Tell the Coming GenerationPsalm 78 A MASKIL OF ASAPH.
1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.
9 The Ephraimites, armed with the bow,
turned back on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant,
but refused to walk according to his law.
11 They forgot his works
and the wonders that he had shown them.
12 In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
and made the waters stand like a heap.
14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
and all the night with a fiery light.
15 He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16 He made streams come out of the rock
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
17 Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?”
21 Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
22 because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
23 Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
24 and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Man ate of the bread of the angels;
he sent them food in abundance.
26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
and by his power he led out the south wind;
27 he rained meat on them like dust,
winged birds like the sand of the seas;
28 he let them fall in the midst of their camp,
all around their dwellings.
29 And they ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
30 But before they had satisfied their craving,
while the food was still in their mouths,
31 the anger of God rose against them,
and he killed the strongest of them
and laid low the young men of Israel.
32 In spite of all this, they still sinned;
despite his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he made their days vanish like a breath,
and their years in terror.
34 When he killed them, they sought him;
they repented and sought God earnestly.
35 They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
36 But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.
40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert!
41 They tested God again and again
and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power
or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43 when he performed his signs in Egypt
and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
44 He turned their rivers to blood,
so that they could not drink of their streams.
45 He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them,
and frogs, which destroyed them.
46 He gave their crops to the destroying locust
and the fruit of their labor to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail
and their sycamores with frost.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail
and their flocks to thunderbolts.
49 He let loose on them his burning anger,
wrath, indignation, and distress,
a company of destroying angels.
50 He made a path for his anger;
he did not spare them from death,
but gave their lives over to the plague.
51 He struck down every firstborn in Egypt,
the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.
52 Then he led out his people like sheep
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountain which his right hand had won.
55 He drove out nations before them;
he apportioned them for a possession
and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.
56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God
and did not keep his testimonies,
57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers;
they twisted like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places;
they moved him to jealousy with their idols.
59 When God heard, he was full of wrath,
and he utterly rejected Israel.
60 He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh,
the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
61 and delivered his power to captivity,
his glory to the hand of the foe.
62 He gave his people over to the sword
and vented his wrath on his heritage.
63 Fire devoured their young men,
and their young women had no marriage song.
64 Their priests fell by the sword,
and their widows made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
like a strong man shouting because of wine.
66 And he put his adversaries to rout;
he put them to everlasting shame.
67 He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever.
70 He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
71 from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
72 With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand.
How Long, O LORD?Psalm 79 A PSALM OF ASAPH.
1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
2 They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the heavens for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
3 They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
mocked and derided by those around us.
5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your anger on the nations
that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
that do not call upon your name!
7 For they have devoured Jacob
and laid waste his habitation.
8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
What I'm Reading
Deeds Over Creeds
By Gary L. W. Johnson 9/1/2009
The English Reformer Hugh Latimer once remarked, “We ought never to regard unity so much that we would or should forsake God’s Word for her sake.” Wise words from a man who went to the stake, rather than compromise the truth of the gospel.
To those whose only concern is the appearance of visible unity among all who call themselves Christians, Latimer’s resolve appears most unattractive. We are repeatedly told by those of this persuasion that the church’s major fault is its deplorable lack of visible unity. Appeal is constantly made to the words of Jesus in John 17, and those who do not join this effort are portrayed as being in serious disagreement with Jesus! This abominable lack of visible unity, they claim, is our greatest sin. And what is chiefly to be blamed for this heinous state of affairs? Doctrine — or to be more precise — doctrinal distinctives. Nowadays we are told that things like the Reformation’s understanding of sola fide, the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, and, particularly, the distasteful notion of endless punishment and the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone are an encumbrance to establishing visible Christian unity. But is this notion of visible unity what Jesus intended in His high priestly prayer in John 17? Our Lord’s concern, as Robert Lewis Dabney pointed out last century, is for spiritual unity. The demand for visible unity is not only quite foreign to the text, it constitutes, in the words of Dabney, an enormous blunder. It is, in fact, an idol that is used to stifle any legitimate dissent, and, let me add, it is positively deadly to the health and welfare of the church. I am reminded of the remark of Francis Bacon, the noted English philosopher and statesman of a bygone era: “Unity that is formed on expedience is, in reality, grounded upon an implicit ignorance. As everyone knows, all colors will look the same in the dark.” Times have changed and we are frequently reminded that we need to change with them. If we don’t, we’re going to be perceived as backward and outdated.
In our postmodern times, “tolerance” is valued over truth, and truth, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder and as such must be extended to everyone, except those disagreeable and critical exponents of truth who hold to absolutes, or, to put it into theological language, those who seek to maintain historical orthodoxy. Tragically, many professing evangelicals are embracing in celebratory fashion a distinctively non-doctrinal mentality when it comes to defining their faith. In part, this sad state of affairs is traceable to the gullible and blatantly naïve assumption that the surrounding culture is value-neutral and thus harmless. This manifests itself in the notion that since all things are primarily a matter of personal preferences (such as different lifestyles), then we should celebrate diversity by suspending judgment only to live and let live. Christians who end up buying into this idea fail to recognize that by doing so they are violating the apostle Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world.” Despite the fact that this kind of neutralism accents diversity, it does so in name only. Conformity is actually what drives it. The standard around which neutralism seeks conformity is human autonomy, pure and simple. Not surprisingly, this desire for conformity has a noticeable parallel in Christian circles — the demand for visible unity.
Recently, the motto “deeds over creeds” has once again captured the imagination of the evangelical world. As attractive as this may sound, there is a very steep price to be paid here. How so? According to this notion, it really doesn’t matter what your label is (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostal, or Baptist). All that matters, apparently, is one’s love for Jesus — everything else is of little concern. This is not the first time we’ve heard this appeal. Over a decade ago, the Promise Keepers marched down this same path. At its 1994 “Seize the Moment” conference in Portland, founder Bill McCartney said, “Promise Keepers doesn’t care if you’re Catholic. Do you love Jesus? Are you born of the Spirit of God?” One-time PK president Randy Phillips continues: “…whatever the labels are should not divide us. …all men are welcome, whether you’re Baptist, Pentecostal, or Roman Catholic. If you are in the body of Christ, then you should certainly be welcome” (Albert James Dager, Media Spotlight, “Promise Keepers: Is What You See What You Get?” p. 20). But it was not simply a question of labels. If that is the case, then the official position of the Church of Latter-day Saints should not be a concern. If individual Mormons claim they love Jesus and are born of the Spirit, why should they be excluded?
Many evanagelicals are now banging the same drum: deeds over creeds. But as it turns out, creeds really do matter. Any unity like the kind now being urged on us that is formed apart from creeds and the need for them, is doomed to produce the kind of unity that is polluted by doctrinal impurity. It is the kind of impurity that in the final analysis ends up compromising the truth of the gospel. This is too steep a price to be paid for the sake of visible unity.
Per Amazon | Gary L. W. Johnson is adjunct professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Suzanne, live in Arizona and have four children.
Gary L. W. Johnson Books:
The Coming Kingdom
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/1/2009
The world is full of hypocrites, and the solution to this problem is twofold: If you are more modern, you deal with the gap between your obedience and what you pretend to be by trying harder to be good. You try to make your sin go away. If you are postmodern, you deal with the problem not by trying to do better, by getting rid of your sin, but by getting rid of the idea of sin. If there is no right and wrong, no one can rightly accuse you of acting like you are right when you are actually wrong.
The church is likewise full of hypocrites. Because we claim to be citizens of heaven but are suffused with the world, our solutions often look just like the world’s solution. We either, if we tend toward the modern, try harder to sin less and thus shorten the gap between what we pretend to be and what we are. Or, if we tend to be more postmodern, we muddy up God’s law, revel in a soft grace, and accuse our conscience of being a legalist. The Bible’s solution, however, is neither to try to reduce the sin nor to reduce the idea of sin. It is instead to repent. We deal with our hypocrisy, our folly of pretending to be better than we are, by confessing how bad we actually are. We enter more fully into our sin by entering more fully into repentance.
Consider this: How quick are you to repent? If you’re anything like me, you’ve just this moment added several more things to repent of. First, pride. I suspect that you, if you are like me, think yourself a pretty decent repenter. You likely wish that others would learn from your wonderful example and do likewise. Indeed, now that I mention it, you can think of several people that owe you an apology, and aren’t you the one being so gracious about it up until now? Second, lying. I suspect that you, if you are like me, have in thinking all of the above lied to yourself in an egregious way. You are deluded, your delusions springing forth from your deceitful heart like so many dandelions on a spring day. Third, pride again. Here your pride is less about you and more about Jesus. That is, our failure to understand what failures we are is in turn a reflection on the work of Christ. We diminish His work on our behalf when we diminish the scope of our own sin. Fourth, unrepentance. That is, because, like me, you are a bigger sinner than you are willing to face; you have not repented for your sins like you ought. You have repented lightly for dark sins.
What should you do? You could get mad at me for pointing this all out. Or, you could repent. You could ask that God would forgive you for thinking too highly of yourself. You could ask that He would empower you to be swift to see your own sins and swift in turn to confess them both to Him and to those that you have wronged. You could ask that you might have earned the right to have etched on your gravestone: “He was quick to repent.” And you could thank God for His provision of His Son so that we can be forgiven. You could ask Him to gently remind you each time you find yourself unhappy about the sins of your family, your neighbors, your fellow parishioners from your church, your parents, your elders, and others that such would be a prompt to you to assess honestly your own weaknesses. That we are sinners is a problem solved by the coming of Jesus the Savior. That we don’t know we are sinners — that is a problem for the Holy Spirit, who convicts and sanctifies.
The answer to every problem, no matter how complex, is simple — repent and believe the gospel. As frustrating as our own blindness might be, the light has come into the world. As maddening as our weaknesses might be, the Sovereign One has come and dwelt among us. As embarrassing as our pride might be, the one who is poor in Spirit has sent the Spirit to lead us into all truth, including the ugly truth about ourselves.
As we consider our calling to seek first the kingdom of God — as we consider how we might make known the reign of Christ — we are quick to judge the world. The coming months are likely to bring more political unrest. Were I a betting man, I would guess in turn that economic hardship will get worse rather than better. We can expect to see more cultural decline. All of which will be for nothing if we do not learn the first lesson — repent and believe. Before we take over the levers of power, before we dominion our way back to prosperity, before we press the crown rights of King Jesus over the culture, may we remember the crown of thorns and repent. And when we have repented, let us repent again for the anemia of our repentance. Then, let us believe that He is at work in us both to do and to will His good pleasure. And all these things will be added unto us.
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
Playing Your Part
By Gene Edward Veith 10/1/2009
As seen in other articles this month, the word hypocrisy derives from the Greek term for “playing a part.” The ordinary word for an actor on the stage in Greek drama was hypocrite. In the tragedies of Sophocles or the comedies of Aristophanes, the actors — the hypocrites — played their different parts by wearing masks. The moral transgression of hypocrisy also involves playing a part and wearing a mask. But there are also times when God calls us to play a part.
Today’s culture is tolerant of almost every behavior, except hypocrisy. Our society has no problem with someone who is homosexual or who uses pornography. But if a crusader against legalizing gay marriage turns out to be homosexual, or if a minister who preaches against pornography turns out to have porn on his computer, the full weight of ridicule, indignation, and social disapproval falls upon his head. Not for his vices, but for opposing the vices that he himself has. For wearing a mask of virtue when he himself is not virtuous. For being a hypocrite.
Christians need to expect this treatment. Hypocrisy is certainly wrong. But inconsistency between belief and behavior is not always hypocrisy. No one hates a sin more than someone who is honestly struggling with it in his own life.
Many Pharisees in the New Testament and the legalists of our own day consider themselves to be such good people that they do not need God’s forgiveness. But they do. Christians who are honest with themselves and with God — who, whatever their sins, are not hypocrites — may still be asked to “play a part.”
God redeems people through Christ, and then He calls them to live out their faith in their vocations. He calls Christians to love and serve their neighbors in their multiple vocations, which are the arenas for sanctification and Christian growth.
In vocation, God places us into certain “offices,” some of which share His authority. Some of these demand that we “play a part,” even putting on a mask. This is expressed in the ages-old custom that certain vocations be marked with special clothing. As a private citizen, a judge has no more right to send a person to prison than anyone else. But when he puts on his “robe of office,” he is acting in his official capacity as an agent of the law, and, according to Romans 13, of God Himself. Acting by virtue of his “office,” he does indeed have the authority to punish criminals on behalf of the state as a whole.
In many churches, a pastor wears a robe of some kind, signifying that when he is up in the pulpit, we in the pews should not consider him our good friend and fishing buddy, though he may be that. When he is acting in his office, he is teaching us not his word but God’s Word, which he has studied and is authorized to teach.
There was a study of patients who were attended to by a doctor who wore jeans and a t-shirt, rather than the traditional white lab coat. Patients universally objected! No one wants someone who looks like an ordinary man off the street to give them a medical examination. That white lab coat, though, is a symbol of vocation, that the doctor is authorized to poke around our bodies by virtue of his calling, his training, and his office.
This is why police officers wear uniforms. And why there are different standards in the Geneva Conventions for soldiers who wear the uniform of their country — and thus fall under a lawful chain of command that goes back to the Romans 13 authority of the lawful magistrate — and combatants such as terrorists who fight only on their own authority and who wear no uniform.
Sometimes the duties of our vocations — not all of which have uniforms — require us to fulfill an office, even if it goes against our nature. A father may have to discipline his child. He may not want to. He may even feel conflicted because he pulled the same stunt when he was his child’s age. A father who used marijuana as a teenager is not being hypocritical when he punishes his teenager for using drugs. He is fulfilling his office as father.
Against their inclinations but to carry out the duties of their offices, teachers sometimes have to give bad grades; employers must sometimes fire incompetent employees; pastors must sometimes exercise church discipline, even against a friend. A newly minted young officer fresh out of ROTC must assume authority over a company of rough combat veterans who are older than he is. He may be nervous and may feel out of place, but he puts on the mask of command and orders his troops to attention. Spouses may not always feel like loving husbands and loving wives, but in “playing their part” they fulfill their vocations and God’s will for their marriage.
If vocation requires us to put on masks, it is worth remembering that Luther taught that those who love and serve their neighbors in vocation are themselves “masks of God.” Looming behind the farmer, the doctor, the soldier, the pastor, and the parent is God Himself providing daily bread, healing, protecting, ministering, and giving life.
The parts we play may indeed be hypocritical. But when God asks us to play a part, He is also playing a part through us.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
No Sacrifice Too Great
By Michael Haykin 9/1/2009
In the final letter that we have from the apostle Paul, written in a lonely prison cell in Rome while he was expecting death for the sake of the gospel, he reminded his closest friend Timothy of the utter necessity of passing on the faith to “faithful men” (2 Tim. 2:2). It bears noting that what Paul envisaged in these words was not simply doctrinal instruction in the essentials of Christianity. Of course, Paul expected the training of future leaders to involve the handing on of doctrine. But, as is clear from a later statement by Paul in this letter, such transmission of the faith also involved the development of lifelong convictions and goals and the nurture of character — making the leader a person of love, patience, and steadfastness (3:10). Timothy knew exactly what Paul was talking about, for this was the very way the apostle had mentored Timothy.
Timothy had joined Paul’s apostolic band early on in what is termed Paul’s second missionary journey, that is, around 48 or 49 AD (Acts 16:1–3). As he traveled with Paul he saw firsthand what Paul later called his doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, and afflictions (2 Tim. 3:10–11). Timothy grew to know and embrace Paul’s theology and doctrinal convictions. He learned that at the heart of all genuinely Christian theology is God: the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. He came to be grounded in the fact that the gospel is centered on the death and resurrection of Christ, the only way that men and women can come into a true and eternally beneficent relationship with this God, the creator of all that exists.
But Timothy also came to follow the way Paul lived, how he made decisions and determined the best use of his time. He learned Paul’s purpose for living, namely, the glorification of God and of His Son, Christ Jesus. Timothy absorbed Paul’s love for the church and compassion for those who were held in the darkness of sin. And he saw the way that Paul responded with patience and perseverance to difficulties and the fact that the apostle did not waver in his commitment to Christ despite persecution and affliction. In short, as Paul and Timothy spent this large amount of time together, Timothy’s soul began to mirror that of Paul, and his mind became increasingly attuned to the wavelengths of the apostle’s thinking (Phil. 2:19–22). This is mentoring.
Here is a pattern of pastoral training that must again shape the way that teaching takes place in our seminaries. The necessity of training the mind naturally requires academic excellence. But as seminary professors, our task is not finished when we walk out of the classroom. We need to get to know our students — their joys and heartaches, their hopes, aspirations, and concerns. They need to get to know us — our goals in life, our passions, and even our weaknesses. And this can only be done, if we, like Paul with Timothy, walk with them and they with us. This sort of theological education demands a transparency of soul and a knitting together of hearts, as well as the kindling of flame in the mind. In a very real sense, this sort of theological education and mentoring is patterned on the incarnation.
The great challenge, of course, in this way of incarnational mentoring is that it takes time. For many professors, time seems to be such a scarce commodity. I vividly recall some thirty years ago when I was doing doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, being told by Dr. Richard Longenecker, then my New Testament professor and in some ways a mentor to me, that if I thought I was busy in the doctoral program, just wait until I was teaching. I didn’t believe him, but he was right. Most seminary professors are busy men: teaching in seminary and in the church, as well as seeking to maintain an academic career and be fathers and husbands, sons, and friends. Where will we ever find the time to mentor as Paul did?
Three years before Basil Manly Jr., one of the four founding faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, committed himself to the task of being a seminary professor in 1859, he stated that the “cause of theological education is one dearer to me than almost any other and I esteem no sacrifice too great for its promotion.” The sacrifices that especially he, James Petigru Boyce, and John Broadus were called upon to make for this seminary are well-known. Most seminary professors today are not called to walk such a road of sacrifice as those men were, but I am convinced that something of the spirit that animated Manly’s words must grip us.
Today, more than in the past, we are aware of the very real danger of our ministries crowding out other areas of vital importance — our devotion to wife and children, for example. Thus, while we cannot echo Manly’s sentiments without some qualification, we can nevertheless affirm the key point he was seeking to make. Leadership in the church is so important that we should be prepared to go to great lengths to see future leaders of the church trained. And that training, if it is to be biblical, must involve mentoring à la Paul! This will, of necessity, take time. But, from the point of view of eternity, it will be time well spent.
Dr. Michael Haykin is professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Michael Haykin Books:
- 1 Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church
- 2 Eight Women of Faith
- 3 Owen on the Christian Life: Living for the Glory of God in Christ
- 4 To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin's Missional Vision and Legacy
- 5 Warfield on the Christian Life (Redesign): Living in Light of the Gospel
- 6 The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers
- 7 The Reformers and Puritans as Spiritual Mentors: Hope Is Kindled (Christian Mentor)
- 8 Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church by Michael A. G. Haykin (2011-03-02)
- 9 The Spirit of God: The Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae) by Michael A G Haykin (1994-08-01)
- 10 William E. Payne: A Memoir
Is the Church Full of Hypocrites?
By R.C. Sproul 10/1/2009
About thirty years ago, my close friend and colleague, Archie Parrish, who at that time led the Evangelism Explosion (EE) program in Fort Lauderdale, came to me with a request. He indicated that on the thousands of evangelistic visits the EE teams made, they kept a record of responses people made to discussions of the gospel. They collated the most frequent questions and objections people raised about the Christian faith and grouped these inquiries or objections into the ten most frequently encountered. Dr. Parrish asked if I would write a book answering those objections for evangelists to use in their outreach. That effort resulted in my book Objections Answered, now called Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity. Among the top ten objections raised was the objection that the church is filled with hypocrites. At that point in time, Dr. D. James Kennedy responded to this objection by replying, “Well, there’s always room for one more.” He cautioned people that if they found a perfect church, they ought not to join it, since that would ruin it.
The term hypocrite came from the world of Greek drama. It was used to describe the masks that the players used to dramatize certain roles. Even today, the theatre is symbolized by the twin masks of comedy and tragedy. In antiquity, certain players played more than one role, and they indicated their role by holding a mask in front of their face. That’s the origin of the concept of hypocrisy.
But the charge that the church is full of hypocrites is manifestly false. Though no Christian achieves the full measure of sanctification in this life, that we all struggle with ongoing sin does not justly yield the verdict of hypocrisy. A hypocrite is someone who does things he claims he does not do. Outside observers of the Christian church see people who profess to be Christians and observe that they sin. Since they see sin in the lives of Christians, they rush to the judgment that therefore these people are hypocrites. If a person claims to be without sin and then demonstrates sin, surely that person is a hypocrite. But for a Christian simply to demonstrate that he is a sinner does not convict him of hypocrisy.
The inverted logic goes something like this: All hypocrites are sinners. John is a sinner; therefore, John is a hypocrite. Anyone who knows the laws of logic knows that this syllogism is not valid. If we would simply change the charge from “the church is full of hypocrites” to “the church is full of sinners,” we would be quick to plead guilty. The church is the only institution I know of that requires an admission of being a sinner in order to be a member. The church is filled with sinners because the church is the place where sinners who confess their sins come to find redemption from their sins. So in this sense, simply because the church is filled with sinners does not justify the conclusion that the church is filled with hypocrites. Again, all hypocrisy is sin, but not all sin is the sin of hypocrisy.
When we look at the problem of hypocrisy in the New Testament era, we see it most clearly displayed in the lives of those who claimed to be the most righteous. The Pharisees were a group of people who by definition saw themselves as separated from the normal sinfulness of the masses. They began well, seeking a life of devoted godliness and submission to the law of God. However, when their behavior failed to reach their ideals, they began to engage in pretense. They pretended they were more righteous than they were. They gave an outward facade of righteousness, which merely served to conceal a radical corruption in their lives.
Though the church is not filled with hypocrites, there is no denying that hypocrisy is a sin that is not limited or restricted to New Testament Pharisees. It is a sin with which Christians must grapple. A high standard of spiritual and righteous behavior has been set for the church. We often are embarrassed by our failures to reach these high goals and are inclined to pretend that we have reached a higher plateau of righteousness than we’ve actually attained. When we do that, we put on the mask of the hypocrite and come under the judgment of God for that particular sin. When we find ourselves enmeshed in this type of pretense, an alarm bell should go off in our brains that we need to rush back to the cross and to Christ and to understand where our true righteousness resides. We have to find in Christ, not a mask that conceals our face, but an entire wardrobe of clothing, which is His righteousness. Indeed, it is only under the guise of the righteousness of Christ, received by faith, that any of us can ever have a hope of standing before a holy God. To wear the garments of Christ in faith is not an act of hypocrisy. It is an act of redemption.
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
Marriage Has Not Evolved...Until Now
By Sean McDowell 3/7/2017
One of the most common reasons give in favor of supporting same-sex marriage is the claim that marriage has evolved over time. In his majority ruling for the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:
“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.”
He argues that expanding marriage to include same-sex couples is the next logical evolutionary step. In support of this claim, Kennedy cites how marriage was once viewed as an arrangement and then became a voluntary contract between a man and a woman. And he also notes that the state used to legally consider marriage a male-dominated institution. As a result, he concludes:
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 69Save Me, O God
69 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. Of David.
7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that dishonor has covered my face.
8 I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother’s sons.
9 For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
10 When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting,
it became my reproach.
11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
12 I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
14 Deliver me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
15 Let not the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the pit close its mouth over me.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
There are two parts of this chapter,--I. Dissertation on the two ends of Baptism, sec. 1-13. II. The second part may be reduced to four heads. Of the use of Baptism, sec. 14, 15. Of the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister, sec. 16-18. Of the corruptions by which this sacrament was polluted, sec. 19. To whom reference is had in the dispensation, sec. 20-22.
1. Baptism defined. Its primary object. This consists of three things. 1. To attest the forgiveness of sins.
2. Passages of Scripture proving the forgiveness of sins.
3. Forgiveness not only of past but also of future sins. This no encouragement to license in sin.
4 Refutation of those who share forgiveness between Baptism and Repentance.
5 Second thing in Baptism--viz. to teach that we are ingrafted into Christ for mortification and newness of life.
6. Third thing in Baptism--viz. to teach us that we are united to Christ so as to be partakers of all his blessings. Second and third things conspicuous in the baptism both of John and the apostles.
7. Identity of the baptism of John and the apostles.
8. An objection to this refuted.
9. The benefits of baptism typified to the Israelites by the passage of the Red Sea and the pillar of cloud.
10. Objection of those who imagine that there is some kind of perfect renovation after baptism. Original depravity remains after baptism. Its existence in infants. The elect after baptism are righteous in this life only by imputation.
11. Original corruption trying to the pious during the whole course of their lives. They do not, on this account, seek a licence for sin. They rather walk more cautiously and safely in the ways of the Lord.
12. The trouble occasioned by corruption, shown by the example and testimony of the Apostle Paul.
13. Another end of baptism is to serve as our confession to men.
14. Second part of the chapter. Of baptism as a confirmation of our faith.
15. This illustrated by the examples of Cornelius and Paul. Of the use of baptism as a confession of faith.
16. Baptism not affected by the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister. Hence no necessity to rebaptise those who were baptised under the Papacy.
17. Nothing in the argument that those so baptised remained some years blind and unbelieving. The promise of God remains firm. God, in inviting the Jews to repentance, does not enjoin them to be again circumcised.
18. No ground to allege that Paul rebaptised certain of John's disciples. The baptism of John. What it is to be baptised in the name of Christ.
19. The corruptions introduced into baptism. The form of pure Christian baptism. Immersion or sprinkling should be left free.
20. To whom the dispensation of baptism belongs. Not to private individuals or women, but to the ministers of the Church. Origin of the baptism of private individuals and women. An argument in favour of it refuted.
21. Exploded also by Tertullian and Epiphanius.
22. Objection founded on the case of Zipporah. Answer. Children dying before baptism not excluded from heaven, provided the want of it was not caused by negligence or contempt.
1. Baptism is the initiatory sign by which we are admitted to the fellowship of the Church, that being ingrafted into Christ we may be accounted children of God. Moreover, the end for which God has given it (this I have shown to be common to all mysteries) is, first, that it may be conducive to our faith in him; and, secondly, that it may serve the purpose of a confession among men. The nature of both institutions we shall explain in order. Baptism contributes to our faith three things, which require to be treated separately. The first object, therefore, for which it is appointed by the Lord, is to be a sign and evidence of our purification, or (better to explain my meaning) it is a kind of sealed instrument by which he assures us that all our sins are so deleted, covered, and effaced, that they will never come into his sight, never be mentioned, never imputed. For it is his will that all who have believed, be baptised for the remission of sins. Hence those who have thought that baptism is nothing else than the badge and mark by which we profess our religion before men, in the same way as soldiers attest their profession by bearing the insignia of their commander, having not attended to what was the principal thing in baptism; and this is, that we are to receive it in connection with the promise, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).
2. In this sense is to be understood the statement of Paul, that "Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:25, 26); and again, "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). Peter also says that "baptism also doth now save us" (1 Peter 3:21). For he did not mean to intimate that our ablution and salvation are perfected by water, or that water possesses in itself the virtue of purifying, regenerating, and renewing; nor does he mean that it is the cause of salvation, but only that the knowledge and certainty of such gifts are perceived in this sacrament. This the words themselves evidently show. For Paul connects together the word of life and baptism of water, as if he had said, by the gospel the message of our ablution and sanctification is announced; by baptism this message is sealed. And Peter immediately subjoins, that that baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, which is of faith." Nay, the only purification which baptism promises is by means of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, who is figured by water from the resemblance to cleansing and washing. Who, then, can say that we are cleansed by that water which certainly attests that the blood of Christ is our true and only laver? So that we cannot have a better argument to refute the hallucination of those who ascribe the whole to the virtue of water than we derive from the very meaning of baptism, which leads us away as well from the visible element which is presented to our eye, as from all other means, that it may fix our minds on Christ alone.
3. Nor is it to be supposed that baptism is bestowed only with reference to the past, so that, in regard to new lapses into which we fall after baptism, we must seek new remedies of expiation in other so-called sacraments, just as if the power of baptism had become obsolete. To this error, in ancient times, it was owing that some refused to be initiated by baptism until their life was in extreme danger, and they were drawing their last breath, that they might thus obtain pardon for all the past. Against this preposterous precaution ancient bishops frequently inveigh in their writings. We ought to consider that at whatever time we are baptised, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life. Wherefore, as often as we fall, we must recall the remembrance of our baptism, and thus fortify our minds, so as to feel certain and secure of the remission of sins. For though, when once administered, it seems to have passed, it is not abolished by subsequent sins. For the purity of Christ was therein offered to us, always is in force, and is not destroyed by any stain: it wipes and washes away all our defilements. Nor must we hence assume a licence of sinning for the future (there is certainly nothing in it to countenance such audacity), but this doctrine is intended only for those who, when they have sinned, groan under their sins burdened and oppressed, that they may have wherewith to support and console themselves, and not rush headlong into despair. Thus Paul says that Christ was made a propitiation for us for the remission of sins that are past (Rom. 3:25). By this he denies not that constant and perpetual forgiveness of sins is thereby obtained even till death: he only intimates that it is designed by the Father for those poor sinners who, wounded by remorse of conscience, sigh for the physician. To these the mercy of God is offered. Those who, from hopes of impunity, seek a licence for sin, only provoke the wrath and justice of God.
4. I know it is a common belief that forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone, is after baptism procured by means of penitence and the keys (see chap. 19 sec. 17). But those who entertain this fiction err from not considering that the power of the keys, of which they speak, so depends on baptism, that it ought not on any account to be separated from it. The sinner receives forgiveness by the ministry of the Church; in other words, not without the preaching of the gospel. And of what nature is this preaching? That we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ. And what is the sign and evidence of that washing if it be not baptism? We see, then, that that forgiveness has reference to baptism. This error had its origin in the fictitious sacrament of penance, on which I have already touched. What remains will be said at the proper place. There is no wonder if men who, from the grossness of their minds, are excessively attached to external things, have here also betrayed the defect,--if not contented with the pure institution of God, they have introduced new helps devised by themselves, as if baptism were not itself a sacrament of penance. But if repentance is recommended during the whole of life, the power of baptism ought to have the same extent. Wherefore, there can be no doubt that all the godly may, during the whole course of their lives, whenever they are vexed by a consciousness of their sins, recall the remembrance of their baptism, that they may thereby assure themselves of that sole and perpetual ablution which we have in the blood of Christ.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood…
By Lydia McGrew
There is a striking similarity between the language Jesus uses concerning eating his flesh and drinking his blood in what is known as the bread of life discourse, found only in John 6, and in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels but not in John.
(Jn 6:53–56) 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. ESV
Compare this passage to, for example, the words of institution in the Gospel of Luke:
(Lk 22:19–20) 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. ESV
Mark and Matthew also refer to eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood in parallel passages (Mark 14.22– 24 and Matt 26.26– 29).
(Mk 14:22–24) 22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. ESV
(Mt 26:26–29) 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” ESV
There is a well-known tradition of interpretation that insists that John 6 is absolutely not about Communion in any sense at all but only about believing in Jesus by faith, whether or not in connection with receiving Communion. Perhaps the most famous proponent of this view was Martin Luther, 6 who insisted that “the sixth chapter of John does not refer at all to the Supper.” 7 Luther, as it happens, was a sacramentalist, holding to consubstantiation (the view that in some sense the body and blood of Jesus are “in, with, and under” the elements of bread and wine in Communion), but many non-sacramentalists have, quite understandably, adopted Luther’s interpretation of John 6 as having nothing whatsoever to do with Communion.
I should admit frankly that this insistence that Jesus’ words in John 6 do not have anything to do with the Lord’s Supper seems to me extreme and implausible. Assuming that Jesus spoke the words in John 6 at all (a point to which I will return shortly), it would seem that such an insistence means that the exact similarity of the wording between the passages is at most the result of Jesus’ general fondness for the metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Moreover, this view would seem to mean that in John 6 the metaphor refers to believing in him by faith at any time and in any context but that in the words of institution it refers more specifically to believing on him and remembering his death when one partakes of Communion. Despite the similarity of wording, the disciples, apparently, were not expected to recognize his words at the institution as connected in any special way to the discourse which made such a stir, recorded in John 6, but were to have understood both teachings merely to use a striking and even disturbing metaphor for faith in Jesus in some context or another. All of this seems to me quite strained, perhaps motivated in part by the idea that Jesus could not have been speaking in John 6 about a rite that he had not yet instituted. My own interpretive conclusions notwithstanding, however, the claim that John 6 is not at all about Communion cannot be entirely set aside, if for no other reason than that (I suspect) a fair number of the readers of this book accept that interpretation.
Alternatively, one can hold that Jesus was speaking of the Lord’s Supper in John 6, not in the sense that the crowds were expected to understand this at that time by his teaching, but in the sense that he was alluding cryptically to something that he would make clearer later to those who continued to follow him. This sort of veiled allusion would hardly be uncharacteristic of Jesus’ teaching as we find it elsewhere. For example, his words to Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit in John 3 would not have been clear to Nicodemus at the time but would have become much clearer in the light of Pentecost. The statement, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up” recorded in John 2.19 is glossed by John, in hindsight, as referring to the resurrection, but Jesus himself apparently did not explain it at the time.
If one takes Jesus to be teaching in John 6 in anticipation of his own later institution of the Lord’s Supper, there is a further division that can be made: One can hold a memorialist view and take it that Jesus was alluding in advance to the Lord’s Supper and that the disciples would have understood only later that he was urging the importance of remembering his death by means of that commanded rite. Or one can hold some version of sacramentalism, whether it be transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or a spiritual Real Presence view.
What does all of this have to do with undesigned coincidences? Can one agree that there is an undesigned coincidence between John 6 and the words of institution if one holds Luther’s view on the interpretation of John 6?
If one holds that Jesus was foreshadowing the Lord’s Supper in John 6, regardless of whether or not one holds a sacramental view of Communion, one can view the similarity of language (rightly, I believe) as a straightforward, familiar type of undesigned coincidence between the passages. The passage in John 6 raises the question, “Why did Jesus talk to the people about such an odd thing as eating his flesh and drinking his blood?” and this question is answered by the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The institution is recorded only in the Synoptics, and Jesus’ discourse on himself as the bread of life and on the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood is recorded only in John. The answer to the question is that he spoke this way in John 6 in anticipation of instituting the Lord’s Supper at the end of his ministry, expecting his followers to put it all together later if they persevered in discipleship (as contrasted with those who fell away in John 6.66– 67). This is the kind of undesigned coincidence we have seen already, in which a question is raised by one Gospel and the answer found only in one or more of the other Gospels. Such a coincidence confirms both accounts by means of the fit between question and answer.
But what if one is insistent that John 6 is not about the Lord’s Supper at all? In that case, the following argument still applies: Suppose, hypothetically, that Jesus did not give the bread of life discourse at all. Suppose, for example, that John made it up and inserted it into the Gospel for theological reasons. In that case, where did he get the language about eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood? Even someone who thinks that there is no actual teaching about Communion in the passage should recognize that, if the passage were not genuine, the language put into Jesus’ mouth almost certainly would have been borrowed from the words of institution in the Synoptic Gospels. But in that case, a critic who denies the authenticity of the discourse in John 6 faces a conundrum. Why did John not include the institution of Communion in his own Gospel? Why does he leave the odd and difficult bread of life discourse dangling, using eucharistic-sounding language but without making any connection to the very passage from which he borrowed that language? Indeed, even if John had included the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the connection would be inexplicit, as the two passages would come far apart in the Gospel without any obvious connection. One might have expected even more than mere inclusion of the Lord’s Supper if the bread of life discourse is an invention. Just as John pauses to inform the reader that Jesus spoke of the temple of his body in John 2, one might expect John to pause after noting the disgust and puzzlement of the crowd in John 6 and gloss Jesus’ words as referring to his body given in the Lord’s Supper. 8 That, at any rate, would not be an unreasonable expectation if he had gone to the trouble to invent the discourse. But at least we would expect that he would include the institution of the Lord’s Supper itself. This is all the more likely since the purpose of such an invention of the discourse would presumably be theological, but including the words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood without any connection to the Supper or to any other passage on the same theme does little to serve a theological agenda.
Here it should be noted that the argument from undesigned coincidences often gives us evidence that the Gospel writers saw themselves first and foremost as witnesses to the deeds and words of Jesus Christ, not primarily as authors of literary and/ or theologically sculpted works. Those two roles are not necessarily in conflict, so long as the author of the literary or theological work is always scrupulous about his role as a witness— for example, so long as he does not ever “make” things happen in a way contrary to the way that, to the best of his knowledge, they actually happened. But it is particularly noticeable that the Gospel authors often seem to write with the lack of affectation that we find in a person whose primary purpose is getting important information out there, getting down what happened, making it available, rather than in one whose primary purpose is to fit together what he writes in a polished manner. The author of the Gospel of John is certainly theological, perhaps more so than any of the other Gospel writers. But again and again we find him including items in his Gospel without their full explanations, apparently just because he wanted his readers to know that they happened. That sort of approach on John’s part is a perfectly good explanation of the presence of the John 6 discourse and the absence of the account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in John. The fact that we find John apparently doing this type of thing repeatedly argues for the priorities of the witness rather than the priorities of the theologian or literary craftsman, and it fits well with statements within the Gospel itself, most notably John 19.35: “He who saw it has borne witness— his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth— that you also may believe.”
One does not need to hold that Jesus’ words in John 6, taken as genuine, are actually about the Lord’s Supper to see the force of this argument. If John had faked the discourse, it is highly unlikely that he would not include the institution. Since he does not include the institution but does include the discourse, leaving it as a puzzle over which theologians have argued down the ages, the better explanation is that he includes the discourse because it actually happened and because he knows that it actually happened and wants to tell about it. He doesn’t include the Lord’s Supper when he tells about the Last Supper because he has other things he wants to include at that point in his Gospel instead that are not found in the Synoptic Gospels— things like Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet (John 13), the high priestly prayer (John 17), and several chapters of additional teachings of Jesus found only in John’s account of Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Since his purpose is to be a witness to Jesus more than the crafter of a unified theological and literary work of art, and since he is in all events testifying to what he knows is true, he does not worry about the fact that the bread of life discourse with its surprising language is not particularly connected to anything else in his own Gospel.
If you take the discourse in John 6 to be about the Lord’s Supper, you will take the undesigned coincidence to be of one kind: What lies behind both it and the words of institution is the reality that Jesus said both of them and that Jesus wanted in both of them to teach about the Lord’s Supper. On the other hand, if you take the discourse in John 6 to be about believing on Jesus and not about the Lord’s Supper at all, you will take the undesigned coincidence to be of a somewhat different kind: On that view, the coincidence of language is explained by Jesus’ preference for that particular metaphor, which he used in both places as a way of teaching about believing in him in various contexts.
In either case, the coincidence supports the reliability of John in his unique material.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
1. The Word of Forgiveness
A.W. Pink from The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
2. Here we see Christ identified with his people.
"Father, forgive them." On no previous occasion did Christ make such a request of the Father. Never before had he invoked the Father’s forgiveness of others. Hitherto he forgave himself. To the man sick of the palsy he had said, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee" (Matthew 9:2). To the woman who washed his feet with her tears in the house of Simon, he said, "Thy sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:48). Why then should he now ask the Father to forgive, instead of directly pronouncing forgiveness himself?
Forgiveness of sin is a divine prerogative. The Jewish scribes were right when they reasoned "Who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7). But you say, Christ was God. Truly; but man also - the God-man. He was the Son of God that had become the Son of Man with the express purpose of offering himself as a sacrifice for sin. And when the Lord Jesus cried "Father, forgive them" he was on the cross, and there he might not exercise his divine prerogatives. Mark carefully his own words, and then behold the marvellous accuracy of scripture. He had said, "The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins" (Matthew 9:6). But he was no longer on earth! He had been "lifted up from the earth" (John 12:32)! Moreover, on the cross he was acting as our substitute; the just was about to die for the unjust. Hence it was that hanging there as our representative, he was no longer in the place of authority where he might exercise his own divine prerogatives, therefore takes he the position of a suppliant before the Father. Thus we say that when the blessed Lord Jesus cried, "Father, forgive them", we see him absolutely identified with his people. No longer was he in the position "on earth" where he had the "power" or "right" to forgive sins; instead, he intercedes for sinners - as we must.
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
3. Here we see the divine estimate of sin and its consequent guilt.
Under the Levitical economy God required that atonement should be made for sins of ignorance.
"If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the Lord; then he shall bring for his trespass unto the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for a trespass offering: And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him" (Lev. 5:15, 16).
And again we read:
"And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses, even all that the Lord hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the Lord commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations; Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the Lord, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their ignorance" (Num. 15: 22-25).
It is in view of such scriptures as these that we find David prayed, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults" (Ps. 19:12).
Sin is always sin in the sight of God whether we are conscious of it or not. Sins of ignorance need atonement just as truly as do conscious sins. God is holy, and he will not lower his standard of righteousness to the level of our ignorance. Ignorance is not innocence. As a matter of fact, ignorance is more culpable now than it was in the days of Moses. We have no excuse for our ignorance. God has clearly and fully revealed his will. The Bible is in our hands, and we cannot plead ignorance of its contents except to condemn our laziness. God has spoken and by his word we shall be judged.
And yet the fact remains that we are ignorant of many things, and the fault and blame are ours. And this does not minimize the enormity of our guilt. Sins of ignorance need the divine forgiveness as our Lord’s prayer here plainly shows. Learn then how high is God’s standard, how great is our need, and praise him for an atonement of infinite sufficiency, which cleanseth from all sin.
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
11/1/2012 | No Other Gospel
When you enter the sanctuary of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, you cannot help but notice the majestic pulpit that rises from the chancel and towers above the congregation. Although the pulpit is relatively plain in its structure and design, there is one unique feature to the pulpit that is noticed only upon a closer look. In the very center is an ornately carved emblem of a cross surrounded by rose petals. The emblem is a replica of the Luther Rose—the crest of the sixteenth-century Reformer Martin Luther. Luther designed the crest to teach the gospel to others, particularly the illiterate and children. The focal point of the Luther Rose draws our eyes to the central tenet of Luther’s theology—the cross.
The cross is set against the backdrop of a heart to remind us that we must believe in Christ with our hearts, which God graciously makes alive by the Holy Spirit. Rose petals surround the heart and the cross to highlight that faith in Christ results in joy, comfort, and peace on account of the finished work of Christ. The rose petals are fixed in a sky of blue to symbolize that our joy in the Holy Spirit by faith is our present hope of the future heavenly joy awaiting us. On the outer edge of the Luther Rose, encompassing the entire emblem, is a gold ring symbolizing the heavenly riches awaiting us in the eternal glory of heaven.
Just as the Luther Rose on the front of the pulpit at Saint Andrew’s Chapel is not intended to draw eyes to Luther but to the gospel he preached, so the height of the pulpit is not intended to elevate the man in the pulpit but the gospel he preaches. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God and the only way to God, and, in the providence of God, this is the truth that ignited Luther and set the world ablaze in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. The Reformers did not teach anything new but sought to recover biblical truth and restore the church to her biblical foundations. The five solas (sola is Latin for “alone”) that emerged from the Reformation capture the heart of the Reformation and the heart of the gospel.
At the time of the Reformation, the word sola became a necessary qualifier in order to guard the simple truths that Scripture is our only infallible authority for faith and life, and that we are justified, or declared righteous, by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, and all for the glory of God alone. And, make no mistake, we are not justified by believing the solas but by believing in Christ, and we guard these solas not merely for the sake of an event that took place five hundred years ago in Europe, but for the sake of the event that took place two thousand years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem.
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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
The Constitutional Convention was in a heated deadlock over how both large and small states could be represented equally. Some delegates even left, giving up hope. Then, on this day, June 28, 1787, the 81 year-old Benjamin Franklin spoke, and shortly after the U.S. Constitution became a reality. As recorded by James Madison, Franklin stated: “In the… Contest with Great Britain… we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. - Our prayers, Sir, were heard, &… graciously answered…. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
or let God.
--- Author Unknown
Finding God's Will: Seek Him, Know Him, Take the Next Step
I could not say I believe.
I have had the experience
of being gripped by something
that is stronger than myself,
something that people call God.
--- Carl Jung
Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. (From Vol. 8. of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung) (Jung Extracts)
Love is Silence—when your words would hurt.
Love is Patience—when your neighbor’s curt.
Love is Deafness—when a scandal flows.
Love is Thoughtfulness—for others’ woes.
Love is Promptness—when stern duty calls.
Love is Courage—when misfortune falls.
A Song for All Seasons: 25 Hymn Stories Honoring God, Home, and Country
To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world.
Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 15 / Does God Need Our Love?
The Kabbalists too (especially R. Isaac Luria, “the Ari”), no doubt motivated by the conviction that prayer too often is self-serving and egotistical, teach that prayer intended to fulfill our own needs represents a roundabout expression of human sympathy for God. Prayer, after all, should be theocentric, not anthropocentric: just as God suffers for us as He identifies with our pain, so we identify sympathetically with His pain and pray for His relief (thus avoiding the embarrassment of appearing to pray for our own petty needs).
Even in contemporary literature, this concept has at times appeared in interesting form. Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Israel’s late Nobel laureate, composed a moving reshut or introductory petition to the Kaddish, recited by the mourner (as well as several times during formal public worship). The Kaddish begins with the famous words, Yitgadal ve’yitkadash shemeih rabbah, “May His great Name be magnified and sanctified.” Because it makes no mention of death, the connection between this prayer and mourning has always been puzzling. Agnon’s reshut provides an explanation. It speaks of the difference between a mortal king and the divine King of all the world. A mortal king, when he goes into battle, is concerned with the overall direction of the war, whether he is winning or losing. He is indifferent to the lives of individual soldiers; they are, basically, mere cannon fodder. The divine King, however, cherishes the life of each and every one of His “soldiers” and considers the death of even a single one a defeat that diminishes His greatness and desecrates His holy Name. Thus, when a human being dies, God has lost a soldier in His divine hosts, and God’s Name thereby suffers diminution and desecration. We therefore console God, as it were, by praying for the restoration of His greatness—“May His great Name be magnified”—and the sanctification of His Name—“and sanctified.” For Agnon, the Kaddish is our way of consoling the divine Mourner and expressing our sympathy for Him. (5)
(5) See my article on “Kiddush Hashem” in the Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. X, pp. 978–82 for references.
Sympathy, even pity, for God not only finds literary expression but crops up in “real life” as well. The venerable late Mizrahi leader, Shlomo Zalman Shragai, relates in his autobiography (6) an event that touchingly illustrates this capacity for showing sympathy, even pity, for the Creator. Shortly after the Holocaust, Shragai left Warsaw by train and was asked by a friend to look after his elderly father, who was taking the same overnight train to Paris. The elderly gentleman was white, pale, nervous, and deeply melancholy. He refused to answer any of Shragai’s questions, keeping silently to himself. After awhile, the old man asked him for help in opening his valise. Inside, Shragai noticed a shofar, some personal articles, and his tallit and tefillin. Much later, after longer periods of silence, the old man began talking to Shragai. He revealed that he was a Hasid of the Rebbe of Belz from Galicia and had himself suffered horrendously under Hitler. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and resumed his silence. At dawn, after a fitful sleep, Shragai put on his tallit and tefillin, but the old man did not. The silence continued for several hours into the afternoon, until the old man suddenly began speaking again. “After all that happened to me and after all that my eyes saw, I refuse to pray to Him. Now I’ll get Him angry!” After that—several more hours of silence. Just before nightfall, he turned to Shragai and asked him again to assist him with his baggage. Now he took out his tallit and tefillin and put them on. After finishing his prayers, he said to Shragai, “By right I shouldn’t pray to Him. But doesn’t He too need and deserve pity (rachmones)? What does He now have left in His world? Who is left to Him? And if He had mercy on me and kept me alive, then He merits that I should take pity on Him, and that is why I finally decided to davven.” With that, the old man broke out in deep sobbing, crying out in Yiddish, “Oy, a rachmones oyfn Ribbono shel Olam!” (Oh, a pity on the Master of the World!) Shragai wept with him, and then they parted from each other.
(6) Mi-pinkas Zikhronotai (Jerusalem: n.p., 1987), p. 23f.
Other piquant expressions of our sympathy for divine “suffering” can be found in our reaction to God’s loneliness, as it were. Much has been written about the reluctance of the ancient pagan world to profess belief in an invisible God; a Deity without a body was too insubstantial for the pagan mind. Perhaps also disturbing to the ancients—and maybe even moderns as well—was the idea of a Deity who existed in utter and absolute aloneness, a solitude that, though exalted and magnificent, was also depressing, bewildering, and unthinkable. Thus just as primitive man, fleshy and physical, found it hard to conceive of a God without body or form, so too such men, dreading loneliness and constitutionally attuned to companionship, resisted the idea of a God resplendent in isolation and seclusion. They wondered: “What does God do all day?” “In whom does He confide?” “With whom does He share His joys and His unhappiness?” They preferred the notion of deities abounding, involved with each other and therefore, like man, fundamentally social beings.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
When Herod Made Inquiry About Pheroras's Death A Discovery Was Made That Antipater Had Prepared A Poisonous Draught For Him. Herod Casts Doris And Her Accomplices, As Also Mariamne, Out Of The Palace And Blots Her Son Herod Out Of His Testament.
1. But now the punishment was transferred unto the original author, Antipater, and took its rise from the death of Pheroras; for certain of his freed-men came with a sad countenance to the king, and told him that his brother had been destroyed by poison, and that his wife had brought him somewhat that was prepared after an unusual manner, and that, upon his eating it, he presently fell into his distemper; that Antipater's mother and sister, two days before, brought a woman out of Arabia that was skillful in mixing such drugs, that she might prepare a love potion for Pheroras; and that instead of a love potion, she had given him deadly poison; and that this was done by the management of Sylleus, who was acquainted with that woman.
2. The king was deeply affected with so many suspicions, and had the maid-servants and some of the free women also tortured; one of which cried out in her agonies, "May that God that governs the earth and the heaven punish this author of all these our miseries, Antipater's mother!" The king took a handle from this confession, and proceeded to inquire further into the truth of the matter. So this woman discovered the friendship of Antipater's mother to Pheroras, and Antipater's women, as also their secret meetings, and that Pheroras and Antipater had drunk with them for a whole night together as they returned from the king, and would not suffer any body, either man-servant or maidservant, to be there; while one of the free women discovered the matter.
3. Upon this Herod tortured the maid-servants every one by themselves separately, who all unanimously agreed in the foregoing discoveries, and that accordingly by agreement they went away, Antipater to Rome, and Pheroras to Perea; for that they oftentimes talked to one another thus: That after Herod had slain Alexander and Aristobulus, he would fall upon them, and upon their wives, because, after he Mariamne and her children he would spare nobody; and that for this reason it was best to get as far off the wild beast as they were able:—and that Antipater oftentimes lamented his own case before his mother, and said to her, that he had already gray hairs upon his head, and that his father grew younger again every day, and that perhaps death would overtake him before he should begin to be a king in earnest; and that in case Herod should die, which yet nobody knew when it would be, the enjoyment of the succession could certainly be but for a little time; for that these heads of Hydra, the sons of Alexander and Aristobulus, were growing up: that he was deprived by his father of the hopes of being succeeded by his children, for that his successor after his death was not to be any one of his own sons, but Herod the son of Mariamne: that in this point Herod was plainly distracted, to think that his testament should therein take place; for he would take care that not one of his posterity should remain, because he was of all fathers the greatest hater of his children. Yet does he hate his brother still worse; whence it was that he a while ago gave himself a hundred talents, that he should not have any intercourse with Pheroras. And when Pheroras said, Wherein have we done him any harm? Antipater replied, "I wish he would but deprive us of all we have, and leave us naked and alive only; but it is indeed impossible to escape this wild beast, who is thus given to murder, who will not permit us to love any person openly, although we be together privately; yet may we be so openly too, if we have but the courage and the hands of men."
4. These things were said by the women upon the torture; as also that Pheroras resolved to fly with them to Perea. Now Herod gave credit to all they said, on account of the affair of the hundred talents; for he had no discourse with any body about them, but only with Antipater. So he vented his anger first of all against Antipater's mother, and took away from her all the ornaments which he had given her, which cost a great many talents, and cast her out of the palace a second time. He also took care of Pheroras's women after their tortures, as being now reconciled to them; but he was in great consternation himself, and inflamed upon every suspicion, and had many innocent persons led to the torture, out of his fear lest he should leave any guilty person untortured.
5. And now it was that he betook himself to examine Antipater of Samaria, who was the steward of [his son] Antipater; and upon torturing him, he learned that Antipater had sent for a potion of deadly poison for him out of Egypt, by Antiphilus, a companion of his; that Theudio, the uncle of Antipater, had it from him, and delivered it to Pheroras; for that Antipater had charged him to take his father off while he was at Rome, and so free him from the suspicion of doing it himself: that Pheroras also committed this potion to his wife. Then did the king send for her, and bid her bring to him what she had received immediately. So she came out of her house as if she would bring it with her, but threw herself down from the top of the house, in order to prevent any examination and torture from the king. However, it came to pass, as it seems by the providence of God, when he intended to bring Antipater to punishment, that she fell not upon her head, but upon other parts of her body, and escaped. The king, when she was brought to him, took care of her, [for she was at first quite senseless upon her fall,] and asked her why she had thrown herself down; and gave her his oath, that if she would speak the real truth, he would excuse her from punishment; but that if she concealed anything, he would have her body torn to pieces by torments, and leave no part of it to be buried.
6. Upon this the woman paused a little, and then said, "Why do I spare to speak of these grand secrets, now Pheroras is dead? that would only tend to save Antipater, who is all our destruction. Hear then, O king, and be thou, and God himself, who cannot be deceived, witnesses to the truth of what I am going to say. When thou didst sit weeping by Pheroras as he was dying," then it was that he called me to him, and said, "My dear wife, I have been greatly mistaken as to the disposition of my brother towards me, and have hated him that is so affectionate to me, and have contrived to kill him who is in such disorder for me before I am dead. As for myself, I receive the recompence of my impiety; but do thou bring what poison was left with us by Antipater, and which thou keepest in order to destroy him, and consume it immediately in the fire in my sight, that I may not be liable to the avenger in the invisible world." This I brought as he bid me, and emptied the greatest part of it into the fire, but reserved a little of it for my own use against uncertain futurity, and out of my fear of thee.
7. When she had said this, she brought the box, which had a small quantity of this potion in it: but the king let her alone, and transferred the tortures to Antiphilus's mother and brother; who both confessed that Antiphilus brought the box out of Egypt, and that they had received the potion from a brother of his, who was a physician at Alexandria. Then did the ghosts of Alexander and Aristobulus go round all the palace, and became the inquisitors and discoverers of what could not otherwise have been found out and brought such as were the freest from suspicion to be examined; whereby it was discovered that Mariamne, the high priest's daughter, was conscious of this plot; and her very brothers, when they were tortured, declared it so to be. Whereupon the king avenged this insolent attempt of the mother upon her son, and blotted Herod, whom he had by her, out of his tretament, who had been before named therein as successor to Antipater.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
happy are their children after them.
8 The king seated on his judgment throne
can winnow out all evil with his glance.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Apprehended by God
If that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended. --- Phil. 3:12.
Never choose to be a worker; but when once God has put His call on you, woe be to you if you turn to the right hand or to the left. We are not here to work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has apprehended us. There is never any thought of—‘Oh well, I am not fitted for this.’ What you are to preach is determined by God, not by your own natural inclinations. Keep your soul steadfastly related to God, and remember that you are called not to bear testimony only, but to preach the Gospel. Every Christian must testify, but when it comes to the call to preach, there must be the agonizing grip of God’s hand on you. Your life is in the grip of God for that one thing. How many of us are held like that?
Never water down the word of God; preach it in its undiluted sternness. There must be unflinching loyalty to the word of God; but when you come to personal dealing with your fellow men, remember who you are—not a special being made up in heaven, but a sinner saved by grace.
“I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do …”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
She didn't want to go;
she couldn't resist.
It was an opportuity
to be like other women,
to sit at an inn table,
not drinking, but repenting
for having drunk of a liquid
that made such promises
as it could not fulfill.
Her clothes are out of the top
drawer, the best her class
could provide.The presence
of the swarthier ruffian
beside her guarantees
that she put them on in order
to have something good she could take off.
Between here and now
You don’t have trouble for one person that doesn’t bring gain for others.
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 11:5–8 /The Lord came down to look at the city and tower that man bad built, and the Lord said, “If, as one people with one language for all, this is how they have begun to act, then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach. Let us, then, go down and confound their speech there, so that they shall not understand one another’s speech.” Thus the Lord scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 38, 10 / Let us, then, go down. This is one of the things that they changed for Ptolemy the King: “I will, then, go down and confound their speech.”
And confound [וְנָבְלָה/v’navlah] their speech there. Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said, “From their own lips, I will make corpses [נְבֵלָה/neveilah]. One person said to his friend, ‘Give me an axe’ and he gave him a shovel, so he struck him and broke his skull. This is as it says: From their own lips I will make corpses.”
Thus the Lord scattered them from there. Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Neḥemiah: Rabbi Yehudah said, “The people from Tyre went to Sidon, and those from Sidon went to Tyre, and Egypt held on to its own land.” Rabbi Neḥemiah said, “Everyone held on to their own land, for their original settlement was there, and to there they returned.” So what is [meant by] “Scattered … there”? That all the peoples entered the mountain peaks and each and every one observed the peoples of its place.
The Rabbis said, “Not וַיָּפֶץ/va-yafetz/scattered, but וַיָּצֶף/va-yatzef/swept away. The sea swept over them and swept away thirty families.” Rabbi Levi said, “You don’t have trouble for one person that doesn’t bring gain for others. Those thirty families—who were their replacements? From Abraham—sixteen from Keturah, twelve from Ishmael, and the remaining two—‘… the Lord answered her, “Two nations are in your womb!” ’ ” [Genesis 25:23]
CONTEXT / In the Letter of Aristeas, there is the legend of how King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–244 B.C.E.) put seventy-two Jewish scholars into separate rooms and commissioned them to translate the Bible into Greek. This translation is known today as the Septuagint. Amazingly, their translations were exactly the same! Even more remarkably, they each on their own chose to alter certain passages. Our Midrash contains one example: Though God speaks in first person plural (“Let us, then, go down …”), the translators rendered the words into first person singular (“I will, then, go down …”). Though the Torah had God speaking in the “royal we,” the translators were concerned that readers might deduce there was more than one God.
… And confound [וְנָבְלָה/v’navlah] their speech there. Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said, “From their own lips, I will make corpses [נְבֵלָה/neveilah].” Rabbi Abba bar Kahana then continues with another change of language, this time a wordplay. Instead of the [נָבְלָה/navlah] (referring to the “confusion” of speech that God inflicted on those who built the tower of Babel), Rabbi Abba uses the word [נְבֵלָה/neveilah] (the same Hebrew letters with different vowels, meaning “corpse”). The result of this pun is a vivid picture of what took place after God gave everyone a different language. It was not merely that the people couldn’t communicate; instead we see a tragic/comedic scene in which the lack of a common language led to actual violence.
Thus the Lord scattered them from there. Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Neḥemiah: Rabbi Yehudah said, “The people from Tyre went to Sidon, and those from Sidon went to Tyre, and Egypt held on to its own land.” The punishment for the building of the Tower of Babel was the scattering of humankind. “Thus the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:8). This implies that humankind was centered in one place before the building of the tower. But after the story of the Great Flood (which took place years before the tower), we read: “These three [Shem, Ham, and Japheth] were the sons of Noah, and from those the whole world scattered out” [9:19, authors’ translation]. How is it possible that humankind was scattered during the time of the Tower of Babel if it had previously been scattered after the flood in Noah’s time? Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Neḥemiah had different explanations. Rabbi Yehudah imagined that after the flood, peoples moved to their respective countries; after the tower, populations exchanged places. Rabbi Neḥemiah explained that the peoples headed first to the mountains, fearing another flood. When there was no immediate punishment, they returned to the places from which they had come.
The Rabbis said, “Not וַיָּפֶץ/va-yafetz/scattered, but וַיָּצֶף/va-yatzef/swept away. The sea swept over them and swept away thirty families.” The Rabbis return to the methodology of wordplays. By transposing letters, they turn וַיָּפֶץ/va-yafetz/scattered into וַיָּצֶף/va-yatzef/swept away. The Midrash speaks about thirty “families” or nations that made up the population of the world. The Rabbis held, based upon the genealogical lists in Genesis, that the world was comprised of seventy nations. This number becomes fixed in Rabbinic thought (we often read of the seventy languages that existed in antiquity). The Rabbis were therefore hard-pressed to explain the addition of thirty “families” (or nations)—sixteen who came from Keturah (Genesis 25:1–4), twelve from Ishmael (Genesis 25:13–15), and two from Isaac (Genesis 25:23). These thirty families were all descended from Abraham. While it was appropriate that Abraham be the “father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4), the original number seventy had to be maintained. This could only happen if thirty of the original nations disappeared or were swept away. This leads to the proverb—“You don’t have trouble for one person, the original thirty families, that doesn’t bring gain for others,” Abraham’s other descendants.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"Jonah and Nahum are the only books in the Bible that end with questions, and both books have to do with the city of Nineveh. Nahum ends with a question about God’s punishment of Nineveh (Nahum 3:19), while Jonah ends with a question about God’s pity for Nineveh.
This is a strange way to end such a dramatic book as the Book of Jonah. God has the first word (Jonah 1:1–2) and God has the last word (4:11), and that’s as it should be, but we aren’t told how Jonah answered God’s final question. It’s like the ending of Frank Stockton’s famous short story “The Lady or the Tiger?” When the handsome youth opened the door, what came out: the beautiful princess or the man-eating tiger?
We sincerely hope that Jonah yielded to God’s loving entreaty and followed the example of the Ninevites by repenting and seeking the face of God. The famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte believed that Jonah did experience a change of heart. He wrote, “But Jonah came to himself again during those five-and-twenty days or so, from the east gate of Nineveh back to Gath Hepher, his father’s house.” (Bible Characters from the Old Testament and the New Testament in One Volume) Spurgeon said, “Let us hope that, during the rest of his life, he so lived as to rejoice in the sparing mercy of God.” (Charles H. Spurgeon, 84.) After all, hadn’t Jonah himself been spared because of God’s mercy?
God was willing to spare Nineveh, but in order to do that, He could not spare His own Son. Somebody had to die for their sins or they would die in their sins. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Jesus used Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh to show the Jews how guilty they were in rejecting His witness. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:41).
How is Jesus greater than Jonah? Certainly Jesus is greater than Jonah in His person, for though both were Jews and both were prophets, Jesus is the very Son of God. He is greater in His message, for Jonah preached a message of judgment, but Jesus preached a message of grace and salvation (John 3:16–17). Jonah almost died for his own sins, but Jesus willingly died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2).
Jonah’s ministry was to but one city, but Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Jonah’s obedience was not from the heart, but Jesus always did whatever pleased His father (John 8:29). Jonah didn’t love the people he came to save, but Jesus had compassion for sinners and proved His love by dying for them on the cross (Rom. 5:6–8). On the cross, outside the city, Jesus asked God to forgive those who killed Him (Luke 23:34), but Jonah waited outside the city to see if God would kill those he would not forgive.
Yes, Jesus is greater than Jonah, and because He is, we must give greater heed to what He says to us. Those who reject Him will face greater judgment because the greater the light, the greater the responsibility.
But the real issue isn’t how Jonah answered God’s question; the real issue is how you and I today are answering God’s question. Do we agree with God that people without Christ are lost? Like God, do we have compassion for those who are lost? How do we show this compassion? Do we have a concern for those in our great cities where there is so much sin and so little witness? Do we pray that the Gospel will go to people in every part of the world, and are we helping to send it there? Do we rejoice when sinners repent and trust the Savior?
All of those questions and more are wrapped up in what God asked Jonah.
We can’t answer for him, but we can answer for ourselves.
Let’s give God the right answer.)
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
--- Psalm 96:9.
Worship consists in the finding of my own life and the yielding of it wholly to God for the fulfillment of his purpose. ( The Westminster Pulpit (5 volume set) ) That is worship!
You say, “Would you tell us to find our lives? Didn’t Jesus say we must lose them?” Yes, “whoever finds his life will lose it,” but he did not finish there: “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39), not another life, not a new life, not a new order of life—not an angel’s life, for instance, but his or her own life. The Cross is necessary, restraint is necessary, sacrifice is necessary, self-denial is necessary, but these things are all preliminary.
And so if the Cross is absolutely necessary, and it is—your cross, my cross, my individual dying to the ambitions of selfish desire, all that is necessary—but beyond it, life. What life? My life. The new creation is but the finding of the meaning of and the fulfillment of the purposes of the first creation. “Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” Discover his law, answer his law, walk in the way of his appointing. Let him who made you lead out all the facts of your life to the fulfillment of his purpose, and then your whole life is worship.
This [church] service is but a pause in which in word and attitude we give expression to life’s inner song. And if there is no such inner song, there is no worship here. The outward acts are the least important parts of our worship. If I have not been worshiping God for the last six days, I cannot worship him this Morning. If there has been no song through my life to God, I am not prepared to sing his praise. The worship of the sanctuary is wholly meaningless and valueless except as it is preceded by and prepared for by the worship of the life.
And it is in the service of a life, not specific acts done as apart from the life, not because I teach in Sunday school or preach here, that I worship. I may preach here today and never worship. But because my life is found in his law, is answering his call, responsive to his provision and arrangement, so, almost without knowing it, my life has become a song, a praise, an anthem. So I worship! I join the angels and all nature in worship when I become what God intends I should be.
And so I pray that when the service is over, and Sunday has passed, we may know that in the shop, in the home and marketplace, in all the toil of the commonplaces, we can worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
--- G. Campbell Morgan
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Grumpy Old Man June 28
Martin Luther, always stormy, became a virtual tempest in his latter days. His dogmatic outbursts and inflexible positions damaged the unity of the Reformation and troubled his friends, especially coworker Philipp Melanchthon. On June 28, 1545, John Calvin wrote Melanchthon, asking him to take Luther in hand:
[Martin] allows himself to be carried beyond all bounds with his love of thunder. We all of us acknowledge that we are much indebted to him. But in the Church we must always be upon our guard, lest we pay too great a deference to men. It is all over when a single individual has more authority than all the rest. Where there is so much division and separation as we now see, it is indeed no easy matter to still the troubled waters and bring about composure. You will say that [Luther] has a vehement disposition and ungovernable impetuosity. Let us, therefore, bewail the calamity of the Church and not devour our grief in silence. While you dread to meddle with this question, you are leaving in perplexity and suspense very many persons who require from you somewhat a more certain sound on which they can repose.
But Melanchthon was seldom able to restrain Luther, and Luther’s revered name was sullied by his obstinacy, his criticisms of other reformers, and his inexcusable tirades against Jews.
Hard times should never make us hardened people, and adversity should never make us abrasive. Psalm 92 teaches that aging saints are like palm trees and cedars—tall, stately, majestic, evergreen. Robertson McQuilkin has suggested that God planned the strength and beauty of youth to be physical, and the strength and beauty of age to be spiritual. We gradually lose the strength and beauty that is temporary so we’ll be sure to concentrate on the strength and beauty which is forever.
That’s a blessing that Luther, for all his merits, missed.
Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on things that cannot be seen.
--- 2 Corinthians 4:16b-18.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 28
“Looking unto Jesus.” --- Hebrews 12:2.
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the Morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee.
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
Evening - June 28
"But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods." --- Exodus 7:12.
This incident is an instructive emblem of the sure victory of the divine handiwork over all opposition. Whenever a divine principle is cast into the heart, though the devil may fashion a counterfeit, and produce swarms of opponents, as sure as ever God is in the work, it will swallow up all its foes. If God’s grace takes possession of a man, the world’s magicians may throw down all their rods; and every rod may be as cunning and poisonous as a serpent, but Aaron’s rod will swallow up their rods. The sweet attractions of the cross will woo and win the man’s heart, and he who lived only for this deceitful earth will now have an eye for the upper spheres, and a wing to mount into celestial heights. When grace has won the day the worldling seeks the world to come. The same fact is to be observed in the life of the believer. What multitudes of foes has our faith had to meet! Our old sins—the devil threw them down before us, and they turned to serpents. What hosts of them! Ah, but the cross of Jesus destroys them all. Faith in Christ makes short work of all our sins. Then the devil has launched forth another host of serpents in the form of worldly trials, temptations, unbelief; but faith in Jesus is more than a match for them, and overcomes them all. The same absorbing principle shines in the faithful service of God! With an enthusiastic love for Jesus difficulties are surmounted, sacrifices become pleasures, sufferings are honours. But if religion is thus a consuming passion in the heart, then it follows that there are many persons who profess religion but have it not; for what they have will not bear this test. Examine yourself, my reader, on this point. Aaron’s rod proved its heaven-given power. Is your religion doing so? If Christ be anything he must be everything. O rest not till love and faith in Jesus be the master passions of your soul!
Morning and Evening
THE HAVEN OF REST
Henry L. Gilmour, 1836–1920
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. (Hebrews 6:19)
What stabilizers are to a ship in stormy water, the conscious presence of Christ is to a Christian during the storms and stresses of daily living. Christians have never been promised an exemption from any of life’s storms. The Scriptures teach that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). It is our reaction to life’s storms that reveals the level of our spiritual maturity. We can either become bitter and belligerent, or we can use the experience to develop greater spiritual strength as we learn to rely more fully on our Lord.
Not only do we have the indwelling presence of Christ, but we also have the assurance that Jesus Christ is in heaven today interceding for us. Just as an Old Testament priest stood behind the veil in the tabernacle or the temple to represent the Israelites before God, so Jesus pleads our case in the heavenly realm on the basis of His death and resurrection. What security this gives us!
The author of this text, Henry Gilmour, came to the United States from Ireland as a teenager. He practiced dentistry for a number of years and then spent the last 25 years of his life as a Gospel musician. He was a gifted soloist and was greatly respected as a choir director. “The Haven of Rest” first appeared in Sunlight Songs, published in 1890.
My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea, so burdened with sin, and distrest, till I heard a sweet voice saying, “Make me your choice!” And I entered the Haven of Rest.
I yielded myself to His tender embrace, and faith taking hold of the Word, my fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul—The “Haven of Rest” is my Lord.
The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole, has been the old story so blest of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have a home in the Haven of Rest!
O come to the Savior—He patiently waits to save by His power divine; Come, anchor your soul in the Haven of Rest, and say, “My Beloved is mine.”
Chorus: I’ve anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest; I’ll sail the wide seas no more; the tempest may sweep o’er the wild, stormy deep—In Jesus I’m safe ever more.
For Today: Exodus 33:22; Psalm 34:19; 61:2; Isaiah 66:12; Philippians 4:7; Hebrews 4:3; 6:13–20.
Regardless of your circumstances, determine to rely more fully on the indwelling Christ and the awareness of your heavenly advocate. Carry this musical testimony with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXIX. — THE third particular that moves the Diatribe is this: — “How there can be (it observes) any place for mere necessity there, where mention is so frequently made of good works and of bad works, and where there is mention made of reward, I cannot understand; for neither nature nor necessity can have merit.” —
Nor can I understand any thing but this: — that that ‘probable opinion,’ asserts ‘mere necessity’ where it affirms that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good, and yet, nevertheless, here attributes to it even ‘merit.’ Hence, “Free-will” gains ground so fast, as the book and argumentation of the Diatribe increases, that now, it not only has an endeavour and desire of its own, ‘though not by its own powers,’ nay, not only wills good and does good, but also merits eternal life according to that saying of Christ, (Matt. v. 12,) “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” “Your reward,” that is, the reward of “Free-will.” For the Diatribe so understands this passage, that Christ and the Spirit of God are nothing. For what need is there of them, if we have good works and merit by “Free-will!” I say these things, that we may see, that it is no rare thing for men of exalted talent, to be blind in a matter which is plainly manifest even to one of a thick and uninformed understanding; and that we may also see, how weak, arguments drawn from human authority are in divine things, where the authority of God alone avails.
But we have here to speak upon two things. First, upon the precepts of the New Testament. And next, upon merit. We shall touch upon each briefly, having already spoken upon them more fully elsewhere.
The New Testament, properly, consists of promises and exhortations, even as the Old, properly, consists of laws and threatenings. For in the New Testament, the Gospel is preached; which is nothing else than the word, by which, are offered unto us the Spirit, grace; and the remission of sins obtained for us by Christ crucified; and all entirely free, through the mere mercy of God the Father, thus favouring us unworthy creatures, who deserve damnation rather than any thing else.
And then follow exhortations, in order to animate those who are already justified, and who have obtained mercy, to be diligent in the fruits of the Spirit and of righteousness received, to exercise themselves in charity and good works, and to bear courageously the cross and all the other tribulations of this world. This is the whole sum of the New Testament. But how little Erasmus understands of this matter is manifest from this: — it knows not how to make any distinction between the Old Testament and the New, for it can see nothing any where but precepts, by which, men are formed to good manners only. But what the new-birth is, the new-creature, regeneration, and the whole work of the Spirit, of all this it sees nothing whatever. So that, I am struck with wonder and astonishment, that the man, who has spent so much time and study upon these things, should know so little about them.
This passage therefore, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven,” agrees as well with “Free-will” as light does with darkness. For Christ is there exhorting, not “Free-will,” but His apostles, (who were not only raised above “Free-will” in grace, and justified, but were stationed in the ministry of the Word, that is, in the highest degree of grace,) to endure the tribulations of the world. But we are now disputing about “Free-will,” and that particularly, as it is without Grace; which, by laws and threats, or the Old Testament, is instructed in the knowledge of itself only, that it might flee to the promises presented to it in the New Testament.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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