2 Chronicles 25 - 27
2 Chronicles 25
Amaziah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 25:1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart. 3 And as soon as the royal power was firmly his, he killed his servants who had struck down the king his father. 4 But he did not put their children to death, according to what is written in the Law, in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, “Fathers shall not die because of their children, nor children die because of their fathers, but each one shall die for his own sin.”
Amaziah’s Victories5 Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. 6 He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. 7 But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. 8 But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” 9 And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” 10 Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger. 11 But Amaziah took courage and led out his people and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 men of Seir. 12 The men of Judah captured another 10,000 alive and took them to the top of a rock and threw them down from the top of the rock, and they were all dashed to pieces. 13 But the men of the army whom Amaziah sent back, not letting them go with him to battle, raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 people in them and took much spoil.
Amaziah’s Idolatry14 After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them, making offerings to them. 15 Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” 16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”
Israel Defeats Amaziah17 Then Amaziah king of Judah took counsel and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” 18 And Joash the king of Israel sent word to Amaziah king of Judah, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. 19 You say, ‘See, I have struck down Edom,’ and your heart has lifted you up in boastfulness. But now stay at home. Why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”
20 But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom. 21 So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 22 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 23 And Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for 400 cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 24 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of God, in the care of Obed-edom. He seized also the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria.
25 Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. 26 Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, from first to last, are they not written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel? 27 From the time when he turned away from the LORD they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put him to death there. 28 And they brought him upon horses, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David.
2 Chronicles 26
Uzziah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 26:1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 2 He built Eloth and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers. 3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 4 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5 He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.
6 He went out and made war against the Philistines and broke through the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod, and he built cities in the territory of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. 7 God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabians who lived in Gurbaal and against the Meunites. 8 The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread even to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. 9 Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the Angle, and fortified them. 10 And he built towers in the wilderness and cut out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vinedressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. 11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army of soldiers, fit for war, in divisions according to the numbers in the muster made by Jeiel the secretary and Maaseiah the officer, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s commanders. 12 The whole number of the heads of fathers’ houses of mighty men of valor was 2,600. 13 Under their command was an army of 307,500, who could make war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 And Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and stones for slinging. 15 In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.
Uzziah’s Pride and Punishment16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, 18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.” 19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him. 21 And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land.
22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz wrote. 23 And Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the burial field that belonged to the kings, for they said, “He is a leper.” And Jotham his son reigned in his place.
2 Chronicles 27
Jotham Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 27:1 Jotham was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD according to all that his father Uzziah had done, except he did not enter the temple of the LORD. But the people still followed corrupt practices. 3 He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD and did much building on the wall of Ophel. 4 Moreover, he built cities in the hill country of Judah, and forts and towers on the wooded hills. 5 He fought with the king of the Ammonites and prevailed against them. And the Ammonites gave him that year 100 talents of silver, and 10,000 cors of wheat and 10,000 of barley. The Ammonites paid him the same amount in the second and the third years. 6 So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God. 7 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all his wars and his ways, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. 8 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. 9 And Jotham slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David, and Ahaz his son reigned in his place.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
The Continual Burnt Offering (Habakkuk 1:12-13)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Habakkuk 1:12 Are you not from everlasting,
O LORD my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he? ESV
In the first four verses of his prophecy Habakkuk complains of the iniquity and violence which were so prevalent. Jehovah’s answer is given in verses 5 to 11. He has seen it all, and judgment is soon to fall. He is about to raise up the Chaldeans for the chastening of His people. In the remaining verses of the chapter the prophet protests against the use of so wicked a nation to punish Judah. He is perplexed that the Holy One should sanction such a procedure. For the moment there is no answer from God, so Habakkuk takes his stand upon the watchtower, waiting until the enigma may be solved. At last the answer comes — “The just shall live by faith.” The righteous man has to trust God, assured that He will make all plain at last.
Then the voice of God speaks in majesty, showing that He does not approve of the wicked, but though He will use an evil nation as a rod, when He has accomplished His purpose it too shall be dealt with, and God will be glorified.
This moves the prophet’s heart to prayer and subdues his distressed spirit, as set forth in Habakkuk 3, wherein he pours out his soul in supplication for his people and expresses the most blessed resignation to the will of God.
Habakkuk 3:1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
2 O LORD, I have heard the report of you,
and your work, O LORD, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy.
3 God came from Teman,
and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His splendor covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
4 His brightness was like the light;
rays flashed from his hand;
and there he veiled his power.
5 Before him went pestilence,
and plague followed at his heels.
6 He stood and measured the earth;
he looked and shook the nations;
then the eternal mountains were scattered;
the everlasting hills sank low.
His were the everlasting ways.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction;
the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
8 Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD?
Was your anger against the rivers,
or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
on your chariot of salvation?
9 You stripped the sheath from your bow,
calling for many arrows. Selah
You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw you and writhed;
the raging waters swept on;
the deep gave forth its voice;
it lifted its hands on high.
11 The sun and moon stood still in their place
at the light of your arrows as they sped,
at the flash of your glittering spear.
12 You marched through the earth in fury;
you threshed the nations in anger.
13 You went out for the salvation of your people,
for the salvation of your anointed.
You crushed the head of the house of the wicked,
laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah
14 You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors,
who came like a whirlwind to scatter me,
rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
the surging of mighty waters.
16 I hear, and my body trembles;
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade us.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
I know not, but God knows;
Oh, blessed rest from fear!
All my unfolding days
To Him are plain and clear.
Each anxious, puzzled “Why?”
From doubt or dread that grows,
Finds answer in this thought:
I know not, but He knows.
--- Annie Johnson Flint
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 10/1/2007
It goes against my own principles to argue from the perspective of the pragmatic. Pragmatism, after all, is a worldly thing. We have been called to faithfulness. God tells us what to do, and we are to do it. The results we wisely leave in His hands. Strangely, however, from time to time, the two approaches intersect. That is, sometimes doing the principled thing is the same thing as the pragmatic thing.
Consider, for a moment, this command from God: “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26:5). Now I grant that the verse immediately preceding this verse is puzzling: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” How can we do both things? The key is this. We ought not ever to adopt the standards of fools. But we ought not to be afraid to use the standards of fools against fools. If, for instance, the promoter of the church-growth mentality holds out the size and budget of Seeker Church A as evidence of the wisdom of this approach, we would be foolish were we to respond by holding up the size and budget of Non-Seeker Church B as evidence of the folly of this approach. Everyone, no matter where they stand on this issue, if they agree that the standard is size and budget, is already a fool.
On the other hand, if God commands us to answer the pragmatist according to his pragmatism, lest he be wise in his own eyes, we, if we are principled, obey. And so I shall.
I trust that no one would really use the size and budget of a given church as a measure of effectiveness. If we did so, the largest denomination in America would not be the UMC or the SBC, but the NFL. We might, however, be tempted to measure a church’s success by the number of unbelievers it attracts. We would do this only if we were confused over the relationship between evangelism and worship. Sadly, such confusion is alive and well in the church. We do not jettison worship for the sake of evangelism, but evangelize for the sake of the worship. Nevertheless, if we agree with the fool that what we want on the Lord’s Day morning is a packed house of “seekers” what approach ought we to take? Counter-programming.
The world around us is awash in vacuity. We live in a virtual Inanity Fair. We are empty, suffering the unbearable lightness of being. The world, cutting itself off from the transcendent realm, has nothing of substance, nothing lasting to offer. If there were such a thing as a seeker, what would he be seeking? The church growth movement seems to believe he would be seeking more of the same. In a world consumed with lighthearted entertainment, we offer up less professional, less entertaining lighthearted entertainment? Why, I keep wondering, would a “seeker” get up on a Sunday morning, and travel to some giant box to hear a third rate rock band preceding a third rate comic giving a third rate “message” that leaves him in the same state that he arrived in?
If we were to design a worship service for the sake of the seeker (and remembering Proverbs 26:4, we wouldn’t want to), wouldn’t we design one that at least delivered something of what the market lacks? Shouldn’t we be filling gaps, rather than going head to head with the professionals? Wouldn’t it make sense, if you were ABC, to air Love Story while CBS is airing the Super Bowl, rather than airing a John Wayne marathon? Shouldn’t we be zigging while the whole world is zagging? A service that might attract the lost would be one that does not hide the transcendent, but reveals it. A service that might attract the lost would be one that does not deliver more of the same, but that shows forth the One. A service that might attract the lost would be one heaven bent on giving a map, rather than celebrating being lost. A service that might attract the lost would be one that panders to those who are sick of being pandered to, by refusing to pander. A service that might attract the lost would be one that offers discomfort to those who are sick and tired of being comfortable.
Of course the more we try to be pragmatic, the closer we get to the principle. If anyone is seeking, he is seeking what he has not found in the world. If anyone is seeking, he will never find, unless he seeks first the kingdom of God. We can only help them by being the kingdom of God.
Which brings us back to why we must not answer a fool according to his folly. We do not make decisions based on meeting numbers. We make decisions based on meeting God. Worship isn’t a means to an end, but the end of all means. We do not design it for the lost, nor for the found. We listen to the seeker of the lost, and do as He commands. We come to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We come to worship Him in the beauty of His holiness. We come to worship Him, for His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. We come to worship Him, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. And then, and only then, will all these things be added to 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
Good Intentions Gone Bad
By R.C. Sproul 10/1/2007
The adage tells us that there is a destination, the road to which is paved with good intentions. It is the destination that we would prefer not to reach. Good intentions can have disastrous results and consequences. When we look at the revolution of worship in America today, I see a dangerous road that is built with such intentions. The good purposes that have transformed worship in America have as their goal to reach a lost world—a world that is marked by baby boomers and Generation Xers who have in many ways rejected traditional forms and styles of worship. Many have found the life of the church to be irrelevant and boring, and so an effort to meet the needs of these people has driven some radical changes in how we worship God.
Perhaps the most evident model developed over the last half century is that model defined as the “seeker-sensitive model.” Seekers are defined as those people who are unbelievers and are outside of the church but who are searching for meaning and significance to their lives. The good intention of reaching such people with evangelistic techniques that include the reshaping of Sunday morning worship fails to understand some significant truths set forth in Scripture.
In Romans 3, Paul makes abundantly clear that unconverted people do not seek after God. Thomas Aquinas understood this and maintained that to the naked eye it may seem that unbelievers are searching for God or seeking for the kingdom of God, while they are in fact fleeing from God with all of their might. What Aquinas observed was that people who are unconverted seek the “benefits” that only God can give them, such as ultimate meaning and purpose in their lives, relief from guilt, the presence of joy and happiness, and things of this nature. These are benefits the Christian recognizes can only come through a vital, saving relationship with Christ. The gratuitous leap of logic comes when church leaders think that because people are searching for benefits only God can give them, they must therefore be searching after God. No, they want the benefits without the Giver of the benefits. And so structuring worship to accommodate unbelievers is misguided because these unbelievers are not seeking after God. Seeking after God begins at conversion, and if we are to structure our worship with a view to seekers, then we must structure it for believers, since only believers are seekers.
When we look at the early church, we see that the Christians of the first century gathered on the Lord’s day, devoting themselves to the study of the apostles’ doctrine, to fellowship, to prayer, and to the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). This was not an assembly of unbelievers. It was an assembling together of believers. Of course, as our Lord warned, there are always present among believers people who have made false professions of faith. There are always the tares that grow alongside of the wheat (Matt. 13:36-43). But one does not structure the church to meet the felt needs and desires of the tares. The purpose of corporate assembly, which has its roots in the Old Testament, is for the people of God to come together corporately to offer their sacrifices of praise and worship to God. So the first rule of worship is that it be designed for believers to worship God in a way that pleases God.
The Old Testament has manifold examples of His severe displeasure that was provoked when the people decided to structure worship according to what they wanted rather than to that which God commanded. Perhaps the most vivid illustration of that is found in Leviticus 10, in the narrative account of the sudden execution of the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, for their attempts at offering strange fire upon the altar. These young priests “experimented” in a manner that was displeasing to God, and God’s response that He spoke to Aaron through Moses was this: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev. 10:3). Corporate worship is not the place to celebrate the profane or the secular. It may be more attractive to Generation Xers to turn Sunday morning worship into an imitation of Starbucks, but it hardly can be thought to be pleasing to God.
Another erroneous assumption made in the attempt to restructure the nature of worship is that the modern generation has been so changed by cultural and contextual influences—such as the impact of the electronic age upon their lives—that they are no longer susceptible to traditional attempts of being reached by expository preaching. Early in the twentieth century, the liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick pointed out that people were no longer interested in coming to church to hear what some apostle or prophet wrote a couple thousand years ago. Such words and messages were completely irrelevant according to Fosdick, and so the focus of preaching has moved in many cases away from an exposition of the Word of God. We assume this alteration is necessary if we’re to reach the people who have been trapped within the changes of our current culture. The erroneous assumption is that in the last fifty years, the constituent nature of humanity has changed, as if the heart can no longer be reached via the mind. It also assumes that the power of the Word of God has lost its potency, so that we must look elsewhere if we are to find powerful and moving experiences of worship in our church. Though the intentions may be marvelous, the results, I believe, are and will continue to be catastrophic.
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
Crossing the Channel
By R.C. Sproul 11/1/2007
The rapid spread of the Protestant Reformation from Wittenberg, Germany, throughout Europe and across the Channel to England was not spawned by the efforts of a globe-trotting theological entrepreneur. On the contrary, for the most part Martin Luther’s entire career was spent teaching in the village of Wittenberg at the university there. Despite his fixed position, Luther’s influence spread from Wittenberg around the world in concentric circles — like when a stone is dropped into a pond. The rapid expanse of the Reformation was hinted at from the very beginning when the Ninety-five Theses were posted on the church door (intended for theological discussion among the faculty). Without Luther’s knowledge and permission, his theses were translated from Latin into German and duplicated on the printing press and spread to every village in Germany within two weeks. This was a harbinger of things to come. Many means were used to spread Luther’s message to the continent and to England.
One of the most important factors was the influence of virtually thousands of students who studied at the University of Wittenberg and were indoctrinated into Lutheran theology and ecclesiology. Like Calvin’s academy in Geneva, Switzerland, the university became pivotal for the dissemination of Reformation ideas. Wittenberg and Geneva stood as epicenters for a worldwide movement.
The printing press made it possible for Luther to spread his ideas through the many books that he published, not to mention his tracts, confessions, catechisms, pamphlets, and cartoons (one of the most dramatic means of communication to the common people of the day was through messages encrypted in cartoons).
In addition to these methods of print, music was used in the Reformation to carry the doctrines and sentiments of Protestantism through the writing of hymns and chorales. Religious drama was used not in the churches but in the marketplace to communicate the central ideas of the movement — the recovery of the biblical Gospel.
Another overlooked aspect of the expansion of the Reformation is the impact of the fine arts on the church. Woodcuts and portraitures were produced by the great artists of the time — Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Peter Vischer. The portraits of the Reformers made their message more recognizable, as it was associated with their visage in the art world.
Students from England who studied at Wittenberg also had a major impact in bringing the Reformation across the Channel to Great Britain. Probably the most important person in the English Reformation was William Tyndale, whose translation of the Bible into English was of cataclysmic importance. In 1524, he left England for the continent and studied for a period of time at Wittenberg. His first edition of the New Testament was published in Flanders in 1526, five years after the fated Diet of Worms during which Luther gave his famous “Here I Stand” speech. Thousands of these Bibles were smuggled into England. Many were burned as the work of a heretic, but still others escaped the fire and produced a theological fire of their own.
Another important person was Robert Barnes, an Augustinian monk from Cambridge who was burned at the stake in 1540. Seven years before his martyrdom, he had matriculated at the University of Wittenberg. There also was Martin Bucer, an important Reformer who was invited by the English Protestants to come to Britain and become a professor at the University of Cambridge in 1551.
In addition to those who influenced the English Reformation directly from Luther’s Germany, were those whose influence came by a more circuitous route, that is, via Geneva, Switzerland. John Calvin himself had to flee from Paris because of the views he learned from his friends who had been influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther. This Frenchman found his refuge in Geneva, where his pulpit and teaching ministry became known around the world. Geneva became a city of refuge for exiles who fled there for safety from all over Europe. Of the countries that sent exiles to Calvin’s Geneva, none was more important than England and the British Isles. John Knox, who led the Reformation in Scotland, spent some time in Switzerland at the feet of Calvin, learning his Reformation theology there. Though Calvin was twenty-six years younger than Luther, Luther’s views made a dramatic impact on the young Calvin’s life while he was still in his twenties. Though Calvin is usually associated with the doctrine of predestination, it is often overlooked that there was nothing in Calvin’s view of predestination and election that was not first articulated by Luther, especially in Luther’s famous work The Bondage of the Will. This book is included on Lean-into-God. See the section in the accordian on the right, just above the videos. It started on April 19.
When Calvin was teaching in Geneva, Bloody Mary came to the throne of England. Under her reign, many Protestants were burned at the stake. Those who survived the stake fled in large numbers to Geneva. Some of the exiles from England under Calvin’s tutelage set upon the task of translating the Bible into English. This Bible, called the Geneva Bible, was the first Bible to have theological notes printed in the margin, which notes were heavily influenced by Calvin’s preaching. This Bible was the predominant Bible among the English for the next hundred years before it was supplanted by the popular King James Version. It was the original, official version of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It was the Bible of Shakespeare, the Bible the Pilgrims brought with them on the Mayflower to America, and it was the Bible of choice among America’s early colonists.
From Wittenberg directly to England, or from Wittenberg to Geneva to England, in this roundabout route, the seeds of the Reformation that were planted in Germany sprouted into full bloom as they made their way into the English empire. To trace the pathway from Wittenberg to London, one must follow a series of circuitous routes, but the origin of that movement in Wittenberg is unmistakable, and its influence continues even to this day.
He Who Has Ears
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/1/2007
Lord Acton was absolutely right that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. He may have been more right, however, if he had adapted a bit of biblical wisdom in articulating the dangers of power. What if he had said instead: “The love of power is the root of all kinds of evil.” Just as greed is not the exclusive province of the rich, so the hunger for power extends well beyond the powerful, and with it goes all manner of evil. Those without power often seek power by sidling up to the powerful. If you have no power, the next best thing may be to get close to those who do.
We see this principle worked out in spades in the English Reformation. As has been well covered in this issue, the Reformation came to England not because of a popular uprising of the people. It was not rooted in the heartfelt convictions of the clergy. The Reformation came to England because a king wanted a new wife, one who would bear him a son. The king thought he was pulling the strings of the clergy to get what he wanted, while the clergy believed they were pulling the strings of the king to get what they wanted. O, what a tangled web they weaved when the English Reformation was first conceived. At any given moment, the shape of the Reformation was determined not by the Word of God, but by who had the king’s ear. This inauspicious beginning laid the groundwork for what would ensue - centuries of confusion, death, and strife.
Trying to untangle the knots created by shifting alliances, convicted consciences, and the providence of those born to inherit thrones may make for an interesting historical survey. What may be better, however, would be for us to consider our own failures and weaknesses as we set about the business of reformation in our own lives. Whose ears do we seek access to, and to whom are we listening? Rather than trying to divine whether the church of England skewed too Romish or whether its problems grew out of its Erastianism may just be a distraction from examining our own lives.
Reformation, rightly understood, is nothing more than dominion. Adam and Eve, in being called to rule over the creation, were called to re-form the world. After the fall, the call to dominion abides, and so does the call to re-form. Now we are not merely turning jungle into garden, for we are at the same time turning sin into righteousness. Our re-formation is, by the power of the Holy Spirit, remaking the sinful dust of our fallen father, Adam, into the glorious gold of our elder brother, Jesus, the second Adam. The Reformation not only is not over, but it will not end until all things are brought into subjection. Those “all things” certainly includes the rulers of England, both ecclesiastical and civil. They certainly include all who rule here in these United States. They include our churches, our culture, our labors. But they begin with our families, ourselves, our hearts.
In the economy of God, we do not re-form by seeking power. We do not re-form by seeking the ear of those in power. The only way to re-form is to die. The dead have no lust for power. They have no ears to be tickled. They have no lips with which to seduce others. Indeed, this is where our power is found. By being powerless we are beyond the seducing power of power. By being dead, we strike fear in the hearts of the powerful, for their power has no sway over us.
In the economy of God, the great things that we do for the kingdom we do in peace and quietness. When we speak to our children of the things of God, we are bringing reformation. When we visit the widow on our block, we are bringing reformation. When we sit down in a moment of quiet and meditate on the powerful Word of God, we are bringing reformation. When we wash the dishes after sharing a feast with our fellow saints, we are bringing reformation. We bring reformation to the world in the very ordinary tenor of our lives.
We have no need to sit next to kings, for we are seated beside the King. Indeed, we are kings and queens with Him, seated in the heavenly places. We do not need to seize the engines of ecclesiastical authority, for we are already a royal priesthood. We need not seek positions of power and influence, that we might whisper in the ears of the powerful. Instead, we must make known our desires to the Almighty, Him whom we are instructed to call, “Our Father, who art in heaven….” We need not tear out the great weeds of unbelief that infest the church at large. We need only tear out the great weeds of unbelief that infest our tiny little hearts, that we might instead bear much of the fruit of the Spirit.
We must re-form our understanding of Reformation. The world is changed through service, not power. It is changed by service to “the least of these” rather than the powerful. Perhaps to understand this better, we ought to tell ourselves the next time we find ourselves changing a dirty diaper: “Be of good cheer. For in this deed we shall light a fire across the globe such as shall never be put out.” Perhaps that is what it means to play the man.
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
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
5. We now understand what offices in the government of the Church were
temporary, and what offices were instituted to be of perpetual
duration. But if we class evangelists with apostles, we shall have two
like offices in a manner corresponding to each other. For the same
resemblance which our teachers have to the ancient prophets pastors
have to the apostles. The prophetical office was more excellent in
respect of the special gift of revelation which accompanied it, but the
office of teachers was almost of the same nature, and had altogether
the same end. In like manner, the twelve, whom the Lord chose to
publish the new preaching of the Gospel to the world (Luke 6:13),
excelled others in rank and dignity. For although, from the nature of
the case, and etymology of the word, all ecclesiastical officers may be
properly called apostles, because they are all sent by the Lord and are
his messengers, yet as it was of great importance that a sure
attestation should be given to the mission of those who delivered a new
and extraordinary message, it was right that the twelve (to the number
of whom Paul was afterwards added) should be distinguished from others
by a peculiar title. The same name, indeed, is given by Paul to
Andronicus and Junia, who, he says, were "of note among the apostles"
(Rom. 16:7); but when he would speak properly, he confines the term to
that primary order. And this is the common use of Scripture. Still
pastors (except that each has the government of a particular church
assigned to him) have the same function as apostles. The nature of this
function let us now see still more clearly.
6. When our Lord sent forth the apostles, he gave them a commission (as has been lately said) to preach the Gospel, and baptise those who believed for the remission of sins. He had previously commanded that they should distribute the sacred symbols of his body and blood after his example (Mt. 28:19; Luke 22:19). Such is the sacred, inviolable, and perpetual law, enjoined on those who succeed to the place of the apostles,--they receive a commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. Whence we infer that those who neglect both of these falsely pretend to the office of apostles. But what shall we say of pastors? Paul speaks not of himself only but of all pastors, when he says, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God" (I Cor. 4:1). Again, in another passage, he describes a bishop as one "holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers" (Tit. 1:9). From these and similar passages which everywhere occur, we may infer that the two principal parts of the office of pastors are to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. But the method of teaching consists not merely in public addresses, it extends also to private admonitions. Thus Paul takes the Ephesians to witness, "I kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." A little after he says, "Remember, that, for the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:20, 31). Our present purpose, however, is not to enumerate the separate qualities of a good pastor, but only to indicate what those profess who call themselves pastors--viz. that in presiding over the Church they have not an indolent dignity, but must train the people to true piety by the doctrine of Christ, administer the sacred mysteries, preserve and exercise right discipline. To those who are set as watchmen in the Church the Lord declares, "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand" (Ezek. 3:18). What Paul says of himself is applicable to all pastors: "For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor. 4:16). In short, what the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed.
7. While we assign a church to each pastor, we deny not that he who is fixed to one church may assist other churches, whether any disturbance has occurred which requires his presence, or his advice is asked on some doubtful matter. But because that policy is necessary to maintain the peace of the Church, each has his proper duty assigned, lest all should become disorderly, run up and down without any certain vocation, flock together promiscuously to one spot, and capriciously leave the churches vacant, being more solicitous for their own convenience than for the edification of the Church. This arrangement ought, as far as possible, to be commonly observed, that every one, content with his own limits, may not encroach on another's province. Nor is this a human invention. It is an ordinance of God. For we read that Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters over each of the churches of Lystra, Antioch, and Iconium (Acts 14:23); and Paul himself enjoins Titus to ordain presbyters in every town (Tit. 1:5). In like manner, he mentions the bishops of the Philippians, and Archippus, the bishop of the Colossians (Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:17). And in the Acts we have his celebrated address to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus (Acts 20:28). Let every one, then, who undertakes the government and care of one church, know that he is bound by this law of divine vocation, not that he is astricted to the soil (as lawyers speak), that is, enslaved, and, as it were, fixed, as to be unable to move a foot if public utility so require, and the thing is done duly and in order; but he who has been called to one place ought not to think of removing, nor seek to be set free when he deems it for his own advantage. Again, if it is expedient for any one to be transferred to another place, he ought not to attempt it of his own private motive, but to wait for public authority.
8. In giving the name of bishops, presbyters, and pastors, indiscriminately to those who govern churches, I have done it on the authority of Scripture, which uses the words as synonymous. To all who discharge the ministry of the word it gives the name of bishops. Thus Paul, after enjoining Titus to ordain elders in every city, immediately adds, "A bishop must be blameless," &c. (Tit. 1:5, 7). So in another place he salutes several bishops in one church (Phil. 1:1). And in the Acts, the elders of Ephesus, whom he is said to have called together, he, in the course of his address, designates as bishops (Acts 20:17). Here it is to be observed, that we have hitherto enumerated those offices only which consist in the ministry of the word; nor does Paul make mention of any others in the passage which we have quoted from the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. But in the Epistle to the Romans, and the First Epistle to the Corinthians, he enumerates other offices, as powers, gifts of healing, interpretation, government, care of the poor (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28). As to those which were temporary, I say nothing, for it is not worth while to dwell upon them. But there are two of perpetual duration--viz. government and care of the poor. By these governors I understand seniors selected from the people to unite with the bishops in pronouncing censures and exercising discipline. For this is the only meaning which can be given to the passage, "He that ruleth with diligence" (Rom. 12:8). From the beginning, therefore, each church had its senate,  composed of pious, grave, and venerable men, in whom was lodged the power of correcting faults. Of this power we shall afterwards speak. Moreover, experience shows that this arrangement was not confined to one age, and therefore we are to regard the office of government as necessary for all ages.
9. The care of the poor was committed to deacons, of whom two classes are mentioned by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, "He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity;" "he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness" (Rom. 12:8). As it is certain that he is here speaking of public offices of the Church, there must have been two distinct classes. If I mistake not, he in the former clause designates deacons, who administered alms; in the latter, those who had devoted themselves to the care of the poor and the sick. Such were the widows of whom he makes mention in the Epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:10). For there was no public office which women could discharge save that of devoting themselves to the service of the poor. If we admit this (and it certainly ought to be admitted), there will be two classes of deacons, the one serving the Church by administering the affairs of the poor; the other, by taking care of the poor themselves. For although the term diakoni'a has a more extensive meaning, Scripture specially gives the name of deacons to those whom the Church appoints to dispense alms, and take care of the poor, constituting them as it were stewards of the public treasury of the poor. Their origin, institution, and office, is described by Luke (Acts 6:3). When a murmuring arose among the Greeks, because in the administration of the poor their widows were neglected, the apostles, excusing themselves that they were unable to discharge both offices, to preach the word and serve tables, requested the multitude to elect seven men of good report, to whom the office might be committed. Such deacons as the Apostolic Church had, it becomes us to have after her example.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 50God Himself Is Judge
50 A Psalm Of Asaph.
16 But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”
Found on SpiritandTruth.org
By Paul Henebury 2015
First – the Doctrine of the Pre-Existence of the Soul, obviously, we know this is not taught by the Scriptures anywhere, but it has been taught in Christian history.
The man who is most famous for bringing this doctrine into the church is the third century scholar Origen, who was born in Alexandria in Egypt, and died in Caesarea, Palestine in the year 254 A.D. Origen’s view of the pre-existence of the human soul begins with his rather confused doctrine of God. Origen believed that God created just as many spirits as he could handle, before he created the material world. Because he was shot through with platonic thinking, Origen believed that the realm of immaterial forms or ideas was where we sprang from and where we were headed to.
Therefore, it is unsurprising to learn that he did not believe in a physical resurrection of the body. In Origen’s view human spirits were originally disembodied before the world was formed, and they were created bodiless as free beings. This is their proper state according to him. In fact, their goodness was really situated in their freedom.
As Colin E. Gunton says in his book The Triune Creator:
These spirits, called to live in eternal contemplation of God, fell away from him and misused their freedom so that they could be restored to unity with the divine only through the redirection of that freedom.
Basically, that redirection of the spirit’s freedom came about by the creation of the world, along with what we might call the ‘imprisonment’ of these spirits; preexistent souls put into human bodies. So, according to Origen, all the material creation really is, is a kind of training ground, so that we can learn how use our freedom again. And when we die we are again disembodied.
Our world is created out of nothing, but for a purpose and its function is educational or pedagogic for the training of the fallen spirits in virtue so that they are qualified to return to unity with the One.
There is Origen’s view. This view was condemned as heretical, and it certainly is heretical. Nevertheless, it has been taught in the history of the church, and Mormonism teaches something like this today. Moreover, the view of the Pre-Existence of the Soul needs to be kept in mind as a heretical view because it does have a lot in common with the Eastern religious view of reincarnation, where the soul just keeps coming back into new bodies as it tries to escape the wheel of karma.
Of course, this belief would have as its corollary the opinion that the material world is not part of God’s final eschatological plan. Everything is going to be realized in an immaterial future in glory. And so Origen is one of the sources for this pagan notion that heaven, somewhere in the by-and-by, is just purely a spiritual experience; where souls float around and enjoy spiritual communion with no material or bodily substance to mess things up.
Wayne Grudem writes,
[In relation to the preexistence of the soul] There is no support for this view of Scripture; before we were conceived in the wombs of our mothers we simply did not exist, we were not. Of course God looked forward into the future and knew that we would exist but that is far removed from saying that we actually did exist at some previous time. Such an idea would tend to make us view this present life as transitional or unimportant and make us think of life in the body as less desirable and the bearing and raising of children as less important.
(Actually, Grudem’s treatment of Creationism and Traducianism is very unsatisfactory and one of the more disappointing aspects of his book).
Second – The Doctrine of Creationism. There are two positions on this issue which are deemed orthodox: “Creationism,” and “Traducianism.”
By “Creationism” is not meant the creationism of the Answers in Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research or some similar agency, as valuable as their work is. We’re not dealing here with the origins of the world, or the origins of man, or the age of the earth or anything like that. Here we’re talking about the origin of the soul, and of the souls of individual people.
Where then do our souls come from? Creationism answers that God creates a new soul in each person at conception, sometimes even at birth. This view is held almost uniformly by reformed covenant theologians, though not by all of them. There are some exceptions: Jonathan Edwards, W.G.T. Shedd, Gordon Clark, Robert Reymond, and J. Oliver Buswell, come to mind; but for the most part, covenant theologians are creationists, and there is a reason for that which we will discuss as we continue.
It appears also that even though John Calvin did not express himself very much on this issue, there is a quotation from the Institutes which shows that he certainly veered toward it, (even as Augustine did – though Augustine refused to be completely drawn on the subject).
Now, the creationists derive their support from a number of passages. These passages are, I think, inconclusive:
And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. – Ecclesiastes 12:7
The idea here is that God gives the spirit to the human body, the body goes to the dust, and the spirit goes to God. Soul Creationism uses some reverse logic here which says that the body is propagated by the human genes but the soul is given by God to each individual body that is created. Of course the verse doesn’t say this, but it is sometimes inferred. The inference does not seem to be very sound. The verse is just a statement of the fact that material things turn back into the dust that they are from. As spirit is immaterial, then obviously it does not decay like the body does. It goes to God. But there is nothing here that says that God implants the spirit in each individual that is born.
The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus declares the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him. – Zechariah 12:1
Again, this is supposedly a proof that God forms the spirits of individuals, but this is an original creation verse! Note, “…Stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, forms the spirit of man within him.” This is man generally as in Genesis 1 and 2. There God put a spirit within man, but “man” in Genesis 1:26-27 is a designation for male and female in that context.
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? – Hebrews 12:9
Here it is supposed that God is the Father of individual spirits placed into us, just in the way that our fathers are the fathers of our genetic makeup. But that is not the subject of the verse. The verse is talking about paying respect; honor both to our earthly fathers, and then to our heavenly Father. So, it has nothing to do God implanting a soul into every human body individually whatsoever.
Problems with Creationism’s view of God creating new souls in individual bodies:
1. What about sin? If God is creating new souls in each individual body then how does that soul become sinful? Or are we back to the old Platonic view that the body is sinful and that somehow by contact with the material body, the soul becomes sinful?
That gets us back into Greek philosophy. Actually this seems to be what some creationists at least say! They say that because the flesh, the body, is polluted, and they believe that the Greek term sarx means ‘the human flesh’ in some contexts, that just by contact with the sinful body the soul becomes sinful.
Now, quite how that happens I have yet to discover. How does immaterial sin pollute a material body? How does sin get from the material body to the immaterial soul? Needless to say, most creationists don’t go there. But what is left to them? The only other solution left to them is the view that God must create sinful souls within each of us (because we’re sinners aren’t we?).
Certainly, we are sinners from the womb according to Psalm 51:5. If that is the case, how does each individual person become a sinner? In creationism God has to create the sinner, and that is not a very palatable doctrine. There are reasons that many creationists hold to it, but the fact of the matter is that would be enough for most people to have nothing to do with the doctrine. The remedy appears to be even worse than the cure!
2. What about our relationship to Adam?
Is the only relationship that we bear to Adam a physical-biological relationship? Do we derive only our bodies from Adam, but not our souls? If that is the case, then what is the connection between Adam’s immaterial nature and personality (which sinned and fell), and our personality? Or we might ask the question this way: what is the connection between the image of God in Adam and the image of God in ourselves?
The answer soul-creationists give is that there is no actual connection at all. Any connection is made in the same way that there is a connection in a car plant where you are making the same kind of car, but none of the cars are really related to each other, they just look the same because they are made the same. Our relationship to one another and to our first parents would be similar; we’re just another type of the model “human being,” but we’re not really connected to Adam other than materially. Spiritually, soul-creationism teaches there is no realistic tie to Adam. This plays into the federal idea. Enter Romans 5:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. – Romans 5:12
All Bible believers hold that when Adam sinned we all sinned. We’re all part of that transgression, but does that necessitate that we are also participants in Adam’s guilt? That is a question for another day, but it does overlap somewhat with the present topic. One must ask how we are guilty if we did not actually (personally) participate in Adam’s sin? Remember, according to creationism, we did not participate in Adam’s sin because our souls were not created until some time after we were conceived. As we shall see, with the third option; “Traducianism,” just as our physical makeup comes from our first parents, so our soulish makeup comes from our first parents. And because that is passed down to us, so is the sin nature within that soulish makeup. In creationism however, one can’t have that. In creationism you just have the propagation of the body, not the propagation of the soul. So, how on earth are we considered guilty of Adam’s transgression?
Well, how did we sin?
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:15-21
How were we made sinners if we didn’t participate in Adam’s disobedience? We can only be made sinners if there is a soulish cum spiritual connection between us and Adam (which traducianism teaches). How can sin reign (verse 21 ), in death if we are not connected with Adam’s sin in any way apart from federally, wherein God designates Adam our representative? As Tertullian said many centuries ago, “the transmission of sin involves the transmission of the soul.” Or, to cite Shedd:
The imputation of the first sin of Adam to all his posterity as a culpable act is best explained and defended upon the traducian basis. The Augustinian and Calvinistic anthropologies affirm that the act by which sin came into the world of mankind was a self-determined and guilty act and it is just rechargeable upon every individual man, equally and alike. But this requires that the posterity of Adam and Eve should in some way or other, participate in it. Participation is the ground of merited imputation, though not of unmerited or gratuitous imputation.
Sin is imputed to us because we deserve it. We are all sinners! But grace is imputed to us, not because we deserve it, but because God is gracious. Creationists believe that imputation of sin in Adam is the same as imputation of grace and life in Christ, and they balance it out that way. But that cannot be the case, as even Romans 5:12-21 tells us. Again, here is Shedd:
Romans 5:12–21 (NASB95)
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
But a transgression supposes a transgressor, and a transgressor in this instance must be the ‘all’ who sinned spoken of in Romans 5:12. The doctrine of the specific unity of Adam and his posterity removes the great difficulties connected with the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity that arise from the injustice of punishing a person for a sin in which he had no kind of participation.
And of course, that is exactly what creationists have to teach! They teach even though we did not sin in Adam, that God, because of some voluntaristic decree, decided that we did, and that we are guilty for it, even though we weren’t in Adam when he did it (since there is no connection between the soul of Adam that sinned and our souls).
Now, creationists will come back and say, “Well, what you’re saying is that Adam had the complete contents of humanity’s Soul within him, and that Soul was somehow divided up into his offspring and into the millions of people who came from them.” But this is to commit the fallacy of a false conception. Yes, some traducianists have taught something like that, but it is not at all necessary to think of “Soul” in quantitative terms. We certainly do not have to conceive of this one “Soul” as if it were somehow part of the gene pool.
The Traducianist Position
Traducianism (from a word meaning ‘to sprout’), holds that both the material-bodily substance of a person, and the soulish part of a person is passed on from parent to child through all generations, and because of this, the sin nature is passed on through all generations. This involves what is called a realistic view of the impartation of sin, within the transmission of the soul. Why “realistic?” Because it actually happens; it is not something whereby guilt is just decreed, but because we participate in sin by sinning according to the fallen nature which we inherit from Adam.
As W.G.T. Shedd writes,
Sin cannot be transmitted along absolute nonentity; neither can it be transmitted by merely physical substance. If each individual soul never had any other than an individual existence and were created ex nihilo in every instance, nothing mental could pass from Adam to his posterity; there could be the transmission of only bodily and physical traits. There would be a chasm of 6000 years between an individual soul of this generation and the individual soul of Adam, across which original sin or moral corruption could not go by natural generation.
I myself am drawn to the Traducianist view for the following reasons:
1. It appears to be everywhere assumed by Scripture that through conception via our human parents, we inherit sin natures, and not just physical bodies. So the psalmist says, “…in sin did my mother conceive me” ( Psa. 51:5b ). When Charles Hodge, himself a staunch creationist, to avoid the conclusion that God creates sinful souls, declares ‘We do not know how the agency of God is connected with the operation of second causes, how far the agency is mediate and how far it is immediate’, and then admits in his later discussion of Original Sin that, “it is, moreover, a historical fact universally admitted, that character within certain limits is transmissible from parents to children; every nation and every tribe and every extended family of man has its physical, mental, social, and moral peculiarities which are propagated from generation to generation”, he has effectively abandoned his Creationism, for if God does immediately create souls at conception or at birth, the mental and moral characteristics of parents cannot be propagated.
2. Creationism allows for only the physical or corporeal connection between Adam and his offspring, and has to explain how human souls, immediately created by God, with no soulish connection to their parents, become evil. Whereas Traducianism has a ready answer for why the individual is guilty in Adam and is thus corrupt.
Lewis and Demarest add,
Neither do we find adequate evidence to support the view that spirits are individually created at conception or birth. The passages teaching that spirits come from God can be interpreted providentially and ultimately, rather than miraculously and approximately. Creationists raise the problem of how Christ could be without sin if souls are derived from parents along with bodies. The point is irrelevant to normal conceptions however, because the conception of Jesus was miraculous! The conception of Jesus by a virgin, involved both a biological miracle and a moral miracle, so that Mary’s sinful nature was not transmitted to Jesus and he was holy ( Lk 1:35 ). The major problem with a Creationist hypothesis is that for all normally born persons, the Holy One allegedly directly creates their souls with sinful dispositions. Scriptural teaching traces sinfulness not to the body but to the inner soul or spirit… ( Jer.17:9 ). The “flesh” refers in moral contexts only secondarily to the body as the instrument of the fallen spirit; primarily the flesh is the sinful nature conceived at conception. Since throughout Scripture God is the source of good and not of moral rebellion against Himself, it seems unthinkable that He, the Holy One, should specifically create each human soul with a bent toward disbelieving and disobeying him.
To this I add the comment of Robert Culver:
It seems to this writer that it takes some shading of evidence from sincere convictions drawn from another quarter of doctrine to suppose that adam and anthropos whence ‘anthropology’, ever means just man’s body to the exclusion of his soul.
But that is what Creationists must teach. So, how do Creationists say that we are sinners and we are guilty of Adam’s transgression if we didn’t participate in it, and really we had nothing to do with it? They say that it is because God imputes his sin to us in the same way as God imputes righteousness in Christ to us. Well, we understand why God has to impute the righteousness of Christ to us: because we’re not in ourselves connected to the righteousness of God in Christ. But we also understand that we are connected to Adam!
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. – I Corinthians 15:22
Why Do We Die?
Why do we die? Because we are “in Adam.” We need to get into Christ to be made alive. But how do we get into Christ? By a new birth. We have to be joined to Christ, and we are joined to Him through adoption and the new birth by the Holy Spirit. That is when His righteousness is imputed to us. But why do we need Adam’s sin and guilt heaped on us?
As Shedd says, “to make the eternal damnation of a human soul depend upon vicarious [i.e. “in our place”] sin, contradicts the profound convictions of the human conscience.”
To say that because Adam sinned we’re damned, just because that’s the way God decides it, and not because of any relationship we bear to Adam, would be unjust. Calling on God’s freedom to do as He wants to validate such a thing amounts to redefining God’s desires along voluntarist and nominalist lines. This is a card played all too often by some theologians.
Arguing against Traducianism and for Creationism, Herman Bavinck introduced covenant theology to bolster his doctrine. He wrote:
The so-called realism, say of Shedd, is inadequate both as an explanation of Adam’s sin, and as an explanation of righteousness by faith in Christ. Needed among human beings is another kind of unity, one that causes them to act unitedly as a moral body, organically-connected as well as ethically-united, and that is a federal unity, that is a covenant unity. Now on the basis of a physical unity an ethical unity has to be constructed; Adam as our ancestor is not enough, he must also be the covenant head of the human race just as Christ, although he is not our common ancestor in a physical sense, is still able as covenant head to bestow righteousness and blessedness upon his church. Now this moral unity of the human race can only be maintained on the basis of Creationism, for it has a character of its own, is distinct from that of animals, as well as that of the angels, and therefore also comes into being in its own way; both by physical descendent [Adam] and by a created act of God [Creationism], the two of them in conjunction with each other.
Of course, Traducianism is not inadequate for an explanation of Adam’s sin, because we are connected to him spiritually. As the Bible clearly declares, God created the whole person:
The Creation of Eve - So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. – Genesis 2:21-22
Did God just bring a body to the man, or did he bring a person, body and a soul? There is nothing here to say that God breathed a soul into Eve like he did with Adam in verse 7. Here, God just takes the material as it were – the substance, the essence of the man – from the man and creates a woman, body and soul. In the Old Testament the words for ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ (especially the former), designates more often than not the whole person.
The Question of the Incarnate Christ
What do we do with Christ’s human soul in this matter of transmission? Do we commit the Apollinarian heresy of the Early Church, which says Christ had a human body but a divine soul? Or are we to fall into the Eutychian heresy, where Christ was said to have had a human body mixed with the divine soul? Those are not orthodox positions. But there are certain passages which speak to this doctrine and must be clarified. What is one to do with these texts?
For instance, Romans 1:3 says,
Concerning his Son, who was descended (who was born) from David according to the flesh.
Whether one is a creationist or a traducianist, there is no getting around the need for the miraculous when it comes to the birth of Christ. The creationist may point to the logic of Christ’s human soul being newly created by the Father at conception, but the traducian realist will ask how that soul remained sinless in a sinful mother, and will again call attention to the implication that if the human body does not stain the soul the only other road open to the creationist is to say that God makes each new soul sinful (all except Christ that is).
In place of this miracle the traducian view will say that although the soul may be passed on through the female, the absence of a human father could account for why the sin nature was not passed on to Jesus. If this conclusion seems unsatisfactory the alternative is to say that God protected Christ’s soul from the stain of sin. Either way, the realist position has less explaining to do than the creationist – federalist view.
In his great volume on Sin, the Dutch theologian G. C. Berkouwer spends many pages evaluating both the realist (traducian) position and the federalist (creationist) position. His problems with the traducian position basically boil down to the imputation of guilt (something which will have to be taken up elsewhere). But it should be noted that many theologians, both in the early church and after the Reformation, did not tie in the imputation of guilt with the imputation of sin.
Berkouwer’s problems with federalism are more numerous and severe. They can be summed up in his statement about the double-meaning of imputation as guilt accounted because of our sinning, and ‘alien guilt’ foisted upon us by God’s ordinance (458-459). He continues,
Realism has done us the service of sharpening our insights concerning the meaning of imputatio. Is [this] concept at odds with the very nature of his justice? Does it contradict the statement of Ezekiel [ch. 18:4, 20, 25-26 ] concerning the activity of God? Surely the “rule of Ezekiel” underscores the correlation of guilt and punishment in a very unambiguous way.
Certain passages of Scripture clearly imply realism rather than mere federal representation. Surely John 1:14 designates the human nature of Christ, body and soul? And what is one to do with Hebrews 7:9-10?
One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
If Creationism is true this statement would be untrue. In fact, it would be nonsense.
This genealogical passage in the early chapters of Genesis should also feature in the debate:
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:1-3.
Regarding the image of God, is this passage just talking about Seth’s physical body and not also talking about his soul? If only Seth’s body is under consideration then surely ‘likeness and image’ in Genesis 5:3 refers just to the physical makeup? But if we allow that interpretation we must allow it as the right interpretation of ‘image and likeness’ in Genesis 1:26-27. Of course, no Creationist would wish to assent to that!
What about the great proof text for Creationism:
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? – Hebrews 12:9
Straight away the antenors go up, for the verse seems hardly to be asserting that God the Father is responsible for implanting new spirits within newly conceived human beings.
As Robert Culver says:
Is this contrasting human males as fathers of our material nature and God as Father of our immaterial nature? Quite to the contrary! Note it is not said that God is Father of our spirits, but simply of spirits. The argument is from the less to the greater to encourage reverence toward God. So the author is arguing that if we revere the lesser earthly parents of our humanity, we surely should revere the greater universal heavenly Father, God of all spirits. The manner of generating parts of human nature is not even under consideration.
And in their lengthy treatment of the subject, Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest conclude:
The derivation of all persons from Adam and Eve accounts for the unity of the entire human population ( Acts 17:26 ). The unity of human beings is not merely physical but also moral and spiritual. Humanity is not a company of individually created spirits, such as the angels are. The fact that human persons comprise a single race is crucial theologically, as well as socially and politically ( Rom. 5:12-14 )… Jesus explicitly attributes the fleshly nature of children to parents. The characteristics of the evil heart ( Matt. 15:18-19 ) or sinful nature ( Eph. 2:3 ) can hardly be the creation of a God who is of purer eyes can look with favor upon sin ( Hab. 1:13 )… A Traducian view does not contradict divine justice in condemning all mankind for the one act of Adam ( Rom. 5:16, 18 ). On this view Adam is not merely the legal or federal representative of the race as Creationists maintain. God may have made a covenant of works with Adam as the legal head of the race, the biblical evidence for this is minimal. If we were not in some sense in Adam generically, physically, and spiritually, however, the covenant of works appears to be a legal fiction without basis in reality. From a Traducian perspective, with or without the covenant of works, God can justly regard the race generically in Adam. So “in Adam all die” ( I Cor. 15:22 ), for in Adam all “sinned” ( Rom. 5:12, Greek aorist tense). Hence a Traducian view of the origin of the soul provides the more coherent position with the fewer difficulties. The difficulty of explaining how the soul originates is less than explaining how a holy God can create depraved souls.
Creationists teach that there is a direct correlation between Christ’s act of representation in redemption and Adam’s act of representation in sin. But W.G.T. Shedd demolished this inference long ago.
In criticizing the federalist representative view Shedd commented:
In the first place, Christ suffered freely and voluntarily for the sin of man, but Adam’s posterity suffer necessarily and involuntarily for the sin of Adam… They do not, like Christ, volunteer and agree to suffer, but are compelled to suffer; and their suffering, unlike that of Christ, is accompanied with the sense of ill dessert…
Second, Christ was undeservedly punished when He suffered for the sin of man. But Adam’s posterity are not undeservedly punished when they suffer for the sin of Adam…
Third, Christ was a substitute when He suffered, but Adam’s posterity are the principals. They do not suffer in the place of sinners when they suffer for Adam’s sin, but they suffer as sinners. They are not vicarious sufferers, As Christ was. They suffer for themselves…
Fourth, the purpose of Christ’s suffering is expiatory; that of the suffering of Adam’s posterity is retributive. Christ endured penalty in order for the remission and removal of sin; but Adam’s posterity endure penalty solely for the satisfaction of justice. Their suffering obtains neither the remission nor the removal of sin.
Fifth, the guilt of Adam’s sin did not rest upon Christ as it does upon Adam’s posterity and hence, he could voluntarily consent and agree to endure its penalty without being under obligation to do so. Christ was free from the guilt of Adam’s sin, both in the sense of [culpability] and [punishment]. But the posterity are obligated by both. Christ therefore suffers as an innocent person to expiate a sin in which he did not participate; but Adam’s posterity suffer as guilty persons to satisfy the law for a sin in which they did participate.
The question of participation in regard to guilt is not before us at present. Shedd, as a covenant theologian, argued for original guilt as well as for original sin. Not everyone has linked the two together as Shedd did. But the arguments he set forth against creationism are not blunted either way. As he wrote a little further on,
…to argue that if gratuitous imputation is not true in the case of Adam’s sin it is not true in the case of Christ’s righteousness is like arguing that if God is not the author of sin by direct efficiency he is not the author of holiness by direct efficiency.
You don’t need Creationism to be a covenant theologian, Shedd, Dabney, and Reymond are examples of covenant theologians who were traducianists. But creationism certainly fits in with covenant theology, and that is why covenant theologians tend to be Creationists.
Calvin it appears was not a Creationist. There is a quotation from the Institutes, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 7, which seems to clearly indicate that he believed that a ‘contagion’ was imparted from Adam to us. That would put him closer to Traducianism than to Creationism.
It is often thought that this subject is unimportant. But it is not unimportant; it is needful that we establish that we have a direct relationship with Adam, not just physically, but also spiritually. And it is essential that we do not create trouble for the justice and goodness of Almighty God due to the seeming logic of our theological precommitments.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
29 | Daniel (continued) Theological Arguments Advanced to Show the Late Date of Daniel
ADHERENTS OF THE MACCABEAN THEORY customarily lay great emphasis upon the supposed development or evolution of religious thought of the Israelite nation. They point to motifs and emphases in Daniel which they believe to be akin to those characterizing the apocryphal literature of the Inter-testamental Period (such works as the Book of Enoch and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, or even such books of the Apocrypha as Tobit and Susanna). These emphases include the prominence of angels, the stress upon the last judgment, the resurrection of the dead, and the establishment of the final kingdom of God upon earth with the Messiah as the supreme ruler of the world. It is conceded that there are occasional references to angels and judgment, the kingship of God, and the Messiah in some earlier books of the Old Testament, but it is felt that these teachings have achieved a far more developed form in Daniel than in Ezekiel or Zechariah. The angelology in particular is thought to resemble that of the Book of Enoch (first century B.C.).
This, however, is a very difficult statement to substantiate. Any reader may easily verify the fact that Zechariah also mentions the Messiah and angels on several occasions in his prophecies, which date from 519 to approximately 470 B.C. ( 2:3; 3:1; 6:12; 9:9; 13:1; 14:5 ). Furthermore, angels play a very similar role in Zechariah to that in Daniel, namely, that of interpreting the significance of visions which were presented to the prophet. The affinity is close enough to warrant the deduction that either Zechariah had influenced Daniel or Daniel had influenced Zechariah. There are two significant references to the Messiah in Malachi as well ( Mal. 3:1 and 4:2 ) and to the last judgment also in chapter 3. On the other hand, works which are admittedly of the second century B.C., such as 1 Maccabees and the Greek additions to Daniel, Baruch, and Judith, show none of these four elements (angelology, resurrection, last judgment, and Messiah) which are asserted to be so characteristic of this period that they betray the second-century origin of Daniel. Even the Jewish apocryphal literature from the first century A.D. contains only two works (out of a possible sixteen) having all four characteristics, namely, the Vision of Isaiah and the Ascension of Isaiah.
Perhaps it would be well at this point to review the occurrence of these four elements in the earlier books of the Old Testament. Concerning the ranks of angels, Genesis mentions cherubim, Joshua refers to a prince of the angels. Their function was said to be the delivery of messages to Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and various prophets such as Isaiah, Zechariah, and Ezekiel. Thus as early as the Torah we find the angels revealing the will of God, furnishing protection for God’s people, and destroying the forces of the enemy. So far as the resurrection is concerned, there is the famous affirmation of Job in Job 19:25–26 (although another interpretation of this passage is possible); Isaiah’s affirmation in 26:19 (“Thy dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise,” ASV); Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, and possibly the resuscitation of the dead by Elijah and Elisha. On the other hand, of the large number of postcanonical works, only the Book of the Twelve Patriarchs refers to a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked as is found in Dan. 12:2 . The doctrine of the last judgment is mentioned in Isaiah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and in many of the Psalms. In many instances this judgment pertains to the nations of the world as well as to Israel. References to the book of life or a book of remembrance go back as far as Ex. 32:32–33 and Isa. 4:3 (cf. Isa. 65:6; Ps. 69:28; and Mal. 3:16 ). The concept of the Messiah appears as early as Gen. 3:15 and 49:10 (cf. Num. 24:17; Deut. 18:15; Isa. 9:6–7; 11:1; Jer. 23:5–6; 33:11–17; Ezek. 34:23–31; Mic. 5:2 ).
Doubtless it is possible to make out some kind of progression in the development of these doctrines during the history of God’s revelation to Israel, but it is a mistake to suppose that Daniel contains anything radically new in any of the four areas under dispute. Moreover, these precise doctrines were most appropriate for Israel’s comfort and encouragement during the time of captivity and on the threshold of their return to the promised land.
Exegetical Arguments for the Late Date of Daniel
Champions of the Maccabean Date Theory allege that it was impossible for a sixth-century author to have composed such detailed predictions concerning coming events in the history of Israel as are contained in the prophetic chapters of the book of Daniel. They also allege that it is a suspicious circumstance that such accurate predictions only extend to the reign of Antiochus IV (175–164 B.C.) but nothing beyond this time. The obvious conclusion to draw, therefore, is that the entire work was composed by one who lived in the reign of Antiochus IV and who composed this literary fiction in order to encourage the Jewish patriots of his own generation to join with the Maccabees in throwing off the Syrian yoke. Thus, all of the fulfilled predictions can be explained as vaticinia ex eventu.
This explanation of the data in Daniel, which is as old as the neo-Platonic polemicist Porphyry (who died in A.D. 303), depends for its validity on the soundness of the premise that there are no accurate predictions fulfilled subsequently to 165 B.C. This proposition, however, cannot successfully be maintained in the light of the internal evidence of the text and its correlation with the known facts of ancient history. Yet it should be recognized that considerable attention in Daniel is devoted to the coming events of the reign of Antiochus, for the very good reason that this period was to present the greatest threat in all of subsequent history (apart, of course, from the plot of Haman in the time of Esther) to the survival of the faith and nation of Israel. Assuming that these predictions were given by divine inspiration and that God had a concern for the preservation of His covenant people, it was to be expected that revelations in Daniel would make it clear to coming generations that He had not only foreseen but had well provided for the threat of extinction which was to be posed by Antiochus Epiphanes.
This prophetic emphasis was all the more warranted in view of the fact that Antiochus and his persecution were to serve as types of the final Antichrist and the great tribulation which is yet to come in the end time (according to Christ’s Olivet discourse, recorded in Matt. 24 and Mark 13 ). This is made evident from the startling way in which the figure of the Greek emperor Antiochus suddenly blends into the figure of the latter day Antichrist in Dan. 11, beginning with verse 40. (Note that the Little Horn is said in 11:45 to meet his death in Palestine, whereas Antiochus IV actually died in Tabae, Persia.) It is interesting to note that even S. R. Driver admits that these last mentioned verses do not correspond with what is known of the final stages of Antiochus’ career; actually he met his end at Tabae in Persia after a vain attempt to plunder the rich temple of Elymais in Elam.
It is fair to say that the weakest spot in the whole structure of the Maccabean theory is to be found in the identification of the fourth empire predicted in chapter 2. In order to maintain their position, the late-date theorists have to interpret this fourth empire as referring to the kingdom of the Macedonians or Greeks founded by Alexander the Great around 330 B.C. This means that the third empire must be identified with the Persian realm established by Cyrus the Great, and the second empire has to be the short-lived Median power, briefly maintained by the legendary Darius the Mede. According to this interpretation, then, the head of gold in chapter 2 represents the Chaldean empire, the breast of silver the Median empire, the belly and the thighs of brass the Persian empire, and the legs of iron the Greek empire. Although this identification of the four empires is widely held by scholars today, it is scarcely tenable in the light of internal evidence. That is to say, the text of Daniel itself gives the strongest indications that the author considered the Medes and Persians as components of the one and same empire, and that despite his designation of King Darius as “the Mede,” he never entertained the notion that there was at any time a separate and distinct Median empire previous to the Persian Empire.
In the first place, the symbolism of Dan. 7 precludes the possibility of identifying the second empire as Media and the third empire as Persia. In this chapter, the first kingdom is represented by a lion. (All scholars agree that this represents the Chaldean or Babylonian realm.) The second kingdom appears as a bear devouring three ribs. This would well correspond to the three major conquests of the Medo-Persian empire: Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt (under Cyrus the Great and Cambyses). The third empire is represented as a leopard with four wings and four heads. There is no record that the Persian empire was divided into four parts, but it is well known that the empire of Alexander the Great separated into four parts subsequent to his death, namely, Macedon-Greece, Thrace-Asia Minor, the Seleucid empire (including Syria, Babylonia, and Persia), and Egypt. The natural inference, therefore, would be that the leopard represented the Greek empire. The fourth kingdom is presented as a fearsome ten-horned beast, incomparably more powerful than the others and able to devour the whole earth. The ten horns strongly suggest the ten toes of the image described in chapter 2, and it should be noted that these toes are described in chapter 2 as having a close connection with the two legs of iron. The two legs can easily be identified with the Roman empire, which in the time of Diocletian divided into the Eastern and the Western Roman empires. But there is no way in which they can be reconciled with the history of the Greek empire which followed upon Alexander’s death.
In Dan. 8 we have further symbolism to aid us in this identification of empires two and three. There a two-horned ram (one horn of which is higher than the other, just as Persia overshadowed Media in Cyrus’s empire) is finally overthrown by a hegoat, who at first shows but one horn (easily identified with Alexander the Great) but subsequently sprouts four horns (i.e., Macedon, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt), out of which there finally develops a little horn, that is, Antiochus Epiphanes.
From the standpoint of the symbolism of chapters 2, 7, and 8, therefore, the identification of the four empires with Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome presents a perfect correspondence, whereas the identifications involved in the Maccabean Date Theory present the most formidable discrepancies.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
4/1/2009 Our Hope in Ages Past
Pray with your mouth, cry out with your heart, make petitions while you work, so that every day and night, every hour and moment, God may always assist you.” These are the words of the ninth-century, Christian noblewoman, Dhouda. She penned these words of admonition to her son William. She was concerned that her oldest son, a page in the court of Charles the Bald, would understand what it means to be a godly man. Dhouda’s Handbook for William contained wise counsel to her son concerning the necessity of daily prayer, his conduct in public worship, and the importance of his reverence in prayer, in worship, and in all of life.
This is but one example of the sort of writing that emerged from the ninth century. Early in the ninth century, a local pastor produced a catechism for laypeople so that they might understand the doctrinal formulations of Scripture. Near the middle of the century, Jonas, bishop of Orleans, wrote The Lay Way of Life, a catechism for laypeople concerning a vast array of matters pertaining to the Christian’s life and morals. In the latter part of the ninth century, Alfred the Great of England took part in the translation of Gregory’s classic work On Pastoral Care, and Alfred made certain that every pastor received a copy so that he might become better equipped to shepherd the flock of Christ.
Although many of these writings are replete with doctrinal errors, they reveal this one, undeniable truth — in the ninth century the Lord God Almighty was building His church, and the medieval gates of the Dark Ages could not prevail against it. Sure, there were divisive, ecclesiastical disputes in the ninth century, there was corruption among the leadership of the church, and doctrinal errors abounded — not much has changed. But thanks be to God that He Himself has not changed, nor can He. Our God has been our help in ages past, and He is our hope for years to come. He is faithful to His promise, and being the Sovereign God of promises He will continue to raise up, call forth, and send out His generation of faithful men and women in every generation in preparation for His return, when we will “cry out with our hearts” and our voices before His face, coram Deo, with that host of His elect from every century, every nation, and every tongue.
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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
Amazing! The first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was also the president of the American Bible Society. Who was he? John Jay, who died this day, May 17, 1829. A member of the Continental Congress, even serving as its president, John Jay signed the Treaty of Paris with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, officially ending the Revolutionary War. He helped ratify the Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers with Madison and Hamilton. John Jay stated: "We have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not suffer slavery and the Gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will not be."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God is not what you imagine
or what you think you understand.
If you understand you have failed.
--- Saint Augustine
Marriage and Virginity (Vol. 1/9) (Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century)
God is not the name of God,
but an opinion about Him.
--- Pope Xystus I, The Ring
The Book of Catholic Wisdom: 2000 Years of Spiritual Writing
The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early Morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the Morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.
--- E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds on Prayer
Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.
--- C.S. Lewis
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion
The Ninth Chapter / We Should Offer Ourselves And All That We Have To God, Praying For All
ALL things in heaven and on earth, O Lord, are Yours. I long to give myself to You as a voluntary offering to remain forever Yours. With a sincere heart I offer myself this day to You, O Lord, to Your eternal service, to Your homage, and as a sacrifice of everlasting praise. Receive me with this holy offering of Your precious Body which also I make to You this day, in the presence of angels invisibly attending, for my salvation and that of all Your people.
O Lord, upon Your altar of expiation, I offer You all the sins and offenses I have committed in Your presence and in the presence of Your holy angels, from the day when I first could sin until this hour, that You may burn and consume them all in the fire of Your love, that You may wipe away their every stain, cleanse my conscience of every fault, and restore to me Your grace which I lost in sin by granting full pardon for all and receiving me mercifully with the kiss of peace.
What can I do for all my sins but humbly confess and lament them, and implore Your mercy without ceasing? In Your mercy, I implore You, hear me when I stand before You, my God. All my sins are most displeasing to me. I wish never to commit them again. I am sorry for them and will be sorry as long as I live. I am ready to do penance and make satisfaction to the utmost of my power.
Forgive me, O God, forgive me my sins for Your Holy Name. Save my soul which You have redeemed by Your most precious Blood. See, I place myself at Your mercy. I commit myself to Your hands. Deal with me according to Your goodness, not according to my malicious and evil ways.
I offer to You also all the good I have, small and imperfect though it be, that You may make it more pure and more holy, that You may be pleased with it, render it acceptable to Yourself, and perfect it more and more, and finally that You may lead me, an indolent and worthless creature, to a good and happy end.
I offer You also all the holy desires of Your devoted servants, the needs of my parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and all who are dear to me; of all who for Your sake have been kind to me or to others; of all who have wished and asked my prayers and Masses for them and theirs, whether they yet live in the flesh or are now departed from this world, that they may all experience the help of Your grace, the strength of Your consolation, protection from dangers, deliverance from punishment to come, and that, free from all evils, they may gladly give abundant thanks to You.
I offer You also these prayers and the Sacrifice of Propitiation for those especially who have in any way injured, saddened, or slandered me, inflicted loss or pain upon me, and also for all those whom I have at any time saddened, disturbed, offended, and abused by word or deed, willfully or in ignorance. May it please You to forgive us all alike our sins and offenses against one another.
Take away from our hearts, O Lord, all suspicion, anger, wrath, contention, and whatever may injure charity and lessen brotherly love. Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy on those who ask Your mercy, give grace to those who need it, and make us such that we may be worthy to enjoy Your favor and gain eternal life.
The Imitation Of Christ
Thanks to Meir Yona
8. As also [I shall relate] how they built walls about the neighboring cities; and how Nero, upon Cestius's defeat, was in fear of the entire event of the war, and thereupon made Vespasian general in this war; and how this Vespasian, with the elder of his sons made an expedition into the country of Judea; what was the number of the Roman army that he made use of; and how many of his auxiliaries were cut off in all Galilee; and how he took some of its cities entirely, and by force, and others of them by treaty, and on terms. Now, when I am come so far, I shall describe the good order of the Romans in war, and the discipline of their legions; the amplitude of both the Galilees, with its nature, and the limits of Judea. And, besides this, I shall particularly go over what is peculiar to the country, the lakes and fountains that are in them, and what miseries happened to every city as they were taken; and all this with accuracy, as I saw the things done, or suffered in them. For I shall not conceal any of the calamities I myself endured, since I shall relate them to such as know the truth of them.
9. After this, [I shall relate] how, When the Jews' affairs were become very bad, Nero died, and Vespasian, when he was going to attack Jerusalem, was called back to take the government upon him; what signs happened to him relating to his gaining that government, and what mutations of government then happened at Rome, and how he was unwillingly made emperor by his soldiers; and how, upon his departure to Egypt, to take upon him the government of the empire, the affairs of the Jews became very tumultuous; as also how the tyrants rose up against them, and fell into dissensions among themselves.
10. Moreover, [I shall relate] how Titus marched out of Egypt into Judea the second time; as also how, and where, and how many forces he got together; and in what state the city was, by the means of the seditious, at his coming; what attacks he made, and how many ramparts he cast up; of the three walls that encompassed the city, and of their measures; of the strength of the city, and the structure of the temple and holy house; and besides, the measures of those edifices, and of the altar, and all accurately determined. A description also of certain of their festivals, and seven purifications of purity, 5 and the sacred ministrations of the priests, with the garments of the priests, and of the high priests; and of the nature of the most holy place of the temple; without concealing anything, or adding anything to the known truth of things.
11. After this, I shall relate the barbarity of the tyrants towards the people of their own nation, as well as the indulgence of the Romans in sparing foreigners; and how often Titus, out of his desire to preserve the city and the temple, invited the seditious to come to terms of accommodation. I shall also distinguish the sufferings of the people, and their calamities; how far they were afflicted by the sedition, and how far by the famine, and at length were taken. Nor shall I omit to mention the misfortunes of the deserters, nor the punishments inflicted on the captives; as also how the temple was burnt, against the consent of Caesar; and how many sacred things that had been laid up in the temple were snatched out of the fire; the destruction also of the entire city, with the signs and wonders that went before it; and the taking the tyrants captives, and the multitude of those that were made slaves, and into what different misfortunes they were everyone distributed. Moreover, what the Romans did to the remains of the wall; and how they demolished the strong holds that were in the country; and how Titus went over the whole country, and settled its affairs; together with his return into Italy, and his triumph.
12. I have comprehended all these things in seven books, and have left no occasion for complaint or accusation to such as have been acquainted with this war; and I have written it down for the sake of those that love truth, but not for those that please themselves [with fictitious relations]. And I will begin my account of these things with what I call my First Chapter.
by D.H. Stern
5 He who mocks the poor insults his maker;
he who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
while the glory of children is their ancestors.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
His ascension and our union
And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. --- Luke 24:51.
We have no corresponding experience to the events in Our Lord’s life after the Transfiguration. From then onwards Our Lord’s life was altogether vicarious. Up to the time of the Transfiguration He had exhibited the normal perfect life of a man; from the Transfiguration onwards—Gethsemane, the Cross, the Resurrection—everything is unfamiliar to us. His Cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by His Resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to any man, and by His Ascension Our Lord enters heaven and keeps the door open for humanity.
On the Mount of Ascension the Transfiguration is completed. If Jesus had gone to heaven from the Mount of Transfiguration, He would have gone alone; He would have been nothing more to us than a glorious Figure. But He turned His back on the glory, and came down from the Mount to identify Himself with fallen humanity.
The Ascension is the consummation of the Transfiguration. Our Lord does now go back into His primal glory; but He does not go back simply as Son of God: He goes back to God as Son of Man as well as Son of God. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God by the Ascension of the Son of Man. As Son of Man Jesus Christ deliberately limited omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience in Himself. Now they are His in absolute full power. As Son of Man Jesus Christ has all power at the throne of God. He is King of kings and Lord of lords from the day of His Ascension until now.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Evans? Yes, many a time
I came down his bare flight
Of stairs into the gaunt kitchen
With its wood fire, where crickets sang
Accompaniment to the black kettle’s
Whine, and so into the cold
Dark to smother in the thick tide
Of night that drifted about the walls
Of his stark farm on the hill ridge.
It was not the dark filling my eyes
And mouth appalled me; not even the drip
Of rain like blood from the one tree
Weather-tortured. It was the dark
Silting the veins of that sick man
I left stranded upon the vast
And lonely shore of his bleak bed.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai finds himself in the classic no-win situation: "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." He is faced with two choices, and no matter which one he makes there is a serious down side. What does one do in such a predicament?
At another juncture in his life, Yoḥanan ben Zakkai was faced with another such choice, only this time, the very fate of the Jewish people lay in the balance. According to the Talmud and Midrash, the Romans had set up a siege against the city of Jerusalem. The Zealots inside the city were prepared to fight the Romans to the death. Yoḥanan ben Zakkai saw that Jerusalem was doomed. He felt that the best hope for the future lay in abandoning the city, acknowledging the Romans as victors, and trying to sue for peace by negotiating with the enemy. Imagine how prospects must have looked at that critical moment: No matter what he did, he would lose. If he stayed in the city and fought with the Zealots, all the Jews would most likely be killed. If he fled the city and dealt with the Romans, he would probably be branded a collaborator and a traitor. What choice does one make in such a critical moment?
In both cases—what to teach the people about business ethics, and how to deal with the Roman threat—Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai looked beyond the moment to the future. He believed that what really mattered was not what happened in the short term, but what was better for his people in the long run. He taught about the seamy side of the marketplace, even though some people might use his words and go out and defraud others. And after having been smuggled out of Jerusalem in a coffin, he went to the Roman general and asked for the town of Yavneh as a new base of study; it was from Yavneh that Rabban Yoḥanan and the other Rabbis began to rebuild the Jewish religion and the Jewish people. Although at the time both of these options must have seemed to Yoḥanan ben Zakkai like no-win situations, history looks back upon him as a great hero who made the right choices.
In both cases, Yoḥanan ben Zakkai did not hesitate to confront the seamy side of life and to make the difficult compromises that were necessary. He could have remained in his ivory tower and lectured only about the ideals of Jewish business ethics, without describing the tricks that the deceivers used. Or he could have remained within the city of Jerusalem and fought heroically to the death with the Zealots. But he recognized that both of these choices were inadequate. Life has a dark side. Unless we acknowledge that and confront it, we are only deceiving ourselves. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai teaches us to deal with reality but always to strive to do the very best we can. When confronted by two terrible options, we first accept the fact that with our choice we will pay a great price. Then we look beyond the present, try to regroup, and begin to build for a better future.
When our love was strong, we could sleep on the edge of a sword; now that our love is not strong, a bed sixty cubits wide is not big enough for us.
Text / There was a man who used to say: "When our love was strong, we could sleep on the edge of a sword; now that our love is not strong, a bed sixty cubits wide is not big enough for us." Rav Huna said: "This is found in verses. Of the early time, it is written: 'There I will meet with you, and I will impart to you—from above the cover' [Exodus 25:22], and it is taught: The Ark was nine [handbreadths] and the cover, one handbreadth, making ten, and it is written: 'The House which King Solomon built for the Lord was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high' [1 Kings 6:2]. Of the later time, it is written: 'Thus said the Lord: The heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool: Where could you build a house for Me?' [Isaiah 66:1]."
Context / The cover of pure gold, known as the kaporet, was placed on top of the Ark in the Sanctuary and the Temple. The Ark contained the two stone tablets, on which was engraved the Ten Commandments.
Context / A tefaḥ, or handbreadth, was a basic standard of length, measuring across a clenched fist, or approximately 3 1/2 inches.
Context / The amah, or cubit, was the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, or approximately 18 inches.
Our epigram was originally meant to convey a description of human love. Rashi comments: " 'When our love was strong'—between myself and my wife." But the verses brought by Rav Huna show that he applied this statement to the relationship between God and the Jewish people. "Of the early time" refers to the beginning of the relationship, during the forty years when the Israelites were in the desert, having just been liberated from Egypt. Of this period, the prophet Jeremiah spoke nostalgically when he quoted God: "I accounted to your favor the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride—how you followed Me in the wilderness" (Jeremiah 2:2). During the wilderness period, the Israelites built the portable Sanctuary, and according to Exodus 25, God spoke to Moses from a position just on top of the kaporet, the cover of the Ark. The Rabbis figure this distance to be ten tefaḥim (or handbreadths) from the ground. The idea that God's presence was about a yard off the ground shows how close God was to the people. In the analogy, this is the period of great love, when the husband and wife could share a very small space together.
Later, when Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, the dimensions of "God's abode" grew. The size of the Temple was approximately ninety feet long, thirty feet across, and forty-five feet high. Finally, we have a verse from the days of the prophet Isaiah, after the destruction of the Temple (which according to rabbinic theology took place because the people sinned and were estranged from God). Here, God says that no Temple could possibly hold God. In our analogy, this is the husband and wife no longer in love, uncomfortable being together on a bed some ninety feet wide.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
This chapter contains Mark's longest report of any connected discourse by Jesus. It closely parallels the report in Matthew 24 and 25.
Jesus warned of terrible tragedies which will be part of human experience while He is away. Finally there will come events foretold in the Book of Daniel and by other Old Testament prophets (Mark 13:14–32). As the end nears there will be "days of distress unequaled from the beginning when God created the world, until now" (Mark 13:19).
That day will close with "the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).
Jesus concluded His predictions about the future with the statement, "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Mark 13:30). Since that generation is long dead, what could Jesus have meant?
The term translated "generation" here can mean those currently living. But it also can mean a family or national line. Jesus had begun His discourse by predicting the destruction of the temple in which the Jews took such pride. Within the lifespan of the generation then living, the temple Herod had spent 40 years beautifying and expanding was destroyed completely. It was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 in response to yet another Jewish rebellion. The generation that had heard Jesus teach and witnessed His miracles—and had rejected the Son of God—lived to see their city razed and their temple destroyed.
What happened to the Jewish people then? For thousands of years they were scattered throughout the world, with no homeland to call their own. And yet they survived. And they maintained their separate identity. That "generation," as represented in the Jewish people (the family and national line) "will certainly not pass away" until all the things Jesus spoke of actually take place.
But what about those who believe in Jesus during the interim? Jesus gives His followers this warning: "Be on guard! Be alert!" No one knows when the Lord will come, so each of us must be alert and about his assigned task.
And what, then, must we be alert for? Why, we must be alert that the very things which crept into the religion of Israel and sapped it of its vitality do not slip into the practice of our faith!
How good it is to know that, until Jesus does return, you and I can worship Him, with others, in Spirit and in truth.
The Teacher's Commentary
Judaism in the Land of Israel
The surviving evidence exhibits a richness and diversity in Judaism of the Second Temple era, a diversity so great that some have resorted to the neologism “Judaisms” to express it. Yet, despite the undoubted diversity present in the texts, there are fundamental beliefs and practices that would have been accepted by virtually all Jews during those centuries and that justify retaining the singular noun Judaism.
There were some Jews who rejected this doctrine, but the data, both Jewish and foreign, indicate that belief in one God was a defining characteristic of Judaism. Jews confessed that God was one and that he was the creator and sustainer of all, and non-Jews recognized monotheism as a trait that made Jews different from most others. In obedience to the second commandment, Jews made no representation of the God they worshiped, and in this regard, too, they were distinctive. The Temple in Jerusalem was unusual in that it contained no visible representation of the deity; he was thought to be enthroned upon the Ark of the Covenant between the cherubim, but there was no object representing him.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. --- Ephesians 1:7–8.
Grace is not a prevalent word in modern speech, and its rare occurrence may be explained by the partial disappearance of the word sin from our vocabulary. (Classic RS Thomas on the Grace of God (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) If we exile the one we will not long retain the other. Grace haunts the place where pangs are endured and tears are shed because of the sense of indwelling sin.
Sin is a word whose meanings are like sharp fangs, and they bite deep. We are busy creating easier and less distressing phrases, phrases without teeth, that we can apply to our perversities without occasioning any pain.
Sin is inevitable, says prevalent philosophy, so long as we are bound to a physical body. But if people were to be stripped of their bodies, the realm of sin would still remain, envy would remain, and malice and wrath, and so would thought and desire and will. What philosophy and personal inclination are disposed to extenuate, the Christian religion seeks to deepen and revive. Its endeavor is not to abate the sense of sin but to drive the teeth into still more sensitive parts. There is no delicacy in the way in which it describes the natural conditions of my life. Its sentences are clear and uncompromising. Sin reigns in me. The guest has become the master and determines the arrangements of the house. He is my tyrant. I am dead in sin—not a boat with power to encounter adverse winds and to ride on the storm, but a piece of driftwood, its self-initiative and self-direction gone, the pitiless prey of the hostile wind and waves.
And now to this sin-burdened and sin-poisoned race there flows, in infinite plenitude, the riches of his grace. What are the contents of the gracious flood? When grace possesses the life, it brings a threefold power. It brings “redemption,” the powers of liberation; it brings “wisdom,” the power of illumination; it brings “understanding,” the power of applying the illumination to the difficulties of life.
How do we come into the marvelous effluence of the grace of God? “In him we have.” That is the standing ground. I know no other. To be in him, in the Christ, is to be in the abiding place of this superlative energy. To be associated with the Savior by faith, in the fellowship of spiritual communion, is to dwell at the springs of eternal life.
--- John Henry Jowett
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
How about “Hallelujah!” May 17
William Grimshaw was born in rural England in 1708, educated at Cambridge, and ordained to the ministry in 1731 without knowing Christ. Three years later while pastoring in Todmorden, he felt deep concern about his soul. He ceased his hunting, fishing, card-playing, and merrymaking, and began pleading with God for light. After several more years, the scales completely fell from his eyes. The Gospel became real and the Bible came alive. He told a friend that “if God had drawn up his Bible to heaven and sent me down another, it could not have been newer to me.”
He moved to Haworth in Yorkshire and began a 21-year ministry. Had he been in London, claim his biographers, he would have become one of the most famous preachers of the eighteenth century. As it was, Haworth was rough and uncivilized, a long narrow village of brown stone. The main street was so steep that carriages traveled it at their own risk. Here Grimshaw labored in obscurity, but with great zeal. He gathered listeners wherever he could, in barns, fields, quarries, and pressed on them the Gospel.
He once said, “When I die I shall then have my greatest grief and my greatest joy—my greatest grief that I have done so little for Jesus, and my greatest joy that Jesus has done so much for me.”
But William Grimshaw’s heart was broken by his son John who, rejecting Christ, lived a careless, intemperate life. When William lay dying, John visited him. “Take care what you do,” said William, “for you are not fit to die.” Those words evidently haunted the young man, for one day he met a Haworth inhabitant who said, “I see you are riding the old parson’s horse.”
“Yes,” replied John. “Once he carried a great saint, and now he carries a great sinner.” But not for long, for John soon heeded his father’s dying pleas and gave his heart to Christ. He died shortly afterward on May 17, 1766, saying, “What will my old father say when he sees I have got to heaven?”
How about “Hallelujah!”
If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won’t you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? Jesus said, “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who don’t need to.”
--- Luke 15:4,7.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 17
“So to walk even as he walked.”
--- 1 John 2:6.
Why should Christians imitate Christ? They should do it for their own sakes. If they desire to be in a healthy state of soul—if they would escape the sickness of sin, and enjoy the vigour of growing grace, let Jesus be their model. For their own happiness’ sake, if they would drink wine on the lees, well refined; if they would enjoy holy and happy communion with Jesus; if they would be lifted up above the cares and troubles of this world, let them walk even as he walked. There is nothing which can so assist you to walk towards heaven with good speed, as wearing the image of Jesus on your heart to rule all its motions. It is when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are enabled to walk with Jesus in his very footsteps, that you are most happy, and most known to be the sons of God. Peter afar off is both unsafe and uneasy. Next, for religion’s sake, strive to be like Jesus. Ah! poor religion, thou hast been sorely shot at by cruel foes, but thou hast not been wounded one-half so dangerously by thy foes as by thy friends. Who made those wounds in the fair hand of Godliness? The professor who used the dagger of hypocrisy. The man who with pretences, enters the fold, being nought but a wolf in sheep’s clothing, worries the flock more than the lion outside. There is no weapon half so deadly as a Judas-kiss. Inconsistent professors injure the Gospel more than the sneering critic or the infidel. But, especially for Christ’s own sake, imitate his example. Christian, lovest thou thy Saviour? Is his name precious to thee? Is his cause dear to thee? Wouldst thou see the kingdoms of the world become his? Is it thy desire that he should be glorified? Art thou longing that souls should be won to him? If so, imitate Jesus; be an “epistle of Christ, known and read of all men.”
Evening - May 17
“Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee.” --- Isaiah 41:9.
If we have received the grace of God in our hearts, its practical effect has been to make us God’s servants. We may be unfaithful servants, we certainly are unprofitable ones, but yet, blessed be his name, we are his servants, wearing his livery, feeding at his table, and obeying his commands. We were once the servants of sin, but he who made us free has now taken us into his family and taught us obedience to his will. We do not serve our Master perfectly, but we would if we could. As we hear God’s voice saying unto us, “Thou art my servant,” we can answer with David, “I am thy servant; thou hast loosed my bonds.” But the Lord calls us not only his servants, but his chosen ones—“I have chosen thee.” We have not chosen him first, but he hath chosen us. If we be God’s servants, we were not always so; to sovereign grace the change must be ascribed. The eye of sovereignty singled us out, and the voice of unchanging grace declared, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Long ere time began or space was created God had written upon his heart the names of his elect people, had predestinated them to be conformed unto the image of his Son, and ordained them heirs of all the fulness of his love, his grace, and his glory. What comfort is here! Has the Lord loved us so long, and will he yet cast us away? He knew how stiffnecked we should be, he understood that our hearts were evil, and yet he made the choice. Ah! our Saviour is no fickle lover. He doth not feel enchanted for awhile with some gleams of beauty from his church’s eye, and then afterwards cast her off because of her unfaithfulness. Nay, he married her in old eternity; and it is written of Jehovah, “He hateth putting away.” The eternal choice is a bond upon our gratitude and upon his faithfulness which neither can disown.
Morning and Evening
THE COMFORTER HAS COME
Frank Bottome, 1823–1894
And I will ask the Father. and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16)
One of the important days worthy of every Christian’s recognition is Pentecost Sunday—an observance of the advent of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days after Easter. The church color for this season is red, and the symbol is generally that of the dove. Other symbols for the Holy Spirit include:
Oil—It is the Holy Spirit that anoints and sets a believer apart for service.
Water—It is the Holy Spirit that cleanses us from the power of sin.
Light—It is the Holy Spirit that guides us in steps of truth and righteousness.
Fire— It is the Holy Spirit that purges and sets our devotion for God ablaze.
Wind—It is the Holy Spirit that refreshes our often parched hearts.
Jesus also referred to the Holy Spirit as the counselor—the Comforter—the “paraclete”—the one who would reside in each believer and always be ready to help and guide in times of need.
Following Christ’s resurrection, the disciples’ awareness of the Holy Spirit in their lives changed them from fearful, discouraged disciples into powerful proclaimers of the good news. This same awareness and appropriation of the Holy Spirit’s enabling power is still a most necessary ingredient for effective representation of our Lord.
The text for this hymn, written by Frank Bottome, an American Methodist pastor, first appeared in the hymnal Precious Times of Refreshing and Revival in 1890.
O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found, wherever human hearts and human woes abound; let ev’ry Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound: The Comforter has come!
The long, long night is past; the Morning breaks at last, and hushed the dreadful wail and fury of the blast, as o’er the golden hills the day advances fast! The Comforter has come!
O boundless love divine! How shall this tongue of mine to wond’ring mortals tell the matchless grace divine—that I, a child of hell, should in His image shine! The Comforter has come!
Chorus: The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come! The Holy Ghost from heav’n—the Father’s promise giv’n; O spread the tidings round, wherever man is found—The Comforter has come!
For Today: John 7:39; John 15:26; Acts 2:1, 4, 38; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.
Live in the conscious awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. Ask Him to lead you as you witness to someone about Christ. Remember this truth as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXVII. — THESE observations have I made upon the heads of your PREFACE, which, indeed, themselves, may more properly be said to embrace the whole subject, than the following body of the book. But however, the whole of these observations in reply, might have been summed up and made in this one short compendious answer to you. — Your Preface complains, either of the Words of God, or of the word of men. If of the words of men, the whole is written in vain; if of the Words of God, the whole is impious. Wherefore, it would have saved much trouble, if it had been plainly mentioned, whether we were disputing concerning the Words of God, or the words of men. But this, perhaps, will be handled in the EXORDIUM which follows, or in the body of the discussion itself.
But the hints which you have thrown together in the conclusion of your Preface, have no weight whatever.
— Such as, your calling my doctrines ‘fables, and useless:’ and saying, ‘that Christ crucified should rather be preached, after the example of Paul: that wisdom is to be taught among them that are perfect that the language of Scripture is attempered to the various capacities of hearers: and your therefore thinking, that it should be left to the prudence and charity of the teacher, to teach that which may be profitable to his neighbour’ —
All this you advance senselessly, and away from the purpose. For rather do we teach anything but Christ crucified. But Christ crucified, brings all these things along with Himself, and that ‘wisdom also among them that are perfect:’ for there is no other wisdom to be taught among Christians, than that which is ‘hidden in a mystery:’ and this belongs to the ‘perfect,’ and not to the sons of the Jewish and legal generation, who, without faith, glory in their works, as Paul, 1 Cor. ii., seems to think! Unless by preaching Christ crucified, you mean nothing else but calling out these words — Christ is crucified!
And as to your observing — ‘that, God is represented as being angry, in a fury, hating, grieving, pitying, repenting, neither of which, nevertheless, ever takes place in Him’ —
This is only purposely stumbling on plain ground. For these things neither render the Scriptures obscure, nor necessary to be attempered to the various capacities of hearers. Except that, many like to make obscurities where there are none. For these things are no more than grammatical particulars, and certain figures of speech, with which even school-boys are acquainted. But we, in this disputation, are contending, not about grammatical figures, but about doctrines of truth.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
9 “You Prepare a Table Before Me . . .”
Unknown to me, the first sheep ranch I owned had a rather prolific native strand of both blue and white cammas. The blue cammas were a delightful sight in the spring when they bloomed along the beaches. The white cammas, though a much less conspicuous flower, were also quite attractive but a deadly menace to sheep. If lambs, in particular, ate or even just nibbled a few of the lily-like leaves as they emerged in the short grass during spring, it would spell certain death. The lambs would become paralyzed, stiffen up like blocks of wood, and simply succumb to the toxic poisons from the plants.
My youngsters and I spent days and days going over the ground plucking out these poisonous plants. It was a recurring task that was done every spring before the sheep went on these pastures. Though tedious and tiring with all of the bending, it was a case of “preparing the table in the presence of my enemies.” And if my sheep were to survive, it simply had to be done.
A humorous sidelight on this chore was the way I hit on the idea of making up animal stories to occupy the children’s minds as we worked together this way for long hours, often down on our hands and knees. They would become so engrossed in my wild fantasies about bears and skunks and raccoons that the hours passed quite quickly. Sometimes both of them would roll in the grass with laughter as I added realistic action to enliven my tales. It was one way to accomplish an otherwise terribly routine task.
All of this sort of thing was in the back of David’s mind as he penned these lines. I can picture him walking slowly over the summer range ahead of his flock. His eagle eye is sharp for any signs of poisonous weeds that he would pluck before his sheep got to them. No doubt he had armfuls to get rid of for the safety of his flock.
The parallel in the Christian life is clear. Like sheep, and especially lambs, we somehow feel that we have to try everything that comes our way. We have to taste this thing and that, sampling everything just to see what it’s like. And we may very well know that some things are deadly. They can do us no good. They can be most destructive. Still somehow we give them a whirl anyway.
To forestall our getting into grief of this sort, we need to remember our Master has been there ahead of us, coping with every situation that would otherwise undo us.
A classic example of this was the incident when Jesus warned Peter that Satan desired to tempt him and sift him like wheat. But Christ pointed out that He had prayed that Peter’s faith might not fail during the desperate difficulty he would encounter. And so it is even today. Our great Good Shepherd is going ahead of us in every situation, anticipating what danger we may encounter, and praying for us that in it we might not succumb.
Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” ESV
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
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2 Chronicles 25:1-2
The Capital Of Israel
2 Chronicles 24-25
2 Chronicles 26-27