Acts 16 - 17
Timothy Joins Paul and SilasActs 16:1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
The Macedonian Call6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
The Conversion of Lydia11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Paul and Silas in Prison16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
The Philippian Jailer Converted25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
Paul and Silas in ThessalonicaActs 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
Paul and Silas in Berea10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.
Paul in Athens16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
Paul Addresses the Areopagus22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’;as even some of your own poets have said,
“ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
What I'm Reading
The Best Question to Ask When Starting a Conversation About God
By J. Warner Wallace 4/5/2017
Ever found yourself looking for a way to initiate a conversation about God, but not sure exactly how to start? I’ve been in similar situations with people I don’t know (i.e. on airplanes, while waiting for a seat in a restaurant, or while watching a soccer game), and I’ve tried a number of approaches. I continue to return to one simple, effective question, however, to start the most important of all conversations. I’ve come to believe this is the most essential evangelistic question we can ask: “What do you think happens when we die?”
This question can take a variety of forms (like, “Do you believe in life after death?” or, “What do you think about the afterlife?”), and it invariably leads to deeper conversations about the meaning of life, the existence of God and plight of humans. James Boccardo has done an excellent service to the Kingdom by writing about this approach extensively in a book called Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel. I met James several years ago while speaking at a conference in North Carolina and I highly recommend his book. He provides a strategy for using this question and considers a number of possible objections you might hear from people with whom you are sharing. In my own experience with this simple approach, I’ve learned the value of, “What do you think happens after we die?”
It’s Diagnostic | This one question will immediately help you understand the worldview of the person with whom you are talking. It’s helpful to know where people are coming from, and every worldview has a distinctive answer to this question. When you ask it, you’ll almost immediately diagnose the worldview you are about to engage, without having to ask any overt questions about God’s existence.
It’s Disarming | Questions about the afterlife are often easier to ask than questions about God, even though the discussion of one inevitably leads to the discussion of the other. Many people have given thought to issues of life and earth, even though they haven’t seriously considered the existence of God. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to talk about this question.
It’s Directed |In the end, the Good News of the Gospel is about Salvation; being saved from the future judgment of God we so deserve. While God certainly wants us to be transformed in this life, God’s offer of forgiveness through Jesus saves us from judgment in eternity. The question, “What do you think happens when we die?” is directed at the most important offer of the Gospel: forgiveness and eternal life.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Bible Belongs to Every Age
By Stephen Nichols 11/17/2017
In 1734 and 1735, Jonathan Edwards and the congregation at Northampton experienced a revival. So did many other churches in the Connecticut River Valley in the colonies of Connecticut and Massachusetts. In the fall of 1733, Edwards preached some hard-hitting sermons. One of them, preached in November 1733, has been titled “The Kind of Preaching People Want.” Edwards starts his sermon in the Old Testament, observing that God’s people have had no shortage of false prophets, “that always flattered them in their sins.” True prophets rebuke the sinner. False prophets leave sinners “to the peaceable enjoyment of their sins.” He then turns to the desire that people in his own day had for such false prophets. Edwards continues, “If ministers were sent to tell the people that they might gratify their lusts without danger… how eagerly would they be listened to by some, and what good attention they would give.” He adds, “They would like a savior to save them in their sins much better than a savior to save them from their sins.”
Edwards was responding to those of his day who thought they knew better than the Word of God. He also wrote treatises to respond to the academics who thought they knew better than God’s Word. The English academic world of Edwards’ day was enthralled with the new thinking of the Enlightenment. The deists ruled. They believed that God created the world and then backed away, and now He lets it run along all on its own. They rejected the idea that God reveals His will in His Word. They rejected the doctrine of the incarnation and the deity of Christ. They rejected the possibility, let alone the actual occurrence, of miracles. They had “come of age.” The Enlightenment thinkers and the deists were far too sophisticated to submit to some ancient book.
The philosophers had affected the church. In 1727, a group of independent ministers met in London to debate the deity of Christ. These were the exact descendants of the stalwart Puritans of the 1600s. They voted on the deity of Christ, and the deity of Christ lost. These were men who should have known better. They capitulated to the whims of the day.
Edwards kept up with these developments. He was not a backwoods minister. He had the latest books and kept current with the latest ideas. He saw where these ideas would take the church in the American Colonies. He sounded the alarm. He also saw how his congregation could be so easily led astray by the wrong pursuits. He saw how worldliness crouched at the door, ready to overtake those who so willingly gave in.
So, he was not in a Puritan bubble. He responded to his culture and to his congregation. He preached sermons and he wrote books—all defending the Bible.
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Dr. Stephen J. Nichols Books | Go to Books Page
Are Black Churches a Key to Saving America?
By John Zmirak 11/17/2017
The Coalition of African-American Pastors | In cold fact, there was probably no place on earth less SJW-friendly than that conference room in Henderson, NV, which hosted the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP). Which on one level should be surprising.
Its founder, Rev. Bill Owens, grew up in Jim Crow-era Memphis, Tennessee. He saw his father called “Boy” and worse. He saw white insurance collectors stalk into his house, leave on their hats, and insultingly call his mother by her first name. As if she were their maid, and not their customer.
Owens risked his neck in the Civil Rights Movement. The real one, which faced down the Klan, brutal sheriffs, police dogs, and all-white juries. Its claims were just, its methods moderate, its goals based in the gospel and the American founding. Owens marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through hostile white Southern streets.
Civil Rights, Education, the Family | Years later, Owens lived out of his car while running a ministry he’d invented himself. Its task? Finding poor, disadvantaged African-American students, and putting them into college. Not just any college, though. Owens placed them at the devoutly Christian Oral Roberts University. A school which, it turns out, was never segregated. Oral Roberts, you see, was part-Indian. He had seen his mother suffer racist discrimination, and was determined not to allow such sinful practices at his school.
But none of this would matter to sniffy white snowflakes today. Because Bill Owens is a Christian. A real one. This means that he didn’t just see the Bible as a stick with which to beat racists. (Though it’s perfectly right to use it that way, since the Word of God teaches that we are brothers first in Adam then in Christ.)
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John Zmirak Books:
- 1 The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins: A Vital Look at Virtue and Vice, With Quizzes and Activities for Saintly Self-Improvement (Bad Catholic's guides)
- 2 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism (The Politically Incorrect Guides)
- 3 The Grand Inquisitor (Crossroad Book)
- 4 The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Catechism: A Faithful, Fun-Loving Look at Catholic Dogmas, Doctrines, and Schmoctrines (Bad Catholic's guides)
- 5 The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture Of Life
- 6 The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living: A Loving Look at the Lighter Side of Catholic Faith, with Recipes for Feasts and Fun
- 7 Wilhelm Ropke: Swiss Localist, Global Economist (Library of Modern Thinkers)
- 8 Choosing the Right College 2014-15: The Inside Scoop on Elite Schools and Outstanding Lesser-Known Institutions
- 9 The World Is On Fire: A Whole Life Reader
- 10 The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration (The Politically Incorrect Guides)
- 11 The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song: A Spirited Look at Catholic Life & Lore from the Apocalypse to Zinfandel (Bad Catholic's guides)
- 12 All-American Colleges: Top Schools for Conservatives, Old-Fashioned Liberals, and People of Faith
- 13 Dollfuss: An Austrian Patriot
- 14 Wilhelm RFopke : Swiss localist, global economist
The Early Christians Were Odd, Too
By Michael J. Kruger 11/18/2017
It can be disheartening, not to mention frightening, when our culture rejects aspects of Christianity as strange or offensive. When Christians feel isolated and alone, it’s helpful to remember this experience is nothing new for God’s people.
Christians have been viewed as cultural misfits from the beginning, and the reasons for this assessment have changed little over the last two millennia.
In the second century, four features of Christianity stood out to the Romans as peculiar, if not offensive: worship, doctrine, behavior, and writings. It’ll be quickly apparent that these four features still attract despisers today.
1. CHRISTIAN WORSHIP | A fundamental aspect of early Christian worship was its exclusivity. Only Jesus was to be worshiped. Whatever other religious loyalties one possessed before coming to Christ, they had to be abandoned and full devotion given to Jesus the King.
One might think the Roman state wouldn’t care about private worship practices. They cared because the Roman government didn’t view religion as private.
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Michael J. Kruger Books
- 1 Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church
- 2 Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
- 3 The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
- 4 A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
- 5 The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
- 6 The Early Text of the New Testament
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
Introduction by The Rev. John Murray, M.A., Th.M.
INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE CREATOR
The First Book treats of the knowledge of God the Creator. But as it is in the creation of man that the divine perfections are best displayed, so man also is made the subject of discourse. Thus the whole book divides itself into two principal heads--the former relating to the knowledge of God, and the latter to the knowledge of man. In the first chapter, these are considered jointly; and in each of the following chapters, separately: occasionally, however, intermingled with other matters which refer to one or other of the heads; e.g., the discussions concerning Scripture and images, falling under the former head, and the other three concerning the creation of the world, the holy angels and devils, falling under the latter. The last point discussed--viz. the method of the divine government, relates to both.
With regard to the former head--viz. the knowledge of God, it is shown, in the first place, what the kind of knowledge is which God requires, Chap. 2. And, in the second place (Chap. 3-9), where this knowledge must be sought, namely, not in man; because, although naturally implanted in the human mind, it is stifled, partly by ignorance, partly by evil intent, Chap. 3 and 4; not in the frame of the world: because, although it shines most clearly there, we are so stupid that these manifestations, however perspicuous, pass away without any beneficial result, Chap. 5; but in Scripture (Chap. 6), which is treated of, Chap. 7-9. In the third place, it is shown what the character of God is, Chap. 10. In the fourth place, how impious it is to give a visible form to God (here images, the worship of them, and its origin, are considered), Chap. 11. In the fifth place, it is shown that God is to be solely and wholly worshipped, Chap. 12. Lastly, Chap. 13 treats of the unity of the divine essence, and the distinction of three persons.
With regard to the latter head--viz. the knowledge of man, first, Chap. 14 treats of the creation of the world, and of good and bad angels (these all having reference to man). And then Chap. 15, taking up the subject of man himself, examines his nature and his powers.
The better to illustrate the nature both of God and man, the three remaining Chapters--viz. 16-18, proceed to treat of the general government of the world, and particularly of human actions, in opposition to fortune and fate, explaining both the doctrine and its use. In conclusion, it is shown, that though God employs the instrumentality of the wicked, he is pure from sin and from taint of every kind.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND OF OURSELVES MUTUALLY CONNECTED. --NATURE OF THE CONNECTION.
1. The sum of true wisdom--viz. the knowledge of God and of ourselves. Effects of the latter.
2. Effects of the knowledge of God, in humbling our pride, unveiling our hypocrisy, demonstrating the absolute perfections of God, and our own utter helplessness.
3. Effects of the knowledge of God illustrated by the examples, 1. of holy patriarchs; 2. of holy angels; 3. of the sun and moon.
1. Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain. Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. In particular, the miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards; not only that while hungry and famishing we may thence ask what we want, but being aroused by fear may learn humility. For as there exists in man something like a world of misery, and ever since we were stript of the divine attire our naked shame discloses an immense series of disgraceful properties every man, being stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness, in this way necessarily obtains at least some knowledge of God. Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us (see Calvin on John 4:10), that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.
2. On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also --He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. Nay, the bodily sense may furnish a still stronger illustration of the extent to which we are deluded in estimating the powers of the mind. If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.
3. Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them, nay, they are, in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated, the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. Frequent examples of this consternation occur both in the Book of Judges and the Prophetical Writings;  so much so, that it was a common expression among the people of God, "We shall die, for we have seen the Lord." Hence the Book of Job, also, in humbling men under a conviction of their folly, feebleness, and pollution, always derives its chief argument from descriptions of the Divine wisdom, virtue, and purity. Nor without cause: for we see Abraham the readier to acknowledge himself but dust and ashes the nearer he approaches to behold the glory of the Lord, and Elijah unable to wait with unveiled face for His approach; so dreadful is the sight. And what can man do, man who is but rottenness and a worm, when even the Cherubim themselves must veil their faces in very terror? To this, undoubtedly, the Prophet Isaiah refers, when he says (Isaiah 24:23), "The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign;" i.e., when he shall exhibit his refulgence, and give a nearer view of it, the brightest objects will, in comparison, be covered with darkness.
But though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.
 Judges 13:22; Isaiah 6:5; Ezek. 1:28, 3:14; Job 9:4, &c.; Gen. 18:27; 1 Kings 19:13.
WHAT IT IS TO KNOW GOD,--TENDENCY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE.
1. The knowledge of God the Creator defined. The substance of this knowledge, and the use to be made of it.
2. Further illustration of the use, together with a necessary reproof of vain curiosity, and refutation of the Epicureans. The character of God as it appears to the pious mind, contrasted with the absurd views of the Epicureans. Religion defined.
1. By the knowledge of God, I understand that by which we not only conceive that there is some God, but also apprehend what it is for our interest, and conducive to his glory, what, in short, it is befitting to know concerning him. For, properly speaking, we cannot say that God is known where there is no religion or piety. I am not now referring to that species of knowledge by which men, in themselves lost and under curse, apprehend God as a Redeemer in Christ the Mediator. I speak only of that simple and primitive knowledge, to which the mere course of nature would have conducted us, had Adam stood upright. For although no man will now, in the present ruin of the human race, perceive God to be either a father, or the author of salvation, or propitious in any respect, until Christ interpose to make our peace; still it is one thing to perceive that God our Maker supports us by his power, rules us by his providence, fosters us by his goodness, and visits us with all kinds of blessings, and another thing to embrace the grace of reconciliation offered to us in Christ. Since, then, the Lord first appears, as well in the creation of the world as in the general doctrine of Scripture, simply as a Creator, and afterwards as a Redeemer in Christ,--a twofold knowledge of him hence arises: of these the former is now to be considered, the latter will afterwards follow in its order. But although our mind cannot conceive of God, without rendering some worship to him, it will not, however, be sufficient simply to hold that he is the only being whom all ought to worship and adore, unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of all goodness, and that we must seek everything in him, and in none but him. My meaning is: we must be persuaded not only that as he once formed the world, so he sustains it by his boundless power, governs it by his wisdom, preserves it by his goodness, in particular, rules the human race with justice and Judgment, bears with them in mercy, shields them by his protection; but also that not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him, and of which he is not the cause; in this way we must learn to expect and ask all things from him, and thankfully ascribe to him whatever we receive. For this sense of the divine perfections is the proper master to teach us piety, out of which religion springs. By piety I mean that union of reverence and love to God which the knowledge of his benefits inspires. For, until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that nought is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.
2. Those, therefore, who, in considering this question, propose to inquire what the essence of God is, only delude us with frigid speculations,--it being much more our interest to know what kind of being God is, and what things are agreeable to his nature. For, of what use is it to join Epicures in acknowledging some God who has cast off the care of the world, and only delights himself in ease? What avails it, in short, to know a God with whom we have nothing to do? The effect of our knowledge rather ought to be, first, to teach us reverence and fear; and, secondly, to induce us, under its guidance and teaching, to ask every good thing from him, and, when it is received, ascribe it to him. For how can the idea of God enter your mind without instantly giving rise to the thought, that since you are his workmanship, you are bound, by the very law of creation, to submit to his authority?--that your life is due to him?--that whatever you do ought to have reference to him? If so, it undoubtedly follows that your life is sadly corrupted, if it is not framed in obedience to him, since his will ought to be the law of our lives. On the other hand, your idea of his nature is not clear unless you acknowledge him to be the origin and fountain of all goodness. Hence would arise both confidence in him, and a desire of cleaving to him, did not the depravity of the human mind lead it away from the proper course of investigation.
For, first of all, the pious mind does not devise for itself any kind of God, but looks alone to the one true God; nor does it feign for him any character it pleases, but is contented to have him in the character in which he manifests himself always guarding, with the utmost diligences against transgressing his will, and wandering, with daring presumptions from the right path. He by whom God is thus known perceiving how he governs all things, confides in him as his guardian and protector, and casts himself entirely upon his faithfulness,--perceiving him to be the source of every blessing, if he is in any strait or feels any want, he instantly recurs to his protection and trusts to his aid,--persuaded that he is good and merciful, he reclines upon him with sure confidence, and doubts not that, in the divine clemency, a remedy will be provided for his every time of need,--acknowledging him as his Father and his Lord he considers himself bound to have respect to his authority in all things, to reverence his majesty, aim at the advancement of his glory, and obey his commands,--regarding him as a just judge, armed with severity to punish crimes, he keeps the Judgment-seat always in his view. Standing in awe of it, he curbs himself, and fears to provoke his anger. Nevertheless, he is not so terrified by an apprehension of Judgment as to wish he could withdraw himself, even if the means of escape lay before him; nay, he embraces him not less as the avenger of wickedness than as the rewarder of the righteous; because he perceives that it equally appertains to his glory to store up punishment for the one, and eternal life for the other. Besides, it is not the mere fear of punishment that restrains him from sin. Loving and revering God as his father, honouring and obeying him as his master, although there were no hell, he would revolt at the very idea of offending him.
Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear--fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare.
By Don Carson 7/30/2018
Most of Paul's Evangelizing of Gentiles began with the synagogue. His regular procedure when he arrived in a new town was to visit the synagogue and (since it was not uncommon to ask visitors to speak) avail himself of the opportunity to preach the Gospel. This meant that his hearers were a mix of Jews, proselytes (i.e., Gentile converts to Judaism), and God-fearers (i.e., Gentiles who were sympathetic to Jews and Jewish monotheism, but who had not formally converted).
The book of Acts shows that in several instances (e.g., 13:13-48; 17:1-9), the synagogue authorities soon tired of Paul and banned him. At this point many of the proselytes and God-fearers went with him, so that although he was now preaching to a largely Gentile crowd, the core of that crowd had received some exposure to the Old Testament Scriptures. In other words, in such cases Paul was able to preach to people who largely shared with him the vocabulary, facts, and movements of the Old Testament storyline.
But what would Paul do if he were preaching to biblical illiterates — that is, to people who had never heard of Moses, never read the Old Testament, never learned a single item of the Old Testament plotline? Such people would not only have to be informed, but would have to unlearn a lot of notions they had absorbed from some other cultural and religious heritage. We have a glimpse of such an encounter in 14:8-20, when the citizens of Lystra excitedly conclude that Paul and Barnabas are incarnations of Greek gods. The brief report of Paul’s address (Acts 14:15-17) provides a glimpse of the apostolic response.
But it is the account of Paul’s visit to Athens (Acts 17:16-31) that is most revealing. Here, too, Paul began in the synagogue (Acts 17:17), but he also set about evangelizing in the marketplace with whoever happened to be there (Acts 17:17), and this precipitates the invitation to speak at the meeting of the Areopagus. And there, one clearly perceives how the apostle Paul has thought this matter through. In a world of finite gods (often supported by one pantheistic deity), cyclical views of history, sub-biblical understandings of sin, multiplied idolatry, dualism that declares all that is material to be bad and all that is spiritual to be good, tribal deities, and not a little superstition, Paul paints a worldview of the true God, a linear view of history, the nature of sin and idolatry, impending judgment, the unity of the human race and the oneness of God — all as the necessary framework without which his proclamation of Jesus makes no sense. What does that mean for evangelism today?
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Now, More than Ever, Is the Time…
By Melinda Penner 6/2015
This is an encouragement to me. What was written 2 years ago is so true today and in the coming years it will be even more so. A directee recently reminded me that lambs are led to the altar. In the old movie The Lion in Winter the king has put his sons in the dungeon and they expect to be executed for treason. John (The Lion heart) says, "When all you have left is death, it is important how you die." I think this woman has written a great response to the times we live in today.
I’ve been thinking about the Christians in the first few centuries who were at odds with the culture, ostracized, and often persecuted as a result. They lived out the Gospel and distinguished themselves and therefore their message because of it. I’ve specifically been thinking of how they saved baby girls who were abandoned because they were not wanted or valued, and disposed of to die of exposure. And how Christians cared for the sick during plagues that hit the cities when they were left for dead.
They carried on and lived in a way that honored God showing love to all people, standing firm. Even though they were despised by the culture, they carried on doing what was right before God and loving those who persecuted them.
Now, more than ever, is the time to be conscientious of wisdom and character in KWC (Knowledge, Wisdom, and Chraracter in the Ambassador Model). Offering all of our reasons and arguments with gentleness and reverence.
It’s tempting to get angry at this decision that goes against God, nature, and our Constitution, but that won’t help. It’s tempting to despair, but that won’t help either. God has a purpose for us now in this time and we’ll faithfully continue to honor God and live out KWC in our own lives, as a team, and teaching other Christians.
We’ll answer sin and anger with patience and kindness. We’ll love the people who make us their enemies just as Jesus did. And God will give us the wisdom and grace we need to do this. As Alan Shlemon consistently reminds us, let’s answer with truth and compassion. In the end, it’s right back to the Gospel—there are lost sinners who need to be reconciled to God, just as we once were.
Our times are in God’s hands (Psalm 31:15). Our job is to be faithful and trust Him in all circumstances.
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Melinda graduated from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska with her B.S. in Education, and then earned a B.A. in theology from Christ College in Irvine, CA. She also completed her M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology. She taught middle school in Christian schools until founding Stand to Reason with Greg. She is the executive director of Stand to Reason.
Perspectives on Social Ethics 2 - Old Testament Perspectives On Social Ethics
By Charles C. Ryrie 1976
No discussion of social ethics would be complete without some reference to the Old Testament. Indeed, many popular treatments of the subject do little more than refer to a few of the better known prophetic denunciations of injustice and insensitivity to the poor as the principal basis for stirring up Christian involvement in social issues today. Such an approach is not only overly simplistic, but it also shows a lack of theological acumen so necessary to a proper use of the Old Testament in relation to Christian conduct. Here, for example, is a statement that might have been more carefully formulated:
As Christians, we in no way minimize the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament, although we believe that the New Testament clarifies and consummates the Old Testament disclosure of God’s nature, purpose, and will. Before turning to the New Testament, then, we need to remind ourselves of what the Old Testament teaches in this area. And indisputably the Old Testament teaches a social ethic which stands as an abiding challenge to any policy of quietistic withdrawal from the rough-and-tumble of politics. In God’s name the Old Testament demands that injustice be fought, righteousness be established in society, and the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the poor, and the oppressed be made the objects of protection and provision. Evangelicalism and social responsibility, (Focal pamphlet no. 16)
Then after citing some important Old Testament passages which cry for justice, the same author concludes: “Unquestionably, therefore, the Old Testament insists on social justice. Passionately it affirms that the evidence of a right relationship with God is a right relationship with one’s neighbor — and this implies a willingness to struggle for his rights.”
Permit one who was born in Missouri to ask a few “show me” type questions. (1) Does the New Testament always clarify and consumate the Old Testament disclosure of God’s nature, purpose, and will? Or does it sometimes reveal changes in God’s purpose and will, though not in His nature? (2) If the Bible teaches that a Christian is to be involved in the rough-and-tumble of politics, he may ask, What kind of politics? Republican or Democratic — both of whom affirm that they strive for social justice? Capitalistic or socialistic or even communistic? And if the Bible does teach an involvement in politics, then why did not Jesus or Paul become involved in the rough-and-tumble of Roman politics? (3) If the Bible teaches so clearly that Christians are to struggle for the rights of their neighbors, then why did not the leaders during New Testament times struggle against slavery? Raising this question is not to suggest that slavery should not be condemned; instead, the question is simply a plea for a more careful definition of the word struggle. At any rate, it should be obvious that the use of the Old Testament as a guide for ethical conduct, whether personal or social, involves not only careful exegesis but theological discernment as well.
This subject will be investigated along three lines: first, an examination of the concept of the theocracy in order to have a proper context for the second consideration, namely, a partial listing of some of the particulars of Old Testament teaching on social ethics, and finally, and most important for this study, a discussion of the ramifications and applications of all this to the responsible believer of today.
The Concept Of The Theocracy
A theocracy may be defined as “government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials regarded as divinely guided.” Israel was a theocracy in both senses of this definition. She experienced immediate divine guidance particularly in her basic code of conduct, the Mosaic law, and she was ruled through the mediation of judges, kings, and priests. The theocratic arrangement set Israel apart from all other nations of the world. “For what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and ordinances as righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” ( Deut 4:8; cf. 33:1–4 ). “You only have Me among all the families of the earth” ( Amos 3:2 ). “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” ( Exod 19:5–6 ).
It seems clear that the following ideas flow from the basic notion of a theocracy. First, theocratic regulations come directly from God and are therefore not man-made. Whatever use or misuse may be made today in applying these regulations to other ages and stages in God’s program for the world, they definitely reveal something instructive about the immutable nature of God, and about His program for the theocracy.
Second, the privileged members of the theocracy bear a heavy burden of responsibility to live according to the standards of the theocracy. If the laws are God-given, they are not subject to human readjustment. Certainly this is an obvious theme of the Old Testament prophets. The last part of Amos 3:2 states that because Israel bore a unique relationship to God, “therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
Third, the relationship of the theocracy to the world must be carefully considered. If the regulations of the theocracy involve certain responsibilities to other nations not under theocratic rule, then of course the regulations must be obeyed and the responsibilities discharged. But if nothing is said concerning the involvement of the other nations, then the question remains whether the theocratic principles should be imposed on them as well. For example, did God require all the other nations to treat their poor as He expected Israel to treat her poor? Or again, did God expect Israel to treat the poor of all nations as she was expected to treat her own poor? These are some of the considerations raised by the very concept of a theocracy, apart from considering the relationship of the theocracy of Israel to the church.
Social Conduct In The Theocracy
To attempt to list, let alone explain, all the laws which legitimately belong to the realm of social ethics in the theocracy of the Old Testament would needlessly be sidetracking. The purposes of this study can be met by a sampling of specific laws within the broad categories under which these laws seem to fall. This will give the perspective needed to appraise the Old Testament contribution correctly.
At least three broad categories of social laws exist. But before examining them, it should be borne in mind that the three categories, or five or six or however many one comes up with, are parts of a single package. The Mosaic code was a unit, though it is capable of being cataloged in various ways. The commandments of Exodus 20 are followed without a break by the judgments of chapter 21, which in turn are followed without division by the ordinances of chapter 25 and following. And the New Testament states that to offend in one point of the law is to be guilty of all ( James 2:10 ). This implies that God views Israel’s sins of the heart and sins of the hand as part and parcel of the same package. Indeed, one may go a step further and say that sins of the heart cause sins of the hand. Ethics are an outgrowth of theology, and when Israel’s theology changed, her social (and personal) ethics changed also. Therefore., it is not surprising to find idolatry listed as the first category of sin of which Israel was guilty. If idolatry does not seem to belong to the realm of social ethics, it should be remembered that it was the cause of social sins of which Israel was guilty.
The prohibition of idolatry is one of the three immutable absolutes in the Jewish system of ethics (incest and murder being the other two). The first two commandments of the Decalogue prohibit image worship as well as the worship of any other god ( Exod 20:1–2 ). Idolatry was punishable by death ( Deut 17:2–7 ). The story of idolatry among the Hebrews begins with Rachel’s stealing Laban’s teraphim ( Gen 31:19 ). During Moses’ absence from the camp at Mount Sinai, the people clamored for a visible representation of God, constructed the golden calf, and accompanied their idolatry by singing and dancing naked before the idol ( Exod 32:6, 18, 19, 25 ). The Hebrew word rendered “play” in 32:6 implies sexual gestures or acts. Though commanded to destroy the idols of Canaan, the Israelites rebelled ( Judges 2:12, 14 ) and the Canaanized worship of Yahweh evolved. The Babylonian captivity arose as a direct punishment for idolatry ( Jer 29:8–10 ).
In the prophets, idolatry led to acts of adultery ( Hos 2:13 ), captivity ( 8:13 ), unacceptable offerings ( Amos 4:4–5 ), injustice ( 5:24 ), self-indulgent living ( 6:1–6 ), violence, deceit, and shortages of food ( Mic 6:12–16 ). Departure from the truth always results in deterioration of life.
Oppression of the Poor and Needy
The Old Testament abounds with exhortations and commands relative to the poor and needy. The law protected the poor from unlawful usury charges ( Exod 22:25; Lev 25:36 ). The corners of a field were not to be reaped, nor the vineyards stripped clean of their fruit, in order to leave something for the needy ( Lev 19:9–10; 23:22 ). Whatever grew spontaneously in the field during the sabbath year was to be left unreaped for the benefit of any who wanted to gather it ( 25:5 ). Individuals were permitted to pluck grain or eat grapes belonging to another as long as they carried nothing away ( Deut 23:24–25 ). Special blessing was promised those who gave to the poor ( Prov 19:17; Ps 41:1 ), and those who oppressed the poor were singled out for judgment ( Ps 140:12 ). Cheating the poor, robbing the poor, and coveting his meager property were condemned ( Hos 12:7; Mic 2:1–2 ). Amos 8:4–7 summarizes God’s attitude toward abuse of the poor:
Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, saying,
“When will the new moon be over,
So that we may buy grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market,
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales,
So as to buy the helpless for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals,
And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat.”
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
“Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.”
Widows and orphans — classes that might be especially oppressed — came under the expressed protection of the law. “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry” ( Exod 22:22–23 ). Taking a widow’s garment in pledge was prohibited ( Deut 24:17 ). When fields were reaped, all the forgotten sheaves were to be left for widows and orphans ( 24:19 ). Every third year the tithe of produce went to widows, orphans, and sojourners ( 26:12–13 ).
Obviously, all these regulations concerned the poor and oppressed among the members of the theocracy. Regarding sojourners (גּר) the law also laid down specific regulations. Israelites must not oppress them ( Exod 22:21; 23:9; Lev 19:33–34 ). Indeed, they were to love them ( Deut 10:19 ). The gleanings of the vineyard and the harvest were to be left for them ( Lev 10:10; 23:22; Deut 24:19–21 ). The protection of the cities of refuge were extended to them ( Num 35:15; Josh 20:9 ). They were ranked with the orphans and widows as being defenseless ( Ps 94:6; Zech 7:10 ). They, as settlers, were virtually on the same level as Israelites ( Lev 24:22 ) with a few exceptions: they were not included in the general liberation of slaves in the year of jubilee ( Lev 25:45–46 ), had no inherited rights in the land, and could not keep the Passover unless circumcised ( Exod 12:48 ).
A stranger (גּר) was an outsider, often equivalent to an alien or even an enemy of the nation ( Isa 1:7; Obad 11 ). The foreigner (נכרי) was one of another race and particularly another religion. Strict regulations were given against marrying strangers ( Deuteronomy 7:1–6; 1 Kings 11:1 ). Interest could be taken from a נכרי but not from an Israelite ( Deut 23:20 ). Some of the protection afforded by Israelite laws was provided for the settler, but Israel’s exclusivism did not obligate her to extend her protective laws to foreigners.
Personal Sins with Social Implications
A sampling of personal sins with social implications includes the following.
Swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery will bring sorrow to the people and eventually result in captivity ( Hos 4:2 ). The theme that these sins are committed “because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (v. 1 ) recurs frequently. Leaders who are unjust naturally influence the lives of those who belong to the community ( Mic 3:1–4 ). Violations of marriage laws seriously disrupted family and social life. Divorce, rampant in the time of Malachi, had far-reaching consequences: it broke the pledge made at the time of marriage ( Mal 2:14 ), it violated God’s original intention of one woman for one man ( 2:15 ), it denied protection due the wife ( 2:16 ), and it clearly violated God’s desire for man as seen in God’s thunderous declaration, “I hate divorce” ( 2:16 ). During this same time period, mixed marriages were being severely dealt with by Nehemiah ( 13:22–27 ).
The following paragraphs summarize this relatively brief excursion into the laws of the theocracy.
1. The character of God is always revealed in His laws, regardless of whether those laws are directly applicable to Christians today. Something is learned about the concern of God for righteousness from studying the particulars that governed the theocracy.
2. The theocratic laws govern only those who belong to the theocracy. It is vain to search in the Bible for laws that govern those outside the theocracy. Only as strangers become settlers do they come under the requirements and protection of the laws of the theocracy.
3. Theology and ethics are inseparable. What a person believes affects what he does, and what he does is a reflection of what he believes.
4. In the theocratic code a heavy emphasis is placed on kindness and justice extended to the oppressed.
The Contribution of Theocratic Ethics to the Ethics of the Church
To what extent are the regulations of the Mosaic code applicable today? Or to ask a larger question, To what extent are the regulations of one dispensation binding on those living in another dispensation? This is a very important question, the answer to which represents a basic hermencutical consideration, seldom spelled out, as well as a very practical consideration.
This question surfaces as the result of several considerations: (1) Some of the regulations of one dispensation are found unchanged in one or more other dispensations (e.g., “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” is found both in the Mosaic code and under grace). (2) Some regulations are changed in a later dispensation by adding features not revealed before (e.g., capital punishment before the Law was given only for murder, whereas in the Law it was prescribed for a number of other crimes including incorrigible juvenile delinquency). (3) Some regulations are completely changed (e.g., “don’t eat certain kinds of meat” was commanded under the law, whereas now all meat is available for man to eat). Generally, dispensational theologians have followed one of two basic paths in dealing with the data. Either they say the dispensational scheme should be viewed as a kind of stairstep concept, in which items from a previous dispensation form the basis on which subsequent dispensations are built; or they say each dispensation ends completely when a new one begins. The stairstep concept deals with two of the three questions raised above, namely, regulations repeated and regulations elaborated. Obviously, there is no building on regulations that are abrogated or contradicted.
This author views each dispensation as a complete unit in itself (with one exception not germaine to this discussion: a promise that may be announced in one dispensation, but is not fulfilled until a later one; e.g., promises concerning the coming of Christ or promises concerning the millennium). In this view each dispensation is a stewardship arrangement which, when superceded, closes completely. The particular code of each dispensation includes all that God intended to reveal to man about the stewardship arrangement of that dispensation. When the dispensation closes, its code is no longer binding; it is superceded by another code belonging to the newly inaugurated dispensation. The new code may include some of the same specifics found in the previous code. It may also include similar but more fully elaborated specifics of a previous code. And it may include different, even contradictory, specifics.
Some very important hermeneutical considerations follow from this concept. (1) If the code of grace or the law of Christ gives specific direction about anything, then that is what the believer today is bound to obey. The code of grace is the law under which he is presently living and its commands are to be his rule of life. (2) If the code of grace does not specifically deal with some matter, then he should look in other codes to see what God’s attitude toward that matter was in the past, and find guidance for conduct today.
What about the specific relationship of social ethics under the theocracy to social ethics under grace?
1. Some guidelines are the same for both the theocracy and the church. The outstanding feature of the Old Testament perspective (and when misunderstood, the outstanding error) is that the unit of society to which social ethics applied was the theocracy, the “in group,” not outsiders. Likewise, the church’s social ethics are directed principally to believers. Many specifics of ethics under the theocracy are reincorporated without change in the code of grace. Concern for the poor, the orphan, and the widow are as much a New Testament theme as an Old Testament one. Prohibitions against idolatry and personal sins with social ramifications are found in both the theocratic code and the church law. These matters are fairly obvious.
2. But some elements are different. Members of the theocracy were never told to do good to all men. But Christians are. The matter of obedience to government is an entirely different matter in a theocracy than it is for a believer today in North Korea or even the United States. Regulations for giving are considerably different in the code of Christ. In these areas Christians are to take their guidelines from the New Testament and not the Old. In matters treated in both the Old and New Testaments, Christians still get their guidance from the New, reinforcing it with similar regulations in the Old.
The Old Testament perspective on social ethics focuses on concern for the oppressed and on righteous living within the group. It does not command the establishment of justice in the world, nor the care of all the oppressed in the world. It gives no example for involvement in the rough-and-tumble of political life. It does show God’s love for justice and holiness in personal living as well as in the community life of the theocracy. It shows God’s abiding hatred of sin. The social ethics of the Old Testament are much more “isolationist” than those of the New Testament.Dallas Theological Seminary. (1977; 2002). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 134 (134:33–44). Dallas Theological Seminary.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 123Our Eyes Look to the LORD Our God
123 A Song Of Ascents.
123:1 To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER XV | An Account of the Persecutions in Scotland During the Reign of King Henry VIIILike as there was no place, either of Germany, Italy, or France, wherein there were not some branches sprung out of that most fruitful root of Luther; so likewise was not this isle of Britain without his fruit and branches. Amongst whom was Patrick Hamilton, a Scotchman born of high and noble stock, and of the king's blood, of excellent towardness, twenty-three years of age, called abbot of Ferne. Coming out of his country with three companions to seek godly learning, he went to the University of Marburg in Germany, which university was then newly erected by Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
During his residence here, he became intimately acquainted with those eminent lights of the Gospel, Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon; from whose writings and doctrines he strongly attached himself to the Protestant religion.
The archbishop of St. Andrews (who was a rigid papist) learning of Mr. Hamilton's proceedings, caused him to be seized, and being brought before him, after a short examination relative to his religious principles, he committed him a prisoner to the castle, at the same time ordering him to be confined in the most loathsome part of the prison.
The next morning Mr. Hamilton was brought before the bishop, and several others, for examination, when the principal articles exhibited against him were, his publicly disapproving of pilgrimages, purgatory, prayers to saints, for the dead, etc.
These articles Mr. Hamilton acknowledged to be true, in consequence of which he was immediately condemned to be burnt; and that his condemnation might have the greater authority, they caused it to be subscribed by all those of any note who were present, and to make the number as considerable as possible, even admitted the subscription of boys who were sons of the nobility.
So anxious was this bigoted and persecuting prelate for the destruction of Mr. Hamilton, that he ordered his sentence to be put in execution on the afternoon of the very day it was pronounced. He was accordingly led to the place appointed for the horrid tragedy, and was attended by a prodigious number of spectators. The greatest part of the multitude would not believe it was intended he should be put to death, but that it was only done to frighten him, and thereby bring him over to embrace the principles of the Romish religion.
When he arrived at the stake, he kneeled down, and, for some time prayed with great fervency. After this he was fastened to the stake, and the fagots placed round him. A quantity of gunpowder having been placed under his arms was first set on fire which scorched his left hand and one side of his face, but did no material injury, neither did it communicate with the fagots. In consequence of this, more powder and combustible matter were brought, which being set on fire took effect, and the fagots being kindled, he called out, with an audible voice: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! How long shall darkness overwhelm this realm? And how long wilt Thou suffer the tyranny of these men?"
The fire burning slow put him to great torment; but he bore it with Christian magnanimity. What gave him the greatest pain was, the clamor of some wicked men set on by the friars, who frequently cried, "Turn, thou heretic; call upon our Lady; say, Salve Regina, etc." To whom he replied, "Depart from me, and trouble me not, ye messengers of Satan." One Campbell, a friar, who was the ringleader, still continuing to interrupt him by opprobrious language; he said to him, "Wicked man, God forgive thee." After which, being prevented from further speech by the violence of the smoke, and the rapidity of the flames, he resigned up his soul into the hands of Him who gave it.
This steadfast believer in Christ suffered martyrdom in the year 1527.
One Henry Forest, a young inoffensive Benedictine, being charged with speaking respectfully of the above Patrick Hamilton, was thrown into prison; and, in confessing himself to a friar, owned that he thought Hamilton a good man; and that the articles for which he was sentenced to die, might be defended. This being revealed by the friar, it was received as evidence; and the poor Benedictine was sentenced to be burnt.
Whilst consultation was held, with regard to the manner of his execution, John Lindsay, one of the archbishop's gentlemen, offered his advice, to burn Friar Forest in some cellar; "for," said he, "the smoke of Patrick Hamilton hath infected all those on whom it blew."
This advice was taken, and the poor victim was rather suffocated, than burnt.
The next who fell victims for professing the truth of the Gospel, were David Stratton and Norman Gourlay.
When they arrived at the fatal spot, they both kneeled down, and prayed for some time with great fervency. They then arose, when Stratton, addressing himself to the spectators, exhorted them to lay aside their superstitious and idolatrous notions, and employ their time in seeking the true light of the Gospel. He would have said more, but was prevented by the officers who attended.
Their sentence was then put into execution, and they cheerfully resigned up their souls to that God who gave them, hoping, through the merits of the great Redeemer, for a glorious resurrection to life immortal. They suffered in the year 1534.
The martyrdoms of the two before-mentioned persons, were soon followed by that of Mr. Thomas Forret, who, for a considerable time, had been dean of the Romish Church; Killor and Beverage, two blacksmiths; Duncan Simson, a priest; and Robert Forrester, a gentleman. They were all burnt together, on the Castle-hill at Edinburgh, the last day of February, 1538.
The year following the martyrdoms of the before-mentioned persons, viz. 1539, two others were apprehended on a suspicion of herresy; namely, Jerome Russell and Alexander Kennedy, a youth about eighteen years of age.
These two persons, after being some time confined in prison, were brought before the archbishop for examination. In the course of which Russell, being a very sensible man, reasoned learnedly against his accusers; while they in return made use of very opprobrious language.
The examination being over, and both of them deemed heretics, the archbishop pronounced the dreadful sentence of death, and they were immediately delivered over to the secular power in order for execution.
The next day they were led to the place appointed for them to suffer; in their way to which, Russell, seeing his fellow-sufferer have the appearance of timidity in his countenance, thus addressed him: "Brother, fear not; greater is He that is in us, than He that is in the world. The pain that we are to suffer is short, and shall be light; but our joy and consolation shall never have an end. Let us, therefore, strive to enter into our Master and Savior's joy, by the same straight way which He hath taken before us. Death cannot hurt us, for it is already destroyed by Him, for whose sake we are now going to suffer."
When they arrived at the fatal spot, they both kneeled down and prayed for some time; after which being fastened to the stake, and the fagots lighted, they cheerfully resigned their souls into the hands of Him who gave them, in full hopes of an everlasting reward in the heavenly mansions.
An Account of the Life, Sufferings, and Death of Mr. George Wishart, Who Was Strangled and Afterward Burned, in Scotland, for Professing the Truth of the Gospel
About the year of our Lord 1543, there was, in the University of Cambridge, one Master George Wishart, commonly called Master George of Benet's College, a man of tall stature, polled-headed, and on the same a round French cap of the best; judged to be of melancholy complexion by his physiognomy, black-haired, long-bearded, comely of personage, well spoken after his country of Scotland, courteous, lowly, lovely, glad to teach, desirous to learn, and well travelled; having on him for his clothing a frieze gown to the shoes, a black millian fustian doublet, and plain black hosen, coarse new canvas for his shirts, and white falling bands and cuffs at his hands.
He was a man modest, temperate, fearing God, hating covetousness; for his charity had never end, night, noon, nor day; he forbare one meal in three, one day in four for the most part, except something to comfort nature. He lay hard upon a puff of straw and coarse, new canvas sheets, which, when he changed, he gave away. He had commonly by his bedside a tub of water, in the which (his people being in bed, the candle put out and all quiet) he used to bathe himself. He loved me tenderly, and I him. He taught with great modesty and gravity, so that some of his people thought him severe, and would have slain him; but the Lord was his defence. And he, after due correction for their malice, by good exhortation amended them and went his way. Oh, that the Lord had left him to me, his poor boy, that he might have finished what he had begun! for he went into scotland with divers of the nobility, that came for a treaty to King Henry.
In 1543, the archbishop of St. Andrews made a visitation into various parts of his diocese, where several persons were informed against at Perth for heresy. Among those the following were condemned to die, viz. William Anderson, Robert Lamb, James Finlayson, James Hunter, James Raveleson, and Helen Stark.
The accusations laid against these respective persons were as follow: The four first were accused of having hung up the image of St. Francis, nailing ram's horns on his head, and fastening a cow's tail to his rump; but the principal matter on which they were condemned was having regaled themselves with a goose on fast day.
James Reveleson was accused of having ornamented his house with the three crowned diadem of Peter, carved in wood, which the archbishop conceived to be done in mockery to his cardinal's cap.
Helen Stark was accused of not having accustomed herself to pray to the Virgin Mary, more especially during the time she was in childbed.
On these respective accusations they were all found guilty, and immediately received sentence of death; the four men, for eating the goose, to be hanged; James Raveleson to be burnt; and the woman, with her sucking infant, to be put into a sack and drowned.
The four men, with the woman and the child, suffered at the same time, but James Raveleson was not executed until some days after.
The martyrs were carried by a great band of armed men (for they feared rebellion in the town except they had their men of war) to the place of execution, which was common to all thieves, and that to make their cause appear more odious to the people. Every one comforting another, and assuring themselves that they should sup together in the Kingdom of Heaven that night, they commended themselves to God, and died constantly in the Lord.
The woman desired earnestly to die with her husband, but she was not suffered; yet, following him to the place of execution, she gave him comfort, exhorting him to perseverance and patience for Christ's sake, and, parting from him with a kiss, said, "Husband, rejoice, for we have lived together many joyful days; but this day, in which we must die, ought to be most joyful unto us both, because we must have joy forever; therefore I will not bid you good night, for we shall suddenly meet with joy in the Kingdom of Heaven." The woman, after that, was taken to a place to be drowned, and albeit she had a child sucking on her breast, yet this moved nothing in the unmerciful hearts of the enemies. So, after she had commended her children to the neighbors of the town for God's sake, and the sucking bairn was given to the nurse, she sealed up the truth by her death.
Being desirous of propagating the true Gospel in his own country George Wishart left Cambridge in 1544, and on his arrival in Scotland he first preached at Montrose, and afterwards at Dundee. In this last place he made a public exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, which he went through with such grace and freedom, as greatly alarmed the papists.
In consequence of this, (at the instigation of Cardinal Beaton, the archbishop of St. Andrews) one Robert Miln, a principal man at Dundee, went to the church where Wishart preached, and in the middle of his discourse publicly told him not to trouble the town any more, for he was determined not to suffer it.
This sudden rebuff greatly surprised Wishart, who, after a short pause, looking sorrowfully on the speaker and the audience, said: "God is my witness, that I never minded your trouble but your comfort; yea, your trouble is more grievous to me than it is to yourselves: but I am assured to refuse God's Word, and to chase from you His messenger, shall not preserve you from trouble, but shall bring you into it: for God shall send you ministers that shall fear neither burning nor banishment. I have offered you the Word of salvation. With the hazard of my life I have remained among you; now you yourselves refuse me; and I must leave my innocence to be declared by my God. If it be long prosperous with you, I am not lede by the Spirit of truth; but if unlooked-for troubles come upon you, acknowledge the cause and turn to God, who is gracious and merciful. But if you turn not at the first warning, He will visit you with fire and sword." At the close of this speech he left the pulpit, and retired.
After this he went into the west of Scotland, where he preached God's Word, which was gladly received by many.
A short time after this Mr. Wishart received intelligence that the plague had broken out in Dundee. It began four days after he was prohibited from preaching there, and raged so extremely that it was almost beyond credit how many died in the space of twenty-four hours. This being related to him, he, notwithstanding the importunity of his friends to detain him, determined to go there, saying: "They are now in troubles, and need comfort. Perhaps this hand of God will make them now to magnify and reverence the Word of God, which before they lightly esteemed."
Here he was with joy received by the godly. He chose the east gate for the place of his preaching; so that the healthy were within, and the sick without the gate. He took his text from these words, "He sent His word and healed them," etc. In this sermon he chiefly dwelt upon the advantage and comfort of God's Word, the judgments that ensue upon the contempt or rejection of it, the freedom of God's grace to all His people, and the happiness of those of His elect, whom He takes to Himself out of this miserable world. The hearts of his hearers were so raised by the divine force of this discourse, as not to regard death, but to judge them the more happy who should then be called, not knowing whether he should have such comfort again with them.
After this the plague abated; though, in the midst of it, Wishart constantly visited those that lay in the greatest extremity, and comforted them by his exhortations.
When he took his leave of the people of Dundee, he said that God had almost put an end to that plague, and that he was now called to another place. He went from thence to Montrose; where he sometimes preached, but he spent most of his time in private meditation and prayer.
It is said that before he left Dundee, and while he was engaged in the labors of love to the bodies as well as to the souls of those poor afflicted people, Cardinal Beaton engaged a desperate popish priest, called John Weighton, to kill him; the attempt to execute which was as follows: one day, after Wishart had finished his sermon, and the people departed, a priest stood waiting at the bottom of the stairs, with a naked dagger in his hand under his gown. But Mr. Wishart, having a sharp, piercing eye, and seeing the priest as he came from the pulpit, said to him, "My friend, what would you have?" and immediately clapping his hand upon the dagger, took it from him. The priest being terrified, fell to his knees, confessed his intention, and craved pardon. A noise was hereupon raised, and it coming to the ears of those who were sick, they cried, "Deliver the traitor to us, we will take him by force"; and they burst in at the gate. But Wishart, taking the priest in his arms, said, "Whatsoever hurts him shall hurt me; for he hath done me no mischief, but much good, by teaching more heedfulness for the time to come." By this conduct he appeased the people and saved the life of the wicked priest.
Soon after his return to Montrose, the cardinal again conspired his death, causing a letter to be sent him as if it had been from his familiar friend, the laird of Kennier, in which it was desired with all possible speed to come to him, as he was taken with a sudden sickness. In the meantime the cardinal had provided sixty men armed to lie in wait within a mile and a half of Montrose, in order to murder him as he passed that way.
The letter came to Wishart's hand by a boy, who also brought him a horse for the journey. Wishart, accompanied by some honest men, his friends, set forward; but something particular striking his mind by the way, he returned, which they wondering at, asked him the cause; to whom he said, "I will not go; I am forbidden of God; I am assured there is treason. Let some of you go to yonder place, and tell me what you find." Which doing, they made the discovery; and hastily returning, they told Mr. Wishart; whereupon he said, "I know I shall end my life by that bloodthirsty man's hands, but it will not be in this manner."
A short time after this he left Montrose, and proceeded to Edinburgh, in order to propagate the Gospel in that city. By the way he lodged with a faithful brother, called James Watson of Inner-Goury. In the middle of the night he got up, and went into the yard, which two men hearing they privately followed him. While in the yard, he fell on his knees, and prayed for some time with the greatest fervency, after which he arose, and returned to his bed. Those who attended him, appearing as though they were ignorant of all, came and asked him where he had been. But he would not answer them. The next day they importuned him to tell them, saying "Be plain with us, for we heard your mourning, and saw your gestures."
On this he with a dejected countenance, said, "I had rather you had been in your beds." But they still pressing upon him to know something, he said, "I will tell you; I am assured that my warfare is near at an end, and therefore pray to God with me, that I shrink not when the battle waxeth most hot."
Soon after, Cardinal Beaton, archbishop of St. Andrews, being informed that Mr. Wishart was at the house of Mr. Cockburn, of Ormistohn, in East Lothian, applied to the regent to cause him to be apprehended; with which, after great persuasion, and much against his will, he complied.
In consequence of this the cardinal immediately proceeded to the trial of Wishart, against whom no less than eighteen articles were exhibited. Mr. Wishart answered the respective articles with great composure of mind, and in so learned and clear a manner as greatly surprised most of those who were present.
After the examination was finished, the archbishop endeavored to prevail on Mr. Wishart to recant; but he was too firmly fixed in his religious principles and too much enlightened with the truth of the Gospel, to be in the least moved.
On the morning of his execution there came to him two friars from the cardinal; one of whom put on him a black linen coat, and the other brought several bags of gunpowder, which they tied about different parts of his body.
As soon as he arrived at the stake, the executioner put a rope round his neck and a chain about his middle, upon which he fell on his knees and thus exclaimed:
"O thou Savior of the world, have mercy upon me! Father of heaven, I commend my spirit into Thy holy hands."
After this he prayed for his accusers, saying, "I beseech thee, Father of heaven, forgive them that have, from ignorance or an evil mind, forged lies of me: I forgive them with all my heart. I beseech Christ to forgive them that have ignorantly condemned me."
He was then fastened to the stake, and the fagots being lighted immediately set fire to the powder that was tied about him, which blew into a flame and smoke.
The governor of the castle, who stood so near that he was singed with the flame, exhorted the martyr, in a few words, to be of good cheer, and to ask the pardon of God for his offences. To which he replied, "This flame occasions trouble to my body, indeed, but it hath in nowise broken my spirit. But he who now so proudly looks down upon me from yonder lofty place (pointing to the cardinal) shall, ere long, be ignominiously thrown down, as now he proudly lolls at his ease." Which prediction was soon after fulfilled.
The hangman, that was his tormentor, sat down upon his knees, and said, "Sir, I pray you to forgive me, for I am not guilty of your death." To whom he answered, "Come hither to me." When that he was come to him, he kissed his cheek, and said: "Lo, here is a token that I forgive thee. My heart, do thine office." And then he was put upon the gibbet and hanged, and burned to powder. When that the people beheld the great tormenting, they might not withhold from piteous mourning and complaining of this innocent lamb's slaughter.
It was not long after the martyrdom of this blessed man of God, Master George Wishart, who was put to death by David Beaton, the bloody archbishop and cardinal of Scotland, A.D. 1546, the first day of March, that the said David Beaton, by the just revenge of God's mighty judgment, was slain within his own castle of St. Andrews, by the hands of one Leslie and other gentlemen, who, by the Lord stirred up, brake in suddenly upon him, and in his bed murdered him the said year, the last day of May, crying out, "Alas! alas! slay me not! I am a priest!" And so, like a butcher he lived, and like a butcher he died, and lay seven months and more unburied, and at last like a carrion was buried in a dunghill.
The last who suffered martyrdom in Scotland, for the cause of Christ, was one Walter Mill, who was burnt at Edinburgh in the year 1558.
This person, in his younger years, had travelled in Germany, and on his return was installed a priest of the Church of Lunan in Angus, but, on an information of heresy, in the time of Cardinal Beaton, he was forced to abandon his charge and abscond. But he was soon apprehended, and committed to prison.
Being interrogated by Sir Andrew Oliphant, whether he would recant his opinions, he answered in the negative, saying that he would 'sooner forfeit ten thousand lives, than relinquish a particle of those heavenly principles he had received from the suffrages of his blessed Redeemer.'
In consequence of this, sentence of condemnation was immediately passed on him, and he was conducted to prison in order for execution the following day.
This steadfast believe in Christ was eighty-two years of age, and exceedingly infirm; whence it was supposed that he could scarcely be heard. However, when he was taken to the place of execution, he expressed his religious sentiments with such courage, and at the same time composure of mind, as astonished even his enemies. As soon as he was fastened to the stake and the fagots lighted, he addressed the spectators as follows: "The cause why I suffer this day is not for any crime, (though I acknowledge myself a miserable sinner) but only for the defence of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ; and I praise God who hath called me, by His mercy, to seal the truth with my life; which, as I received it from Him, so I willingly and joyfully offer it up to His glory. Therefore, as you would escape eternal death, be no longer seduced by the lies of the seat of Antichrist: but depend solely on Jesus Christ, and His mercy, that you may be delivered from condemnation." And then added that he trusted he should be the last who would suffer death in Scotland upon a religious account.
Thus did this pious Christian cheerfully give up his life in defence of the truth of Christ's Gospel, not doubting but he should be made partaker of his heavenly Kingdom.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Continual Burnt Offering (2 Timothy 3:16)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
November 192 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ESV
It is of all importance to realize that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). The only way anyone can know what is acceptable to God is through careful and prayerful consideration of His written Word, which is the revelation of the living Word (Hebrews 4:12). Forms and ceremonies, no matter how impressive: doctrines and traditions, no matter how venerable, are all to be refused if contrary to the mind of the Lord as set forth in the Bible. The supreme test is “What says the Scripture?” Where the Word speaks, it should be ours to obey. Where Scripture is silent, we may well be silent too. But a merely mental acceptance of Bible doctrines will not do for God. There must be heart subjection to His truth. When Christ is received by faith, and His Word becomes the rule of our lives, we shall be enabled to glorify God in all our ways (Isaiah 59:21).
1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
Isaiah 59:21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” ESV
How precious is the Book divine,
By inspiration giv’n!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine,
To guide our souls to heav’n.
Its light, descending from above,
Our gloomy world to cheer,
Displays a Saviour’s boundless love,
And brings His glories near.
It shows to man his wand’ring ways,
And where his feet have trod;
And brings to view the matchless grace
Of a forgiving God.
This lamp thro’ all the dreary night
Of life shall guide our way,
Till we behold the clearer light
Of an eternal day.
--- John Fawcett
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Confessions of a secret sinner (3)
11/19/2017 Bob Gass
‘You’ll use the old rubble…to…rebuild the foundations.’
(Is 58:12) 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. ESV
Lie number two: God won’t use you now. Julie Ann Barnhill continues: ‘Women long to have their lives count for something more eternal than their jean size, or updated qualifications on a CV. Yet many times we judge ourselves by these superficial standards. Think of all the times you’ve gazed in a mirror and despised the woman staring back at you; times you’ve bought into the lie that because of your failures God can’t use you. I’m living proof that He can and does use us despite our past mistakes. David said when “I confessed my sins…you forgave my guilt” (Psalm 32:5 NCV). The worst sins in Scripture can never drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love, if you confess them and seek forgiveness. God’s truths can dispel the enemy’s deceit. Take hold of this promise: “I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places… You’ll use the old rubble…to…rebuild the foundations” (Isaiah 58:11-12 MSG). Lie number three: When people find out what you’ve done, they’ll never love, understand, or forgive you. Some you considered friends may leave…It happened to me…Friends dropped me when they learned the depth of my messes. And I once dropped a friend after learning some uncomfortable details about her life. Friends come and go, but a true friend sticks by you like family (see Proverbs 17:17). I wasn’t faithful to my friend, but Jesus always is. Time and again He promised never to leave us. Even “if we give up on him, he does not give up – for there’s no way he can be false to himself”’ (2 Timothy 2:13 MSG).
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Thus begins the Gettysburg Address, delivered this day, November 19, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln on the battlefield where 50,000 soldiers died. This ten-sentence speech ends with the words: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Another argument, put up (but not accepted) by Burnaby in Soundings, is this. If man's freedom is to be of any value, if he is to have any power of planning and of adapting means to ends, he must live in a predictable world. But if God alters the course of events in answer to prayer, then the world will be unpredictable. Therefore, if man is to be effectively free, God must be in this respect un-free.
But is it not plain that this predictable world, whether it is necessary to our freedom or no, is not the world we live in? This is a world of bets and insurance policies, of hopes and anxieties, where "nothing is certain but the unexpected" and prudence lies in "the masterly administration of the unforeseen." Nearly all the things people pray about are unpredictable: the result of a battle or an operation, the losing or getting of a job, the reciprocation of a love. We don’t pray about eclipses.
But, you will reply, we once did. Every advance of science makes predictable something that was formerly unpredictable. It is only our ignorance that makes petitionary prayer possible. Would it not be rational to assume that all those events we now pray about are in principle just as predictable though we don't yet know enough to predict them-as things like eclipses? But that is no answer to the point I'm making. I am not now trying to refute Determinism. I am only arguing that a world where the future is unknown cannot be inconsistent with planned and purposive action since we are actually planning and purposing in such a world now and have been doing so for thousands of years.
Also, between ourselves, I think this objection involves a false idea of what the sciences do. You are here a better judge than I, but I give it for what it may be worth. It is true in one sense that the mark of a genuine science is its power to predict. But does this mean that a perfected science, or a perfected synthesis of all the sciences, would be able to write reliable histories of the future? And would the scientists even want to do so? Doesn't science predict a future event only in so far as, and only because, that event is the instance of some universal law? Everything that makes the event unique-in other words, everything that makes it a concrete historical event-is deliberately ruled out; not only as something which science can't, or can't yet, include, but also as something in which science, as such, has no interest. No, one sunrise has ever been exactly like another. Take away from the sunrises that in which they differ and what is left will be identical. Such abstracted identicals are what science predicts. But life as we live it is not reducible to such identities. Every real physical event, much more every human experience, has behind it, in the long run, the whole previous history of the real universe-which is not itself an "instance" of anything-and is therefore always festooned with those particularities which science for her own purposes quite rightly discounts. Doesn't the whole art of contriving a good experiment consist in devising means whereby the irrelevancies-that is, the historical particularities-can be reduced to the minimum?
Later in his essay Burnaby seems to suggest that human wills are the only radically unpredictable factor in history. I'm not happy about this. Partly because I don't see how the gigantic negative which it involves could be proved; partly because I agree with Bradley that unpredictability is not the essence, nor even a symptom, of freedom. (Did you see they've reprinted Ethical Studies? The baiting of Arnold, wholly just and in Arnold's own manner, is exquisite.) But suppose it were true. Even then, it would make such a huge rent in the predictability of events that the whole idea of predictability as somehow necessary to human life would be in ruins. Think of the countless human acts, acts of copulation, spread over millennia, that led to the birth of Plato, Attila, or Napoleon. Yet it is on these unpredictables that human history largely depends. Twenty-five years ago you asked Betty to marry you. And now, as a result, we have young George (I hope he's got over his gastric flu?). A thousand years hence he might have a good many descendants, and only modesty could conceal from you the possibility that one of these might have as huge a historical effect as Aristotle-or Hitler!
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The spiritual life does not remove us from the world
but leads us deeper into it.
--- Henri J. M. Nouwen
Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
--- Thomas Merton
The love we give away is the only love we keep.
--- Elbert Hubbard
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. --- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The true test of our worldview is what we find entertaining.
--- Al Mohler
... from here, there and everywhere
Then and Today
In one of the classes I took from Dan Brunner he told us he gets aggravated when he hears others say if they had been in a particular historical place at a particular time they would not have done what our ancestors did. As we read the beginning verses of Ezekiel 14 do we make the same mistakes and the same assumptions about what kind of people these people were, and what kind of people we are?
"Do you know what the main preoccupations of Jewish people are? Let me list a few.
--- The worship of being Jewish.
--- The preservation of our people
--- The preservation of the state of Israel.
--- The significance of Jewish culture.
--- The promotion of Jewish issues.
--- Keeping a kosher home.
--- Going to the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
--- Celebrating Passover with our families.
--- Being liberal and intellectual.
--- Giving our kids "a good Jewish education."
--- Being successful.
--- Taking care of our young and elderly.
--- Our need for Jewish community.
No one would disagree that most of these represent noble causes. But where is God in our lives?”
"Abandoned: What Is God's Will for the Jewish People and the Church?" p.122
That was written in 1997 about Jewish people, but it applies to us all. How dissimilar is it to the people in the time of Ezekiel? You might say, but the priests were doing lewd acts in the temple. Well, are the churches of today devoid of pornography, adultery, avarice, pride, etc.? Are you? Am I? Do we worship false gods like sports, Hollywood, Nashville, business, home, even wife and children? How do we spend our time? Does ministry or service make up for a lack of obedience? What did Jesus say to the leaders who gave much to the temple while disrespecting their parents? Scripture tells us how to conduct our lives ... walk justly and do justice ... humility ... take care of the poor and the widows, etc.
The human heart cannot be legislated. Our pride, especially when or even if we read Ezekiel is a clear indication that we are but a shadow of who we are supposed to be and shadows always vanish in the light.
by D.H. Stern
will be suddenly and incurably broken.
2 When the righteous flourish, the people rejoice;
but when the wicked are in power, the people groan.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
When He is come
And when He is come, He will convict the world of sin.… --- John 16:8. (R.V.).
Very few of us know anything about conviction of sin; we know the experience of being disturbed because of having done wrong things; but conviction of sin by the Holy Ghost blots out every relationship on earth and leaves one relationship only—“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.” When a man is convicted of sin in this way, he knows with every power of his conscience that God dare not forgive him; if God did forgive him, the man would have a stronger sense of justice than God. God does forgive, but it cost the rending of His heart in the death of Christ to enable Him to do so. The great miracle of the grace of God is that He forgives sin, and it is the death of Jesus Christ alone that enables the Divine nature to forgive and to remain true to itself in doing so. It is shallow nonsense to say that God forgives us because He is love. When we have been convicted of sin we will never say this again. The love of God means Calvary, and nothing less; the love of God is spelt on the Cross and nowhere else. The only ground on which God can forgive me is through the Cross of my Lord. There, His conscience is satisfied.
Forgiveness means not merely that I am saved from hell and made right for heaven (no man would accept forgiveness on such a level); forgiveness means that I am forgiven into a recreated relationship, into identification with God in Christ. The miracle of Redemption is that God turns me, the unholy one, into the standard of Himself, the Holy One, by putting into me a new disposition, the disposition of Jesus Christ.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Not darkness but twilight
in which even the best
of minds must make its way
now. And slowly the questions
occur, vague but formidable
for all that. We pass our hands
over their surface like blind
men, feeling for the mechanism
that will swing them aside. They
yield, but only to re-form
as new problems; and one
does not even do that
but towers immovable
Is there no way
other than thought of answering
its challenge? There is an anticipation
of it to the point of
dying. There have been times
when, after long on my knees
in a cold chancel, a stone has rolled
from my mind, and I have looked
in and seen the old questions lie
folded and in a place
by themselves, like the piled
graveclothes of love's risen body.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
For the foundation of the whole of our Law and the pivot around which it turns, consists in the effacement of these opinions from the minds and of these monuments from existence.
The rabbis of the Talmud confirm for Maimonides that the rejection of idolatry is one of the fundamentals of Judaism:
For they say: “Herefrom you may learn that every one who professes idolatry, disbelieves in the Torah in its entirety; whereas he who disbelieves in idolatry, professes the Torah in its entirety.” Understand this.
In stressing the importance of the struggle against idolatry, Maimonides provides his reader with an insight into many aspects of biblical law. A lack of appreciation for the attraction that idolatry held for the biblical Jew could result in the assumption that God legislated laws which have no useful human purpose. It is understandable that a community which was no longer attracted to Sabean idolatry would have great difficulty comprehending the purpose of much biblical law. Maimonides’ description of Sabeanism is an attempt to recreate the forgotten historical context of biblical legislation. In the Eight Chapters, where the reader presumably does not yet possess this knowledge, mishpatim alone were seen as being connected with a concept of human nature. In the Guide, however, Maimonides shows how many ḥukkim are connected not to man’s permanent character, but to one that is historically conditioned. Mishpatim reflect the constant in human nature; ḥukkim reflect it under the influence of Sabean idolatry. Nothing in biblical law necessarily reflects the non-rational intrusion of the divine will in human history.
Maimonides was aware that even though many of his readers would recognize that idolatry was a major threat to biblical Jews, they would nonetheless object to his explanations of the commandments because of their religious sensibilities. Before an explanation of the historical conditions which influenced divine legislation could be accepted, one would have to overcome the spiritual “sickness” which compels insistence on the insulation of Jewish particularity from universal intelligibility. In chapter thirty-one of the Guide Maimonides describes the approach to the law which, in chapter twenty-six, he rejects as a spiritual disease:
There is a group of human beings who consider it a grievous thing that causes should be given for any Law; what would please them most is that the intellect would not find a meaning for the commandments and prohibitions. What compels them to feel thus is a sickness that they find in their souls, a sickness to which they are unable to give utterance and of which they cannot furnish a satisfactory account. For they think that if those Laws were useful in this existence and had been given to us for this or that reason, it would be as if they derived from the reflection and the understanding of some intelligent being. If, however, there is a thing for which the intellect could not find any meaning at all and that does not lead to something useful, it indubitably derives from God; for the reflection of man would not lead to such a thing. It is as if, according to these people of weak intellects, man were more perfect than his Maker; for man speaks and acts in a manner that leads to some intended end, whereas a deity does not act thus, but commands us to do things that are not useful to us and forbids us to do things that are not harmful to us.
These individuals do not actually consider humans more rational than God; rather, their approach is characterized by a refusal to understand God’s reasons for commandments in terms of what men consider to be useful. For these individuals, God must be completely other than man, both in His essence and in that which He prescribes for man to obey. God’s revelation of the law must express His utter transcendence and unintelligibility. Israel’s uniqueness in history is exhibited by its capacity to live by what God considers necessary, not by what man considers useful and valuable. The more remote God and the law are from human intelligibility, the more inflamed does the passion become for God. Maimonides considers this a profound sickness of the soul.
Maimonides counters this approach to God and Jewish particularity in the domain of law with the same text he uses to negate this approach to particularity in the domain of knowledge:
And it says: “Who on hearing of all these laws [ḥukkim] will say, Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.” Thus it states explicitly that even all the laws [ḥukkim] will show to all the nations that they have been given with “wisdom and discernment.” Now if there is a thing for which no reason is known and that does not either procure something useful or ward off something harmful, why should one say of one who believes in it or practices it that he is “wise and discerning” and of great worth? And why should the religious communities think it a wonder?
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
“The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne. --- Revelation 5:5–6.
Notice the two distinct names here given to Christ. The Excellency of Christ
He is called a Lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah in allusion [perhaps] to what Jacob said in his blessing on his deathbed, when he compared Judah to a lion. It is much on account of the valiant acts of David that the tribe of Judah, of which David was, is in Jacob’s prophetic blessing compared to a lion, but more especially with an eye to Jesus Christ, who also was of that tribe and was descended from David and is in our text called “the Root of David.”
He is called a Lamb. John was told of a Lion that had prevailed to open the book and probably expected to see a lion in his vision, but a lamb appears to open the book, a very different kind of creature from a lion! A lion is a devourer, accustomed to make terrible slaughter of others, and no creature more easily falls a prey to him than a lamb. And Christ is here represented not only as a lamb, but a lamb as if it had been slain, that is, with the marks of its deadly wounds.
There is a coming together of admirable virtues in Jesus Christ. The lion and the lamb, though very different, yet have their peculiar virtues. The lion excels in strength and in the majesty of its appearance and voice; the lamb excels in meekness and patience, besides [being] good for food and yielding [wool] for clothing and being suitable to be offered in sacrifice to God. But we see that Christ is in the text compared to both, because the different virtues of both wonderfully meet in him.
From this doctrine we may learn one reason why Christ is called by such a variety of names and held forth under such a variety of representations in Scripture. It is the better to signify and exhibit to us the variety of virtues that meet together in him. Many names are mentioned together in one verse: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.… And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). It shows a wonderful conjunction of virtues, that the same person should be a son, born and given, and yet be the everlasting Father; that he should be a child and yet be he whose name is Counselor and Mighty God. And well may his name, in whom such things are brought together, be called Wonderful.
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Who was the greatest English preacher of them all? Some claim that distinction for 17th-century British Puritan Richard Baxter. And yet for ten of his best years, Baxter’s voice was stilled, his sermons silenced, and his pulpit empty.
Baxter’s life spanned the 17th century. He was born in 1615 and lived during the churning days of England’s Civil War, the beheading of King Charles I, and the Commonwealth under Cromwell. The Puritans, at the heart of these events, found the political tide turning against them in 1660. Charles II restored the monarchy and shortly afterward Baxter (45 years old at the time) and 2,000 other Puritan preachers were ejected from their pulpits. Baxter was arrested, spent several spells in prison, lost most of his possessions, and suffered repeatedly from various illnesses including a constant cough, frequent nosebleeds, migraine headaches, digestive ailments, kidney stones, gallstones, and an ongoing battle with tuberculosis.
For ten years Baxter was away from his pulpit, unable to legally proclaim the Word of God. But he was a man of prayer, and from his sufferings came some of the most powerful books ever written, including the Saints’ Everlasting Rest, The Reformed Pastor—and 138 others!
Finally his “exile” ended. We read in his diary about November 19, 1672: “The 19th of November was the first day, after ten years’ silence, that I preached in a tolerated public assembly, though not yet tolerated in any consecrated church, but only, against law, in my own house.”
If only tape recorders had been invented—to have heard Baxter’s powerful voice after ten years of pent-up prayer, meditation, study, and passion! “Study hard,” Baxter once wrote, “for the well of spiritual knowledge is deep, and our brains are shallow.”
Baxter studied hard and labored tirelessly until he passed to the saints’ everlasting rest in 1691 at age 76.
Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live. The Scriptures train God’s servants to do all kinds of good deeds. … I command you to preach God’s message.
--- 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 19
“Avoid foolish questions.” --- Titus 3:9.
Our days are few, and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters which are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said, neither party is any the wiser, and therefore the discussion no more promotes knowledge than love, and it is foolish to sow in so barren a field. Questions upon points wherein Scripture is silent; upon mysteries which belong to God alone; upon prophecies of doubtful interpretation; and upon mere modes of observing human ceremonials, are all foolish, and wise men avoid them. Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions, but to avoid them altogether; and if we observe the apostle’s precept (Titus 3:8) to be careful to maintain good works, we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings.
There are, however, some questions which are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these: Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind? Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit? Am I growing in grace? Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour? Am I looking for the coming of the Lord, and watching as a servant should do who expects his master? What more can I do for Jesus? Such enquiries as these urgently demand our attention; and if we have been at all given to cavilling, let us now turn our critical abilities to a service so much more profitable. Let us be peace-makers, and endeavour to lead others both by our precept and example, to “avoid foolish questions.”
Evening - November 19
“O that I knew where I might find him!” --- Job 23:3.
In Job’s uttermost extremity he cried after the Lord. The longing desire of an afflicted child of God is once more to see his Father’s face. His first prayer is not “O that I might be healed of the disease which now festers in every part of my body!” nor even “O that I might see my children restored from the jaws of the grave, and my property once more brought from the hand of the spoiler!” but the first and uppermost cry is, “O that I knew where I might find HIM, who is my God! that I might come even to his seat!” God’s children run home when the storm comes on. It is the heaven-born instinct of a gracious soul to seek shelter from all ills beneath the wings of Jehovah. “He that hath made his refuge God,” might serve as the title of a true believer. A hypocrite, when afflicted by God, resents the infliction, and, like a slave, would run from the Master who has scourged him; but not so the true heir of heaven, he kisses the hand which smote him, and seeks shelter from the rod in the bosom of the God who frowned upon him. Job’s desire to commune with God was intensified by the failure of all other sources of consolation. The patriarch turned away from his sorry friends, and looked up to the celestial throne, just as a traveller turns from his empty skin bottle, and betakes himself with all speed to the well. He bids farewell to earth-born hopes, and cries, “O that I knew where I might find my God!” Nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator, as when we learn the emptiness of all besides. Turning away with bitter scorn from earth’s hives, where we find no honey, but many sharp stings, we rejoice in him whose faithful word is sweeter than honey or the honeycomb. In every trouble we should first seek to realize God’s presence with us. Only let us enjoy his smile, and we can bear our daily cross with a willing heart for his dear sake.
Morning and Evening
HIS LOVING KINDNESS
Samuel Medley, 1738–1799
How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7)
A Christian should never lose his reason for singing about the Lord and His constant loving kindness. “His praise should continually be in our mouths” (Psalm 34:1). Loving kindness has been described as “love in action.” God’s loving kindness was the act of sending Christ to be our Redeemer “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8).
Samuel Medley, a Baptist minister, lived a dissipated life in the British Navy until he was severely wounded in a sea fight between the French and English in 1759, off Cape Lagos, Portugal. While convalescing, he read a sermon by Isaac Watts on Isaiah 42:6, 7. These verses ultimately led to Medley’s conversion and later to his becoming a minister of the Gospel. “His Loving Kindness” was written as a personal testimony of thanksgiving to God. The text first appeared in published form in 1782. For 27 years Samuel Medley pastored the Baptist church in Liverpool with much success, especially as a preacher to the sailors. Medley wrote a large number of hymns but always stated in the preface of his books that his only purpose for writing was to “comfort Christians and to glorify Christ.” It has been said that the underlying purpose of Samuel Medley’s ministry, both in preaching and in hymn writing, was to “humble the pride of man, exalt the grace of God in his own salvation, and promote real holiness in the hearts and lives of believers.”
The sprightly music for this text is an American camp meeting melody in popular use throughout the South before its publication in the 19th century.
God’s loving kindness … “how free,” “how great,” “how good,”—a comfort in death and a source of eternal joy.
Awake, my soul, to joyful lays, and sing thy great Redeemer’s praise; He justly claims a song from thee, His loving kindness, oh, how free!
He saw me ruined by the fall, yet loved me not withstanding all; He saved me from my lost estate, His loving kindness, oh, how great!
When trouble, like a gloomy cloud, has gathered thick and thundered loud, He near my soul has always stood, His loving kindness, oh, how good!
Soon shall we mount and soar away to the bright realms of endless day, and sing, with rapture and surprise, His loving kindness, in the skies.
Refrain: Loving kindness, loving kindness, His loving kindness, oh how free!
For Today: 2 Samuel 22:3, 4; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 31:21; 36:5–10; 59:10; Isaiah 54:8, 10; Ephesians 2:4–7
Recount your salvation experience; reflect on God’s leading; anticipate the eternal joys of heaven—then sing as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Prop. VIII. God’s holiness is not blemished by his commanding those things sometimes which seem to be against nature, or thwart
some other of his precepts; as when God commanded Abraham with his own hand to sacrifice his son (Gen. 22:2), there was nothing
of unrighteousness in it. God hath a sovereign dominion over the lives and beings of his creatures, whereby as he creates one day, he
might annihilate the next; and by the same right that he might demand the life of Isaac, as being his creature, he might demand the
obedience of Abraham, in a ready return of that to him, which he had so long enjoyed by his grant. It is true, killing is unjust when it
is done without cause, and by a private authority; but the authority of God surmounts all private and public authority whatsoever.
Our lives are due to him when he calls for them; and they are more than once forfeit to him by reason of transgression. But,
howsoever the case is, God commanded him to do it for the trial of his grace, but suffered him not to do it in favor to his ready
obedience; but had Isaac been actually slain and offered, how had it been unrighteous in God, who enacts laws for the regulation of
his creature, but never intended them to the prejudice of the rights of his sovereignty? Another case is that of the Israelities borrowing
jewels of the Egyptians, by the order of God (Exod. 11:2, 3; 12:36). Is not God Lord of men’s goods, as well as their lives? What have
any, they have not received? and that not as proprietors independent on God, but his stewards; and may not he demand a portion of
his steward to bestow upon his favorite? He that had power to dispose of the Egyptians’ goods, had power to order the Israelites to ask
them. Besides, God acted the part of a just judge in ordering them their wages for their service in this method, and making their taskmasters
give them some recompense for their unjust oppression so many years; it was a command from God, therefore, rather for the
preservation of justice (the basis of all those laws which link human society), than any infringement of it. It was a material
recompense in part, though not a formal one in the intention of the Egyptians; it was but in part a recompense; it must needs come
short of the damage the poor captives had sustained by the tyranny of their masters, who had enslaved them contrary to the rules of
hospitality; and could not make amends for the lives of the poor infants of Israel, whom they had drowned in the river. He that might
for the unjust oppression of his people have taken away all their lives, destroyed the whole nation, and put the Israelites into the
possession of their lands, could, without any unrighteousness, dispose of part of their goods; and it was rather an act of clemency to
leave them some part, who had doubly forfeited all. Again, the Egyptians were as ready to lend by God’s influence, as the Israelites
were to ask by God’s order: and though it was a loan, God, as Sovereign of the world, and Lord of the earth, and the fulness thereof,
alienated the property by assuming them to the use of the tabernacle, to which service, most, if not all of them, were afterwards
dedicated. God, who is lawgiver, hath power to dispense with his own law, and make use of his own goods, and dispose of them as he
pleases; it is no unholiness in God to dispose of that which he hath a right unto. Indeed, God cannot command that which is in its
own nature intrinsisically evil; as to command a rational creature not to love him, not to worship him, to call God to witness to a lie; these are intrinsically evil; but for the disposing of the lives and goods of his creatures, which they have from him in right, and not in absolute propriety, is not evil in him, because there is no repugnancy in his own nature to such acts, nor is it anything inconsistent with the natural duty of a creature, and in such cases he may use what instruments he please. The point was; that holiness is a glorious perfection of the nature of God. We have showed the nature of this holiness in God; what it is; and we have demonstrated it, and proved that God is holy, and must needs be so; and also the purity of his nature in all his acts about sin: let us now improve it byway of use.
IV. Is holiness a transcendent perfection belonging to the nature of God? The first use shall be of instruction and information. Inform. 1. How great and how frequent is the contempt of this eminent perfection in the Deity! Since the fall, this attribute, which renders God most amiable in himself, renders him most hateful to his apostate creature. It is impossible that he that loves iniquity, can affect that which is irreconcileably contrary to the iniquity he loves. Nothing so contrary to the sinfulness of man as the holiness of God, and nothing is thought of by the sinner with so much detestation. How do men account that which is the most glorious perfection of the Divinity, unworthy to be regarded as an accomplishment of their own souls! and when they are pressed to an imitation of it, and a detestation of what is contrary to it, have the same sentiment in their heart which the devil had in his language to Christ, Why art thou come to torment us before our time? What an enmity the world naturally hath to this perfection, I think is visible in the practice of the heathen, who among all their heroes which they deified, elevated none to that dignity among them for this or that moral virtue that came nearest to it, but for their valor or some usefulness in the concerns of this life. Aesculapius was deified for his skill in the cure of diseases; Bacchus, for the use of the grape; Vulcan, for his operations by fire; Hercules, for his destroying of tyrants and monsters; but none for their mere virtue; as if anything of purity were unworthy their consideration in the frame of a Deity, when it is the glory of all other perfections; so essential it is, that when men reject the imitation of this, God regards it as a total rejection of himself, though they own all the other attributes of his nature (Psalm 81:11): “Israel would none of me:” why? because “they walked not in his ways” (ver. 13); those ways wherein the purity of the Divine nature was most conspicuous; they would own him in his power, when they stood in need of a deliverance; they would own him in his mercy, when they were plunged in distress; but they would not imitate him in his holiness. This being the lustre of the Divine nature, the contempt of it is an obscuring all his other perfections, and a dashing a blot upon his whole escutcheon.
To own all the rest, and deny him this, is to frame him as an unbeautiful monster,—a deformed power. Indeed, all sin is against this attribute; all sin aims in general at the being of God, but in particular at the holiness of his Being. All sin is a violence to this perfection; there is not an iniquity in the world, but directs its venomous sting against the Divine purity; some sins are directed against his omniscience, as secret wickedness; some against his providence, as distrust; some against his mercy, as unbelief; some against his wisdom, as neglecting the means instituted by him, censuring his ways and actings; some against his power, as trusting in means more than in God, and the immoderate fear of men more than of God; some against his truth, as distrusting his promise, or not fearing his threatening; but all agree together in their enmity against this, which is the peculiar glory of the Deity: every one of them is a receding from the Divine image; and the blackness of every one is the deeper, by how much the distance of it from the holiness of God is the greater. This contrariety to the holiness of God, is the cause of all the absolute atheism (if there be any such) in the world; what was the reason “the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God,” but because the fool is “corrupt, and hath done abominable work” (Psalm 14:1)? If they believe the being of a God, their own reason will enforce them to imagine him holy; therefore, rather than fancy a holy God, they would fain fancy none at all.—In particular,
1. The holiness of God is injured, in unworthy representations of God, and imaginations of him in our own minds. The heathen fell under this guilt, and ascribed to their idols those vices which their own sensuality inclined them to, unworthy of a man, much more unworthy of a God, that they might find a protection of their crimes in the practice of their idols. But is this only the notion of the heathens? may there not be many among us whose love to their lusts, and desires of sinning without control, move them to slander God in their thoughts, rather than reform their lives, and are ready to frame, by the power of their imaginative faculty, a God, not only winking, but smiling, at their impurities? I am sure God charges the impieties of men upon this score, in that Psalm 50:21 which seems to be a representation of the day of judgment, as some gather from ver. 6, when God sums up all together: “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself;” not a detester, but approver of thy crimes: and the Psalmist seems to express God’s loathing of sin in such a manner, as intimates it to be contrary to the ideas and resemblances men make of him in their minds (Psalm 5:4); “For thou art not a God that hast pleasure in wickedness;” as we say, in vindication of a man, he is not such a man as you imagine him to be; thou art not such a God as the world commonly imagines thee to be, a God taking pleasure in iniquity. It is too common for men to fancy God not as he is, but as they would have him; strip him of his excellency for their own security. As God made man after his image, man would dress God after his own modes, as may best suit the content of his lusts, and encourage him in a course of sinning; for, when they can frame such a notion of God, as if he were a countenancer of sin, they will derive from thence a reputation to their crimes, commit wickedness with an unbounded licentiousness, and crown their vices with the name of virtues, because thay are so like to the sentiments of that God they fancy: from hence (as the Psalmist, in the Psalm before mentioned) ariseth that mass of vice in the world; such conceptions are the mother and nurse of all impiety. I question not but the first spring is some wrong notion of God, in regard of his holiness: we are as apt to imagine God as we would have him, as the black Ethiopians were to draw the image of their gods after their own dark hue, and paint him with their own color: as a philosopher in Theodoret speaks; If oxen and lions had hands, and could paint as men do, they would frame the images of their gods according to their own likeness and complexion. Such notions of God render him a swinish being, and worse than the vilest idols adored by the Egyptians, when men fancy a God indulgent to their appetites and most sordid lusts.
2. In defacing the image of God in our own souls. God, in the first draught of man, conformed him to his own image, or made him an image of himself; because we find that in regeneration this image is renewed (Eph. 4:24); “The new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” He did not take angels for his pattern, in the first polishing the soul, but himself. In defacing this image we cast dirt upon the holiness of God, which was his pattern in the framing of us, and rather choose to be conformed to Satan, who is God’s grand enemy, to have God’s image wiped out of us, and the devil’s pictured in us: therefore, natural men, in an unregenerate state, may justly be called devils, since our Saviour called the worst man, Judas, so (John 6:1), and Peter, one of the best (Matt. 16:23): and if this title be given, by an infallible Judge, to one of the worst, and one of the best, it may, without wrong to any, be ascribed to all men that wallow in their sin, which is directly contrary to that illustrious image God did imprint upon them. How often is it seen that men control the light of their own nature, and stain the clearest beams of that candle of the Lord in their own spirits, that fly in the face of their own consciences, and say to them, as Ahab to Micaiah, Thou didst “never prophesy good to me;” thou didst never encourage me in those things that are pleasing to the flesh; and use it at the same rate as the wicked king did the prophet, “imprison it in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18), because it starts up in them sometimes sentiments of the holiness of God, which it represents in the soul of man! How jolly are many men when the exhalations of their sensitive part rise up to cloud the exactest principle of moral nature in their minds, and render the monstrous principles of the law of corruption more lively! Whence ariseth the wickedness which hath been committed with an open face in the world, and the applause that hath been often given to the worst of villanies? Have we not known, among ourselves, men to glory in their shame, and esteem that a most gentle accomplishment of man, which is the greatest blot upon his nature, and which, if it were upon God, would render him no God, but an impure devil so that to be a gentleman among us hath been the same as to be an incarnate devil; and to be a man, was to be no better, but worse, than a brute? Vile wretches! is not this a contempt of Divine holiness, to kill that Divine seed which lies languishing in the midst of corrupted nature; to cut up any sprouts of it as weeds unworthy to grow in their gardens, and cultivate what is the seed of hell; prefer the rotten fruits of Sodom, marked with a Divine curse, before those relics of the fruits of Eden, of God’s own planting?
3. The holiness of God is injured in charging our sin upon God. Nothing is more natural to men, than to seek excuses for their sin, and transfer it from themselves to the next at hand, and rather than fail, shift it upon God himself; and if they can bring God into a society with them in sin, they will hug themselves in a security that God cannot punish that guilt wherein he is a partner. Adam’s children are not of a different disposition from Adam himself, who, after he was arraigned and brought to his trial, boggles not at flinging his dirt in the face of God, his Creator, and accuseth him as if he had given him the woman, not to be his help, but his ruin (Gen. 3:12); “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” He never supplicates for pardon, nor seeks a remedy, but reflects his crime upon God: Had I been alone, as I was first created, I had not eaten; but the woman, whom I received as a special gift from thee, hath proved my tempter and my bane. When man could not be like God in knowledge, he endeavored to make God like him in his crime; and when his ambition failed of equalizing himself with God, he did, with an insolence too common to corrupted nature, attempt, by the imputation of his sin, to equal the Divinity with himself. Some think Cain had the same sentiment in his answer to God’s demand where his brother was (Gen. 2:9); “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Art not thou the Keeper and Governor of the world? why didst not thou take care of him, and hinder my killing him, and drawing this guilt upon myself, and terror upon my conscience? David was not behind, when, after the murder of Uriah, he sweeps the dirt from his own door to God’s (2 Sam. 11:25); “The sword devoureth one as well as another;” fathering that solely upon Divine Providence which was his own wicked contrivance: though afterwards he is more ingenuous in clearing God, and charging himself (Psalm 51:4): “Against thee, thee only have I sinned;” and he clears God in his judgment too. It is too common for the “foolishness of man to pervert his way;” and then “his heart frets against the Lord” (Prov. 19:3). He studies mischief, runs in a way of sin, and when he hath conjured up troubles to himself, by his own folly, he excuseth himself, and, with indignation, charges God as the author both of his sin and misery, and sets his mouth against the heavens. It is a more horrible thing to accuse God as a principal or accessary in our guilt, than to conceive him to be a favorer of our iniquity; yet both are bad enough.
4. The holiness of God is injured when men will study arguments from the holy word of God to color and shelter their crimes. When men will seek for a shelter for their lies, in that of the midwives to preserve the children, or in that of Rahab to save the spies, as if, because God rewarded their fidelity, he countenanced their sin. How often is Scripture wrested to be a plea for unbecoming practices, that God, in his word, may be imagined a patron for their iniquity? It is not unknown that some have maintained their quaffing and carousing (from Eccles. 8:11), “That a man hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry:” and their gluttony (from Matt. 5:11), “That which goes into the belly defiles not a man.” The Jesuits’ morals are a transcript of this. How often hath the Passion of our Saviour, the highest expression of God’s holiness, been employed to stain it, and encourage the most debauched practices! Grace hath been turned into wantonness, and the abundance of grace been used as a blast to increase the flames of sin, as if God had no other aim in that work of redemption, but to discover himself more indulgent to our sensual appetites, and by his severity with his Son, become more gracious to our lusts; this is to feed the roots of hell with the dews of heaven, to make grace a pander for the abuse of it, and to employ the expressions of his holiness in his word to be a sword against the essential holiness of his nature: as if a man should draw an apology for his treason out of that law that was made to forbid, not to protect, his rebellion. Not the meanest instrument in the temple was to be alienated from the use it was by Divine order appointed to, nor was it to be employed in any common use; and shall the word of God , which is the image of his holiness, be transferred by base interpretations to be an advocate for iniquity? Such an ill use of his word reflects upon that hand which imprinted those characters of purity and righteousness upon it: as the misinterpretation of the wholesome laws of a prince, made to discourage debauchery, reflects upon his righteousness and sincerity in enacting them.
5. The holiness of God is injured, when men will put up petitions to God to favor them in a wicked design. Such there are, and taxed by the apostle (James 4:3), “Y e ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts,” who desired mercies from God, with an intent to make them instruments of sin, and weapons of unrighteousness; as it is reported of a thief, that he always prayed for the success of his robbery. It hath not been rare in the world to appoint fasts and prayers for success in wars manifestly unjust, and commenced upon breaches of faith. Many covetous men petition God to prosper them in their unjust gain; as if the blessed God sat in his pure majesty upon a throne of grace, to espouse unjust practices, and make iniquity rosperous. There are such as “offer sacrifice with an evil mind” (Prov. 21:27), to barter with God for a divine blessing to spirit a wicked contrivance. How great a contempt of the holiness of God is this! How inexcusable would it be for a favorite to address himself to a just prince with this language: Sir, I desire a boon of such lands that he near me, for an addition to my estate, that I may have supports for my debauchery, and be able to play the villain more powerfully among my neighbors! Hereby he implies that his prince is a friend to such crimes and wickedness he intends his petition for. Is not this the language of many men’s hearts in the immediate presence of God? The order of prayer runs thus, “Hallowed be thy name;” first to have a deep sense of the holiness of the Divine nature, and an ardent desire for the glory of it. This order is inverted by asking those things which are not agreeable to the will of God, not meet for us to ask, and not meet for God to give; or asking things agreeable to the will of God, but with a wicked intention. This is, in effect, to desire God to strip himself of his holiness, and commit sacrilege upon his own nature to gratify our lusts.
6. The purity of God is contemned, in hating and scoffing at the holiness which is in a creature. Whoever looks upon the holiness of a creature as an unlovely thing, can have no good opinion of the amiableness of Divine purity. Whosoever hates those qualities and graces that resemble God in any person, must needs contemn the original pattern, which is more eminent in God. If there be no comeliness in a creature’s holiness, to render it grateful to us, we should say of God himself, were he visible among us, with those in the prophet (Isa. 53.), “There is no beauty in him, that we should desire him.” Holiness is beautiful in itself. If God be the most lovely Being, that which is a likeness to him, so far as it doth resemble him, must needs be amiable, because it partakes of God; and, therefore, those that see no beauty in an inferior holiness, but contemn it because it is a purity above them, contemn God much more. He that hates that which is imperfect merely for that excellency which is in it, doth much more hate that which is perfect, without any mixture or stain. Holiness being the glory of God, the peculiar title of the Deity, and from him derived unto the nature of a creature, he that mocks this in a person, derides God himself; and, when he cannot abuse the purity in the Deity, he will do it in his image; as rebels that cannot wrong the king in his person, will do it in his picture, and his subjects that are loyal to him. He that hates the picture of a man, hates the person represented by it much more; he that hates the beams, hates the sun; the holiness of a creature is but a beam from that infinite Sun, a stream from that eternal Fountain. Where there is a derision of the purity of any creature, there is a greater reflection upon God in that derision, as he is the Author of it. If a mixed and stained holiness be more the subject of any man’s scoffs than a great deal of sin, that person hath a disposition more roundly to scoff at God himself, should he appear in that unblemished and unspotted purity which infinitely shines in his nature. O! it is a dangerous thing to scoff and deride holiness in any person, though never so mean; such do deride and scoff at the most holy God.
7. The holiness of God is injured by our unprepared addresses to him, when, like swine, we come into the presence of God with all our mire reeking and steaming upon us. A holy God requires a holy worship; and if our best duties, having filth in every part, as performed by us, are unmeet for God, how much more unsuitable are dead and dirty duties to a living and immense holiness! Slight approaches and drossy frames speak us to have imaginations of God as of a slight and sottish being. This is worse than the heathens practised, who would purge their flesh before they sacrificed, and make some preparations in a seeming purity, before they would enter into their temples. God is so holy, that were our services as refined as those of angels, we could not present him with a service meet for his holy nature (Josh. 24:19). We contemn, then, this perfection, when we come before him without due preparation; as if God himself were of an impure nature, and did not deserve our purest thoughts in our applications to him; as if any blemished and polluted sacrifice were good enough for him, and his nature deserved no better. When we excite not those elevated frames of spirit which are due to such a being, when we think to put him off with a lame and imperfect service, we worship him not according to the excellency of his nature, but put a slight upon his majestic sanctity. When we nourish in our duties those foolish imaginations which creep upon us; when we bring into, and continue our worldly, carnal, debauched fancies in his presence, worse than the nasty servants, or bemired dogs, a man would blush to be attended with in his visits to a neat person. To be conversing with sordid sensualities, when we are at the feet of an infinite God, sitting upon the throne of his holiness, is as much a contempt of him, as it would be of a prince, to bring a vessel full of nasty dung with us, when we come to present a petition to him in his royal robes; or as it would have been to God, if the high priest should have swept all the blood and excreinents of the sacrifices from the foot of the altar into the Holy of holies, and heaped it up before the mercy-seat, where the presence of God dwelt between the cherubims, and afterwards shovelled it up into the ark, to be lodged with Aaron’s rod and the pot of manna.
8. God’s holiness is slighted in depending upon our imperfect services to bear us out before the tribunal of God. This is too ordinary. The Jews were often infected with it (Rom. 3:10), who, not well understanding the enormity of their transgressions, the interweaving of sin with their services, and the unspottedness of the Divine purity, mingled an opinion of merit with their sacrifices, and thought, by the cutting the throat of a beast, and offering it upon God’s altar, they had made a sufficient compensation to that holiness they had offended. Not to speak of many among the Romanists who have the same notion, thinking to make satisfaction to God by erecting an hospital, or endowing a church, as if this injured perfection could be contented with the dregs of their purses, and the offering of an unjust mammon, more likely to mind God of the injury they have done him, than contribute to the appeasing of him. But is it not too ordinary with miserable men, whose consciences accuse them of their crimes, to rely upon the mumbling of a few formal prayers, and in the strength of them, to think to stand before the tremendous tribunal of God, and meet with a discharge upon this account from any accusation this Divine perfection can present against them? Nay, do not the best Christians sometimes find a principle in them, that makes them stumble in their goings forth to Christ, and glorifying the holiness of God in that method which he hath appointed? Sometimes casting an eye at their grace, and sticking awhile to this or that duty, and gazing at the glory of the temple-building, while they should more admire the glorious Presence that fills it. What is all this but a villifying of the holiness of the Divine nature, as though it would be well enough contented with our impurities and imperfections, because they look like a righteousness in our estimation as though dross and dung, which are the titles the apostles gives to all the righteousness of a fallen creature (Phil. 3:8), were valuable in the sight of God, and sufficient to render us comely before him. It is a blasphemy against this attribute, to pretend that anything so imperfect, so daubed, as the best of our services are, can answer to that which is infinitely perfect, and be a ground of demanding eternal life: it is at best, to set up a gilded Dagon, as a fit companion for the ark of his Holiness; our own righteousness as a suitable mate for the righteousness of God: as if he had repented of the claim he made by the law to an exact conformity, and thrown off the holiness of his nature for the fondling of a corrupted creature. Rude and foolish notions of the Divine purity are clearly evidenced by any confidence in any righteousness of our own, though never so splendid. It is a rendering the righteousness of God as dull and obscure as that of men; a mere outside, as their own; as blind as the heathens pictured their Fortune, that knew as little how to discern the nature and value of the offerings made to her, as to distribute her gifts, as if it were all one to them, to have a dog or a lamb presented in sacrifice. As if God did not well understand his own nature, when he enacted so holy a law, and strengthened it with so severe a threatening; which must follow upon our conceit, that he will accept a rigbteousness lower than that which bears some suitableness to the holiness of his own nature, and that of his law; and that he could easily be put off with a pretended and counterfeit service. What are the services of the generality of men, but suppositions, that they can bribe God to an indulgence of them in their sins, and by an oral sacrifice, cause him to divest himself of his hatred of their former iniquities, and countenance their following practises. As the harlot, that would return fresh to her uncleanness, upon the confidence that her peace offering had contented the righteousness of God (Prov. 7:14): as though a small service could make him wink at our sins, and lay aside the glory of his nature; when, alas! the best duties in the most gracious persons in this life, are but as the steams of a spiced dung-hill, a composition of myrrh and froth, since there are swarms of corruptions in their nature, and secret sins that they need a cleansing from.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are in a low place, beaten, bound and imprisoned. Yet we find these two men praying and worshiping in the dark of night, from a prison cell. There are priceless lessons for us to learn about prayer and worship in the midst of trials. If you are feeling stuck, helpless or defeated, this teaching is for you. There is hope and even joy to be found when we cry out to the Lord!
A Song In The Night
s1-499 | 08-15-2010
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | Acts 16 is the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. In this study, we learn about the circuitous route they took to finally get started in Philippi and the foundation of that church that became so dear to Paul. Specifically, we look at two women: Lydia and the fortune-telling slave girl. The comparison and contrasts between these two can offer us great insights with regard to the church today.
m1-514 | 08-18-2010
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Synopsis | In Acts 17, Paul visits three different cities: Thessalonica, Berea and Athens. This morning’s teaching is a study of how the various people respond to the Gospel. Whether you are hearing the Gospel, or sharing the Gospel, this is a significant passage of scripture to consider.
A Tale Of Three Cities
s1-500 | 08-22-2010
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