Acts 21 - 23
Paul Goes to JerusalemActs 21:1 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4 And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed 6 and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. 8 On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. 10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
15 After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. 16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.
Paul Visits James17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.
Paul Arrested in the Temple27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!”
Paul Speaks to the People37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:
Acts 22Acts 22:1 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
Paul and the Roman Tribune22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. 25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
Paul Before the Council30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
Acts 23Acts 23 1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
A Plot to Kill Paul12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”
Paul Sent to Felix the Governor23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:
26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”
31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.
What I'm Reading
Reading the Bible through the Lens of Your Desire
By J. Warner Wallace 4/28/2017
John Shelby Spong (retired American Bishop of the Episcopal Church) once wrote an article for the Huffington Post, promoting his book, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic. Spong made several dramatic claims about the Gospel of John:
1) There is no way that the Fourth Gospel was written by John Zebedee or by any of the disciples of Jesus.
2) There is probably not a single word attributed to Jesus in this book that the Jesus of history actually spoke.
3) Not one of the signs (the Fourth Gospel’s word for miracles) recorded in this book was, in all probability, something that actually happened.
4) Many of the characters who appear in the pages of the Fourth Gospel are literary creations of its author and were never intended to be understood as real people, who actually lived in history.
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 Optimism of the Cross in the Face of Genocide
By Jonathan Coppage 9/14/15
A year and three months ago, the militant group then calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the vital Iraqi city of Mosul as government forces melted away. The sudden loss of such an important city seized the world’s attention, and the brutality with which ISIS then purged Mosul of its Christian and other religious minorities shocked those newly focused eyes.
A year ago this past Friday, the newly founded organization In Defense of Christians (IDC) reached the culmination of a three-day summit bringing a historic collection of the heads of the oldest churches in Christianity to Washington in order to raise awareness of the plight of Christians and plead for assistance. The solidarity gala dinner closing the summit was keynoted and summarily crashed by Senator Ted Cruz, who threatened to overshadow the calls for unity with a provocative speech that ended with the senator storming off stage.
While Cruz’s cynical performance was roundly and harshly criticized in many conservative circles, there was no denying that the spectacle was a distraction that threatened to overshadow the progress made. Many feared that the potential opening for rallying broad support to the defense of persecuted Christians was closed as Senator Cruz walked off the stage.
Last week IDC returned to Washington, however, and opened its convention with a bang: the announcement of bipartisan legislation introduced in the House to officially recognize the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians as a genocide, as Kelley Vlahos reports. The bill picked up dozens of cosponsors within days.
This year’s solidarity dinner did not culminate with angry denunciations, but with a sobering, powerful presentation. As Georgetown professor Thomas Farr was honored with a lifetime achievement recognition of his career fighting for religious liberty, IDC senior advisor Andrew Doran announced that Dr. Farr would be entrusted with a crucifix.
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5 Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln
By Trevin Wax 11/6/12
When I discovered a new movie on the life of Lincoln was in the works, I was curious to learn more about Lincoln’s administration and his political career. The forthcoming movie is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s popular book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, a masterful telling of Lincoln’s story that follows the lives of each of his cabinet members.
Here are a few leadership lessons from the life of Lincoln as described in the book.
Lesson #1: Know When to Act and When to Wait.
Lincoln knew when to speak and when to remain silent. He knew when to act and when to wait.
In reading the book, I found myself on occasion wanting Lincoln to hurry up and make a decision, only to later discover that making his views public too soon would have sabotaged his chances for seeing lasting change. Whether he was hiring or firing, giving speeches or staying silent, he had an uncanny ability to gauge public opinion. He usually waited for the public to catch up with him before making pronouncements.
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Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitteror receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Basil
By Kenneth R. Samples 10/18/2016
Not many people are known as so-and-so “the Great.” But St. Basil the Great was one of the finest thinkers, writers, and preachers in Christian church history. What did this man believe, and what did he ultimately contribute to historic Christianity? Here’s your crash course on the life and accomplishments of St. Basil the Great—and why he still matters today.
Who Was St. Basil?
St. Basil the Great (ca. 329–379) was born in Caesarea Mazaca, Cappadocia, to one of the most distinguished and pious Christian families. Along with Basil, the Orthodox and Catholic churches subsequently honored a number of his family members with sainthood. Basil received a notable Christian and classical education in the famous ancient cities of Athens and Constantinople. Basil, along with his brother Gregory of Nyssa and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus, made up the theologically potent threesome known as the Cappadocian Fathers. Later serving as the bishop of Caesarea and being one of the architects of ancient Christian monasticism, Basil is honored as a doctor in both churches, East and West. St. Basil the Great suffered ill health, likely due to his ascetic practices, and died at approximately 50 years old.
What Did St. Basil Write?
St. Basil the Great was a prolific author of antiquity. Though he wrote in the fourth century, some 300 of his letters have survived through the centuries. He also wrote a number of books, including three with specific apologetics significance. First, his treatise On the Holy Spirit (Latin: De Spiritu Sancto) develops and defends the full deity of the Spirit of God as the third member of the Trinity. Second, his Refutation of the Apology of the Impious Eunomius defends the deity of the Son (Jesus Christ) against an advocate of the Arian heresy (the view that the Son was a creature). Third, his Hexaemeron (a name derived from the Greek roots for “six days”) expounds upon the six creation days of Genesis.
Kenneth R. Samples bio.
Kenneth R. Samples Books:
- 1 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 2 A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe)
- 3 God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
- 4 Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times
- 5 Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea (Ebook Shorts)
Does Nature Today Reveal More or Less About God? Part 2
By Hugh Ross 11/16/2016
In my previous blog article, I explained and described how science today reveals exponentially more about God, his attributes, and his plans for humanity than it did just a century ago. This exponential increase in revelation from the book of nature provides the fuel for the ministry of Reasons to Believe. Because of this increase, we are seeing unprecedented numbers of skeptics becoming faithful followers of Christ.
Still, many more people are turning away from faith, raising a paradox. Why, if there is so much more revelation of God coming from the scientific disciplines, do we see in several parts of the world such a rise in the percentage of the population that identifies themselves as atheists, agnostics, or deists?
In this blog article I will explain and describe how, in a different context, science reveals much less about God than it did a century ago. I will explain why, consequently, in some parts of the world atheists and agnostics today make up a still small but larger percentage of the population than in the past. Below, I will address three different arenas where nature reveals less about God.
Less Revelation from the Heavens
In a recent issue of Science Advances, an international team of 10 light-pollution scientists reported that more than 80 percent of the world’s population and more than 99 percent of the US and European populations live under artificial light–polluted skies.1 Figure 1 shows the current status of light pollution for the world.
Astronomer and best-selling author Hugh Ross travels the globe speaking on the compatibility of advancing scientific discoveries with the timeless truths of Christianity. His organization, Reasons to Believe (RTB), is dedicated to demonstrating, via a variety of resources and events, that science and biblical faith are allies, not enemies.
While in college, Hugh committed himself to faith in Jesus Christ. After his study of big bang cosmology convinced him of a Creator's existence, curiosity led him to test religious "holy books" for scientific and historical accuracy. Only the Bible passed the test, therefore persuading him of Christianity's validity. Later, Hugh was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved in Christ without checking the evidence. Prompted by family, friends, and colleagues, he founded Reasons to Believe in 1986, to bring scientific evidence for Christianity to light.
With a degree in physics from the University of British Columbia and a National Research Council of Canada fellowship, Hugh earned a PhD in astronomy from the University of Toronto. For several years he continued his research on quasars and galaxies as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. In 2012, Hugh, together with Dr. Gerald Schroeder, received the Ide P. Trotter Prize presented by Texas A&M University in recognition of his work in demonstrating connections between science and religion.
Outside of RTB, Hugh teaches as an adjunct faculty member at both A.W. Tozer Seminary and Southern Evangelical Seminary. He also serves as a minister of apologetics at Sierra Madre Congregational Church where he conducts a weekly apologetics class.
Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and their two sons.
Hugh leads a team of scholars who keep tabs on the frontiers of research with the goal of demonstrating that sound reason and scientific findings - including the very latest discoveries - consistently support rather than erode, confidence in the biblical God. Hugh shares this message through numerous books - including:
Hugh Ross Books:
- Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How the Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today's Scientific Questions (Reasons to Believe)
- Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God: What Recent Discoveries in Astronomy and Physics Reveal about the Nature of God
Does Nature Reveal God?
By R.C. Sproul 5/27/2017
Does nature reveal God? This question indicates a concern about a foundational issue to Christianity. The issue is, can God be known outside of the church or a religious environment?
The secularist of today answers this question with the negative. The world of nature is frequently said to be antithetical to a belief in God, presenting us with so many anomalies as to render the existence of God untenable.
Because of these claims either from the corner of the militant atheist or from the queries of the troubled agnostic, many Christians have retreated into a sphere of “religious faith” as the only framework within which God can be known. Here nature is negotiated in order to protect the arena of space.
The nature Psalms of the Old Testament indicate that the majesty of the Creator shines through the creation. God not only reveals Himself clearly in creation, but the revelation gets through. It is perceived by men. The judgment of God is not withheld because men refuse to receive the revelation (Rom. 1:18).
The problem is that not only does God reveal Himself, but that men perceive that revelation and refuse to acknowledge it. Paul says, “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful” (Rom. 1:21, KJV). Here man is said to know God. His sin is that he will not glorify or thank the God he knows exists. Paul contends that God so clearly manifests Himself in creation that all men know He exists. God’s revelation in nature makes honest atheism an intellectual impossibility.
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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
Introduction by The Rev. John Murray, M.A., Th.M. "Know, first, that heaven, and earth's compacted frame, "Hence to the bee some sages have assigned
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD CONSPICUOUS IN THE CREATION, AND CONTINUAL GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD.
This chapter consists of two parts: 1. The former, which occupies the first ten sections, divides all the works of God into two great classes, and elucidates the knowledge of God as displayed in each class. The one class is treated of in the first six, and the other in the four following sections: 2. The latter part of the chapter shows, that, in consequence of the extreme stupidity of men, those manifestations of God, however perspicuous, lead to no useful result. This latter part, which commences at the eleventh section, is continued to the end of the chapter.
1. The invisible and incomprehensible essence of God, to a certain extent, made visible in his works.
2. This declared by the first class of works--viz. the admirable motions of the heavens and the earth, the symmetry of the human body, and the connection of its parts; in short, the various objects which are presented to every eye.
3. This more especially manifested in the structure of the human body.
4. The shameful ingratitude of disregarding God, who, in such a variety of ways, is manifested within us. The still more shameful ingratitude of contemplating the endowments of the soul, without ascending to Him who gave them. No objection can be founded on any supposed organism in the soul.
5. The powers and actions of the soul, a proof of its separate existence from the body. Proofs of the soul's immortality. Objection that the whole world is quickened by one soul. Reply to the objection. Its impiety.
6. Conclusion from what has been said--viz. that the omnipotence, eternity, and goodness of God, may be learned from the first class of works, i.e., those which are in accordance with the ordinary course of nature.
7. The second class of works--viz. those above the ordinary course of nature, afford clear evidence of the perfections of God, especially his goodness, justice, and mercy.
8. Also his providence, power, and wisdom.
9. Proofs and illustrations of the divine Majesty. The use of them--viz. the acquisition of divine knowledge in combination with true piety.
10. The tendency of the knowledge of God to inspire the righteous with the hope of future life, and remind the wicked of the punishments reserved for them. Its tendency, moreover, to keep alive in the hearts of the righteous a sense of the divine goodness.
11. The second part of the chapter, which describes the stupidity both of learned and unlearned, in ascribing the whole order of things, and the admirable arrangements of divine Providence, to fortune.
12. Hence Polytheism, with all its abominations, and the endless and irreconcilable opinions of the philosophers concerning God.
13. All guilty of revolt from God, corrupting pure religion, either by following general custom, or the impious consent of antiquity.
14. Though irradiated by the wondrous glories of creation, we cease not to follow our own ways.
15. Our conduct altogether inexcusable, the dullness of perception being attributable to ourselves, while we are fully reminded of the true path, both by the structure and the government of the world.
1. Since the perfection of blessedness consists in the knowledge of God, he has been pleased, in order that none might be excluded from the means of obtaining felicity, not only to deposit in our minds that seed of religion of which we have already spoken, but so to manifest his perfections in the whole structure of the universe, and daily place himself in our view, that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to behold him. His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse. Hence, with perfect truth, the Psalmist exclaims, "He covereth himself with light as with a garment," (Psalm 104:2); as if he had said, that God for the first time was arrayed in visible attire when, in the creation of the world, he displayed those glorious banners, on which, to whatever side we turn, we behold his perfections visibly portrayed. In the same place, the Psalmist aptly compares the expanded heavens to his royal tent, and says, "He layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind," sending forth the winds and lightnings as his swift messengers. And because the glory of his power and wisdom is more refulgent in the firmament, it is frequently designated as his palace. And, first, wherever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty; while it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around, without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory. Hence, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews elegantly describes the visible worlds as images of the invisible (Heb. 11:3), the elegant structure of the world serving us as a kind of mirror, in which we may behold God, though otherwise invisible. For the same reason, the Psalmist attributes language to celestial objects, a language which all nations understand (Psalm 19:1), the manifestation of the Godhead being too clear to escape the notice of any people, however obtuse. The apostle Paul, stating this still more clearly, says, "That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead," (Rom. 1:20).
2. In attestation of his wondrous wisdom, both the heavens and the earth present us with innumerable proofs not only those more recondite proofs which astronomy, medicine, and all the natural sciences, are designed to illustrate, but proofs which force themselves on the notice of the most illiterate peasant, who cannot open his eyes without beholding them. It is true, indeed, that those who are more or less intimately acquainted with those liberal studies are thereby assisted and enabled to obtain a deeper insight into the secret workings of divine wisdom. No man, however, though he be ignorant of these, is incapacitated for discerning such proofs of creative wisdom as may well cause him to break forth in admiration of the Creator. To investigate the motions of the heavenly bodies, to determine their positions, measure their distances, and ascertain their properties, demands skill, and a more careful examination; and where these are so employed, as the Providence of God is thereby more fully unfolded, so it is reasonable to suppose that the mind takes a loftier flight, and obtains brighter views of his glory.  Still, none who have the use of their eyes can be ignorant of the divine skill manifested so conspicuously in the endless variety, yet distinct and well ordered array, of the heavenly host; and, therefore, it is plain that the Lord has furnished every man with abundant proofs of his wisdom. The same is true in regard to the structure of the human frame. To determine the connection of its parts, its symmetry and beauty, with the skill of a Galen (Lib. De Usu Partium), requires singular acuteness; and yet all men acknowledge that the human body bears on its face such proofs of ingenious contrivance as are sufficient to proclaim the admirable wisdom of its Maker.
3. Hence certain of the philosophers  have not improperly called man a microcosm (miniature world), as being a rare specimen of divine power, wisdom, and goodness, and containing within himself wonders sufficient to occupy our minds, if we are willing so to employ them. Paul, accordingly, after reminding the Athenians that they "might feel after God and find him," immediately adds, that "he is not far from every one of us," (Acts 17:27); every man having within himself undoubted evidence of the heavenly grace by which he lives, and moves, and has his being. But if, in order to apprehend God, it is unnecessary to go farther than ourselves, what excuse can there be for the sloth of any man who will not take the trouble of descending into himself that he may find Him? For the same reason, too, David, after briefly celebrating the wonderful name and glory of God, as everywhere displayed, immediately exclaims, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?" and again, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength," (Psalm 8:2, 4). Thus he declares not only that the human race are a bright mirror of the Creator's works, but that infants hanging on their mothers' breasts have tongues eloquent enough to proclaim his glory without the aid of other orators. Accordingly, he hesitates not to bring them forward as fully instructed to refute the madness of those who, from devilish pride, would fain extinguish the name of God. Hence, too, the passage which Paul quotes from Aratus, "We are his offspring," (Acts 17:28), the excellent gifts with which he has endued us attesting that he is our Father. In the same way also, from natural instinct, and, as it were, at the dictation of experience, heathen poets call him the father of men. No one, indeed, will voluntarily and willingly devote himself to the service of God unless he has previously tasted his paternal love, and been thereby allured to love and reverence Him.
4. But herein appears the shameful ingratitude of men. Though they have in their own persons a factory where innumerable operations of God are carried on, and a magazine stored with treasures of inestimable value--instead of bursting forth in his praise, as they are bound to do, they, on the contrary, are the more inflated and swelled with pride. They feel how wonderfully God is working in them, and their own experience tells them of the vast variety of gifts which they owe to his liberality. Whether they will or not, they cannot but know that these are proofs of his Godhead, and yet they inwardly suppress them. They have no occasion to go farther than themselves, provided they do not, by appropriating as their own that which has been given them from heaven, put out the light intended to exhibit God clearly to their minds. At this day, however, the earth sustains on her bosom many monster minds--minds which are not afraid to employ the seed of Deity deposited in human nature as a means of suppressing the name of God. Can any thing be more detestable than this madness in man, who, finding God a hundred times both in his body and his soul, makes his excellence in this respect a pretext for denying that there is a God? He will not say that chance has made him differ from the brutes that perish; but, substituting nature as the architect of the universe, he suppresses the name of God. The swift motions of the soul, its noble faculties and rare endowments, bespeak the agency of God in a manner which would make the suppression of it impossible, did not the Epicureans, like so many Cyclops, use it as a vantage-ground, from which to wage more audacious war with God. Are so many treasures of heavenly wisdom employed in the guidance of such a worm as man, and shall the whole universe be denied the same privilege? To hold that there are organs in the soul corresponding to each of its faculties, is so far from obscuring the glory of God, that it rather illustrates it. Let Epicurus tell what concourse of atoms, cooking meat and drink, can form one portion into refuse and another portion into blood, and make all the members separately perform their office as carefully as if they were so many souls acting with common consent in the superintendence of one body.
5. But my business at present is not with that stye: I wish rather to deal with those who, led away by absurd subtleties, are inclined, by giving an indirect turn to the frigid doctrine of Aristotle, to employ it for the purpose both of disproving the immortality of the soul, and robbing God of his rights. Under the pretext that the faculties of the soul are organised, they chain it to the body as if it were incapable of a separate existence, while they endeavour as much as in them lies, by pronouncing eulogiums on nature, to suppress the name of God. But there is no ground for maintaining that the powers of the soul are confined to the performance of bodily functions. What has the body to do with your measuring the heavens, counting the number of the stars, ascertaining their magnitudes, their relative distances, the rate at which they move, and the orbits which they describe? I deny not that Astronomy has its use; all I mean to show is, that these lofty investigations are not conducted by organised symmetry, but by the faculties of the soul itself apart altogether from the body. The single example I have given will suggest many others to the reader. The swift and versatile movements of the soul in glancing from heaven to earth, connecting the future with the past, retaining the remembrance of former years, nay, forming creations of its own--its skill, moreover, in making astonishing discoveries, and inventing so many wonderful arts, are sure indications of the agency of God in man. What shall we say of its activity when the body is asleep, its many revolving thoughts, its many useful suggestions, its many solid arguments, nay, its presentiment of things yet to come? What shall we say but that man bears about with him a stamp of immortality which can never be effaced? But how is it possible for man to be divine, and yet not acknowledge his Creator? Shall we, by means of a power of judging implanted in our breast, distinguish between justice and injustice, and yet there be no judge in heaven? Shall some remains of intelligence continue with us in sleep, and yet no God keep watch in heaven? Shall we be deemed the inventors of so many arts and useful properties that God may be defrauded of his praise, though experience tells us plainly enough, that whatever we possess is dispensed to us in unequal measures by another hand? The talk of certain persons concerning a secret inspiration quickening the whole world, is not only silly, but altogether profane. Such persons are delighted with the following celebrated passage of Virgil:  --
And flowing waters, and the starry flame,
And both the radiant lights, one common soul
Inspires and feeds--and animates the whole.
This active mind, infused through all the space,
Unites and mingles with the mighty mass:
Hence, men and beasts the breath of life obtain,
And birds of air, and monsters of the main.
Th' ethereal vigour is in all the same,
And every soul is filled with equal flame."
A portion of the God, and heavenly mind;
For God goes forth, and spreads throughout the whole,
Heaven, earth, and sea, the universal soul;
Each, at its birth, from him all beings share,
Both man and brute, the breath of vital air;
To him return, and, loosed from earthly chain,
Fly whence they sprung, and rest in God again;
Spurn at the grave, and, fearless of decay,
Dwell in high heaven, art star th' ethereal way."
6. Let each of us, therefore, in contemplating his own nature, remember that there is one God who governs all natures, and, in governing, wishes us to have respect to himself, to make him the object of our faith, worship, and adoration. Nothing, indeed, can be more preposterous than to enjoy those noble endowments which bespeak the divine presence within us, and to neglect him who, of his own good pleasure, bestows them upon us. In regard to his power, how glorious the manifestations by which he urges us to the contemplation of himself; unless, indeed, we pretend not to know whose energy it is that by a word sustains the boundless fabric of the universe--at one time making heaven reverberate with thunder, sending forth the scorching lightning, and setting the whole atmosphere in a blaze; at another, causing the raging tempests to blow, and forthwith, in one moment, when it so pleases him, making a perfect calm; keeping the sea, which seems constantly threatening the earth with devastation, suspended as it were in air; at one time, lashing it into fury by the impetuosity of the winds; at another, appeasing its rage, and stilling all its waves. Here we might refer to those glowing descriptions of divine power, as illustrated by natural events, which occur throughout Scripture; but more especially in the book of Job, and the prophecies of Isaiah. These, however, I purposely omit, because a better opportunity of introducing them will be found when I come to treat of the Scriptural account of the creation. (Infra, chap. 14 s. 1, 2, 20, sq). I only wish to observe here, that this method of investigating the divine perfections, by tracing the lineaments of his countenance as shadowed forth in the firmament and on the earth, is common both to those within and to those without the pale of the Church. From the power of God we are naturally led to consider his eternity since that from which all other things derive their origin must necessarily be selfexistent and eternal. Moreover, if it be asked what cause induced him to create all things at first, and now inclines him to preserve them, we shall find that there could be no other cause than his own goodness. But if this is the only cause, nothing more should be required to draw forth our love towards him; every creature, as the Psalmist reminds us, participating in his mercy. "His tender mercies are over all his works," (Ps. 145:9).
7. In the second class of God's works, namely those which are above the ordinary course of nature, the evidence of his perfections are in every respect equally clear. For in conducting the affairs of men, he so arranges the course of his providence, as daily to declare, by the clearest manifestations, that though all are in innumerable ways the partakers of his bounty, the righteous are the special objects of his favour, the wicked and profane the special objects of his severity. It is impossible to doubt his punishment of crimes; while at the same time he, in no unequivocal manner, declares that he is the protector, and even the avenger of innocence, by shedding blessings on the good, helping their necessities, soothing and solacing their griefs, relieving their sufferings, and in all ways providing for their safety. And though he often permits the guilty to exult for a time with impunity, and the innocent to be driven to and fro in adversity, nay, even to be wickedly and iniquitously oppressed, this ought not to produce any uncertainty as to the uniform justice of all his procedure. Nay, an opposite inference should be drawn. When any one crime calls forth visible manifestations of his anger, it must be because he hates all crimes; and, on the other hand, his leaving many crimes unpunished, only proves that there is a Judgment in reserve, when the punishment now delayed shall be inflicted. In like manner, how richly does he supply us with the means of contemplating his mercy when, as frequently happens, he continues to visit miserable sinners with unwearied kindness, until he subdues their depravity, and woos them back with more than a parent's fondness?
8. To this purpose the Psalmist (Ps. 107) mentioning how God, in a wondrous manner, often brings sudden and unexpected succour to the miserable when almost on the brink of despair, whether in protecting them when they stray in deserts, and at length leading them back into the right path, or supplying them with food when famishing for want, or delivering them when captive from iron fetters and foul dungeons, or conducting them safe into harbour after shipwreck, or bringing them back from the gates of death by curing their diseases, or, after burning up the fields with heat and drought, fertilising them with the river of his grace, or exalting the meanest of the people, and casting down the mighty from their lofty seats:--the Psalmist, after bringing forward examples of this description, infers that those things which men call fortuitous events, are so many proofs of divine providence, and more especially of paternal clemency, furnishing ground of joy to the righteous, and at the same time stopping the mouths of the ungodly. But as the greater part of mankind, enslaved by error, walk blindfold in this glorious theatre, he exclaims that it is a rare and singular wisdom to meditate carefully on these works of God, which many, who seem most sharp-sighted in other respects, behold without profit. It is indeed true, that the brightest manifestation of divine glory finds not one genuine spectator among a hundred. Still, neither his power nor his wisdom is shrouded in darkness. His power is strikingly displayed when the rage of the wicked, to all appearance irresistible, is crushed in a single moment; their arrogance subdued, their strongest bulwarks overthrown, their armour dashed to pieces, their strength broken, their schemes defeated without an effort, and audacity which set itself above the heavens is precipitated to the lowest depths of the earth. On the other hand, the poor are raised up out of the dust, and the needy lifted out of the dung hill (Ps. 113:7), the oppressed and afflicted are rescued in extremity, the despairing animated with hope, the unarmed defeat the armed, the few the many, the weak the strong. The excellence of the divine wisdom is manifested in distributing everything in due season, confounding the wisdom of the world, and taking the wise in their own craftiness (1 Cor. 3:19); in short, conducting all things in perfect accordance with reason.
"Know, first, that heaven, and earth's compacted frame,
"Hence to the bee some sages have assigned
Perspectives on Social Ethics 4 - Apostolic Perspectives on Social Ethics
By Charles C. Ryrie 1976
While the Apostles wrote frequently about the Christian’s relationship to the social institutions of their day, their teaching was more concerned with how to live within the framework of those existing institutions than with how to change them. Remembering that this series is concerned with social ethics and not personal ethics, the subject of the Apostles’ teaching will be considered under three headings: areas for social concern, motives for social concern, and methods to be used.
Areas of Social Concern | Civic Responsibility
The dual citizenship of the believer which the Lord affirmed ( Matt 22:21 ) is reiterated by the Apostle Paul ( Phil 3:20 ). While a citizen of heaven, Paul nonetheless enjoyed and used the privileges of his Roman citizenship ( Acts 22:25–29; 25:10–12 ).
Obedience to government. Without question, “obedience” is the key word the Apostles use to describe the Christian’s responsibility to civil government. In Romans 13:1–7 Paul commands obedience and submission for several reasons: because authority is ordained of God (v. 1 ); because resistance to government is, in the final analysis, resistance to God (v. 2 ); because government generally opposes evil (v. 4 ); and because man’s conscience tells him to obey (v. 5 ). Eight or nine years and several imprisonments later, during which time Paul had ample opportunity to rethink his position, he gave the same advice: “Put them in mind to be subject [this is the same verb as in Rom 13:1 ], to obey magistrates, to be ready for every good work” ( Titus 3:1 ). Mistreatment at the hands of the Roman government was not considered sufficient existential grounds for changing his mind!
About the same time Paul wrote to Titus, Peter wrote to people in various parts of the empire that they should submit for the following reasons: submission shows the believer’s obedience to God Himself ( 1 Pet 2:13 ); it is the will of God (v. 15 ); and it is a good testimony to the unsaved (v. 15 ). Both the Pauline and Petrine teachings were written under the reign of Emperor Nero (A.D. 54–68). The Epistle to the Romans was written during the first part of Nero’s reign, the celebrated quinquennium, which was characterized by good government. Reportedly, Seneca said of Nero during this time that he was incapable of learning cruelty. Royal intrigue involving his mother resulted in her death in A.D. 60. A marked change followed in the life and government of Nero, who plunged deeper and deeper into personal dissipation and brought the empire to the point of bankruptcy. On July 18, A.D. 64 Rome began to burn, and whatever may or may not have been Nero’s part in the holocaust, suspicion was thrown on the emperor. In order to divert attention, Nero attempted to lay the blame on the Christians. Tacitus described the matter this way:
Wherefore in order to allay the rumor he [Nero] put forward as guilty, and afflicted with the most exquisite punishments those who were hated for their abominations and called “Christians” by the populace … Therefore, first of all those who confessed [to being Christians] were arrested, and then as a result of their information a large number were implicated, not so much on the charge of incendiarism as for hatred of the human race. They died by methods of mockery; some were covered with the skins of wild beasts and then torn by dogs, some were crucified, some were burned as torches to give light at night … men felt that their destruction was not on account of the public welfare but to gratify the cruelty of one [Nero]. The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero (Oxford World's Classics)
Some place the writing of 1 Peter shortly after the beginning of Nero’s persecution, which makes Peter’s teaching very significant. Furthermore, if Peter were in Rome when he wrote the letter (which seems likely from 1 Peter 5:13 ), what he had to say about civil obedience is even more startling.
Subjection to authority is to flow from the believer’s own will. The verb “be subject” is in the middle voice in each of the Romans and Titus passages cited above. This indicates that obedience is to be given freely of one’s own accord.
What is the extent of this obedience? None of the three passages cited names any exceptions or special cases calling for disobedience. However, there are at least two instructive examples of disobedience in the experiences of the Apostles. One is the well-known statement of Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than man” ( Acts 5:29 ), a statement made with respect to disobeying the command of the Sanhedrin, which had not only religious power but also wide political power at that time. This is a clear example of disobedience when a command of the governing power conflicts with a clear command of God. Disobedience is justified when civil authority requires a believer to disobey the laws of God.
Another example deals not so much with the area of disobedience as it does with pressure that can properly be applied to bring the government to do what it is supposed to do. The incident occurred at Philippi where Paul staged a first-century sit-in. Having been beaten without a trial, he refused to move until the authorities came and apologized for violating his rights as a Roman citizen ( Acts 16:37 ). He was trying by legitimate means to compel the Roman authorities to fulfill their God-appointed task. It is to be noted that he did not stage his sit-in because of some selfish claim against the authorities.
Thus it is evident that the first responsibility of the Christian is to obey freely and fully, unless to do so would directly violate God’s laws.
Respect for government. A second civic responsibility is respect for government ( 1 Pet 2:17 ). To all men Christians must give honor; to other believers, love; to God, fear; and to the king, constant honor (the tense in this last command changes to present). The basic meaning of the word honor is “to fix the value of something”; that is, believers are to find something of value in those who govern them. The word is linked with the fear of God (see Prov 24:21 ). Paul draws on this nuance when he commands that honor be given to those in authority ( Rom 13:7 ).
Support for government. A third civic responsibility is support for government. Christians owe their government material obligations; they are to pay dues (the verb ἀπόδετε, is the same as in Matt 22:21 ). Paul’s teaching parallels that of Christ: since believers receive benefits from government they must support the government. Four principal kinds of taxes were levied in first-century Palestine: a land tax payable in kind or in money, a poll tax and personal property tax, a tax or duty on export/import goods at seaports and city gates, and a house tax in Jerusalem. “Tribute” refers to the first two kinds (on person and property) and “custom” to the third (on goods).
Praying for rulers. A fourth civic responsibility is that of praying for rulers ( 1 Tim 2:1–2 ). Christians’ prayers should include supplication (giving evidence of a sense of need), prayer (in general), intercession (petition to a recognized superior), and thanksgiving. This last is probably the most difficult element to include, knowing the character of some rulers, but God nonetheless commands it. The object of one’s prayers should include all in authority, not simply good rulers or those of his own political party. Such prayer is purposeful: that believers might lead a tranquil and quiet life in all piety and gravity. Devotion to God and seriousness of purpose (piety and gravity) can best be practiced when life is tranquil and not in turmoil. Unbelievers must obey, respect, and support government; but only believers can effectively pray for rulers.
In summary, the responsibilities are clear, but the emphasis is sometimes overlooked. The Apostles did not advocate either civil disobedience or revolution to effect change, even when that change was clearly needed. The believer’s heavenly citizenship is far more important; his earthly sojourn is temporary. This is not to say that he is unconcerned about the kind or activity of government; he merely does not view government as his primary concern.
The early Christians were subject to a power which required them to do that which was forbidden by their religion. To that extent and within those limits they could not and did not obey it; but they never encouraged in any way resistance or rebellion. In all things indifferent the Christian conformed to the existing law; he obeyed the law “not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience sake.” He only disobeyed when it was necessary to do so for conscience sake. The point of importance is the detachment of the two spheres of activity. The Church and the State are looked upon as different bodies, each with a different work to perform. To designate this or that form of government as “Christian,” and support it on these grounds, would have been quite alien to the whole spirit of those days. The Church must influence the world by its hold on the hearts and consciences of individuals … A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans (International Critical Commentary Series).
Responsibility to the Poor
As in the teachings of Christ, so also in the teachings and example of the Apostles, concern for the poor receives a prominent place. At least three principles emerge from the writings of the Apostles.
First, both the state of having possessions and the state of lacking them are from God. Wealth is regarded as evil only if it is improperly used. It is the love of money, not the lack of it, that is the root of all evil ( 1 Tim 6:10 ). The rich are never told to give all their wealth away, but to be generous and not to trust in possessions ( 1 Tim 6:17–19 ). Ananias and Sapphira were judged not because they refused to give all their possessions to the church, but because they pretended to give all away, when in reality they did not. They were not reproached for deciding to keep back part of the sale price of their land, but rather for pretending to give the full price to the Apostles ( Acts 5:1–11 ). Peter makes it very clear that the property and proceeds were theirs.
Paul experienced both the state of having possessions and lacking them ( Phil 4:12 ). He was not more in the Lord’s will in one state than the other. In the will of God a man may be poor, while another equally in the will of God may be rich ( James 1:9–10 ). The important test for every Christian is whether or not he has learned to be content in either condition. For the one who has much, it is easy to be content, but he must search his own heart to see whether he would willingly give up all he has, if God so willed. Money can easily become an idol. The one who has little must also learn contentment, though this does not mean he should abandon legitimate means of self-advancement.
Just as a man may be either rich or poor in the will of God, he may also be rich or poor out of the will of God. Ill-gotten wealth will have to be accounted for in the day of judgment ( James 5:3, 9 ). If poverty resulted from laziness, then others are under no obligation to support the slothful one. Paul commanded that if a man did not wish to work he should not be allowed to eat ( 2 Thess 3:10 ). Neither the individual Christian nor the church has any responsibility to support such people.
Second, planning for the future is prudent. There are three facets to such planning. One facet relates to widowed parents and/or grandparents. This is a clear point (among many unclear ones!) in the passage concerning the care of widows ( 1 Tim 5:3–16 ). Believers bear the primary responsibility for the care of their widowed parents or grandparents. Verse 8 speaks of providing for one’s own, especially those of his own house, so that he will not be worse than an unbeliever. The word provide means “to think ahead and prepare for one’s foreseeable needs.” In this context it refers to the needs of the members of one’s own household, including the widows related to that family. This verse does not deal with saving for the education of one’s children, or buying insurance unless that would be involved in providing for a widowed mother or grandmother. Of course, everyone faces the problem of knowing how much will be enough, but the principle is clear. The family takes the responsibility; the church assumes the responsibility only when no family is available to do so. When the church does have to assume responsibility, two further principles emerge: give temporary relief to younger widows who are encouraged to remarry, and promise sustained support for older enrolled widows. Thus the family responds first; the church steps in only if there is no family; and the government is mentioned not at all.
Elsewhere Paul enunciates the principle of parents providing for their children ( 2 Cor 12:14 ). In his relationship to the Corinthians Paul desired to exercise the privilege of a parent, namely, to lay up provision for his spiritual children. He bases his plea on an accepted principle: “the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” Again the difficult question is, How much is necessary and proper to conform to this principle? Whatever is the correct answer to that question (and it will undoubtedly differ in each case), it is clear that planning for the future of one’s children and the care of one’s parents is prudent and commendable in the sight of God.
James adds a third facet: caring for orphans ( James 1:27 ). Pure religion is to “visit,” or better, “to look after and care for” (from the same root as “bishop”) orphans. Specifically how this gets done is not stated, but like the care of widows, it is primarily an individual responsibility. Actually, the matter of planning falls in the area of personal ethics, but it is mentioned here because it bears on social responsibilities.
Responsibility for widows, children, and orphans is a family matter — either the individual family or the church family. Saving and thrift are not vices, nor are they incompatible with the proper use of money.
Third, giving is the proof of love. The act of giving intrinsically involves others. There can be no giver without a corresponding recipient. While it is true that giving may be done on a one-to-one basis, the New Testament emphasis is clearly on group giving. First John 3:17 mentions one-to-one giving, and summarizes the entire apostolic teaching on the subject. Giving is the proof of love, which in turn is a test of fellowship; and fellowship in turn is the basis for confidence that God hears our prayers. This giving has some very important practical ramifications.
Giving flows from a heart of love. The Apostles, building on this truth, set forth guidelines for genuine, Spirit-controlled giving.
First, the individual should make regular provision (“lay by himself”) for giving. Stewardship of one’s personal assets should be systematic so that funds are regularly available for giving ( 1 Cor 16:2 ). In this passage Paul has in mind the collection he was taking for the poor in Jerusalem, carrying out the admonition which Peter, James, and John had given him earlier ( Gal 2:10 ). This laying aside should not be an emotional whim, but a thoughtful, systematic consideration based on a proper assessment of what a man has. In other words, provision for giving should be a part of one’s regular budget ( 2 Cor 8:12 ). It is not a matter of trusting God for what one does not have, but of God trusting the believer to plan carefully with what he does have.
Second, the primary responsibility of believers in their use of money is in caring for the material needs of other believers. While Christians are called on to do good to all men, their special responsibility in good works and in giving is to fellow believers ( Gal 6:10 ). From the beginning the church undertook a ministry to her own. Sharing things in common was done by the church immediately after the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:34–35; 4:34–35 ). Clearly the right of holding property was not abolished ( 4:34 ), and community control was only assumed when goods or money was voluntarily given. Apparently, this communal sharing was done temporarily (and only in Jerusalem) to meet the need created by the thousands of pilgrims whose visit to Jerusalem had been unexpectedly prolonged by a life-changing encounter with Christianity. No doubt many stayed on in order to be taught, and soon they ran out of money and provisions. Into this situation stepped the church.
Later, a large group of widows made demands on the charity of the Jerusalem church ( Acts 6:1 ). Levirate marriage, that is, the marriage of a widow by her brother-in-law after the death of her husband, was designed to help protect the rights of a widow. But the law made provision for releasing the brother-in-law in cases of hardship. As a result Levirate marriage was neglected and widows, left to make their own way, became the objects of charity. At the time of Christ they had become so neglected that the Jews established a fund in the Temple out of which relief was given to widows and orphans ( 2 Macc 3:10 ). Many of these widows were apparently converted to Christianity, thereby cutting off their Temple fund support. Again the church stepped in to undertake for her own.
A third example of special provision for the material needs of other believers can be seen in the famine relief money sent by the Christians in Antioch to those in Judea ( Acts 11:27–30 ). Their gift represents probably the first instance of charity being given to those who were not personally known to the donors.
A fourth example of the church caring for her own is the collection Paul took up in the churches of Macedonia and Achaia for the poor saints in Jerusalem ( Rom 15:25, 27; 2 Cor 8–9 ). The relief effort extended over a period of time ( 2 Cor 9:2 ), and involved organized effort ( 2 Cor 8:18–22 ). Indeed, in all of these instances there had to be some degree of organization in order to carry out the relief program, since money and goods were never passed directly from donor to recipient. Instead, donors contributed to leaders who in turn controlled the distribution of the monies.
A third principle concerning giving can be found in those strange verses of 1 Corinthians 7:27–31. Since the time is short (and it is obviously shorter than when Paul wrote), then Christians today must put all the things of life (including money) in proper perspective, for they are all transitory. Or as another has expressed it: “All of us must live as loose to money and possessions as if we were actually giving them away … All of us must keep on trying to find fresh ways of giving away more if possible year by year.” Whose World?
Responsibilities in Employment
Considerable ink has been consumed by authors writing in this area of ethics. This writer does not think it germane to the emphasis of this article to dwell on many of the things which the Scriptures say about work, particularly as it relates to the individual. But several observations can be made. Before the Fall, God gave man work to do ( Gen 1:28; 2:15 ), but the Fall added the element of toil to man’s attempts at making the earth provide his sustenance ( 3:17–19 ). God is a worker God, not merely a thinker God. Jesus Christ worked as a carpenter. All who are physically able are commanded to work, else they would not eat ( 2 Thess 3:10 ). Thus work is ordained of God and can be a noble thing.
Two aspects of the relationship of the believer to work in society may be considered:
The believer’s attitude toward his status and work in the social structure. The believer’s attitude involves a sense of calling and a sense of contentment ( 1 Cor 7:17–24 ). In this paragraph Paul states the general principle that the believer’s calling is the most important element in life. By comparison, the conditions and circumstances in which he finds himself are relatively unimportant. The calling referred to seven times in these verses is both the calling to be a Christian and the calling to a particular station or activity in life. A sense of calling should cause the believer to realize that wherever he is in life and whatever he is called to do, he is “with God” (v. 24 ). This verse provides a much surer foundation for the so-called dignity of work than the verses usually cited. The believer can therefore rest assured (assuming that he is not in any immoral activity) that the calling of God makes any secular or religious work a work with God.
1 Corinthians 7:17–24 (ESV) 17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
But Paul emphasizes another attitudinal matter: A believer can have a sense of contentment in whatever calling he is in. He is to walk in that calling (v. 17 ) and to remain in that calling (vv. 20, 24 ). Paul does not mean that a man may never change jobs, but he does condemn restlessness and a secular perspective on whatever job one may have. Verse 21 may mean that if a slave has a chance to gain his freedom he should take it, thus changing his status in life dramatically. Calvin states it this way:
… each should be content with his calling, and persist in it, and not be eager to change to something else. In the Scriptures “calling” is a lawful way of life, for it is connected with God, who actually calls us … Therefore, he does not lay it down, that each person must remain in a certain way of life, once he has adopted it; but on the other hand, he condemns the restlessness which prevents individuals from remaining contentedly as they are … First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, Volume 9)
Why does Paul encourage self-abnegation rather than self-promotion? Two reasons are suggested in the passage. One is the Christian’s position as a servant of Christ (v. 22 ), a fact which is true whether one is a slave or a freeman or in whatever state he finds himself in life. The other reason is the shortness of the time which makes eternal realities of far greater priority than temporal ones (v. 29 ). Even though the age has continued longer than Paul anticipated, the time is still short and life is transitory; therefore, Christians should seek to do the will of God within whatever state in life God has called them. Paul’s emphasis is clearly on believers serving the Lord in the conditions of life to which they were called.
The believer’s use of work and status in affecting the social structure. It is clear from what has been said that Paul did not advocate any kind of revolutionary action with regard to the structures of employment and station in life. The Apostles emphasized that normal Christian conduct and witness in the believer are the forces which will affect change. Proper Christian conduct on the part of slaves (and thus employees) means obedience, reverence, sincerity, wholehearted work, and no wrongdoing ( Eph 6:5–8; Col 3:22–25 ); and for masters (and thus employers) it means fair play, honest dealings, and no threats ( Eph 6:9; Col 4:1; James 5:4 ). It seems that these specific instructions for the believing worker rule out sloppy work, “slowdowns,” featherbedding, or requests for higher wages simply because others are getting them. On the part of believing employers these specifics outlaw corporate pressure tactics, unfair or unkind treatment of employees, and all dishonest practices (even though they may be “acceptable business practices”). They do not outlaw union activities any more than they outlaw corporation activities, but they do outlaw all — union and corporation — activities that are contrary to these specific commands.
Normal Christian witness, of course, includes proper use of the tongue and a demonstration of dependence on the resources which only Christians have. The tongue will not be used to curse anyone ( James 3:9 ) but will be used to minister grace to all ( Col 4:6 ). A demonstration of dependence on the resources that only believers have is especially necessary in this secularized age. This dependence makes the Christian worker different even though be does the same job as the unbeliever. Carl Henry sums up this idea very well by relating it to the assembly-line syndrome.
The Christian worker, however, even on the assembly line, can find a sense of ultimate purpose and meaning unknown to the unbeliever. While modern industry, at worst, may distort and thwart one’s spiritual sonship during work hours, it cannot really make a machine of one who is a son of God … Even monotony can be justified in the ministry of God and of humanity, if it stems from a constructive activity that has no better alternative. Whatever contributes to the elevation and good of mankind is worthy, even if it lacks romance and novelty. The 340 permanent staff members of Mayo Clinic are not less helpful to mankind because each individual is a specialist … It is possible, of course for vein specialists, or for those who bronchoscope patients all day long, to think of “pieces of humanity coming down the line.” It is equally possible, and imperative, for the specialist with a sense of calling and mission to think of each person as “my private patient, to be handled as if he were the only patient I have.” Someone will say that this high response is more natural to the worker who deals directly with the persons who benefit from his labors, and this is true enough. But no worker’s responsibility is lessened simply because he serves an invisible neighbor. Many a life has been saved by a properly tightened screw, and many lost through an improperly tightened bolt. Aspects of Christian Social Ethics
The perspective of the Apostles on status and work in life is captured in two verses: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” ( Col 3:23–24 ).
The great distinctive of this dispensation is that “there is no difference” ( Rom 3:22 ). In a sense the principle of impartiality summarizes the apostolic perspective on matters that relate to social issues. No impartiality should be shown in sending the gospel message. It must go to all men without distinguishing racial, national, or social backgrounds ( Acts 10:34–35 ).
Impartiality should characterize the believer’s relationship to the poor, particularly when the poor come into the assembly. James dealt with the problem of giving preference to those with money who entered the assembly. They were given seats of honor, while poorer people were shunted to the rear, a clear violation of the law that says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” ( James 2:8 ). The church at Antioch exemplified racial impartiality in the assembly. One of the leaders was Simeon whose nickname was Niger, the Latin word for “black.” He was probably a Jew of African origin or possibly an African Gentile who was a proselyte to Judaism.
It is against this background of impartiality that the slavery question should be considered. Slavery was part of the texture of first-century society, and it was of a most oppressive character.
Kind and considerate masters were no doubt to be found; but the nature of the system permitted the grossest cruelties, and, as always in such cases, selfishness and brutality often took advantage of the permission. Slaves had practically no legal rights … In persons thus situated who became Christians it was obviously natural in the highest degree that the assurance of their freedom in Christ would lead to such thoughts as these: “Can it possibly be that I, Christ’s freedman, a citizen of the heavenly kingdom, a child of God, am to remain the bondman of this heathen, himself a slave of Satan?” Of course, supposing the master to be a Christian, the slave’s thought would naturally be, “Since he and I are brethren, and therefore, even if he fail to see his duty in the matter, I have a right to assert my freedom and leave him, or, should I remain in his house, claim in everything the equality of a brother.” The First Epistle of Peter, Robert Johnstone
Many writers try to make a case for the abolition of slavery from the teachings of the New Testament. However, a more accurate assessment of the matter is this: “Paul has no word of criticism for the institution as such. In this sense, he was unconcerned about ‘social ethics’ — the impact of the gospel on social structures.” Unity and diversity in New Testament theology: Essays in honor of George E. Ladd However, Paul does have something to say about prejudice and impartiality that applies to slavery. Masters are warned against using their position to threaten their slaves on the basis that God is impartial ( Eph 6:9 ), and when Paul sent the runaway slave Onesimus back to his master Philemon, he reminded Philemon to receive him as a brother ( Phile 16 ), although he did not ask him to set Philemon free. Why not? Another has answered this question well:
If one single word from Christian teaching could have been quoted at Rome as tending to excite the slaves to revolt, it would have set the Roman Power in direct and active hostility to the new faith. Had St. Paul’s teaching led (as it probably would, had he argued the cessation of servitude) to a rising of the slaves — that rising and the Christian Church, which would have been identified with it, would have been crushed together. Rome would not have tolerated a repetition of those servile wars which had, twice in the previous century, deluged Sicily with blood.
Nor would the danger of preaching the abolition of servitude have been confined to that arising from external violence on the part of the Roman Government; it would have been pregnant with danger to the purity of the Church itself. Many might have been led, from wrong motives, to join a communion which would have aided them in securing their social and political freedom.
In these considerations we may find, I think, ample reasons for the position of non-interference which the Apostle maintains in regard to slavery. If men then say that Christianity approved of slavery, we would point them to the fact that it is Christianity that has abolished it. Under a particular and exceptional condition of circumstances, which cannot again arise, St. Paul, for wise reasons, did not interfere with it. To have done so would have been worse than useless. A Bible Commentary for English Readers by Various Writers: Volume 7: Acts to Galatians
Thus Paul’s approach to this social evil was to exhort believers, slave and free alike, to live like citizens of the new age in the structures of the soon-passing present age.
Methods for Implementing Social Concern
For the most part the method to use in effecting change in social structures is individual action, rather than group action. Obedience, respect, support, and prayer for government are solely individual responsibilities. No group action is involved in discharging responsibility in these areas.
In relation to the poor, both individual and group (church) action is necessary. The care of widows and the relief of a large group of fellow believers requires organized effort.
In matters related to employment, change is effected by each Christian fulfilling his responsibility to act with honesty and fairness in his respective position. Nowhere does the Bible call on Christians to organize a campaign to effect corporate changes in, say, General Chariots, but it does call on Christians in the United Chariot Workers Union and Christians in management to work and act like Christians.
Questions concerning racial prejudice and slavery are dealt with in the Apostles’ teaching in the context of prejudice versus impartiality. And again, change is effected by changing individual attitudes.
Methods of effecting social change begin with the individual living up to his Christian responsibility, then involving the church in some instances in cooperative action, but never the church using the ruling political powers to bring about desired goals.
Motivation for Social Concern
At least two powerful motivations for social concern on the part of the believer can be seen in the Apostles’ writings. The first relates to Paul’s emphasis in the pastoral Epistles on wholesome doctrine. This remarkable metaphor, in which true and correct doctrine is characterized as wholesome in contrast to that which is diseased, is found nine times in the Pastorals ( 1 Tim 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 8 ). Some suggest this medical phraseology may have come from Luke’s association with Paul. At any rate the point is clear: When the body of Christ is in a fit condition, the expression of its beliefs will be healthy. The phrase is coupled contextually with specific aspects of Christian conduct. Thus sound doctrine is expressed through proper actions. One passage concerns the attitude of slaves toward their masters ( 1 Tim 6:1–3 ). In another, healthy speech is enjoined ( Titus 2:8 ). It is clear that no one can claim to hold the truth of Christianity without exhibiting that truth in his conduct; and such healthy conduct will display itself in areas of social concern.
Peter links two of the areas discussed in this article — civic and employment responsibilities — to the imitation of Christ as a motive for obedience ( 1 Pet 2:13–25 ). Three facets of Christ’s example are particularly germane to the believer and his social responsibilities. First, Christ was blameless in all He did. If anyone ever suffered injustices, it was the Lord; yet He never sinned or used deceit (guile). He was deprived of His rights, but this did not constitute a call to civil disobedience. He responded truthfully when questioned by Pilate and the high priest. His attitude was not one of militant vengeance, but rather truthful response and resignation to the will of God. Injustice never gives anyone the right to commit sin, while truth keeps the individual from condoning sin.
Second, Christ did not retaliate. “Like a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” ( Isa 53:7 ). He did not talk about every issue of His day. He did not level judgments against existing structures. He did not overpower the world, but He did overcome it through suffering. Talkativeness, retaliation, and insisting on rights only causes the church to imitate the world.
Third, the Lord took the long-range view and committed Himself to God and His ultimate justice. Likewise the Apostles counseled self-abnegation, contentment in one’s calling, and obedience to the reigning powers, not because they wanted to preserve the status quo but because God had told them that this honors Him. Believers must look beyond the immediate and commit themselves to the One who ultimately will bring righteousness and justice to the world.
Christians, claiming to love the truth, should be leaders in wholesome living. While their spiritual health will not of itself cure other people’s diseases, it should attract others to the Great Physician, and help stem the tide of further corruption in the structures of society. Those who claim to love the Savior should follow His example of lowliness, faithfulness, and self-sacrificing love.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 125The LORD Surrounds His People
125 A Song Of Ascents.
125:1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
the LORD will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
CHAPTER XVI | The History, Imprisonment, and Examination of Mr. John Hooper,
Bishop of Worcester and Gloucester
At length, when God saw it good to stay the bloody time of the six articles, and to give us King Edward to reign over this realm, with some peace and rest unto the Church, amongst many other English exiles, who then repaired homeward, Mr. Hooper also, moved in conscience, thought not to absent himself, but seeing such a time and occasion, offered to help forward the Lord's work, to the uttermost of his ability.
When Mr. Hooper had taken his farewell of Mr. Bullinger, and his friends in Zurich, he repaired again to England in the reign of King Edward VI, and coming to London, used continually to preach, most times twice, or at least once a day.
In his sermons, according to his accustomed manner, he corrected sin, and sharply inveighed against the iniquity of the world and the corrupt abuses of the Church. The people in great flocks and companies daily came to hear his voice, as the most melodious sound and tune of Orpheus' harp, insomuch, that oftentimes when he was preaching, the church would be so full that none could enter farther than the doors thereof. In his doctrine he was earnest, in tongue eloquent, in the Scriptures perfect, in pains indefatigable, in his life exemplary.
Having preached before the king's majesty, he was soon after made bishop of Gloucester. In that office he continued two years, and behaved himself so well that his very enemies could find no fault with him, and after that he was made bishop of Worcester.
Dr. Hooper executed the office of a most careful and vigilant pastor, for the space of two years and more, as long as the state of religion in King Edward's time was sound and flourishing.
After he had been cited to appear before Bonner and Dr. Heath, he was led to the Council, accused falsely of owing the queen money, and in the next year, 1554, he wrote an account of his severe treatment during near eighteen months' confinement in the Fleet, and after his third examination, January 28, 1555, at St. Mary Overy's, he, with the Rev. Mr. Rogers, was conducted to the Compter in Southwark, there to remain until the next day at nine o'clock, to see whether they would recant. "Come, Brother Rogers," said Dr. Hooper, "must we two take this matter first in hand, and begin to fry in these fagots?" "Yes, Doctor," said Mr. Rogers, "by God's grace." "Doubt not," said Dr. Hooper, "but God will give us strength;" and the people so applauded their constancy that they had much ado to pass.
January 29, Bishop Hooper was degraded and condemned, and the Rev. Mr. Rogers was treated in like manner. At dark, Dr. Hooper was led through the city to Newgate; notwithstanding this secrecy, many people came forth to their doors with lights, and saluted him, praising God for his constancy.
During the few days he was in Newgate, he was frequently visited by Bonner and others, but without avail. As Christ was tempted, so they tempted him, and then maliciously reported that he had recanted. The place of his martyrdom being fixed at Gloucester, he rejoiced very much, lifting up his eyes and hands to heaven, and praising God that he saw it good to send him among the people over whom he was pastor, there to confirm with his death the truth which he had before taught them.
On February 7, he came to Gloucester, about five o'clock, and lodged at one Ingram's house. After his first sleep, he continued in prayer ujntil morning; and all the day, except a little time at his meals, and when conversing such as the guard kindly permitted to speak to him, he spent in prayer.
Sir Anthony Kingston, at one time Dr. Hooper's good friend, was appointed by the queen's letters to attend at his execution. As soon as he saw the bishop he burst into tears. WIth tender entreaties he exhorted him to live. "True it is," said the bishop, "that death is bitter, and life is sweet; but alas! consider that the death to come is more bitter, and the life to come is more sweet."
The same day a blind boy obtained leave to be brought into Dr. Hooper's presence. The same boy, not long before, had suffered imprisonment at Gloucester for confessing the truth. "Ah! poor boy," said the bishop, "though God hath taken from thee thy outward sight, for what reason He best knoweth, yet He hath endued thy soul with the eye of knowledge and of faith. God give thee grace continually to pray unto Him, that thou lose not that sight, for then wouldst thou indeed be blind both in body and soul."
When the mayor waited upon him preparatory to his execution, he expressed his perfect obedience, and only requested that a quick fire might terminate his torments. After he had got up in the morning, he desired that no man should be suffered to come into the chamber, that he might be solitary until the hour of execution.
About eight o'clock, on February 9, 1555, he was led forth, and many thousand persons were collected, as it was market-day. All the way, being straitly charged not to speak, and beholding the people, who mourned bitterly for him, he would sometimes lift up his eyes towards heaven, and look very cheerfully upon such as he knew: and he was never known, during the time of his being among them, to look with so cheerful and ruddy a countenance as he did at that time. When he came to the place appointed where he should die, he smilingly beheld the stake and preparation made for him, which was near unto the great elm tree over against the college of priests, where he used to preach.
Now, after he had entered into prayer, a box was brought and laid before him upon a stool, with his pardon from the queen, if he would turn. At the sight whereof he cried, "If you love my soul, away with it!" The box being taken away, Lord Chandois said, "Seeing there is no remedy; despatch him quickly."
Command was now given that the fire should be kindled. But because there were not more green fagots than two horses could carry, it kindled not speedily, and was a pretty while also before it took the reeds upon the fagots. At length it burned about him, but the wind having full strength at that place, and being a lowering cold morning, it blew the flame from him, so that he was in a manner little more than touched by the fire.
Within a space after, a few dry fagots were brought, and a new fire kindled with fagots, (for there were no more reeds) and those burned at the nether parts, but had small power above, because of the wind, saving that it burnt his hair and scorched his skin a little. In the time of which fire, even as at the first flame, he prayed, saying mildly, and not very loud, but as one without pain, "O Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me, and receive my soul!" After the second fire was spent, he wiped both his eyes with his hands, and beholding the people, he said with an indifferent, loud voice, "For God's love, good people, let me have more fire!" and all this while his nether parts did burn; but the fagots were so few that the flame only singed his upper parts.
The third fire was kindled within a while after, which was more extreme than the other two. In this fire he prayed with a loud voice, "Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me! Lord Jesus receive my spirit!" And these were the last words he was heard to utter. But when he was black in the mouth, and his tongue so swollen that he could not speak, yet his lips went until they were shrunk to the gums: and he knocked his breast with his hands until one of his arms fell off, and then knocked still with the other, while the fat, water, and blood dropped out at his fingers' ends, until by renewing the fire, his strength was gone, and his hand clave fast in knocking to the iron upon his breast. Then immediately bowing forwards, he yielded up his spirit.
Thus was he three quarters of an hour or more in the fire.
Even as a lamb, patiently he abode the extremity thereof, neither moving forwards, backwards, nor to any side; but he died as quietly as a child in his bed. And he now reigneth, I doubt not, as a blessed martyr in the joys of heaven, prepared for the faithful in Christ before the foundations of the world; for whose constancy all Christians are bound to praise God.
The Life and Conduct of Dr. Rowland Taylor of HadleyDr. Rowland Taylor, vicar of Hadley, in Suffolk, was a man of eminent learning, and had been admitted to the degree of doctor of the civil and canon law.
His attachment to the pure and uncorrupted principles of Christianity recommended him to the favor and friendship of Dr. Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he lived a considerable time, until through his interest he obtained the living at Hadley.
Not only was his word a preaching unto them, but all his life and conversation was an example of unfeigned Christian life and true holiness. He was void of all pride, humble and meek as any child; so that none were so poor but they might boldly, as unto their father, resort unto him; neither was his lowliness childish or fearful, but, as occasion, time, and place required, he would be stout in rebuking the sinful and evildoers; so that none was so rich but he would tell them plainly his fault, with such earnest and grave rebukes as became a good curate and pastor. He was a man very mild, void of all rancor, grudge or evil will; ready to do good to all men; readily forgiving his enemies; and never sought to do evil to any.
To the poor that were blind, lame, sick, bedrid, or that had many children, he was a very father, a careful patron, and diligent provider, insomuch that he caused the parishioners to make a general provision for them; and he himself (beside the continual relief that they always found at his house) gave an honest portion yearly to the common almsbox. His wife also was an honest, discreet, and sober matron, and his children well nurtured, brought up in the fear of God and good learning.
He was a good salt of the earth, savorly biting the corrupt manners of evil men; a light in God's house, set upon a candlestick for all good men to imitate and follow.
Thus continued this good shepherd among his flock, governing and leadning them through the wilderness of this wicked world, all the days of the most innocent and holy king of blessed memory, Edward VI. But on his demise, and the succession of Queen Mary to the throne, he escaped not the cloud that burst on so many besdie; for two of his parishioners, Foster, an attorney, and Clark, a tradesman, out of blind zeal, resolved that Mass should be celebrated, in all its superstitious forms, in the parish church of Hadley, on Monday before Easter. This Dr. Taylor, entering the church, strictly forbade; but Clark forced the Doctor out of the church, celebrated Mass, and immediately informed the lord-chancellor, bishop of Winchester of his behavior, who summoned him to appear, and answer the complaints that were alleged against him.
The doctor upon the receipt of the summons, cheerfully prepared to obey the same; and rejected the advice of his friends to fly beyond sea. When Gardiner saw Dr. Taylor, he, according to his common custom, reviled him. Dr. Taylor heard his abuse patiently, and when the bishop said, "How darest thou look me in the face! knowest thou not who I am?" Dr. Taylor replied, "You are Dr. Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and lord-chancellor, and yet but a mortal man. But if I should be afraid of your lordly looks, why fear ye not God, the Lord of us all? With what countenance will you appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and answer to your oath made first unto King Henry VIII, and afterward unto King Edward VI, his son?"
A long conversation ensued, in which Dr. Taylor was so piously collected and severe upon his antagonist, that he exclaimed:
"Thou art a blasphemous heretic! Thou indeed blasphemist the blessed Sacrament, (here he put off his cap) and speakest against the holy Mass, which is made a sacrifice for the quick and the dead." The bishop afterward committed him into the king's bench.
When Dr. Taylor came there, he found the virtuous and vigilant preacher of God's Word, Mr. Bradford; who equally thanked God that He had provided him with such a comfortable fellow-prisoner; and they both together praised God, and continued in prayer, reading and exhorting one another.
After Dr. Taylor had lain some time in prison, he was cited to appear in the arches of Bow-church.
Dr. Taylor being condemned, was committed to the Clink, and the keepers were charged to treat him roughly; at night he was removed to the Poultry Compter.
When Dr. Taylor had lain in the Compter about a week on the fourth of February, Bonner came to degrade him, bringing with him such ornaments as appertained to the massing mummery; but the Doctor refused these trappings until they were forced upon him.
The night after he was degraded his wife came with John Hull, his servant, and his son Thomas, and were by the gentleness of the keepers permitted to sup with him.
After supper, walking up and down, he gave God thanks for His grace, that had given him strength to abide by His holy Word. With tears they prayed together, and kissed one another. Unto his son Thomas he gave a Latin book, containing the notable sayings of the old martyrs, and in the end of that he wrote his testament:
"I say to my wife, and to my children, The Lord gave you unto me, and the Lord hath taken me from you, and you from me: blessed be the name of the Lord! I believe that they are blessed which die in the Lord. God careth for sparrows, and for the hairs of our heads. I have ever found Him more faithful and favorable, than is any father or husband. Trust ye therefore in Him by the means of our dear Savior Christ's merits: believe, love, fear, and obey Him: pray to Him, for He hath promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall certainly live, and never die. I go before, and you shall follow after, to our long home."
On the morrow the sheriff of London with his officers came to the Compter by two o'clock in the morning, and brought forth Dr. Taylor; and without any light led him to the Woolsack, an inn without Aldgate. Dr. Taylor's wife, suspecting that her husband should that night be carried away, watched all night in St. Botolph's church-porch beside Aldgate, having her two children, the one named Elizabeth, of thirteen years of age (whom, being left without father or mother, Dr. Taylor had brought up of alms from three years old), the other named Mary, Dr. Taylor's own daughter.
Now, when the sheriff and his company came against St. Botolph's church, Elizabeth cried, saying, "O my dear father! mother, mother, here is my father led away." Then his wife cried, "Rowland, Rowland, where art thou?"-for it was a very dark morning, that the one could not well see the other. Dr. Taylor answered, "Dear wife, I am here"; and stayed. The sheriff's men would have led him forth, but the sheriff said, "Stay a little, masters, I pray you; and let him speak to his wife"; and so they stayed.
Then came she to him, and he took his daughter Mary in his arms; and he, his wife, and Elizabeth kneeled down and said the Lord's Prayer, at which sight the sheriff wept apace, and so did divers others of the company. After they had prayed, he rose up and kissed his wife, and shook her by the hand, and said, "Farewell, my dear wife; be of good comfort, for I am quiet in my conscience. God shall stir up a father for my children."
All the way Dr. Taylor was joyful and merry, as one that ccounted himself going to a most pleasant banquet or bridal. He spake many notable things to the sheriff and yeomen of the guard that conducted him, and often moved them to weep, through his much earnest calling upon them to repent, and to amend their evil and wicked living. Oftentimes also he caused them to wonder and rejoice, to see him so constant and steadfast, void of all fear, joyful in heart, and glad to die.
When Dr. Taylor had arrived at Aldham Common, the place where he should suffer, seeing a great multitude of people, he asked, "What place is this, and what meaneth it that so much people are gathered hither?" It was answered, "It is Aldham Common, the place where you must suffer; and the people have come to look upon you." Then he said, "Thanked be God, I am even at home"; and he alighted from his horse and with both hands rent the hood from his head.
His head had been notched and clipped like as a man would clip a fool's; which cost the good bishop Bonner had bestowed upon him. But when the people saw his reverend and ancient face, with a long white beard, they burst out with weeping tears, and cried, saying: "God save thee, good Dr. Taylor! Jesus Christ strengthen thee, and help thee! the Holy Ghost comfort thee!" with such other like good wishes.
When he had prayed, he went to the stake and kissed it, and set himself into a pitch barrel, which they had put for him to stand in, and stood with his back upright against the stake, with his hands folded together, and his eyes towards heaven, and continually prayed.
They then bound him with the chains, and having set up the fagots, one Warwick cruelly cast a fagot at him, which struck him on his head, and cut his face, sot hat the blood ran down. Then said Dr. Taylor, "O friend, I have harm enough; what needed that?"
Sir John Shelton standing by, as Dr. Taylor was speaking, and saying the Psalm Miserere in English, struck him on the lips:
"You knave," he said, "speak Latin: I will make thee." At last they kindled the fire; and Dr. Taylor holding up both his hands, calling upon God, and said, "Merciful Father of heaven! for Jesus Christ, my Savior's sake, receive my soul into Thy hands!" So he stood still without either crying or moving, with his hands folded together, until Soyce, with a halberd struck him on the head until his brains fell out, and the corpse fell down into the fire.
Thus rendered up this man of God his blessed soul into the hands of his merciful Father, and to his most dear Savior Jesus Christ, whom he most entirely loved, faithfully and earnestly preached, obediently followed in living, and constantly glorified in death.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Continual Burnt Offering (Titus 2:11)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
November 21Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ESV
The same grace that saves becomes our instructor after we know Christ. In this school we learn important lessons of the unprofitableness of the flesh, and the need to turn away from all carnality and worldliness so that Christ may be glorified in our lives. To spur us on to earnest endeavor the blessed hope of the Lord’s return is put before us. When we behold His face we shall never regret one thing we have suffered for His sake, nor think His demands upon us have been too great. Viewed in the light of the cross where He gave Himself for us, our most devoted service seems trivial indeed, and the least we can offer as an expression of our love for the One to whom we owe so much.
Perhaps today! Then, much-tried saint,
Look up, nor let thy spirit faint;
The stretching road thine eyes may see
May never be traversed by thee—
One moment’s space, and then above,
To find thyself in cloudless love!
Perhaps today, afflicted life,
Thou shalt be taken from the strife;
From all that hatred to thy word
Which comes as thou dost please thy Lord!
And then, ah then, how small the pain
Compared with all thou then shalt gain.
--- J. Danson Smith
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Confessions of a secret sinner (5)
‘Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded.’
(1 Sa 16:7) 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” ESV
Pastor and author John MacArthur says: ‘Jesus’ exposition of the law is a devastating blow against the lie that image is everything. Secret sin is especially abhorrent because: 1) God sees the heart. In fact, if we realised He’s the only audience we’d be less inclined to write it off. It’s folly to mitigate sin by keeping it private…it’s double-folly to think you’re better than others because you sin privately…and it’s the height of folly to conceal it. “He who covers his sins will not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV). 2) Sinful thoughts originate from the same source as sinful deeds. When Jesus said hatred carries the same guilt as murder, and that lust is the essence of adultery, He wasn’t saying there’s no difference in degree…He was saying that a lustful person has no right to feel superior to a fornicator. The fact that somebody thinks such thoughts proves they’re capable of immoral acts, and someone who hates his brother already has murder lurking in his heart. 3) Hypocrisy compounds hidden sin. Why? Because it means covering it up. Jesus called hypocrisy “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1 NKJV) because it compounds itself like leaven. It sears your conscience and paves the way for other character-damaging sins…When somebody tries to tell you appearances are everything – don’t buy it! Your secret life is a litmus test of your character: “As he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7 NASB). If you want to know who you really are, look at your private life. Then gaze into the mirror of God’s Word and let Him disclose and correct the thoughts and intents of your heart.’
1 Pet 4
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don't agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. For the beginning of the Passion-the first move, so to speak-is in Gethsemane. In Gethsemane a very strange and significant thing seems to have happened.
It is clear from many of His sayings that Our Lord had long foreseen His death. He knew what conduct such as His, in a world such as we have made of this, must inevitably lead to. But it is clear that this knowledge must somehow have been withdrawn from Him before He prayed in Gethsemane. He could not, with whatever reservation about the Father's will, have prayed that the cup might pass and simultaneously known that it would not. That is both a logical and a psychological impossibility. You see what this involves? Lest any trial incident to humanity should be lacking, the torments of hope-of suspense, anxiety-were at the last moment loosed upon Him-the supposed possibility that, after all, He might, He just conceivably might, be spared the supreme horror. There was precedent. Isaac had been spared: he too at the last moment, he also against all apparent probability. It was not quite impossible … and doubtless He had seen other men crucified … a sight very unlike most of our religious pictures and images.
But for this last (and erroneous) hope against hope, and the consequent tumult of the soul, the sweat of blood, perhaps He would not have been very Man. To live in a fully predictable world is not to be a man.
At the end, I know, we are told that an angel appeared "comforting" Him. But neither comforting in sixteenth-century English nor … in Greek means "consoling." ''Strengthening" is more the word. May not the strengthening have consisted in the renewed certainty-cold comfort this-that the thing must be endured and therefore could be?
We all try to accept with some sort of submission our afflictions when they actually arrive. But the prayer in Gethsemane shows that the preceding anxiety is equally God's will and equally part of our human destiny. The perfect Man experienced it. And the servant is not greater than the master. We are Christians, not Stoics.
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
What makes humility so desirable
is the marvelous thing it does to us;
it creates in us a capacity
for the closest possible intimacy with God.
--- Monica Baldwin
…if a man will not give his life for righteousness
he does not know the relative values of righteousness and life.
--- Kaibara Ekken (Atsunobu) (1630-1714)
Advertising reaches out
to touch the fantasy part of people's lives,
and you know,
most people's fantasies are pretty sad.
--- Frederik Pohl
According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through pride that the devil became the devil: pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
Does this seem to you to be exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, “How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove there oar in, or patronize me, or show off?” The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I want to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise.
--- C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
spreads a net for his own steps.
6 In an evil person’s crime is a trap,
but the righteous sing and rejoice.
Proverbs from the Complete Jewish Bible : Eng Vers of Tanakh (OT) & B'Rit Hadashah (NT)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
It is finished
I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.
--- John 17:4.
The death of Jesus Christ is the performance in history of the very mind of God. There is no room for looking on Jesus Christ as a martyr; His death was not something that happened to Him which might have been prevented. His death was the very reason why He came.
Never build your preaching of forgiveness on the fact that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. It is untrue to Jesus Christ’s revelation of God; it makes the Cross unnecessary, and the Redemption “much ado about nothing.” If God does forgive sin, it is because of the death of Christ. God could forgive men in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted to be Saviour because of His death. “We see Jesus … because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour.” The greatest note of triumph that ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ—“It is finished.” That is the last word in the Redemption of man.
Anything that belittles or obliterates the holiness of God by a false view of the love of God, is untrue to the revelation of God given by Jesus Christ. Never allow the thought that Jesus Christ stands with us against God out of pity and compassion; that He became a curse for us out of sympathy with us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by the Divine decree. Our portion of realizing the terrific meaning of the curse is conviction of sin, the gift of shame and penitence is given us; this is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the wrong in man, and Calvary is the estimate of His hatred.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
No piracy, but there is a plank
to walk over seventy thousand fathoms,
as Kierkegaard would say, and far out
from the land. I have abandoned
my theories, the easier certainties
of belief. There are no handrails to
grasp. I stand and on either side
there is the haggard gallery
of the dead, those who in their day
walked here and fell. Above and
beyond there is the galaxies'
violence, the meaningless wastage
of force, the chaos the blond
hero's leap over my head
brings him nearer to.
Is there a place
here for the spirit? Is there time
on this brief platform for anything
other than mind's failure to explain itself?
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The fact that sacrifices do not lose their normative quality as a result of changed social conditions can be justified by Maimonides’ interest in maintaining the integrity of the Jewish legal system.
Although Judaism allows for legal change and innovation, these changes must conform to a prescribed legal procedure to maintain continuity within the process of change:
I shall say: Inasmuch as God, may He be exalted, knew that the commandments of this Law will need in every time and place—as far as some of them are concerned—to be added to or subtracted from according to the diversity of places, happenings, and conjunctures of circumstances, He forbade adding to them or subtracting from them, saying: “Neither add to it nor take away from it” for this might have led to the corruption of the rules of the Law and to the belief that the latter did not come from God.
Withal He permitted the men of knowledge of every period—I refer to the “Great Court of Law”—to take precautions with a view to consolidating the ordinances of the Law by means of regulations in which they innovate with a view to repairing fissures and to perpetuate these precautionary measures according to what has been said by [the Sages]: “Build a hedge for the Torah.”
Similarly they were permitted in certain circumstances, or with a view to certain events, to abolish certain actions prescribed by the Law or to permit some of the things forbidden by it; but these measures may not be perpetuated, as we have explained in the Introduction to The Commentary on the Mishnah in speaking of “temporary decisions.” Through this kind of governance the Law remains one, and one is governed in every time and with a view to every happening in accordance with that happening. If, however, every man of knowledge had been permitted to engage in this speculation concerning particulars, the people would have perished because of the multiplicity of the differences of opinion and the subdivisions of doctrines. Consequently He, may He be exalted, has forbidden all the men of knowledge with the single exception of the “Great Court of Law” to undertake this, and has those who disagree with [this Court] killed. For if it could be opposed by everyone who engages in speculation, the intended purpose would be annulled and the usefulness of these regulations abolished.90
As cited in chapter three, in another context, even regarding rabbinically ordained law, Maimonides writes:
If the Supreme Court instituted a decree, enacted an ordinance, or introduced a custom, which was universally accepted in Israel, and a later Supreme Court wishes to rescind the measure, to abolish the ordinance, decree, or custom, it is not empowered to do so, unless it is superior to the former both in point of wisdom and in point of number. If it is superior in wisdom but not in number, or in number but not in wisdom, it is denied the right to abrogate the measure adopted by its predecessor, even if the reason which prompted the latter to enact the decree or ordinance has lost all force.
It is evident that if lower courts cannot abrogate the enactments of higher courts, even if the original reasons for the legislation are no longer valid, laws that are attributed to the supreme authority within this system—God—can never be abrogated by any human court.
The refusal to change Torah laws, therefore, has a rational basis in terms of Maimonides’ understanding of the orderly functioning of a legal system grounded in divine authority. One who adheres to laws whose reasons for enactment are no longer relevant, and who does so out of his commitment to the legal integrity of the Halakhah, does not manifest the same type of obedience as one who maintains that God issues irrational laws. Maimonides judged it important to show that the promulgation of Torah law was not based on the arbitrary will of God.
If the entire system of Jewish law would have outlived its usefulness, it would be difficult to justify commitment to Halakhah by appealing to the need for legal continuity. There were, according to Maimonides, many laws whose purpose remained relevant and significant to his contemporaries. Thus, Maimonides’ efforts to maintain the integrity of the legal system, as a justification for maintaining laws related to a specific historical context, is compatible with an overall conception which emphasizes the fundamental rationality of Halakhah.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
“See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah … has triumphed.…” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.
--- Revelation 5:5–6.
There meet in Jesus Christ infinite highness and infinite condescension. The Excellency of Christ
Christ, as God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth, for he is King of Kings. He is so high that he is infinitely above any need of us, above our reach that we cannot be profitable to him, and above our conceptions that we cannot comprehend him. Christ is the Creator and great possessor of heaven and earth. He rules over the whole universe and does whatever pleases him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.
Yet none are so low or inferior but Christ takes notice of them. He lowers himself not only to the angels, humbling himself to view the things that are done in heaven, but he also stoops to such poor creatures as the human—not only to take notice of rulers and great ones but of those who are lowest, the “poor in the eyes of the world” (James 2:5). Those commonly despised by others Christ does not despise: “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised” (1 Cor. 1:28). He takes notice of little children: “Let the little children to come to me” (Matt. 19:14). Yes, which is more, he takes notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those who deserve no good and those who deserve infinite ill.
He becomes their friend, their companion, unites their souls to him in spiritual marriage. He takes their nature on him, becomes one of them, that he may be one with them. He descends yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yes, to yield himself to an ignominious death for them. And what greater act of self-abasement can be conceived of? Yet such an act as this has he yielded to.
Such a coming together of infinite highness and low condescension in the same person is admirable. In many people, a high standing has a tendency to make them quite contrary. If one worm is a little exalted above another, having more dust or a bigger dunghill, how much does it make of itself! What a distance it keeps from those below! Christ stoops to wash our feet, but great men and women (or, rather, the bigger worms!) consider themselves debased by acts far less humble!
--- Jonathan Edwards
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Torrential rains trailed off by nine o’clock, and the Morning sun blazed down on 2,500 white-clad Roman Catholic bishops as they wound through St. Peter’s Square for the historic opening of the Second Vatican Council. It was October 11, 1962. Pope John XXIII, who convened the council, had been elected pope at age 77, and few had expected a dramatic tenure. Instead, he had surprised everyone in calling this council, attributing the idea to a sudden inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
As the bishops found their places in the basilica, the old man slowly rose to speak. He reminded his audience that the church now lives in a modern age. Though the “deposit of faith” is unchanging, how it is presented is another matter. Forms, methods, and attitudes must be updated.
For the next three years, the bishops thought and debated and agonized and prayed. Lines were drawn between Conservatives and Progressives. Pope John died on June 3, 1963; but Paul VI, his successor, carried on. In the end, 16 documents were overwhelmingly adopted. Catholic liturgy was simplified, with permission given to celebrate the rites of the church in the languages of the peoples rather than in Latin. More Scripture was to be used, with greater participation by worshipers. Biblical exposition and congregational singing were encouraged. A new emphasis on freedom became an overarching theme of the council.
Equally important, the attitude of Catholics toward other Christian bodies shifted. In calling Vatican II, Pope John had dreamed of dialogue and fellowship with the “separated brethren” of East and West, of a new unity in Christendom. November 21, 1964 was the solemn close of the third session, and three documents were approved on that day including the Decree of Ecumenism, adopted by the council by a vote of 2,137 to 11. It declared that both Catholics and Protestants share blame for divisions in the church, and it extolled the growth of the ecumenical movement. Dialogue with other Christian groups should replace suspicion and competition, said the decree.
While no basic doctrines were revised at Vatican II, the changes made in attitudes and approaches changed the Catholic Church forever.
But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth. --- John 4:23,24.
On This Day, 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints
God Is In The Manger (2)
Although he came from a well-to-do family, by the time he wrote most of the content in this book, Bonhoeffer was well acquainted with both poverty and distress. Just two days after Adolf Hitler had seized control of Germany in early 1933, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio sermon in which he criticized the new regime and warned Germans that "the Fuhrer concept" was dangerous and wrong. "Leaders of offices which set themselves up as gods mock God," his address concluded. But Germany never got to hear those final statements, because Bonhoeffer's microphone had been switched off' mid-transmission. This began a twelve-year struggle against Nazism in Germany, with Bonhoeffer running afoul of authorities and being arrested in 1943. Much of the content of' this book was written during the two years he spent in prison.
God Is In The Manger
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 21
“Grieve not the Holy Spirit.” --- Ephesians 4:30.
All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. Even if the good seed be sown in you, yet it lies dormant except he worketh in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Do you desire to speak for Jesus—how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas! what dull work it is unless the Spirit maketh intercession for you! Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you wanting to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardour for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit—“Without me ye can do nothing.” O branch of the vine, thou canst have no fruit without the sap! O child of God, thou hast no life within thee apart from the life which God gives thee through his Spirit! Then let us not grieve him or provoke him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench him in one of his faintest motions in our soul; let us foster every suggestion, and be ready to obey every prompting. If the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us attempt nothing without him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring his blessing. Let us do him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from him, and then depending alone upon him, having this for our prayer, “Open thou my heart and my whole being to thine incoming, and uphold me with thy free Spirit when I shall have received that Spirit in my inward parts.”
Evening - November 21
“Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.” --- John 12:2.
He is to be envied. It was well to be Martha and serve, but better to be Lazarus and commune. There are times for each purpose, and each is comely in its season, but none of the trees of the garden yield such clusters as the vine of fellowship. To sit with Jesus, to hear his words, to mark his acts, and receive his smiles, was such a favour as must have made Lazarus as happy as the angels. When it has been our happy lot to feast with our Beloved in his banqueting-hall, we would not have given half a sigh for all the kingdoms of the world, if so much breath could have bought them.
He is to be imitated. It would have been a strange thing if Lazarus had not been at the table where Jesus was, for he had been dead, and Jesus had raised him. For the risen one to be absent when the Lord who gave him life was at his house, would have been ungrateful indeed. We too were once dead, yea, and like Lazarus stinking in the grave of sin; Jesus raised us, and by his life we live—can we be content to live at a distance from him? Do we omit to remember him at his table, where he deigns to feast with his brethren? Oh, this is cruel! It behoves us to repent, and do as he has bidden us, for his least wish should be law to us. To have lived without constant intercourse with one of whom the Jews said, “Behold how he loved him,” would have been disgraceful to Lazarus, is it excusable in us whom Jesus has loved with an everlasting love? To have been cold to him who wept over his lifeless corpse, would have argued great brutishness in Lazarus. What does it argue in us over whom the Saviour has not only wept, but bled? Come, brethren, who read this portion, let us return unto our heavenly Bridegroom, and ask for his Spirit that we may be on terms of closer intimacy with him, and henceforth sit at the table with him.
Morning and Evening
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866–1960
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every Morning; great is Your Faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22, 23)
One of the important lessons the Children of Israel had to learn during their wilderness journey was that God’s provision of manna for them was on a Morning by Morning basis. They could not survive on old manna nor could it be stored for future use (Exodus 16:19–21).
While many enduring hymns are born out of a particular dramatic experience, this was simply the result of the author’s “Morning by Morning” realization of God’s personal faithfulness in his daily life. Shortly before his death in 1960, Thomas Chisholm wrote:
My income has never been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.
Thomas Obediah Chisholm was born in a crude log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky. From this humble beginning and without the benefit of high school or advanced education, he somehow began his career as a school teacher at the age of 16 in the same country school where he had received his elementary training. After accepting Christ as Savior, he became editor of The Pentecostal Herald and later was ordained as a Methodist minister. Throughout his long lifetime, Mr. Chisholm wrote more than 1,200 sacred poems, many of which have since become prominent hymn texts.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not: As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, sun, moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by Morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided—Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
For Today: Psalm 9:10; 36:5–7; 102:11, 12; James 1:17
Live with this spirit of grateful praise ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Origins and Authority of NT
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
As for the overplayed passage in James 2, many scholars have noted that upon closer examination there is no real disagreement with Paul’s understanding of justification. (99) When the reader recognizes that the two authors are asking very different questions — Paul is concerned to deal with how a person can acquire right standing before a holy God (Rom. 3:19–31), whereas James is dealing with the situation of someone who claims to have faith but has no fruit (James 2:14)—then the supposed disagreement tends to evaporate. (100) Thus, we can agree with David Wenham when he declares that “ideas of a radical split between Paul and Jerusalem are exaggerated.” (101)
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
Inform. 6. Hence it will follow, there is no justification of a sinner by any thing in himself. After sin had set foot in the world, man
could present nothing to God acceptable to him, or bearing any proportion to the holiness of his law, till God set forth a Person, upon
whose account the acceptation of our persons and services is founded (Eph. 1:6), “Who hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” The
Infinite purity of God is so glorious, that it shames the holiness of angels, as the light of the sun dims the light of the fire; much more
will the righteousness of fallen man, who is vile, and “drinks up iniquity like water,” vanish into nothing in his presence. With what
self-abasement and abhorrence ought he to be possessed that comes as short of the angels in purity, as a dunghill doth of a star! The
highest obedience that ever was performed by any mere man, since lapsed nature, cannot challenge any acceptance with God, or
stand before so exact an inquisition. What person hath such a clear innocence, and unspotted obedience in such a perfection, as in any
degree to suit the holiness of the Divine nature? (Psalm 143:2): “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no
man living be justified.” If God should debate the case simply with a man in his own person, without respecting the Mediator, he were
not able to “answer one of a thousand.” Though we are his servants, as David was, and perform a sincere service, yet there are many
little motes and dust of sin in the best works, that cannot he undiscovered from the eye of his holiness; and if we come short in the
least of what the law requires, we are “guilty of all” (James 2:10). So that “In thy sight shall no man living be justified;” in the sight of
thy infinite holiness, which hates the least spot; in the sight of thy infinite justice, which punishes the least transgression. God would
descend below his own nature, and vilify both his knowledge and his purity, should he accept that for a righteousness and holiness
which is not so in itself; and nothing is so, which hath the least stain upon it contrary to the nature of God. The most holy saints in
Scripture, upon a prospect of his purity, have cast away all confidence in themselves; every flash of the Divine purity has struck them
into a deep sense of their own impurity and shame for it (Job 42:6), “Wherefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes.” What can the
language of any man be that lies under a sense of infinite holiness and his own defilement in the least, but that of the prophet (Isa.
6:5), “Woe is me, I am undone?” And what is there in the world can administer any other thought than this, unless God be considered
in Christ, “reconciling the world to himself?” As a holy God, so righted, as that he can dispense with the condemnation of a sinner,
without dispensing with his hatred of sin; pardoning the sin in the criminal, because it hath been punished in the Surety. That
righteousness which God hath “set forth” for justification, is not our own, but a “righteousness which is of God” (Phil. 3:9, 10), of
God’s appointing, and of God’s performing; appointed by the Father, who is God, and performed by the Son, who is one with the
Father; a righteousness surmounting that of all the glorious angels, since it is an immutable one which can never fail, an “everlasting
righteousness” (Dan. 9:24); a righteousness wherein the holiness of God can acquiesce, as considered in itself, because it is a
righteousness of one equal with God. As we therefore dishonor the Divine Majesty when we insist upon our own bemired
righteousness for our justification (as if a “mortal man were as just as God,” and a “man as pure as his Maker” (Job 4:17), so we
highly honor the purity of his nature, when we charge ourselves with folly, acknowledge ourselves unclean, and accept of that
righteousness which gives a full content to his infinite purity. There can be no justification of a sinner by anything in himself.
Inform. 7. If holiness be a glorious perfection of the Divine nature, then the Deity of Christ might be argued from hence. He is indeed dignified with the title of the “Holy One” (Acts 3:14, 16), a title often given to God in the Old Testament; and he is called the “Holy of holies” (Dan. 9:24); but because the angels seemed to be termed “Holy ones” (Dan. 4:13, 17), and the most sacred place in the temple was also called the “Holy of holies,” I shall not insist upon that. But you find our Saviour particularly applauded by the angels, as “holy,” when this perfection of the Divine nature, together with the incommunicable name of God, are linked together, and ascribed to him (Isa. 6:3): “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; and the whole earth is full of his glory;” which the apostle interprets of “Christ” (John 12:39, 41). Isaiah, again: “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, and be converted, and I should heal them.” These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. He that Isaiah saw environed with the seraphims, in a reverential posture before his face, and praised as most holy by them, was the true and eternal God; such acclamations belong to none but the great Jehovah, God, blessed forever; but, saith John, it was the “glory of Christ” that Isaiah saw in this vision; Christ, therefore, is “God blessed forever,” of whom it was said, “Holy, holy, holy Lord of Hosts.” The evangelist had been speaking of Christ, the miracles which he wrought, the obstinacy of the Jews against believing on him; his glory, therefore, is to be referred to the subject he had been speaking of. The evangelist was not speaking of the Father, but of the Son, and cites those words out of Isaiah; not to teach anything of the Father, but to show that the Jews could not believe in Christ. He speaks of him that had wrought so many miracles; but Christ wrought those miracles: he speaks of him whom the Jews refused to believe on; but Christ was the person they would not believe on, while they acknowledged God. It was the glory of this person Isaiah saw, and this person Isaiah spake of, if the words of the evangelist be of any credit. The angels are too holy to give acclamations belonging to God, to any but him that is God.
Inform. 8. God is fully fit for the government of the world. The righteousness of God’s nature qualifies him to be Judge of the world; if he were not perfectly righteous and holy, he were incapable to govern and judge the world (Rom. 3:5): “If there be unrighteousness with God, how shall he judge the world?” “God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment” (Job 34:12). How despicable is a judge that wants innocence! As omniscience fits God to be a judge, so holiness fits him to be a righteous judge (Psalm 1:6): “The Lord knows,” that is, loves, “the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
Inform. 9. If holiness be an eminent perfection of the Divine nature, the Christian religion is of a Divine extraction: it discovers the holiness of God, and forms the creature to a conformity to him. It gives us a prospect of his nature, represents him in the “beauty of holiness” (Psalm 110:3), more than the whole glass of the creation. It is in this evangelical glass the glory of the Lord is beheld, and rendered amiable and imitable (2 Cor. 3:18). It is a doctrine “according to godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3), directing us to live the life of God; a life worthy of God, and worthy of our first creation by his hand. It takes us off from ourselves, fixeth us upon a noble end, points our actions, and the scope of our lives to God. It quells the monsters of sin, discountenanceth the motes of wickedness; and it is no mean argument for the divinity of it, that it sets us no lower a pattern for our imitation, than the holiness of the Divine Majesty. God is exalted upon the throne of his holiness in it, and the creature advanced to an image and resemblance of it (1 Pet. 1:16): “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
Use 2. The second use is for comfort. This attribute frowns upon lapsed nature, but smiles in the restorations made by the gospel. God’s holiness, in conjunction with his justice, is terrible to a guilty sinner; but now, in conjunction with his mercy, by the satisfaction of Christ, it is sweet to a believing penitent. In the “first covenant,” the purity of his nature was joined with the rigors of his justice; in the “second covenant,” the purity of his nature is joined with the sweetness and tenderness of his mercy. In the one, justice flames against the sinner in the right of injured holiness; in the other, mercy yearns towards a believer, with the consent of righted holiness. To rejoice in the holiness of God is the true and genuine spirit of a renewed man: “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord;” — what follows? — “There is none holy as the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:1, 2). Some perfections of the Divine nature are astonishing, some affrighting; but this may fill us both with astonishment at it, and a joy in it.
1. By covenant, we have an interest in this attribute, as well as any other. In that clause of “God’s being our God,” entire God with all his glory, all his perfections are passed over as a portion, and a gracious soul is brought into union with God, as his God; not with a part of God, but with God in the simplicity, extent, integrity of his nature; and therefore in this attribute. And, upon some account, it may seem more in this attribute than in any other; for if he be our God, he is our God in his life and glory, and therefore in his purity especially, without which he could not live; he could not be happy and blessed. Little comfort will it be to have a dead God, or a vile God, made over to us; and as, by this covenant, he is our Father, so he gives us his nature, and communicates his holiness in all his dispensations; and in those that are severest, as well as those that are sweetest (Heb. 12:10): “But he corrects us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Not simply “partakers of holiness,” but of “his holiness;” to have a portraiture of it in our nature, a medal of it in our hearts, a spark of the same nature with that immense splendor and flame in himself. The holiness of a covenant soul is a resemblance of the holiness of God, and formed by it; as the picture of the sun in a cloud is a fruit of his beams, and an image of its author. The fulness of the perfection of holiness remains in the nature of God, as the fulness of the light doth in the sun; yet there are transmissions of light from the sun to the moon, and it is a light of the same nature both in the one and in the other. The holiness of a creature is nothing else but a reflection of the Divine holiness upon it; and to make the creature capable of it, God takes various methods, according to his covenant grace.
2. This attribute renders God a fit object for trust and dependence. The notion of an unholy and unrighteous God, is an uncomfortable idea of him, and beats off our hands from laying any hold of him. It is upon this attribute the reputation and honor of God in the world is built; what encouragement can we have to believe him, or what incentives could we have to serve him, without the lustre of this in his nature? The very thought of an unrighteous God is enough to drive men at the greatest distance from him; as the honesty of a man gives a reputation to his word, so doth the holiness of God give credit to his promise. It is by this he would have us stifle our fears and fortify our trust (Isa. 41:14): “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:” he will be in his actions what he is in his nature. Nothing shall make him defile his own excellency; unrighteousness is the ground of mutability; but the promise of God doth never fail, because the rectitude of his nature doth never languish: were his attributes without the conduct of this, they would be altogether formidable. As this is the glory of all his other perfections, so this only renders him comfortable to a believing soul. Might we not fear his power to crush us, his mercy to overlook us, his wisdom to design against us, if this did not influence them? What an oppression is power without righteousness in the hand of a creature; destructive, instead of protecting! The devil is a mighty spirit, but not fit to be trusted, because he is an impure spirit. When God would give us the highest security of the sincerity of his intentions, he swears by this attribute (Psalm 8:35): his holiness, as well as his truth, is laid to pawn for the security of his promise. As we make God the judge between us and others, when we swear by him, so he makes his holiness the judge between himself and his people, when he swears by it.
(1.) It is this renders him fit to be confided in for the answer of our prayers. This is the ground of his readiness to give. “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good gifts to them that ask him” (Matt. 7:11)! Though the holiness of God be not mentioned, yet it is to be understood; the emphasis lies on these words, “if you, being evil:” God is then considered in a disposition contrary to this, which can be nothing but his righteousness. If you that are unholy, and have so much corruption in you, to render you cruel, can bestow upon your children the good things they want, how much more shall God, who is holy, and hath nothing in him to check his mercifulness to his creatures, grant the petitions of his supplicants! It was this attribute edged the fiduciary importunity of the souls under the altar, for the revenging their blood unjustly shed upon the earth “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth” (Rev. 6:10)? Let not thy holiness stand with folded arms, as careless of the eminent sufferings of those that fear thee; we implore thee by the holiness of thy nature, and the truth of thy word.
(2.) This renders him fit to be confided in for the comfort of our souls in a broken condition. The reviving the hearts of the spiritually afflicted, is a part of the holiness of his nature; “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble” (Isa. 57:15). He acknowledgeth himself the lofty One; they might therefore fear he would not revive them; but he is also the holy One, and therefore he will refresh them; he is not more lofty than he is holy; besides, the argument of the immutability of his promise, and the might of his power, here is the holiness of his nature moving him to pity his drooping creature: his promise is ushered in with the name of power, “high and lofty One,” to bar their distrust of his strength, and with a declaration of his holiness, to check any despair of his will: there is no ground to think I should be false to my word, or misemploy my power, since that cannot be, because of the holiness of my name and nature.
(3.) This renders him fit to be confided in for the maintenance of grace, and protection of us against our spiritual enemies. What our Saviour thought an argument in prayer, we may well take as a ground of our confidence. In the strength of this he puts up his suit, when in his mediatory capacity he intercedes for the preservation of his people (John 17:11); “Holy Father, keep through thy own name those that thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are.” “Holy Father,” not merciful Father; or powerful, or wise Father, but “holy;” and (ver. 25), “righteous Father.” Christ pleads that attribute for the performance of God’s word, which was laid to pawn when he passed his word: for it was by his holiness that he swore, that “his seed should endure forever, and his throne as the sun before him” (Psalm 89:36); which is meant of the perpetuity of the covenant which he made with Christ, and is also meant of the preservation of the mystical seed of David, and the perpetuating his loving-kindness to them (ver. 32, 33). Grace is an image of God’s holiness, and, therefore, the holiness of God is most proper to be used as an argument to interest and engage him in the preservation of it. In the midst of church-provocations, he will not utterly extinguish, because he is the “Holy One” in the midst of her (Hos. 11:9): nor in the midst of judgments will he condemn his people to death, because he is “their Holy One” (Hab. 1:12); but their enemies shall be ordained for judgment, and established for correction. One prophet assures them in the name of the Lord, upon the strength of this perfection; and the other, upon the same ground, is confident of the protection of the church, because of God’s holiness engaged in an inviolable covenant.
3. Comfort. Since holiness is a glorious perfection of the nature of God, “he will certainly value every holy soul.” It is of a greater value with him than the souls of all men in the world, that are destitute of it: “wicked men are the worst of vilenesses,” mere dross and dunghill. Purity, then, which is contrary to wickedness, must be the most precious thing in his esteem; he must needs love that quality which he is most pleased with in himself, as a father looks with most delight upon the child which is possessed with those dispositions he most values in his own nature. “His countenance doth behold the upright” (Psalm 11:7). He looks upon them with a full and open face of favor, with a countenance clear, unmasked, and smiling with a face full of delight. Heaven itself is not such a pleasing object to him as the image of his own uncreated holiness in the created holiness of men and angels: as a man esteems that most which is most like him, of his own generation, more than a piece of art, which is merely the product of his wit or strength. And he must love holiness in the creature, he would not else love his own image, and, consequently, would undervalue himself. He despiseth the image the wicked bears (Psalm 73:20), but he cannot disesteem his own stamp on the godly; he cannot but delight in his own work, his choice work, the master-piece of all his works, the new creation of things; that which is next to himself, as being a Divine nature like himself (2 Pet. 1:4). When he overlooks strength, parts, knowledge, he cannot overlook this: he “sets apart him that is godly for himself” (Psalm 4:3), as a peculiar object to take pleasure in; he reserves such for his own complaceny, when he leaves the rest of the world to the devil’s power; he is choice of them above all his other works, and will not let any have so great a propriety in them as himself. If it be so dear to him here in its imperfect and mixed condition, that he appropriates it as a peculiar object for his own delight, how much more will the unspotted purity of glorified saints be infinitely pleasing to him! so, that he will take less pleasure in the material heavens than in such a soul. Sin only is detestable to God; and when this is done away, the soul becomes as lovely in his account, as before it was loathsome.
4. It is comfort, upon this account, that “God will perfect holiness in every upright soul.” We many times distrust God, and despond in ourselves, because of the infinite holiness of the Divine naature, and the dunghill corruption in our own; but the holiness of God engageth him to the preservation of it, and, consequently, to the perfection of it, as appears by our Saviour’s argument (John 17:11), “Holy Father, keep through thy own name, those whom thou hast given me;” — to what end? — “that they may be one as we are;” one with us, in the resemblances of purity. And the holiness of the soul is used as an argument by the Psalmist (Psalm 86:2), “Preserve my soul, for I am holy;” that is, I have an ardent desire to holiness: thou hast separated me from the mass of the corrupted world, preserve and perfect me with the assembly of the glorified choir. The more holy any are, the more communicative they are; God being most holy, is most communicative of that which he most esteems in himself, and delights to see in his creature: he is, therefore, more ready to impart his holiness to them that beg for it, than to communicate his knowledge or his power. Though he were holy, yet he let Adam fall, who never petitioned his holiness to preserve him; he let him fall, to declare the holiness of his own nature, which had wanted its due manifestation without it: but since that cannot be declared in a higher manner than it hath been already in the death of the Surety, that bore our guilt, there is no fear he should cast the work out of his hands, since the design of the permission of man’s apostasy, in the discovery of the perfections of his nature, has been fully answered. The “finishing the good work he hath begun,” hath a relation to the glory of Christ; and his own glory in Christ to be manifested in the day of his appearing (Phil. 1:6), wherein the glory, both of his own holiness, and the holiness of the Mediator, are to receive their full manifestation. As it is a part of the holiness of Christ to “sanctify his church” (Eph. 5:26, 27) till not a wrinkle or spot be left, so it is the part of God not to leave that work imperfect which his holiness hath attempted a second time to beautify his creature with.
He will not cease exalting this attribute, which is the believers, by the new covenant, till he utters that applauding speech of his own work (Cant. 4:7), “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.”
Use 3, is for Exhortation. Is holiness an eminent perfection of the Divine nature? Then—
Exhort. 1. Let us get and preserve right and strong apprehensions of this Divine perfection. Without a due sense of it, we can never exalt God in our hearts; and the more distinct conceptions we have of this, and the rest of his attributes, the more we glorify him. When Moses considered God as “his strength and salvation,” he would exalt him (Exod. 15:2); and he could never break out in so admirable a doxology as that in the text, without a deep sense of the glory of his purity, which he speaks of with so much admiration. Such a sense will be of use to us.
1. In promoting genuine convictions. A deep consideration of the holiness of God cannot but be followed with a deep consideration of our impure and miserable condition by reason of sin: we cannot glance upon it without reflections upon our own vileness. Adam no sooner heard the voice of a holy God in the garden, but he considered his own nakedness with shame and fear (Gen. 3:10); much less can we fix our minds upon it, but we must be touched with a sense of our own uncleanness. The clear beams of the sun discover that filthiness in our garments and members, which was not visible in the darkness of the night. Impure metals are discerned by comparing them with that which is pure and perfect in its kind. The sense of guilt is the first natural result upon a sense of this excellent perfection; and the sense of the imperfection of our own righteousness is the next. Who can think of it, and reflect upon himself as an object fit for Divine love? Who can have a due thought of it, without regarding himself as stubble before a consuming fire? Who can, without a confusion of heart and face, glance upon that pure eye which beholds with detestation the foul motes, as well as the filthier and bigger spots? When Isaiah saw his glory, and heard how highly the angels exalted God for this perfection, he was in a cold sweat, ready to swoon, till a seraphim, with a coal from the altar, both purged and revived him (Isa. 6:5, 7). They are sound and genuine convictions, which have the prospect of Divine purity for their immediate spring, and not a foresight of our own misery; when it is not the punishment we have deserved, but the holiness we have offended, most grates our hearts. Such convictions are the first rude draughts of the Divine image in our spirits, and grateful to God, because they are an acknowledgment of the glory of this attribute, and the first mark of honor given to it by the creature. Those that never had a sense of their own vileness, were always destitute of a sense of God’s holiness. And, by the way, we may observe, that those that scoff at any for hanging down the head under the consideration and conviction of sin (as is too usual with the world), scoff at them for having deeper apprehensions of the purity of God than themselves, and consequently make a mock of the holiness of God which is the ground of those convictions; a sense of this would prevent such a damnable reproaching.
2. A sense of this will render us humble in the possession of the greatest holiness a creature were capable of. We are apt to be proud, with the Pharisee, when we look upon others wallowing in the mire of base and unnatural lusts: but let any clap their wings, if they can, in a vain boasting and exaltation, when they view the holiness of God. What torch, if it had reason, would be proud, and swagger in its own light, if it compared itself with the sun? “Who can stand before this holy Lord God?” is the just reflection of the holiest person, as it was of those (1 Sam. 6:20) that had felt the marks of his jealousy after their looking into the ark, though likely out of affection to it, and triumphant joy at its return. When did the angels testify, by the covering of their faces, their weakness to bear the lustre of his majesty, but when they beheld his glory? When did they signify, by their covering their feet, the shame of their own vileness, but when their hearts were fullest of the applaudings of this perfection (Isa. 6:2, 3)? Though they found themselves without spot, yet not with such a holiness that they could appear either with their faces or feet unvailed and unmasked in the presence of God. Doth the immense splendor of this attribute engender shaming reflections in those pure spirits? What will it, what should it, do in us, that dwell in houses of clay, and creep up and down with that clay upon our backs, and too much of it in our hearts? The stars themselves, which appear beautiful in the night, are masked at the awaking of the sun. What a dim light is that of a glow-worm to that of the sun!
The apprehensions of this made the elders humble themselves in the midst of their glory, by “casting down their crowns before his throne” (Rev. 4:8, 10); a metaphor taken from the triumphing generals among the Romans, who hung up their victorious laurels in the Capitol, dedicating them to their gods, acknowledging them their superiors in strength, and authors of their victory. This selfemptiness at the consideration of Divine purity, is the note of the true church, represented by the twenty-four elders, and a note of a true member of the church; whereas boasting of perfection and merit is the property of the anti-christian tribe, that have mean thoughts of this adorable perfection, and think themselves more righteous than the unspotted angels. What a self-annihilation is there in a good man, when the sense of Divine purity is most lively in him! yea, how detestable is he to himself! There is as little proportion between the holiness of the Divine Majesty, and that of the most righteous creature, as there is between a nearness of a person that stands upon a mountain, to the sun, and of him that beholds him in a vale; one is nearer than the other, but it is an advantage not to be boasted of, in regard of the vast distance that is between the sun and the elevated spectator.
3. This would make us full of an affectionate reverence in all our approaches to God. By this perfection God is rendered venerable, and fit to be reverenced by his creature; and magnificent thoughts of it in the creature would awaken him to an actual reverence of the Divine majesty (Psalm 3:9): “Holy and reverend is his name;” a good opinion of this would engender in us a sincere respect towards him; we should then “serve the Lord with fear,” as the expression is (Psalm 2:11), that is, be afraid to cast anything before him that may offend the eyes of his purity. Who would venture rashly and garishly into the presence of an eminent moralist, or of a righteous king upon his throne? The fixedness of the angels arose from the continual prospect of this. What if we had been with Isaiah when he saw the vision, and beheld him in the same glory, and the heavenly choir in their reverential posture in the service of God; would it not have barred our wanderings, and staked us down to our duty? Would not the fortifying an idea of it in our minds produce the same effect? It is for want of this we carry ourselves so loosely and unbecomingly in the Divine presence, with the same, or meaner, affections than those wherewith we stand before some vile creature that is our superior in the world; as though a piece of filthy flesh were more valuable than this perfection of the Divinity. How doth the Psalmist double his exhortation to men to sing praise to God (Psalm 47:6): “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises unto our King, sing praises;” because of his majesty, and the purity of his dominion! and (ver. 8), “God reigneth over the heathen, God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.” How would this elevate us in praise, and prostrate us in prayer, when we praise and pray with an understanding and insight of that nature we bless or implore; as he speaks (ver. 7), “Sing ye praises with understanding.” The holiness of God in his government and dominion, the holiness of his nature, and the holiness of his precepts, should beget in us an humble respect in our approaches.
The more we grow in a sense of this, the more shall we advance in the true performance of all our duties. Those nations which adored the sun, had they at first seen his brightness wrapped and masked in a cloud, and paid a veneration to it, how would their adorations have mounted to a greater point, after they had seen it in its full brightness, shaking off those vails, and chasing away the mists before it! What a profound reverence would they have paid it, when they beheld it in its glory and meridian brightness! Our reverence to God in all our addresses to him will arrive to greater degrees, if every act of duty be ushered in, and seasoned with the thoughts of God as sitting upon a throne of holiness; we shall have a more becoming sense of our own vileness, a greater ardor to his service, a deeper respect in his presence, if our understanding be more cleared, and possessed with notions of this perfection. Thus take a view of God in this part of his glory, before you fall down before his throne, and assure yourselves you will find your hearts and services quickened with a new and lively spirit.
4. A due sense of this perfection in God would produce in us a fear of God, and arm us against temptation and sin. What made the heathen so wanton and loose, but the representations of their gods as vicious? Who would stick at adulteries, and more prodigious lusts, that can take a pattern for them from the person he adores for a deity? Upon which account Plato would have poets banished from his commonwealth, because, by dressing ap their gods in wanton garbs in their poems, they encouraged wickedness in the people. But if the thoughts of God’s holiness were impressed upon us, we should regard sin with the same eye, mark it with the same detestation in our measures, as God himself doth. So far as we are sensible of the Divine purity, we should account sin vile as it deserves; we should hate it entirely, without a grain of love to it, and hate it perpetually (Psalm 119:104): “Through thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way.” He looks into God’s statute-book, and thereby arrives to an understanding of the purity of his nature, whence his hatred of iniquity commenced. This would govern our motion, check our vices; it would make us tremble at the hissing of a temptation: when a corruption did but peep out, and put forth its head, a look to the Divine Purity would be attended with a fresh convoy of strength to resist it. There is no such fortification, as to be wrapped up in the sense of this: this would fill us with an awe of God; we should be ashamed to admit any filthy thing into us, which we know is detestable to his pure eye. As the approach of a grave and serious man makes children hasten their trifles out of the way; so would a consideration of this attribute make us cast away our idols, and fling away our ridiculous thoughts and designs.
5. A due sense of this perfection would inflame us with a vehement desire to be conformed to Him. All our desires would be ardent to regulate ourselves according to this pattern of holiness and goodness, which is not to be equalled; the contemplating it as it shines forth in the face of Christ, will “transform us into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:19). Since our lapsed state, we cannot behold the holiness of God in itself without affrightment; nor is it an object of imitation, but as tempered in Christ to our view. When we cannot, without blinding ourselves, look upon the sun in its brightness, we may behold it through a colored glass, whereby the lustre of it is moderated, without dazzling our eyes. The sense of it will furnish us with a greatness of mind, that little things will be contemned by us; motives of a greater alloy would have little influence upon us: we should have the highest motives to every duty, and motives of the same strain which influence the angels above. It would change us, not only into an angelical nature, but a divine nature: we should act like men of another sphere; as if we had received our original in another world, and seen with angels the ravishing beauties of heaven. How little would the mean employments of the world sink us into dirt and mud! How often hath the meditation of the courage of a valiant man, or acuteness and industry of a learned person, spurred on some men to an imitation of them, and transformed them into the same nature! as the looking upon the sun imprints an image of the sun upon our eye, that we seem to behold nothing but the sun a while after. The view of the Divine purity would fill us with a holy generosity to imitate him, more than the examples of the best men upon earth. It was a saying of a heathen, that “if virtue were visible, it would kindle a noble flame of love to it in the heart, by its ravishing beauty.” Shall the infinite purity of the Author of all virtue come short of the strength of a creature? Can we not render that visible to us by frequent meditation, which, though it be invisible in his nature, is made visible in his law, in his ways, in his Son? It would make us ready to obey him, since we know he cannot command anything that is sinful, but what is holy, just, and good: it would put all our affections in their due place, elevate them above the creature, and subject them to the Creator.
6. It would make us patient and contented under all God’s dispensations. All penal evils are the fruits of his holiness, as he is Judge and Governor of the world: he is not an arbitrary Judge, nor doth any sentence pronounced, nor warrant for execution issue from him, but what bears upon it a stamp of the righteousness of his nature; he doth nothing by passion or unrighteousness, but according to the eternal law of his own unstained nature, which is the rule to him in his works, the basis and foundation of his throne and sovereign dominion (Psalm 89:14): “Justice,” or righteousness, “and judgment are the habitation of thy throne;” upon these his sovereign power is established: so that there can be no just complaint or indictment brought against any of his proceedings with men.
How doth our Saviour, who had the highest apprehensions of God’s holiness, justify God in his deepest distresses, when he cried, and was not answered in the particular he desired, in that prophetic Psalm of him (Psalm 22:2, 3), “I cry day and night, but thou hearest not!” Thou seemest to be deaf to all my petitions, afar off “from the words of my roaring; but thou art holy;” I cast no blame upon thee: all thy dealings are squared by thy holiness: this is the only law to thee; in this I acquiesce. It is part of thy holiness to hide thy face from me, to show thereby thy detestation of sin. Our Saviour adores the Divine purity in his sharpest agony, and a like sense of it would guide us in the same steps to acknowledge and glorify it, in our greatest desertions and afflictions; especially since as they are the fruit of the holiness of his nature, so they are the means to impart to us clearer stamps of holiness, according to that in himself, which is the original copy (Heb. 12:10). He melts us down as gold, to fit us for the receiving a new impression, to mortify the affections of the flesh, and clothe us with the graces of his Spirit. The due sense of this would make us to submit to his stroke, and to wait upon him for a good issue of his dealings.
The Existence and Attributes of God
William Lane Craig
Doctrine of God Part 12
Doctrine of God Part 13
Doctrine of God Part 14
Doctrine of God Part 15
Doctrine of God Part 16
Doctrine of God Part 17
Doctrine of God Part 18
Doctrine of God Part 19
Doctrine of God Part 20
Doctrine of God Part 21
William Lane Craig | Reasonable Faith
Burning Out Or Burning Bright
A Focused Family
Go With The Flow
Speak No Evil
Be Of Good Cheer
Philip And Family
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | Are we willing to die for our faith? Not many of us have ever been in that kind of scenario. However, there are plenty of little deaths that should happen in our lives. How are we doing in those areas? Acts 21 gives us a great jumping-off point to take a deeper look at things we are called to give up for the Lord.
s1-503 | 09-12-2010
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Synopsis | As we study through Acts 21 and 22 tonight, we see Paul’s determination as he makes his way to Jerusalem. The stage is set for the end of Paul’s ministry, and we find much to ponder as we observe the way he carries himself in the face of persecution.
m1-518 | 09-15-2010
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Synopsis | Most of us have much to be thankful for. Why is it, then, we can become so easily grouchy? In our passage in Acts, the Lord tells Paul to, “Be of good cheer.” This morning, we take some time to consider the many things Jesus has done that should result in ‘good cheer’ for us as well!
Cheer Up, Paul!
s1-504 | 09-19-2010
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Synopsis | Paul’s story continues as he faces an inquiry before the Sanhedrin, a dishonest high priest and a plot against his life. In the midst of all of this, the Lord appears to encourage Paul personally, reminding him that His purposes will be fulfilled. He uses Paul’s young nephew to preserve his life and see him to his next destination.
m1-519 | 09-22-2010
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