, upon the heads of the Romans, there were a great many of them destroyed. Nor was it easy to avenge themselves upon those that threw their weapons from on high, nor was it more easy for them to sustain those who came to fight them hand to hand.
3. Since therefore the Romans were sorely afflicted by both these circumstances, they set fire to the cloisters, which were works to be admired, both on account of their magnitude and costliness. Whereupon those that were above them were presently encompassed with the flame, and many of them perished therein; as many of them also were destroyed by the enemy, who came suddenly upon them; some of them also threw themselves down from the walls backward, and some there were who, from the desperate condition they were in, prevented the fire, by killing themselves with their own swords; but so many of them as crept out from the walls, and came upon the Romans, were easily mastered by them, by reason of the astonishment they were under; until at last some of the Jews being destroyed, and others dispersed by the terror they were in, the soldiers fell upon the treasure of God, which w now deserted, and plundered about four hundred talents, Of which sum Sabinus got together all that was not carried away by the soldiers.
4. However, this destruction of the works [about the temple], and of the men, occasioned a much greater number, and those of a more warlike sort, to get together, to oppose the Romans. These encompassed the palace round, and threatened to deploy all that were in it, unless they went their ways quickly; for they promised that Sabinus should come to no harm, if he would go out with his legion. There were also a great many of the king's party who deserted the Romans, and assisted the Jews; yet did the most warlike body of them all, who were three thousand of the men of Sebaste, go over to the Romans. Rufus also, and Gratus, their captains, did the same, [Gratus having the foot of the king's party under him, and Rufus the horse,] each of whom, even without the forces under them, were of great weight, on account of their strength and wisdom, which turn the scales in war. Now the Jews in the siege, and tried to break down walls of the fortress, and cried out to Sabinus and his party, that they should go their ways, and not prove a hinderance to them, now they hoped, after a long time, to recover that ancient liberty which their forefathers had enjoyed. Sabinus indeed was well contented to get out of the danger he was in, but he distrusted the assurances the Jews gave him, and suspected such gentle treatment was but a bait laid as a snare for them: this consideration, together with the hopes he had of succor from Varus, made him bear the siege still longer.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
and reflect on the vows only afterwards.
26 A wise king winnows the wicked [from the righteous]
and threshes them under the cartwheel.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
All noble things are difficult
Enter ye in at the strait gate … because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way … --- Matthew 7:13–14.
If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all noble things are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcome. Do we so appreciate the marvellous salvation of Jesus Christ that we are our utmost for His highest?
God saves men by His sovereign grace through the Atonement of Jesus; He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure; but we have to work out that salvation in practical living. If once we start on the basis of His Redemption to do what He commands, we find that we can do it. If we fail, it is because we have not practised. The crisis will reveal whether we have been practising or not. If we obey the Spirit of God and practise in our physical life what God has put in us by His Spirit, then when the crisis comes, we shall find that our own nature as well as the grace of God will stand by us.
Thank God He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a glad thing, but it is also a heroic, holy thing. It tests us for all we are worth. Jesus is bringing many “sons unto glory,” and God will not shield us from the requirements of a son. God’s grace turns out men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not milksops. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the noble life of a disciple of Jesus in actual things. It is always necessary to make an effort to be noble.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Not British, certainly
One who strafed you with thin scorn
From the cheap gallery of his mind?
It was you who were right the whole time:
Right in this that the day's end
Finds you still in the same field
In which you started, your soul made strong
By the earth's incense, the wind's song.
While I have worn my soul bare
On the world's roads, seeking what lay
Too close for the mind's lenses to see,
And come now with the first stars
Big on my lids westward to find
With the slow lifting up of your hand
No welcome, only forgiveness.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Trust God’s Word
W. W. Wiersbe
The contrast here is between people of faith and people who arrogantly trust themselves and leave God out of their lives. The immediate application was to the Babylonians.
The sinner. The Babylonians were “puffed up” with pride over their military might and their great achievements. They had built an impressive empire which they were sure was invincible. The words of Nebuchadnezzar express it perfectly: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power for the honor of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30, NKJV)
But Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians aren’t the only ones puffed up with pride and self-sufficiency. This is the condition of most of the people in today’s society who belong to the world and live for the world. The Apostle John warns us against “the pride [vain glory] of life” that belongs to this present evil world system which is against God and without God (1 John 2:15–17).
Besides puffing them up, what else does pride do to people? It twists them inwardly, for the soul of the unbeliever is “not upright,” which means his inner appetites are crooked and sinful. He delights in the things that God abhors, the things God condemns in the five “woes” in this chapter. One of the chief causes of the corruption in this world is what Peter calls “lust” (2 Peter 1:4), which simply means “evil desires, passionate longing.” Were it not for the base appetites of people, longing to be satisfied but never satisfied, the “sin industries” would never prosper.
Pride also makes people restless: they’re never satisfied (Hab. 2:5). That’s why they’re given over to wine, never at rest, never satisfied. They’re constantly seeking for some new experience to thrill them or some new achievement to make them important. Pride makes us greedy. The Babylonians weren’t satisfied with what they had; they coveted even more land and wealth, and therefore set their course to conquer every nation that stood in their way. More than one king or dictator in history has followed this resolve, only to discover that it leads to disappointment, ruin, and death.
The just. Now for the contrast: “The just shall live by his faith” (v. 4b; see Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). This is the first of three wonderful assurances that God gives in this chapter to encourage His people. This one emphasizes God’s grace, because grace and faith always go together. Habakkuk 2:14 emphasizes God’s glory and assures us that, though this world is now filled with violence and corruption (Gen. 6:5, 11–13), it shall one day be filled with God’s glory. The third assurance is in Habakkuk 2:20 and emphasizes God’s government. Empires may rise and fall, but God is on His holy throne, and He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
“The just shall live by his faith” was the watchword of the Reformation, and they may well be the seven most important monosyllables in all of church history. It was verse 4, quoted in Romans 1:17, that helped to lead Martin Luther into the truth of justification by faith. “This text,” said Luther, “was to me the true gate of Paradise.”
Justification is the gracious act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous and gives that believing sinner a perfect standing in Jesus Christ. The “just” person isn’t someone who has met all of God’s requirements by means of good works, “For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:19; see Rom. 4:5). “For if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Gal. 2:21, NKJV).
Our Lord’s Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican makes it clear that no amount of religious effort can save a lost sinner (Luke 18:9–14). We can’t justify ourselves before God because we stand with the whole world, guilty and condemned before His throne (Rom. 3:19). All we can do is put saving faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, because that is the only way to be saved. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
The victory. We are not only saved by faith (Eph. 2:8–9), but we are instructed to live by faith. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4, NKJV). Faith is a lifestyle that is just the opposite of being “puffed up” and depending on your own resources. Habakkuk knew the difficult times were coming to the people of Judah, and their only resource was to trust God’s Word and rest in His will.
Living by faith is the major them of the Book of Hebrews (Heb. 10:30), for in that book the phrase “by faith” is found over twenty times. To live by faith means to believe God’s Word and obey it no matter how we feel, what we see, or what the consequences may be. This is illustrated in Hebrews 11, the famous “by faith” chapter of the Bible. The men and women mentioned in that chapter were ordinary people, but they accomplished extraordinary things because they trusted God and did what He told them to do. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence; it’s obeying in spite of consequence, resting on God’s faithfulness.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
There is a story told of a man who dreams of buried treasure. The story has many variations, but the moral is always the same. The man lives in a small town. He travels many days to the city of Warsaw. There, he begins to dig in the spot where, in the dream, he saw the buried treasure. A soldier sees this man and asks, “Hey you, what are you doing?” The man replies that he had a dream about a treasure buried on this spot. The soldier replies, “That’s strange, I had a dream that a treasure was buried under the house of a poor man in such-and-such village.” The man realizes that the soldier is describing his own village and his very house. The man rushes home, digs under his house, and—lo and behold—finds a treasure buried right there.
Whatever form this story takes, the moral is always the same: The treasures we look for in life are often so close to home.
A couple decides that they will find happiness in a new community. There are career possibilities, new friends, exciting opportunities. However, after a few months, they are disillusioned. “The grass always seems greener on the other side of the hill,” they say. They return to their former home. They have missed their comfortable community, familiar friends, and ordinary existence.
A man resolves to leave his wife. He has found a new love, someone who will really listen to him and truly care for his needs. “Life with my family has become boring,” he tells his friends. “There’s got to be something better.” After a year or two, the newness and excitement wear off. His new lover has her own foibles and idiosyncrasies, and he misses his wife of many years. While he complained about the neediness of his children, and the responsibility of caring for them, he longs for the experience of being needed and of having children to care for. His new partner does listen, but she lacks the years of shared experiences that made his former life routine yet comfortable, mundane yet secure. He returns home, apologetic, to find all that he had yearned for right where he had left it.
A woman searches for “spirituality.” She turns to Eastern religions, new age cults, born-again preachers. Each satisfies her, but only momentarily. Each time, after a short while, her soul is hungry again. In despair, she assumes that she’ll never find what her soul longs for. One day, while in her own synagogue, she is suddenly moved. The words of the prayers speak to her as never before. The stories of the Bible are surprisingly rich with lessons and human drama. The rabbi’s words have new meaning and touch her deep inside. “I can’t believe I was so blind. What I was looking for was right here all along,” she confesses. “Right where I was before.”
Until and unless God opens our eyes and allows us to see, all of us are considered blind, holds Rabbi Binyamin. That may be the reason that each and every Morning one of the first blessings in the liturgy praises God who “opens the eyes of the blind.” We start our day by thinking about how critical our sense of sight is, and we thank God for giving it to us.
Yet at the same time, we realize that in certain cases, being blind may be a good thing. In London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, we find the famous statue of Justice. Personified as a woman, she holds a scale in her hand, and she is blindfolded. This of course is a reminder to all—judges, witnesses, lawyers, accusers, and accused—that justice must be completely impartial. It is even said that in ancient Egypt (where Hagar originally came from), the court met in a dark chamber so that the judges could not see the individuals who stood before them.
Hagar was “blind” and could not see the well of water that was virtually in front of her. And God was “blind”—in not taking into consideration what the descendants of Hagar’s son Ishmael would do to the Jewish people a thousand years later. If God can be blind about people intentionally, then perhaps we need to assume the condition of blindness as well. So often in life we react or respond to people based upon our history with them or our knowledge of what they have done. Our opinions are colored and our actions become biased by this information. Giving someone a second chance often means turning a blind eye to what we know. Teshuvah, repentance, isn’t just about the sinner deciding to change his ways. We also play an important role in the process because our actions can serve to encourage or discourage what others might do.
Clearly, there are times when it is foolish or dangerous to pretend to be blind. When a convicted child molester is released from prison and moves onto the block, it is considered prudent for everyone in the neighborhood to be aware of the situation and to be vigilant about their children’s safety. That is a case, we might say, where God has opened our eyes. But when all that is at stake is ego, jealousy, or prejudice, we need to learn a lesson from God and pretend that we are blind.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake.
--- Psalm 106:8.
By the name of God we are to understand the attributes of God. (Deut. 28:58). (Ralph Erskine, “God’s Great Name, the Ground and Reason of Saving Great Sinners,” preached at Carnock, July 18, 1730, before the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritanRS Thomas.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) I will mention [more] of these.
His justice is another part of his name for the sake of which he saves and works salvation. The justice of God may be viewed as either retributive or vindictive. Retributive justice may be viewed in the saints themselves. They are sinners, yet because [they are] objects of promised mercy in Christ Jesus he saves and delivers [them] for his righteousness’ and justice’ sake. He also saves for the sake of vindictive justice, because it has gotten full satisfaction: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement.… He did this to demonstrate his justice” (Rom. 3:25). It is ordinary for people to seek to be saved for his mercy’s sake. But believing justice satisfied and God reconciled in Christ should make the soul seek to be saved in and through Christ the atonement. In Christ that name of God, Justice, has more glorious satisfaction than ever it will have in the damnation of sinners. In punishing sin in the Surety, God’s vindictive justice is so cleared and vindicated that when he pardons sin through Christ, he is as just as he is merciful.
His holiness is a part of his name for the sake of which he saves. This is declared to be his name: “The high and lofty One… whose name is holy” (Isa. 57:15). For the sake of this he pities and saves: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ezek. 36:22).
The providence of God is a part of his name—his watchful care over his people. He rules and overrules all for their good.
The name of God is the very thing by which he makes himself known, whether in his attributes, ordinances, words, or works. He has made himself known by his works of creation and providence—but a thousand times more clearly in the work of redemption and salvation. In these appear some perfection of the divine nature that would not have been displayed in case the first covenant had stood. Therefore, while Satan thought to have deleted the name of God written upon the creature at first—see how infinite wisdom counteracts him and makes that the occasion of making God’s name more known than before!
--- Ralph Erskine
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Christ’s Withered Garden July 7
Samuel Rutherford was born in Scotland in 1600. He lived a careless life as a youth, but after graduating from the university in Edinburgh, he became serious about following Christ. He studied theology and was licensed to preach. The Scottish village of Anwoth, Kirkcudbrightshire, called him to pastor its church. Rutherford’s wife and two of his children died shortly after arrival. But Samuel busied himself with ministry and pressed on.
Rutherford’s vision encompassed the entire Scottish church, suffering at the time from weak theology. He wrote a book entitled An Apology for Divine Grace, that so attacked the clergy that he was withdrawn from his church and “exiled” in Aberdeen, forbidden to preach. He felt like a half-blind man whose one eye had just been plucked out. There, suffering mentally and spiritually, he wrote a letter on July 7, 1627 to his similarly beleaguered friend, James Hamilton:
For your ensuing and feared trial, my dearest in our Lord Jesus, alas! What am I, to speak comfort to a soldier of Christ who hath done a hundred times more for that worthy cause than I can do! But I know, those of whom the world was not worthy wandered up and down in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth; and while there is one member of mystical Christ out of heaven, that member must suffer strokes, till our Lord Jesus draw in that member within the gates of the New Jerusalem.
My one joy, next to Christ, was to preach my sweetest, sweetest Master and the glory of his Kingdom; and it seemed no cruelty to them to put out the poor man’s one eye. I cannot be delivered. None here will have my Master. Alas! what aileth them? (But) fear not. Christ’s withered garden shall grow green again in Scotland. My Lord Jesus hath a word hid in heaven for Scotland, not yet brought out.
Rutherford didn’t realize that the Lord’s hidden word for Scotland included his own collected letters from Aberdeen, published after his death and destined to become one of the classics of Christian literature.
I am badly injured and in constant pain.
Are you going to disappoint me,
Like a stream that goes dry in the heat of summer?
Then the LORD told me: Stop talking like a fool! …
I am making you strong, like a bronze wall.
They are evil and violent, but when they attack,
I will be there to rescue you.
--- Jeremiah 15:18-21a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 7
“Brethren, pray for us.” --- 1 Thessalonians 5:25.
This one Morning in the year we reserved to refresh the reader’s memory upon the subject of prayer for ministers, and we do most earnestly implore every Christian household to grant the fervent request of the text first uttered by an apostle and now repeated by us. Brethren, our work is solemnly momentous, involving weal or woe to thousands; we treat with souls for God on eternal business, and our word is either a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. A very heavy responsibility rests upon us, and it will be no small mercy if at the last we be found clear of the blood of all men. As officers in Christ’s army, we are the especial mark of the enmity of men and devils; they watch for our halting, and labour to take us by the heels. Our sacred calling involves us in temptations from which you are exempt, above all it too often draws us away from our personal enjoyment of truth into a ministerial and official consideration of it. We meet with many knotty cases, and our wits are at a non plus; we observe very sad backslidings, and our hearts are wounded; we see millions perishing, and our spirits sink. We wish to profit you by our preaching; we desire to be blest to your children; we long to be useful both to saints and sinners; therefore, dear friends, intercede for us with our God. Miserable men are we if we miss the aid of your prayers, but happy are we if we live in your supplications. You do not look to us but to our Master for spiritual blessings, and yet how many times has He given those blessings through His ministers; ask then, again and again, that we may be the earthen vessels into which the Lord may put the treasure of the Gospel. We, the whole company of missionaries, ministers, city missionaries, and students, do in the name of Jesus beseech you
“BRETHREN, PRAY FOR US.”
Evening - July 7
"When I passed by thee, I said unto thee, Live." --- Ezekiel 16:6.
Saved one, consider gratefully this mandate of mercy. Note that this fiat of God is majestic. In our text, we perceive a sinner with nothing in him but sin, expecting nothing but wrath; but the eternal Lord passes by in his glory; he looks, he pauses, and he pronounces the solitary but royal word, “Live.” There speaks a God. Who but he could venture thus to deal with life and dispense it with a single syllable? Again, this fiat is manifold. When he saith “Live,” it includes many things. Here is judicial life. The sinner is ready to be condemned, but the mighty One saith, “Live,” and he rises pardoned and absolved. It is spiritual life. We knew not Jesus—our eyes could not see Christ, our ears could not hear his voice—Jehovah said “Live,” and we were quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins. Moreover, it includes glory-life, which is the perfection of spiritual life. “I said unto thee, Live:” and that word rolls on through all the years of time till death comes, and in the midst of the shadows of death, the Lord’s voice is still heard, “Live!” In the Morning of the resurrection it is that self-same voice which is echoed by the arch-angel, “Live,” and as holy spirits rise to heaven to be blest for ever in the glory of their God, it is in the power of this same word, “Live.” Note again, that it is an irresistible mandate. Saul of Tarsus is on the road to Damascus to arrest the saints of the living God. A voice is heard from heaven and a light is seen above the brightness of the sun, and Saul is crying out, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” This mandate is a mandate of free grace. When sinners are saved, it is only and solely because God will do it to magnify his free, unpurchased, unsought grace. Christians, see your position, debtors to grace; show your gratitude by earnest, Christlike lives, and as God has bidden you live, see to it that you live in earnest.
Morning and Evening
SWEET PEACE, THE GIFT OF GOD’S LOVE
Words and Music by Peter P. Bilhorn, 1865–1936
Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)
The blessing of peace is the one prize that often eludes those who seem to have attained everything else in life. Yet peace is one of the choice gifts left to us by our departing Lord. Jesus’ mission was to bring God’s peace to man by bridging the way for us to enjoy eternal fellowship with our Creator.
Peter Bilhorn, author and composer of this hymn, began writing Gospel songs shortly after his conversion at the age of 20. In all he wrote more than 2,000 songs while serving as the song leader for Billy Sunday and other leading evangelists.
One night he sang one of his most popular songs, “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story,” at a camp meeting. A friend jokingly remarked, “I wish you would write a song to suit my voice as well as that song suits yours.” Bilhorn responded, “What shall it be?” “Oh, any sweet piece.” That Evening Bilhorn composed the music for the new hymn.
The following winter while traveling on a train, Bilhorn observed a tragic train accident. He saw one poor individual left lying in a pool of blood. That event reminded him of Christ’s blood atoning for our sins, which prompted him to write these words there on the train. He completed a hymn that has since moved many to a deeper realization and appreciation of God’s “wonderful gift from above.”
There comes to my heart one sweet strain, a glad and a joyous refrain; I sing it again and again—sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
Thru Christ on the cross peace was made. My debt by His death was all paid; no other foundation is laid for peace, the gift of God’s love.
When Jesus as Lord I had crowned, my heart with this peace did abound; in Him the rich blessing I found—sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
In Jesus for peace I abide, and as I keep close to His side, there’s nothing but peace doth betide—sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
Chorus: Peace, peace, sweet peace! Wonderful gift from above! O wonderful, wonderful peace! Sweet peace, the gift of God’s love.
For Today: Isaiah 57:21; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 4:6, 7; Colossians 3:15.
Thank God for the gift of peace that He has provided. A life of peace should lead us to a life of praise—and a life of praise in turn leads to a life of peace. Carry this musical reminder with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Origins and Authority of NT
"Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
Even in the midst of all these issues, however, it must not be assumed (though it often is) that differences necessarily entail genuine contradictions. We can affirm the multiplicity of theological perspectives while also recognizing that they share a common end. In addition, it is not clear that these objections are always as decisive as they are often made out to be. For one, many of the particular arguments have been answered by various scholars over the years who have labored to demonstrate the theological unity of these writings (though there is not space to revisit those works here). (94) These studies have made a solid case that many of these supposed factions are often overplayed and that time and time again apparent theological disagreements prove to be just that, apparent. (95) Take as a brief example the supposed division between Paul and James. Although there were certainly actual historical disagreements between Paul and men “from James” (Gal. 2:12) over the ongoing function of the ceremonial law (96) —and, no doubt, such disagreement continued on into the early church (97) —it is not at all clear that different New Testament books actually put forth contradictory teaching on the matter. (98) Paul himself acknowledged that James was a “pillar” of the church and that he (Paul) was received by him with the “right hand of fellowship” (Gal. 2:9). In addition, Acts 15 makes it clear that although some differences in practice may have remained between the two “camps,” Paul and James were unified around the gospel message going to the Gentiles and the nature of law observance they were expected to maintain (15:22–29), with Paul even being called “beloved” (15:25). Indeed, Paul even gathered a special collection for the saints in Jerusalem, demonstrating his ongoing care and affection for them (Rom. 15:26). As for the overplayed passage in James 2, many scholars have noted that upon closer examination there is no real disagreement with Paul’s understanding of justification. (99) When the reader recognizes that the two authors are asking very different questions—Paul is concerned to deal with how a person can acquire right standing before a holy God (Rom. 3:19–31), whereas James is dealing with the situation of someone who claims to have faith but has no fruit (James 2:14)—then the supposed disagreement tends to evaporate. (100) Thus, we can agree with David Wenham when he declares that “ideas of a radical split between Paul and Jerusalem are exaggerated.” (101)
(94) For these types of works, see C. H. Dodd, The apostolic preaching and its developments, ; Floyd Filson, One Lord, one faith,; A. M. Hunter, The unity of the New Testament; P. Balla, Challenges to New Testament Theology: An Attempt to Justify the Enterprise; David Wenham, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament,” appendix to George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 684–719; D. A. Carson, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: The Possibility of Systematic Theology,” in Carson and Woodbridge, Scripture and Truth, 65–95; I. Howard New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel; E. E. Lemcio, “The Unifying Kerygma of the New Testament,” JSNT 33 (1988): 3–17; Lemcio, “The Unifying Kerygma of the New Testament, pt 2,” JSNT 38 (1990): 3–11; Scott Hafemann and Paul House, eds., Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007); Walter C. Kaiser, Recovering the Unity of the Bible: One Continuous Story, Plan, and Purpose; and C. Blomberg, “The Legitimacy and Limits of Harmonization,” in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 135–74. A helpful summary can be found in Thomas Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments
(95) A. J. Köstenberger, “Diversity and Unity in the New Testament,” in Biblical Theology: Retrospect & Prospect, ed. Scott Hafemann (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), 144–58.
(96) What exactly the meal dispute in Galatians 2 entails is still a matter of discussion. James D. G. Dunn, “The Incident at Antioch (Gal. 2:11–18),” JSNT 18 (1983): 3–57, argues that it is a dispute over whether ritual purity laws should be enforced at the common meal; D. R. Catchpole, “Paul, James, and the Apostolic Decree,” NTS 23 (1976–1977): 428–44, maintains that the men from James are only concerned with upholding the decrees of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) and not the oral laws of ritual purity; G. Howard, Paul: Crisis in Galatia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), argues that the men from James are seeking to have the Gentiles circumcised and to become full proselytes; E. D. W. Burton, The Epistle to the Galatians (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1952), claims that the dispute at Antioch is over Peter’s willingness to eat unclean foods; Dieter Lührmann, “Abendmahlsgemeinschaft? Gal 2:11ff.,” in Kirche: Festschrift für Günther Bornkamm, ed. Dieter Lührmann and Georg Strecker (Tübingen: Mohr, 1980), 271–86, contends that the meal in Gal. 2:11–14 is really the Lord’s Supper. Those in agreement with Lührmann include, F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 129; and Ernst Haenchen, “Petrus-Probleme,” NTS 7 (1961): 187–97.
(97) There is no doubt that historically there were Jewish-Christian groups, like the Ebionites, who would have been pro-James and anti-Paul (Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, 235–66). However, this is categorically different than suggesting that New Testament books themselves promote such teaching. For more on the Ebionites, see S. M. Mimouni, Le judéo-christianisme ancien: Essais historiques (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1998), 257–86; H. J. Schoeps, “Ebionite Christianity,” JTS 4 (1953): 219–24; Schoeps, Jewish Christianity: Factional Disputes in the Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), esp. 38–117; J. A. Fitzmyer, “The Qumran Scrolls, the Ebionites and Their Literature,” in The Semitic Background of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 435–80; J. L. Teicher, “The Dead Sea Scrolls—Documents of the Jewish-Christian Sect of the Ebionites,” JJS 2 (1950–1951): 67–99; Georg Strecker, “Ebioniten,” RAC 4 (1959): 487–500; David F. Wright, “Ebionites,” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Development, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997), 313–17; and F. Stanley Jones, An Ancient Jewish-Christian Source on the History of Christianity: Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.27–71 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), especially the review of prior research on 1–38.
(98) Wenham, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament,” 690–97.
(99) See discussion in Ralph P. Martin, James, WBC (Waco, TX: Word, 1988), civ–cix; Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 37–43; T. Laato, “Justification According to James: A Comparison with Paul?,” TrinJ 18 (1997): 47–61; and D. O. Via, “The Right Strawy Epistle Reconsidered: A Study in Biblical Ethics and Hermeneutic,” JR 49 (1969): 253–67.
(100) Childs, The New Testament as Canon, 443.
(101) Wenham, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament,” 691.
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXVIII. — THIS miserable scape-gap of tropes, therefore, profits the Diatribe nothing. But this Proteus of ours must here be held fast, and compelled to satisfy us fully concerning the trope in this passage; and that, by Scriptures the most clear, or by miracles the most evident. For as to its mere opinion, even though supported by the laboured industry of all ages, we give no credit to that whatever. But we urge on and press it home, that there can be here no trope whatever, but that the Word of God is to be understood according to the plain meaning of the words. For it is not given unto us (as the Diatribe persuades itself to turn the words of God backwards and forwards according to our own lust: if that were the case, what is there in the whole Scripture, that might not be resolved into the philosophy of Anaxagoras — ‘that any thing might be made from any thing?’ And thus I will say, “God created the heavens and the earth:” that is, He stationed them, but did not make them out of nothing. Or, “He created the heavens and the earth;” that is, the angels and the devils; or the just and the wicked. Who, I ask, if this were the case, might not become a theologian at the first opening of a book?
Let this, therefore, be a fixed and settled point: — that since the Diatribe cannot prove, that there is a trope in these our passages which it utterly destroys, it is compelled to cede to us, that the words are to be understood according to their plain meaning; even though it should prove, that the same trope is contained in all the other passages of Scripture, and used in common by every one. And by the gaining of this one point, all our arguments are at the same time defended, which the Diatribe designed to refute; and thus, its refutation is found to effect nothing, to do nothing, and to be nothing.
Whenever, therefore, this passage of Moses, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,” is interpreted thus: — My long-suffering, by which I bear with the sinner, leads, indeed, others unto repentance, but it shall render Pharaoh more hardened in iniquity: — it is a pretty interpretation, but it is not proved that it ought to be so interpreted. But I am not content with what is said, I must have the proof.
And that also of Paul, “He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth, “(Rom. ix. 18,) is plausibly interpreted thus: — that is, God hardens when He does not immediately punish the sinner; and he has mercy when He immediately invites to repentance by afflictions. — But how is this interpretation proved?
And also that of Isaiah lxiii. 17, “Why hast Thou made us to err from Thy ways and hardened our heart from Thy fear?” Be it so, that Jerome interprets it thus from Origen: — He is said to ‘make to err’ who does not immediately recall from error. But who shall certify us that Jerome and Origen interpret rightly? It is, therefore, a settled determination with me, not to argue upon the authority of any teacher whatever, but upon that of the Scripture alone. What Origens and Jeromes does the Diatribe, then, forgetting its own determination, set before us! especially when, among all the ecclesiastical writers, there are scarcely any who have handled the Holy Scriptures less to the purpose, and more absurdly, than Origen and Jerome.
In a word: this liberty of interpretation, by a new and unheard-of kind of grammar, goes to confound all things. So that, when God saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,” you are to change the persons and understand it thus: — Pharaoh hardens himself by My long-suffering. God hardeneth our hearts; — that is, we harden ourselves by God’s deferring the punishment. Thou, O Lord, has made us to err; — that is, we have made ourselves to err by Thy not punishing us. So also, God’s having mercy, no longer signifies His giving grace, or showing mercy, or forgiving sin, or justifying, or delivering from evil, but, on the contrary, signifies bringing on evil and punishing.
In fact, by these tropes matters will come to this: — you may say, that God had mercy upon the children of Israel when He sent them into Assyria and to Babylon; because, He there punished the sinners, and there invited them, by afflictions, to repentance: and that, on the other hand, when He delivered them and brought them back, He had not then mercy upon them, but hardened them; that is, by His long-suffering and mercy He gave them an occasion of becoming hardened. And also, God’s sending the Saviour Christ into the world, will not be said to be the mercy, but the hardening of God; because, by this mercy, He gave men an occasion of hardening themselves. On the other hand, His destroying Jerusalem, and scattering the Jews even unto this day, is His having mercy on them; because, He punishes the sinners and invites them to repentance. Moreover, His carrying the saints away into heaven at the day of judgment, will not be in mercy, but in hardening; because, by His long-suffering, He will give them an occasion of abusing it. But His thrusting the wicked down to hell, will be His mercy; because, He punishes the sinners. — Who, I pray you, ever heard of such examples of the mercy and wrath of God as these?
And be it so, that good men are made better both by the long-suffering and by the severity of God; yet, when we are speaking of the good and the bad promiscuously, these tropes, by an utter perversion of the common manner of speaking, will make, out of the mercy of God His wrath, and His wrath out of His mercy; seeing that, they call it the wrath of God when He does good, and His mercy when He afflicts.
Moreover, if God be said then to harden, when He does good and endures with long-suffering, and then to have mercy when He afflicts and punishes, why is He more particularly said to harden Pharaoh than to harden the children of Israel, or than the whole world? Did He not do good to the children of Israel? Does He not do good to the whole world? Does He not bear with the wicked? Does He not rain upon the evil and upon the good? Why is He rather said to have mercy upon the children of Israel than upon Pharaoh? Did He not afflict the children of Israel in Egypt, and in the desert? — And be it so, that some abuse, and some rightly use, the goodness and the wrath of God; yet, according to your definition, to harden, is the same as, to indulge the wicked by long-suffering and goodness; and to have mercy, is, not to indulge, but to visit and punish. Therefore, with reference to God, He, by His continual goodness, does nothing but harden; and by His perpetual punishment, does nothing but shew mercy.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dr. David Mathewson | Denver Seminary
Lect 1 | NT Literature Course Introduction
Lect 2 | History and Hellenization
Lect 3 | Religious and Social Values
Lect 4 | Judaism and Social Values
Lect 5 | Christmas and Canon
L6 | Genre and Synoptics
L7 | Introduction to Matthew
L8 | Matthew--Kingdom
L9 | Mark: Background and Themes
L10 | Luke
L11 | John and Parables
L12 | Gospel Themes, Intro to Acts
Lect 13 | Acts
Lect 14 | New/Old Paul, Romans
Lect 15 | Romans, Intro to 1 Corinthians
Lect 16 | 1 Corinthians
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Being A Biblical Being Psalm 119
s2-252 | 05-12-2019
Quicken Thou Me Psalm 119
s2-253 | 05-19-2019
m2-256 | 05-22-2019
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