John 1 - 2
The Word Became FleshJohn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Proverbs 8:22 “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man. ESV
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
The Testimony of John the Baptist19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Behold, the Lamb of God29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Genesis 22:7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
Exodus 12:3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household.
Numbers 28:3 And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering. 4 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 5 also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil. 6 It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD. 8 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight. Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
9 “On the Sabbath day, two male lambs a year old without blemish, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and its drink offering: 10 this is the burnt offering of every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
Jesus Calls the First Disciples35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The Wedding at Cana
In this gospel there are a number of signs, and the turning of water into wine is the first. Most of the signs mentioned by John lead into a discourse on a related theme. These signs are clearly an integral part of the structure of the gospel. As a result of the first, John specially mentions that the glory of Christ was seen, and this points the way for an understanding of the rest. It is worth noting that both this sign and the next ( 4:54 ) were performed in Cana in Galilee. This was about three days’ journey from where John was baptizing. The reference in v 1 to the third day is significant because in conjunction with the other references to days in ch. 1 it is possible to see the miracle at Cana as happening at the conclusion of a seven day period. John is perhaps thinking of the events in the first week of Jesus’ ministry.John 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
In the discussion between Jesus and his mother ( 3–4 ) it must be remembered that Mary saw the running out of the wine supply as an acute embarrassment to the hosts, whereas Jesus concentrated on his main mission, indicated here by the word time (Gk. ‘hour’). The theme of Jesus’ ‘hour’ runs through the whole gospel, culminating in the passion story (cf. 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1 ). The way in which Jesus spoke to his mother (softened somewhat in the NIV) may seem strange, but his intention clearly was to correct any misunderstanding that he might take orders from anyone other than the Father (cf. 5:30; 8:29 ). The connection between Mary’s remark and Jesus’ comment is probably to be found in the view that Jesus was looking beyond the present wedding to the coming Messianic feast. Jesus also distinguished between the human view of time and God’s. The words suggest an awareness of impending crisis and climax. It is intended that the readers should, at an early stage, get a glimpse of this, although they must wait until later to realize the full significance. --- New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Psalm 69:9 For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
Psalm 119:139 My zeal consumes me,
because my foes forget your words. ESV
Jesus Knows What Is in Man23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
Rapid Response: “We Don’t Need God to Explain the Existence of Free Agency”
By J. Warner Wallace 10/31/2016
In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone said, “Christians describe God as a Divine Mind who creates humans in his own image with consciousness and free will. But you don’t need God to account for the kind of free agency Christians describe. Free will can be explained from an atheistic perspective.” How would you respond to such a claim? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:
“Several years ago, when I was serving on a police surveillance team, I arrested a guy who we followed for several days. We watched him burglarize a home. He walked through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors. If a resident responded, he’d ask, ‘Is so and so here?’ The resident would say, ‘No,’ and he would answer, ‘Sorry to bother you,’ and move on to the next house. Well, eventually he found a house where no one answered his knocking. He entered the backyard, and I jumped over walls to watch him from the house behind the victim’s residence. As I watched over the backyard fence, I could see him standing by the back door. He seemed to hesitate as he was thinking about what he was going to do next. From researching this man, I knew he was a committed drug addict and came from a family history of addiction and crime. His father and brother were also burglars. Now, as I watched him think about his next move, I could see he was struggling with his decision. He sat down and smoked a cigarette. He eventually stood up and kicked the door in; he committed the burglary.
Months later, when we went to trial, an important question was raised: ‘Did the defendant commit the crime of his own free will?’ He was, after all, coming off a heroin high, so one might wonder, ‘Did he commit the crime because his mind was altered by the drug?’ We might also ask, ‘Was he genetically predisposed to do this, given his family behavior?’ The defendant raised both defenses at his trial. The jury and judge were quick to answer, however: they found him guilty, and at his sentencing hearing, the judge said, in essence, ‘Despite these influences and circumstances, you had a choice; you chose to do this.”
But if atheism is true, we live in a purely material universe, consisting of nothing more than space, time, and matter, governed by nothing more than the laws of physics and chemistry. If that’s the case, everything in our purely physical universe is determined by prior physical causes. The neurons in your physical brain are firing based on the prior firing of neurons. These events are like dominoes that fall because they were struck by prior falling dominoes; you don’t have any control of this sequence of events. That’s why atheists like Sam Harris (trained as a neuroscientist) deny the existence of human free agency altogether. Atheists such as Harris claim free agency is an illusion.
But we have good evidence to demonstrate that the universe is not how atheists describe it. All of us experience free agency on a daily basis. In fact, authors like Harris expect us to use our free agency to assess what he’s writing in his books. We require free will to reason freely between two ideas, to choose between two claims, to show true empathy and compassion and to create artistically. Perhaps more importantly, we believe people are culpable for their free actions. This kind of culpability is impossible unless people have the freedom to act rightly (or wrongly). Where does this kind of free agency come from, if we’re living in a purely physical, deterministic universe, as atheists describe?
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.
Marriage Isn’t Meant to Meet Your Needs
By Christopher Ash 11/3/2016
One of my favorite cartoons shows a group of cavemen standing on top of a cliff, watching one of their own fall over the edge. But he hasn’t fallen—he’s been thrown. As he falls, the group’s leader looks angrily at the others. “Well, is there anyone else here whose needs are not being met?”
This is a mischievous but timely critique of a culture in which we expect everything—including our marriages—to meet our needs.
When we approach marriage expecting our needs to be met, we fail to understand the real nature of love, and we sow seeds of marital destruction. God hasn’t designed marriage as a means to meet our personal needs. Assuming marriage is about meeting needs is dangerous for at least two reasons.
1. BECAUSE IT’S NOT REAL LOVE. | Inward-looking marriage isn’t real love because it encourages us to view sex and marriage selfishly. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?” Jesus asked (Luke 6:32). Any love that merely gazes adoringly into the eyes of another who adores us isn’t really love at all.
One of the most frightening things about Jesus’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) is that the rich man seems to have been a good family man. Even in the place of the dead he’s concerned for his brothers. But his so-called love isn’t really love at all, for it never extends to Lazarus, the poor man lying at his gate. He cares for his family, but his care doesn’t overflow to needy people outside.
- 1 Where was God when that happened?
- 2 The Priority of Preaching (Proclamation Trust)
- 3 Bible Delight: Heartbeat of the Word of God: Psalm 119 for the Bible Teacher and Hearer (Proclamation Trust)
- 4 Listen up!
- 5 Marriage: Sex in the Service of God
- 6 Pure Joy: Rediscover Your Conscience
- 7 Hearing the Spirit: Knowing the Father through the Son. (Proclamation Trust)
- 8 Married for God: Making Your Marriage the Best it Can be
- 9 Introducing Romans: A Book for Today (Proclamation Trust)
- 10 Persistently Preaching Christ: Fifty years of Bible ministry in a Cambridge church
Jesus Calling How Well Are You Listening?
By J.A. Medders 11/1/2017
In middle school, my parents diagnosed me with a common disorder: selective hearing.
I couldn’t hear my dad telling me to do the dishes or take out the trash, but I could hear him whispering about my upcoming birthday presents. I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem. Selective hearing, also known as disobedience, is banned in the kingdom of Christ. Disciples must always be dialed in to the voice of our Lord.
Listening to Jesus is vital to the Christian life. Discipleship demands non-selective hearing from Jesus. I’ve never heard his voice with my ears, but the risen Christ does speak to me: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). He speaks via the Scriptures.
Hear His Voice | Today, we can hear Jesus speak with our eyeballs. In the red letters? Yes — and in all the black ones, too. We hear and behold his glory from Genesis to Revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As Puritan John Owen says, “To behold it [the glory of Christ] is not a work of fancy or imagination; it is not conversing with an image framed by the art of men without, or that of our own fancy within, but of faith exercised on divine revelations. This direction he gives us himself, John 5:39, ‘Search the Scriptures; for they are that which testify of me.’”
a href="https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/jesus-calling" target="_blank"Click here to go to sourceJ.A. Medders is the lead pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas, where he lives with his wife Natalie and their two kids. He is the author of Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life and blogs at jamedders.com.
Author Interview: Obbie Tyler Todd
By Matthew Everhard 12/8/2016
Greetings Obbie, tell us about yourself!
I serve as Associate Pastor of Students at Zoar Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Previously I pastored a small rural church outside of Bardstown, Kentucky for over a year. As I was finishing up my Th.M. at Southern Seminary, Kelly and I felt the Lord calling us to Cajun country. Not long ago I also began my PhD work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Currently I’m studying 18th century South Carolina Baptist Richard Furman and his influences (e.g. Jonathan Edwards). Tom Nettles at Southern greatly aided me in exploring the Edwardsean influence on Furman and other 18th-19th century Baptists. I had Dr. Nettles for both Th.M. and PhD-level courses in Edwards studies, and I owe much of my initial research of Edwards to him. It was after one of these courses that I was inspired to compose my blog “The Edwardsian” (https://edwardsianblog.wordpress.com). Just about every month I’m writing on Edwards, and I don’t see that habit ceasing any time soon.
How did you become interested in Edwards?
I suppose my first step into the world of Jonathan Edwards was reading Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards-A New Biography (Paperback) the Summer between my M.Div. and Th.M. at Southern Seminary. It was a bit hagiographic, but its devotional and pastoral elements grabbed me instantly. From there I started reading primary sources and then Marsden and so on. Dr. Tom Nettles was of course very influential in my introduction to Edwards. For my Th.M. paper I wrote on Edwards’ psychology of conversion and it’s during this time that I discovered the The Religious Affections. Dr. Michael Harkin was also influential for me. His Andrew Fuller course also spawned the essay that I submitted for this book. As years have gone by, my Edwards collection has grown exponentially and I find myself going back to him time after time. He’s an ocean.
Matthew Everhard Books:
- 1 A Collection of Essays on Jonathan Edwards
- 2 The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia
- 3 The Children's Catechism: A Bible Verse Memory System for Churches, Parents & Children
- 4 Hold Fast the Faith: A Devotional Commentary on the Westminster Confession of 1647
- 5 Love God With All Your Mind: An Outline of the Christian Faith
- 6 The Marks of a True Conversion: In Updated English with an Introduction to the Life and Ministry of Rev. George Whitefield by Matthew Everhard
- 7 The Westminster Society Journal. Volume One.: We Confess
- 8 Christ Our Supreme Joy: Encountering the Glory of Jesus Christ
- 9 Undeserved: Six Biblical Portraits of God's Amazing Grace
- 10 Unknown: The Extraordinary Influence of Ordinary Christians (Christian Missions)
- 11 Rock Solid: Helping Teens Discover the Truth about Christianity by Matthew Everhard (2005-06-30)
- 12 Abortion:The Evangelical Perspective by Matthew Everhard (2007-04-20)
A Case for Holy Living
By John MacArthur
Despite many technological advancements, the twenty-first century has entered frighteningly dark waters. Look at the headlines — the threat of global terrorism, the chaos of unthinkable criminal activity, the defilement of pornography, the confusion of gender roles, the future of the economy, the "lostness" of our children, etc., etc. People are helplessly buckled up, strapped in, and holding on to a world careening out of control into a future of even greater fear, confusion, frustration, uncertainty, and isolation.
As a Christian, a true Christians, you are quite a contrast. Anchored in Jesus Christ, you are immoveable, steadfast, and strong. Your eyes are fixed on the Word of God, a beacon that stands out like a "lamp shining in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19). As you move toward that light, God changes your life by the power of the Holy Spirit. The message you proclaim and the life you live guarantees you will stand out in the culture.
Holy, righteous lives are the backbone of the gospel we preach. The apostle Paul understood that. In the midst of a pagan society that did all it could to persecute Christians and discredit the Christian faith, he wrote to Titus telling him how to instruct the Cretans "to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12).
As I've reflected on what Paul told Titus, I can see three compelling reasons we ought to live holy lives. And each reason has little to do with benefits that come from godly living, though there are benefits (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6). Rather, Paul sets forth evangelism as the motive for holy living.
Holy Living Honors God's Word | In chapter two, Paul instructs Titus regarding different age groups in the church. The young women, he says, are to act in such a way "so that the word of God may not be dishonored" (Titus 2:5). The Greek word translated "dishonored" literally means "blasphemed." We can't allow unbelievers to mock, ignore, or totally reject God's Word. Yet, how we live will directly affect how people feel about it.
From 1964 to 1966 Dr. MacArthur served as an associate pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank , California and from 1966 to 1969 as a faculty representative for Talbot Theological Seminary, where he graduated with honors.
In 1969, John came to Grace Community Church . The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage.Under John's leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,000-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members also participate each week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, led by members of the pastoral staff and lay leaders. These groups are dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.
In 1985, John became president of The Master's College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College ), an accredited, four-year, liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita , California . In 1986, John founded The Master's Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, John regularly teaches Expository Preaching at the seminary and frequently speaks in chapel.
John is also president and featured teacher with Grace to You. Founded in 1969, Grace to You is the nonprofit organization responsible for developing, producing, and distributing John's books, audiocassettes, free sermons (MP3s) and the Grace to You, Portraits of Grace, and Grace to You Weekend radio programs. Grace to You airs thousands of times daily throughout the English speaking world reaching all major population centers in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa. It also airs more than 450 times daily in Spanish reaching 23 countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.
Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus, in 1988, John has written over 100 books and, through Grace to You and retail bookstores, distributed millions of copies worldwide.Many of John's books are available on CD-ROM and many titles have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and several other major languages.
John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda.They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their eleven grandchildren--Johnny, Ty, Jessy, KD, Olivia, Susannah, Gracie, Kylee, Andrew, Brooke and Elizabeth.
"MacArthur calls himself a "leaky dispensationalist"--meaning he rejects any and all "dispensational" soteriological innovations, holding to classic Reformed (i.e., Protestant, not "covenantal") soteriology. MacArthur's "dispensationalism" is eschatological and ecclesiological only. And given the fact that soteriology is central to our whole understanding of Christianity, whereas eschatology and ecclesiology deal primarily with secondary doctrines, it would be my assessment that MacArthur has far less in common with Ryrie than he would have with anyone who believes 1) that God's grace is efficacious for regeneration and sanctification as well as for justification, and 2) that God graciously guarantees the perseverance of all true believers." - Phil Johnson
John MacArthur Books | Go to Books Page
Why American Evangelicals are a huge base of support for Israel
By Christopher Connelly 10/24/2016
However the election in November turns out, there is one certainly: Support for Israel will remain strong in both Congress and the White House.
The reason for that has a lot to do with the strength of a pro-Israeli religious community with a strong grassroots political organization and fundraising arm — it just may not be the religious community that first comes to mind.
“Supporting Israel is not a political issue ... it is a bible issue,” pastor John Hagee, the founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, said in a speech last year.
Hagee, who heads the massive Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, founded Christians United for Israel a decade ago. It steadily became one of the strongest pro-Israel evangelical groups in the country, with more than three million members and 14 regional directors to help steer operations in different parts of the country.
The group’s organizational prowess is visible at its annual Washington Summit, where attendees do more than just listen to speeches.
Christopher Connelly is a Fort Worth-based reporter for the North Texas public radio station KERA.
Before moving to Texas, Christopher covered the Maryland legislature for WYPR, the NPR member station in Baltimore and spent a year as a Joan B. Kroc Fellow at NPR – one of three post-graduates who spend a year working as a reporter, show producer and digital producer at network HQ in Washington, D.C.
Christopher grew up in Akron, Ohio and is a graduate of Antioch College in Ohio – he got his first taste of public radio there at WYSO. He earned a master’s in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. His thesis was a radio documentary about heroin addiction and recovery on the East African island of Zanzibar.
Not just about sex: throughout our bodies, thousands of genes act differently in men and women
By Jenny Graves 10/31/2017
Most of us are familiar with the genetic differences between men and women.
Men have X and Y sex chromosomes, and women have two X chromosomes. We know that genes on these chromosomes may act differently in men and women.
But a recent paper claims that beyond just genes on X and Y, a full third of our genome is behaving very differently in men and women.
These new data pose challenges for science, medicine and maybe even gender equity.
Final paragraph in article What do these new insights mean for our progress toward gender equity? A bad outcome could be appeals to return to outdated sexual stereotypes. A good outcome will be recognition of sex differences in medicine and treatment.
Jenny is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and served on the Executive for eight years, first as Foreign Secretary, then as Secretary for Education and Public Affairs. She is Distinguished Professor at La Trobe University, Professor Emeritus at ANU and Thinker-in-Residence at the University of Canberra. Jenny is an international L'Oreal-UNESCO Laureate (2006) and was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2009. She won the Prime Minister's Prize for Science in 2017.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 KAPH
119:81 My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
82 My eyes long for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure?
When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me;
they do not live according to your law.
86 All your commandments are sure;
they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your steadfast love give me life,
that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563Daniel Rambaut, of Vilario, the father of a numerous family, was apprehended, and, with several others, committed to prison, in the jail of Paysana. Here he was visited by several priests, who with continual importunities did all they could to persuade him to renounce the Protestant religion and turn papist; but this he peremptorily refused, and the priests finding his resolution, pretended to pity his numerous family, and told him that he might yet have his life, if he would subscribe to the belief of the following articles:
• 1. The real presence of the host.
• 2. Transubstantiation.
• 3. Purgatory.
• 4. The pope's infallibility.
• 5. That masses said for the dead will release souls from purgatory.
• 6. That praying to saints will procure the remission of sins.
M. Rambaut told the priests that neither his religion, his understanding, nor his conscience, would suffer him to subscribe to any of the articles, for the following reasons:
• 1. That to believe the real presence in the host, is a shocking union of both blasphemy and idolatry.
• 2. That to fancy the words of consecration perform what the papists call transubstantiation, by converting the wafer and wine into the real and identical body and blood of Christ, which was crucified, and which afterward ascended into heaven, is too gross an absurdity for even a child to believe, who was come to the least glimmering of reason; and that nothing but the most blind superstition could make the Roman Catholics put a confidence in anything so completely ridiculous.
• 3. That the doctrine of purgatory was more inconsistent and absurd than a fairy tale. • 4. That the pope's being infallible was an impossibility, and the pope arrogantly laid claim to what could belong to God only, as a perfect being. • 5. That saying Masses for the dead was ridiculous, and only meant to keep up a belief in the fable of purgatory, as the fate of all is finally decided, on the departure of the soul from the body. • 6. That praying to saints for the remission of sins is misplacing adoration; as the saints themselves have occasion for an intercessor in Christ. Therefore, as God only can pardon our errors, we ought to sue to him alone for pardon.
The priests were so highly offended at M. Rambaut's answers to the articles to which they would have had him subscribe, that they determined to shake his resolution by the most cruel method imaginable: they ordered one joint of his finger to be cut off every day until all his fingers were gone: they then proceeded in the same manner with his toes; afterward they alternately cut off, daily, a hand and a foot; but finding that he bore his sufferings with the most admirable patience, increased both in fortitude and resignation, and maintained his faith with steadfast resolution and unshaken constancy they stabbed him to the heart, and then gave his body to be devoured by the dogs.
Peter Gabriola, a Protestant gentleman of considerable eminence, being seized by a troop of soldiers, and refusing to renounce his religion, they hung a great number of little bags of gunpowder about his body, and then setting fire to them, blew him up.
Anthony, the son of Samuel Catieris, a poor dumb lad who was extremely inoffensive, was cut to pieces by a party of the troops; and soon after the same ruffians entered the house of Peter Moniriat, and cut off the legs of the whole family, leaving them to bleed to death, as they were unable to assist themselves, or to help each other.
Daniel Benech being apprehended, had his nose slit, his ears cut off, and was then divided into quarters, each quarter being hung upon a tree, and Mary Monino had her jaw bones broke and was then left to anguish till she was famished.
Mary Pelanchion, a handsome widow, belonging to the town of Vilario, was seized by a party of the Irish brigades, who having beat her cruelly, and ravished her, dragged her to a high bridge which crossed the river, and stripped her naked in a most indecent manner, hung her by the legs to the bridge, with her head downwards towards the water, and then going into boats, they fired at her until she expired.
Mary Nigrino, and her daughter who was an idiot, were cut to pieces in the woods, and their bodies left to be devoured by wild beasts: Susanna Bales, a widow of Vilario, was immured until she perished through hunger; and Susanna Calvio running away from some soldiers and hiding herself in a barn, they set fire to the straw and burnt her.
Paul Armand was hacked to pieces; a child named Daniel Bertino was burnt; Daniel Michialino had his tongue plucked out, and was left to perish in that condition; and Andreo Bertino, a very old man, who was lame, was mangled in a most shocking manner, and at length had his belly ripped open, and his bowels carried about on the point of a halbert.
Constantia Bellione, a Protestant lady, being apprehended on account of her faith, was asked by a priest if she would renounce the devil and go to Mass; to which she replied, "I was brought up in a religion by which I was always taught to renounce the devil; but should I comply with your desire, and go to Mass, I should be sure to meet him there in a variety of shapes." The priest was highly incensed at what she said, and told her to recant, or she would suffer cruelly. The lady, however, boldly answered that she valued not any sufferings he could inflict, and in spite of all the torments he could invent, she would keep her conscience pure and her faith inviolate. The priest then ordered slices of her flesh to be cut off from several parts of her body, which cruelty she bore with the most singular patience, only saying to the priest, "What horrid and lasting torments will you suffer in hell, for the trifling and temporary pains which I now endure." Exasperated at this expression, and willing to stop her tongue, the priest ordered a file of musqueteers to draw up and fire upon her, by which she was soon despatched, and sealed her martyrdom with her blood.
A young woman named Judith Mandon, for refusing to change her religion and embrace popery, was fastened to a stake, and sticks thrown at her from a distance, in the very same manner as that barbarous custom which was formerly practiced on Shrove-Tuesday, of shying at rocks, as it was termed. By this inhuman proceeding, the poor creature's limbs were beat and mangled in a terrible manner, and her brains were at last dashed out by one of the bludgeons.
David Paglia and Paul Genre, attempting to escape to the Alps, with each his son, were pursued and overtaken by the soldiers in a large plain. Here they hunted them for their diversion, goading them with their swords, and making them run about until they dropped down with fatigue. When they found that their spirits were quite exhausted, and that they could not afford them any more barbarous sport by running, the soldiers hacked them to pieces, and left their mangled bodies on the spot.
A young man of Bobbio, named Michael Greve, was apprehended in the town of La Torre, and being led to the bridge, was thrown over into the river. As he could swim very well, he swam down the stream, thinking to escape, but the soldiers and the mob followed on both sides of the river, and kept stoning him, until receiving a blow on one of his temples, he was stunned, and consequently sunk and was drowned.
David Armand was ordered to lay his head down on a block, when a soldier, with a large hammer, beat out his brains. David Baridona being apprehended at Vilario, was carried to La Torre, where, refusing to renounce his religion, he was tormented by means of brimstone matches being tied between his fingers and toes, and set fire to; and afterward, by having his flesh plucked off with red-hot pincers, until he expired; and Giovanni Barolina, with his wife, were thrown into a pool of stagnant water, and compelled, by means of pitchforks and stones, to duck down their heads until they were suffocated.
A number of soldiers went to the house of Joseph Garniero, and before they entered, fired in at the window, to give notice of their approach. A musket ball entered one of Mrs. Garniero's breasts, as she was suckling an infant with the other. On finding their intentions, she begged hard that they would spare the life of the infant, which they promised to do, and sent it immediately to a Roman Catholic nurse. They then took the husband and hanged him at his own door, and having shot the wife through the head, they left her body weltering in its blood, and her husband hanging on the gallows.
Isaiah Mondon, an elderly man, and a pious Protestant, fled from the merciless persecutors to a cleft in a rock, where he suffered the most dreadful hardships; for, in the midst of the winter he was forced to lie on the bare stone, without any covering; his food was the roots he could scratch up near his miserable habitation; and the only way by which he could procure drink, was to put snow in his mouth until it melted. Here, however, some of the inhuman soldiers found him, and after having beaten him unmercifully, they drove him towards Lucerne, goading him with the points of their swords. Being exceedingly weakened by his manner of living, and his spirits exhausted by the blows he had received, he fell down in the road. They again beat him to make him proceed: when on his knees, he implored them to put him out of his misery, by despatching him. This they at last agreed to do; and one of them stepping up to him shot him through the head with a pistol, saying, "There, heretic, take thy request."
Mary Revol, a worthy Protestant, received a shot in her back, as she was walking along the street. She dropped down with the wound, but recovering sufficient strength, she raised herself upon her knees, and lifting her hands towards heaven, prayed in a most fervent manner to the Almighty, when a number of soldiers, who were near at hand, fired a whole volley of shot at her, many of which took effect, and put an end to her miseries in an instant.
Several men, women, and children secreted themselves in a large cave, where they continued for some weeks in safety. It was the custom for two of the men to go when it was necessary, and by stealth, procure provisions. These were, however, one day watched, by which the cave was discovered, and soon after, a troop of Roman Catholics appeared before it. The papists that assembled upon this occasion were neighbors and intimate acquaintances of the Protestants in the cave; and some were even related to each other. The Protestants, therefore, came out, and implored them, by the ties of hospitality, by the ties of blood, and as old acquaintances and neighbors, not to murder them. But superstition overcomes every sensation of nature and humanity; so that the papists, blinded by bigotry, told them they could not show any mercy to heretics, and, therefore, bade them prepare to die. Hearing this, and knowing the fatal obstinacy of the Roman Catholics, the Protestants all fell prostate, lifted their hands and hearts to heaven, prayed with great sincerity and fervency, and then bowing down, put their faces close to the ground, and patiently waited their fate, which was soon decided, for the papists fell upon them with unremitting fury, and having cut them to pieces, left the mangled bodies and limbs in the cave.
Giovanni Salvagiot, passing by a Roman Catholic church, and not taking off his hat, was followed by some of the congregation, who fell upon and murdered him; and Jacob Barrel and his wife, having been taken prisoners by the earl of St. Secondo, one of the duke of Savoy's officers, he delivered them up to the soldiery, who cut off the woman's breasts, and the man's nose, and then shot them both through the head.
Anthony Guigo, a Protestant, of a wavering disposition, went to Periero, with an intent to renounce his religion and embrace popery. This design he communicated to some priests, who highly commended it, and a day was fixed upon for his public recantation. In the meantime, Anthony grew fully sensible of his perfidy, and his conscience tormented him so much night and day that he determined not to recant, but to make his escape. This he effected, but being soon missed and pursued, he was taken. The troops on the way did all they could to bring him back to his design of recantation; but finding their endeavors ineffectual, they beat him violently on the road. When coming near a precipice, he took an opportunity of leaping down it and was dashed to pieces.
A Protestant gentleman, of considerable fortune, at Bobbio, being nightly provoked by the insolence of a priest, retorted with great severity; and among other things, said, that the pope was Antichrist, Mass idolatry, purgatory a farce, and absolution a cheat. To be revenged, the priest hired five desperate ruffians, who, the same evening, broke into the gentleman's house, and seized upon him in a violent manner. The gentleman was terribly frightened, fell on his knees, and implored mercy; but the desperate ruffians despatched him without the least hesitation.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Continual Burnt Offering (Colossians 4:2)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
November 4Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— ESV
Prayer is talking with God. He invites us to come in all simplicity and to tell Him our needs (which He promises to supply) and to intercede on behalf of others. Paul, the chiefest of all the apostles, felt the need of the prayers of others. Again and again he pleads with believers in various places to speak to God concerning him and his ministry. How much do we pray for Christ’s servants? And for ourselves, do we pray for God to endorse our programs, or do we ask that He will reveal His mind to us and give us grace to act accordingly?
Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly. The Gr. word means “to be courageously persistent” or “to hold fast and not let go” and refers here to persistent prayer (Acts 1:14; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17; cf. Luke 11:5–10; 18:1–8). being vigilant. In its most general sense this means to stay awake while praying. But Paul has in mind the broader implication of staying alert for specific needs about which to pray, rather than being vague and unfocused. Cf. Matt. 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 21:36.
Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing,
Luke 11:5–10 5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Luke 18:1–8 1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Mark 14:38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Luke 21:36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” ESV
ESV MacArthur Study Bible, Personal Size
Once I prayed—
(I knew not what I said)
“Show me myself, O Lord!”
Alas, I did not dread
The hideous sight
(Which now I shudder to behold),
Because I knew not self aright.
And I was led
In answer to my prayer,
As step by step, to see
My wretched heart laid bare;
Then I prayed,
“Stay, Lord, I cannot bear the sight!”
And pityingly His hand was stayed.
Now I pray
(I know the prayer is right),
“Show me Thyself, O Lord,
Be to my soul the Bright
And Morning Star,
To shine upon the grave of self,
And lead my heart from earth afar!”
--- Helen McDowell
What Is Spirituality?
By Charles C. Ryrie 1969
Oddly enough, the concept of spirituality, though the subject of much preaching, writing, and discussion, is seldom defined. Usually anything that approaches a definition will be in the nature of a description of the characteristics of spirituality, but one searches in vain in literature for a concise definition of the concept itself. The reason for this is that the concept includes several factors, and it is not easy to weave these together into a balanced definition. Too, the only verse in the Bible that approaches a definition is rather difficult of interpretation ( 1 Cor 2:15 — “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things” ). Consequently, it is avoided. Nevertheless, it is important to try to formulate a definition, for this is like the cornerstone which determines the shape of the entire building.
The Concept of Spirituality
Genuine spirituality involves three factors. The first is regeneration. No one can be spiritual in the biblical sense without having first experienced the new life that is freely given to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior. Spirituality without regeneration is reformation.
Second, the Holy Spirit is preeminently involved in producing spirituality. This is not to say that the other persons of the Godhead do not have their particular work in this, nor that the believer himself has no responsibility, nor that there are not other means of grace; but it is to affirm His major role in spirituality. The ministries of the Spirit involve teaching ( John 16:12–15 ), guiding ( Rom 8:14 ), assuring ( Rom 8:16 ), praying ( Rom 8:26 ), the exercise of spiritual gifts ( 1 Cor 12:7 ), warring against the flesh ( Gal 5:17 ), and all of these depend for their full manifestation on the filling of the Spirit ( Eph 5:18 ).
To be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit. The clue to this definition is found in Ephesians 5:18 where there is contrast and comparison between drunkenness and Spirit-filling. It is the comparison which gives the clue, for just as a drunken person is controlled by the liquor which he consumes, so a Spirit-filled Christian is controlled by the Spirit. This will cause him to act in ways which are unnatural to him, not implying that such ways will be erratic or abnormal, but asserting that they will not be the ways of the old life. Control by the Spirit is a necessary part of spirituality.
The third factor involved in spirituality is time. If the spiritual person judges or examines or discerns all things ( 1 Cor 2:15 ), this must involve time in order to gain knowledge and to acquire experience for discerning all things. The Amplified Bible elaborates on the verse in this fashion: “He can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him.” This could not be accomplished overnight; it is something which is true only of a mature Christian.
In that word maturity I think we have the key to the concept of spirituality, for Christian maturity is the growth which the Holy Spirit produces over a period of time in the believer. To be sure, the same amount of time is not required for each individual, but some time is necessary for all. It is not the time itself which is determinative of maturity; rather it is the progress made and growth achieved which is all-important. Rate multiplied by time equals distance, so that the distance to maturity may be covered in a shorter time if the rate of growth is accelerated. And it will be accelerated if none of the control which ought to be given to the Holy Spirit is retained by self.
Here is a proposed definition of spirituality which attempts to be concise and at the same time to keep these above - discussed factors in mind. Spiritually is a mature and maturing relation to the Holy Spirit. While this may simply be another way of saying that spirituality is Christian maturity, it tries to delineate more openly the factors of Spirit - control over a period of time. Certainly the definition satisfies the requirements of the description of a spiritual man in 1 Corinthians 2:15, for one who is experiencing a grown-up relation to the Holy Spirit will be able to discern all things and at the same time not be understood by others.
If this be a correct definition, there are certain ramifications of it which ought to be thought through.
A new Christian cannot be called spiritual simply because he has not had sufficient time to grow and develop in Christian knowledge and experience. A new believer can be Spirit-controlled, but the area of control is subject to expansion in the normal process of Christian growth. A young Christian has not yet been confronted with many areas within the general sphere of Christian conduct, for instance; and while he may be completely willing to let the Spirit control his life and actions, he has not yet gained the experience and maturity that comes from having faced these problems and having made Spirit-controlled decisions about them. When he is first saved he may not even know that there is such a person as a weaker brother, and, although he may not be unwilling to curb his liberty for the sake of that brother, he has not yet faced the doing of it, to say nothing of having guided others into right decisions about such matters. Spirit-control may be total over the new Christian’s life insofar as he has knowledge of that life in his newborn state, but as his knowledge increases and his growth progresses, new vistas of life break upon him which must also be consciously yielded to God’s direction. Time to gain maturity is needed for genuine spirituality.
A Christian of longer standing may not be spiritual not because he has not had enough time but because during the years of his Christian life he has not allowed the Holy Spirit to control him. Whereas the new Christian may lack the time required to become spiritual, the believer of longer standing may be deficient in yieldedness. And without complete and continued control by the Spirit he cannot be spiritual. This, of course, was the burden of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, for his readers were in this exact condition.
A Christian can backslide in certain areas of his life without losing all the ground he has gained during his Christian lifetime. The flesh may control his actions during a period of backsliding, but when he comes back to the Lord he does not necessarily have to start the process of growth all over again. For example, a believer may backslide with regard to personal Bible study, but when he comes back to it he will not have forgotten everything he formerly knew. However, this principle does not apply in every area of life, for there are some aspects of living, such as fidelity in marriage, which if violated can never be fully redeemed. The sin can be forgiven, fellowship restored, but the ground lost cannot be recovered.
There are stages of growth within the area of maturity. The best illustration is that of the human being who, though in adulthood, continues to grow, develop, and mature. The spiritual man who is experiencing a grown-up relation to the Holy Spirit is not stagnant in his Christian life, for he also has a growing relationship in his walk with the Lord. Although we never arrive at perfection in this life, it is also true that we never ascend to a plateau above and beyond which there is no further ground to gain. Spirituality, then, is a mature and a growing relationship to the Spirit.
The state of babyhood need not last long. Let no one try to take refuge in a fraudulent kind of piety which demeans or ignores the processes of growth that have advanced him to a state of maturity which he refuses to recognize. False humility is sometimes the reason for such lack of recognition of maturity which has actually been achieved. After all, when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians those believers were about four or five years old in the faith, and he expected them to be spiritual by that time. He makes it quite clear that, although when he was with them he could not speak to them as spiritual people (for they were then babes in Christ), he fully anticipated that by the time he wrote this letter to them they would have matured to the point where he could address them as spiritual ( 1 Cor 3:1–2 ). With the passing of only a few years, babyhood should also disappear.
The Characteristics of Spirituality
Spirituality is more easily characterized than defined. And in these biblical characteristics of spirituality we have concrete tests by which one may determine whether or not he is spiritual.
Spirituality will be seen in one’s character. If spirituality involves control by the Spirit ( Eph 5:18 ), and if the Spirit has come to glorify Christ ( John 16:14 ), then a spiritual person will manifest Christ in his character and actions. To glory is to show, display, or manifest. The evidence that the Holy Spirit is in control of a life is not found in manifestations of the Spirit, but in the display of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit ( Gal 5:22–23 ) is a perfect description of the character of Christ; thus, the Christian who is spiritual will display love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. These are the traits that will describe his character.
In his conduct the spiritual believer will imitate Christ. One of the wrong emphases in victorious life teachings today demeans this aspect of the truth. We are told not to imitate Christ since this involves striving which is a work of the flesh; rather, we should simply allow Christ to live out His life through us. Actually it is not a question of one view or the other; both ideas are scriptural. Christ lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God ( Gal 2:20 ), but I am also exhorted to “follow His steps” ( 1 Pet 2:21 ) and to walk as He walked ( 1 John 2:6 ). Obviously if the Holy Spirit is allowed to produce the character of Christ in an individual, the life that he lives will imitate Christ. One of the most rewarding studies in the Gospels is to note the details of our Lord’s life which we as His followers would do well to imitate.
Spirituality will be seen in one’s knowledge. The strong meat of the Word of God belongs to mature Christians ( Heb 5:14 ), and Paul expected the Corinthians after four or five years of Christian experience to be able to understand strong meat of the Word. The milk of the Word is for babes in Christ, and Paul does not scold the Corinthians for feeding on milk when they were first converted. But when their diet continued to consist only of milk, he, like the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, denounces them as defective Christians. What is meat truth? Of course, the Bible does not label passages milk or meat so it is not always easy to answer that question. However, one subject is clearly designated meat, and that is the matter which reminded the writer to the Hebrews of the inability of his readers to understand what he was writing about. And that subject is the truth about Melchisedek and his priesthood ( Heb 5:10–11 ). Here is an example from the Bible itself of the meat of the Word, and it may rightly be used as a test of one’s spirituality.
Spirituality will be seen in one’s attitudes. A spiritual Christian will exhibit at least two basic attitudes throughout life. The first is an attitude of thankfulness. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” ( Eph 5:20 ). This admonition follows the command to be filled with the Spirit (v. 18 ) and is thereby one of the characteristics of a Spirit-filled life. It is to be an all-inclusive attitude in the life of the believer. It should apply at all times (“always”) and in all situations (“for all things”). No time and no circumstance is expected. This means that grumbling, carping criticism, discontent, etc., will not characterize a spiritual Christian. This does not mean he can never be discontented in the proper exercise of godly ambition nor that he should never criticize in the sense of exercising discernment ( Phil 1:9–10 ). But the kind of attitude that blames God for that which we do not like or that is vexed with His dealings with us is not a characteristic of genuine spirituality.
The other attitude of life which characterizes the spiritual Christian is, in the words of Paul, that of “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” ( Eph 4:3 ). This is not entirely a positional matter; that is, it does not only relate to the unity within the body of Christ which the Holy Spirit has brought about by baptizing every believer into that body ( 1 Cor 12:13 ). It is true that we could never make such unity, but we are exhorted to endeavor to keep it. The very fact that the word keep is used shows that the unity has been made by the Spirit, but the fact that there is also an exhortation shows that we must not disrupt that unity.
Obviously, there is no problem about keeping unity with members of the body of Christ who have predeceased me; nor is there any difficulty in maintaining unity with those other Christians whom I do not know or with whom I have no contact. Therefore, the only sphere in which this exhortation has any relevance is the group of believers with whom I am thrown in contact. And it goes without saying that there are many practical problems in trying to keep the unity of the Spirit among believers I know — and the same is true for believers who know me. But, difficult as this may be, it is a requirement of spirituality.
It was the lack of this attitude that called forth Paul’s scathing denunciation of the Corinthians ( 1 Cor 3:1–7; cf. 1:12–13 ). Disunity had developed among believers who should have been worshipping together. Actually, there were four parties in Corinth ( 1:12 ). The “Paul Party” was perhaps a large group in the church who had been converted under Paul and who continued to adhere to him. But as is often the case, they seemed disposed to be more Pauline than Paul was and to disparage other gifted men, all of which resulted in detracting from the glory of Christ. The “Apollos Party” ( Acts 18:24–28 ) also contained some personal converts as well as those who had been won over by Apollos’ genial manner and eloquent preaching. Some may have followed him because they considered his teaching more advanced than Paul’s plain gospel preaching or they were attracted to his more cultured manner. The “Peter Party” would undoubtedly have been composed of conservative Jewish believers who rallied to the hero of Pentecost. The “Christ Party” was perhaps the most difficult to get along with, for those in this group prided themselves on being His followers, not any mere man’s disciples. They were Gnostics before Gnosticism, and they unquestionably strutted their supposed spiritual superiority before all.
This is the kind of situation, attitude, and activity that Paul unhesitatingly labels “carnal” ( 1 Cor 3:3 ), for it broke the unity of the Spirit.
However, this is an area in which there needs to be very carefully balanced thinking, for all division is not necessarily wrong, and all unions are not per se right. In the same epistle ( 11:19 ) Paul said: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” The noun heretic is used one time in the New Testament ( Titus 3:10 ), but the adjective is used twice (here and Gal 5:20 where the action is condemned as a work of the flesh). The word means a willful choosing for one’s self which results in a party division. Even though heresy is a work of the flesh which is often performed by a carnal Christian, it may be used for good so that those who are not involved in heresy will stand out in the churches. But heresy seems to involve the espousal of error which in turn causes the division. In such instances the heretic is to be admonished twice, then ignored ( Titus 3:11 ), while the part of the divided group that did not follow the error goes on demonstrating its purity of doctrine by abounding in the work of the Lord. Thus to put in balance 1 Corinthians 3:1–5 and 11:19 we may say this: divisions involving heresy may be good and necessary, but divisions over personalities are carnal.
Thankfulness at all times and in all circumstances and the maintenance of unity in that part of the body of Christ with which I live and am concerned with all of the implications pertaining thereto are the two basic attitudes of life that must characterize genuine, biblical spirituality.
Spirituality will be seen in one’s conduct. Spirituality is also demonstrated in one’s self by proper conduct which is the result of the correct, discerning, and mature use of knowledge ( Heb 5:13–14 ). We have already noticed that knowledge of the Word including meat truth is a prerequisite for spirituality, but such knowledge must be used properly in order to be spiritual. The readers of the Epistle to the Hebrews were unskillful in the word of righteousness (v. 13 ); that is, the word concerning uprightness in both doctrine and practice. As a result, they were unable to discern between good and evil (v. 14 ). This should not be limited to things morally good or evil, but includes things superior versus inferior, things better versus those things which are best. A spiritual Christian will be able to tread his way carefully through the complexities of Christian living so that he not only does that which is right and scriptural but also that which is useful and for the good of others.
Notice that again in this passage the matter of time is involved in maturity or spirituality. These people had had time to use and exercise their spiritual senses though they had not done so. But time is required to reach this state and achieve the ability to use God’s Word skillfully.
Spirituality will be seen in one’s home. The easiest place in which to be spiritual is in public; the most difficult is at home. The relationships of the home are intimate and continuous, while our activities and impressions made in public are intermittent and casual. This axiomatic reminder is especially necessary for Christian workers who too often can make a show of professional spirituality in public ministry while living a carnal life at home.
Again it is the Ephesian passage concerning the filling of the Spirit ( 5:18–21 ) which provides the biblical basis for this characteristic of spirituality. The command to be filled with the Spirit (v. 18 ) is followed by four coordinate phrases each of which begins with a participle. Together they constitute results or characteristics of the Spirit-filled life. The four participles are speaking, singing (v. 19 ), giving thanks (v. 20 ), and submitting (v. 21 ), and the last is not only the conclusion to verses 18–21 but it is also the topic sentence to that which follows beginning in verse 22. In other words, submission which is an evidence of the filling of the Spirit will be seen in the relationships of the home most vividly.
The word submit means to place one’s self in a subordinate rank. This means distinctive things for the husband and for the wife in the home, but both are to be submissive to one another (not just the wife to the husband as is commonly taught). For the husband it involves at least three things. (1) He is to lead, for he is the head of the wife (v. 23 ). This does not make him a dictator, but the responsible leader of the family who not only has the privilege of making the final decision but also the responsibility. (2) He is to love his wife (v. 25 ). A man needs this reminder, for he by nature is prone to be less demonstrative if not less loving than a woman. (3) He is to nurture his wife (v. 29 ). The word translated nourish means to bring to maturity and is used in the New Testament in this verse and in 6:4 only. The word cherish means to warm and in the New Testament it is used only here and in 1 Thessalonians 2:7. The point is simply that the husband is ultimately responsible for helping bring to spiritual maturity his wife and family. The contemporary tragedy is simply that usually the opposite is the case. It is too often the wife who is spiritually astute and who is forced, so to speak, to pull her husband along. Both should be spiritually keen, and it is the husband’s responsibility to take the leadership in this most important matter.
The spiritual wife will be subject to the leadership of her husband (vv. 22, 24 ). In other words, she will not work at cross purposes with her husband’s leadership in the family. This does not mean that she has no voice, for the husband is a presiding officer over the members of the family (that word is used in 1 Tim 3:4 ).
Spirituality will be seen in one’s church. The other principal area in which personal spirituality will be demonstrated is the church. We have already seen that a spiritual person will try to keep the unity of the Spirit in the sphere with which he is chiefly concerned — his own local church. A factious spirit is carnality.
The positive contribution a spiritual Christian will bring to the church is through the exercise of his spiritual gifts. The immature Christian promotes division; the mature one, unity through the use of his gifts ( 1 Cor 12:25 ). It goes without saying, then (or does it?), that the church member who is always creating problems and who constantly demands to be catered to is not a genuinely spiritual person. But the one who is serving the Lord by promoting the welfare of the church is evincing a mature spiritual life. Accusing the brethren is the work of the devil ( Rev 12:10 ); caring for the brethren is the work of the Lord through His mature children.
This is genuine and wholesome spirituality. The concept is that of a mature and maturing relationship to the Holy Spirit which will be demonstrated in one’s personal life. This is biblical spirituality.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Be a Shamgar (3)
(Nov 4) Bob Gass
(Jdg 3:31) 31 After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an oxgoad, and he also saved Israel. ESV
If Shamgar had focused on the fact that he was going up against six hundred Philistines, he would probably have given up before he even started. Understand this: Satan will try to discourage and defeat you by making you feel overwhelmed by the problem. That’s when you need to counterpunch, by breaking down your goals into smaller steps. You may not be able to overcome your addiction, anxiety, or anorexia for the rest of your life, but with God’s help you can win the battle today. Don’t worry about next week or next year. Live in day-tight compartments. Can you resist temptation for twenty-four hours? Can you win the battle for one day? You know you can. And so does the enemy. So take it one day at a time. We spend far too much energy focusing on the very thing we can’t control – the outcome. You say, ‘What if I fall back into my bad habit? What if my romantic efforts aren’t reciprocated? What if I don’t hit my target weight or get my dream job?’ Jesus said, ‘Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time’ (Matthew 6:34 TLB). The manna the Israelites received in the wilderness arrived daily, not weekly or monthly. Why? Because God wanted them to live in total dependence on Him. God’s grace, not your own works, is the key to victory. The word for you today is: ‘His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day…therefore I will hope in him’ (Lamentations 3:21-24 TLB).
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Charles Carroll was unique. He was the only Roman Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence and he outlived all the other signers. At his death, he was considered the wealthiest citizen in America. On this day, November 4, 1800, Charles Carroll penned a letter to James McHenry, the signer of the Constitution for whom Fort McHenry was named. Charles Carroll wrote: “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure,… are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
First, it keeps me in touch with "sound doctrine." Left to oneself, one could easily slide away from "the faith once given" into a phantom called "my religion."
Secondly, it reminds me "what things I ought to ask" (perhaps especially when I am praying for other people). The crisis of the present moment, like the nearest telegraph post, will always loom largest. Isn't there a danger that our great, permanent, objective necessities-often more important-may get crowded out? By the way, that's another thing to be avoided in a revised Prayer Book. "Contemporary problems" may claim an undue share.
And the more "up to date" the book is, the sooner it will be dated.
Finally, they provide an element of the ceremonial. On your view, that is just what we don't want. On mine, it is part of what we want. I see what you mean when you say that using ready-made prayers would be like "making love to your own wife out of Petrarch or Donne." (Incidentally might you not quote them-to such a literary wife as Betty?) The parallel won't do.
I fully agree that the relationship between God and a man is more private and intimate than any possible relation between two fellow creatures. Yes, but at the same time there is, in another way, a greater distance between the participants. We are approaching-well I won't say "the Wholly Other," for I suspect that is meaningless, but the Unimaginably and Insupportably Other. We ought to be-sometimes I hope one is-simultaneously aware of closest proximity and infinite distance. You make things far too snug and confiding. Your erotic analogy needs to be supplemented by "I fell at His feet as one dead."
I think the "low" church milieu that I grew up in did tend to be too cosily at ease in Sion. My grandfather, I'm told, used to say that he "looked forward to having some very interesting conversations with St. Paul when he got to heaven." Two clerical gentlemen talking at ease in a club! It never seemed to cross his mind that an encounter with St. Paul might be rather an overwhelming experience even for an Evangelical clergyman of good family. But when Dante saw the great apostles in heaven they affected him like mountains. There's lots to be said against devotions to saints; but at least they keep on reminding us that we are very small people compared with them. How much smaller before their Master?
A few formal, ready-made, prayers serve me as a corrective of-well, let's call it "cheek." They keep one side of the paradox alive. Of course it is only one side. It would be better not to be reverent at all than to have a reverence which denied the proximity.
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning Masada And Those Sicarii Who Kept It; And How Silva Betook Himself To Form The Siege Of That Citadel.
Eleazar's Speeches To The Besieged.
1. When Bassus was dead in Judea, Flavius Silva succeeded him as procurator there; who, when he saw that all the rest of the country was subdued in this war, and that there was but one only strong hold that was still in rebellion, he got all his army together that lay in different places, and made an expedition against it. This fortress was called Masada. It was one Eleazar, a potent man, and the commander of these Sicarii, that had seized upon it. He was a descendant from that Judas who had persuaded abundance of the Jews, as we have formerly related, not to submit to the taxation when Cyrenius was sent into Judea to make one; for then it was that the Sicarii got together against those that were willing to submit to the Romans, and treated them in all respects as if they had been their enemies, both by plundering them of what they had, by driving away their cattle, and by setting fire to their houses; for they said that they differed not at all from foreigners, by betraying, in so cowardly a manner, that freedom which Jews thought worthy to be contended for to the utmost, and by owning that they preferred slavery under the Romans before such a contention. Now this was in reality no better than a pretense and a cloak for the barbarity which was made use of by them, and to color over their own avarice, which they afterwards made evident by their own actions; for those that were partners with them in their rebellion joined also with them in the war against the Romans, and went further lengths with them in their impudent undertakings against them; and when they were again convicted of dissembling in such their pretenses, they still more abused those that justly reproached them for their wickedness. And indeed that was a time most fertile in all manner of wicked practices, insomuch that no kind of evil deeds were then left undone; nor could any one so much as devise any bad thing that was new, so deeply were they all infected, and strove with one another in their single capacity, and in their communities, who should run the greatest lengths in impiety towards God, and in unjust actions towards their neighbors; the men of power oppressing the multitude, and the multitude earnestly laboring to destroy the men of power. The one part were desirous of tyrannizing over others, and the rest of offering violence to others, and of plundering such as were richer than themselves. They were the Sicarii who first began these transgressions, and first became barbarous towards those allied to them, and left no words of reproach unsaid, and no works of perdition untried, in order to destroy those whom their contrivances affected. Yet did John demonstrate by his actions that these Sicarii were more moderate than he was himself, for he not only slew all such as gave him good counsel to do what was right, but treated them worst of all, as the most bitter enemies that he had among all the Citizens; nay, he filled his entire country with ten thousand instances of wickedness, such as a man who was already hardened sufficiently in his impiety towards God would naturally do; for the food was unlawful that was set upon his table, and he rejected those purifications that the law of his country had ordained; so that it was no longer a wonder if he, who was so mad in his impiety towards God, did not observe any rules of gentleness and common affection towards men. Again, therefore, what mischief was there which Simon the son of Gioras did not do? or what kind of abuses did he abstain from as to those very free-men who had set him up for a tyrant? What friendship or kindred were there that did not make him more bold in his daily murders? for they looked upon the doing of mischief to strangers only as a work beneath their courage, but thought their barbarity towards their nearest relations would be a glorious demonstration thereof. The Idumeans also strove with these men who should be guilty of the greatest madness! for they [all], vile wretches as they were, cut the throats of the high priests, that so no part of a religious regard to God might be preserved; they thence proceeded to destroy utterly the least remains of a political government, and introduced the most complete scene of iniquity in all instances that were practicable; under which scene that sort of people that were called zealots grew up, and who indeed corresponded to the name; for they imitated every wicked work; nor, if their memory suggested any evil thing that had formerly been done, did they avoid zealously to pursue the same; and although they gave themselves that name from their zeal for what was good, yet did it agree to them only by way of irony, on account of those they had unjustly treated by their wild and brutish disposition, or as thinking the greatest mischiefs to be the greatest good. Accordingly, they all met with such ends as God deservedly brought upon them in way of punishment; for all such miseries have been sent upon them as man's nature is capable of undergoing, till the utmost period of their lives, and till death came upon them in various ways of torment; yet might one say justly that they suffered less than they had done, because it was impossible they could be punished according to their deserving. But to make a lamentation according to the deserts of those who fell under these men's barbarity, this is not a proper place for it;—I therefore now return again to the remaining part of the present narration.
2. For now it was that the Roman general came, and led his army against Eleazar and those Sicarii who held the fortress Masada together with him; and for the whole country adjoining, he presently gained it, and put garrisons into the most proper places of it; he also built a wall quite round the entire fortress, that none of the besieged might easily escape; he also set his men to guard the several parts of it; he also pitched his camp in such an agreeable place as he had chosen for the siege, and at which place the rock belonging to the fortress did make the nearest approach to the neighboring mountain, which yet was a place of difficulty for getting plenty of provisions; for it was not only food that was to be brought from a great distance [to the army], and this with a great deal of pain to those Jews who were appointed for that purpose, but water was also to be brought to the camp, because the place afforded no fountain that was near it. When therefore Silva had ordered these affairs beforehand, he fell to besieging the place; which siege was likely to stand in need of a great deal of skill and pains, by reason of the strength of the fortress, the nature of which I will now describe.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
[Jesus] matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weaknesses he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.
--- Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
In their behavior toward creatures, all men are Nazis. Human beings see oppression vividly when they're the victims. Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Facilitator's Manual For The Class Of Nonviolence
The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.
--- Lao Tsu
A Toolbox for Humanity: More than 9000 Years of Thought
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
--- Albert Einstein
Getting Unstuck: Using Leadership Paradox to Execute with Confidence
God is most beautifully praised when His people hear His Word, love His Word, and obey His Word.
--- Al Mohler
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
than be crooked in one’s ways, though rich.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The authority of reality
Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.
--- James 4:8.
It is essential to give people a chance of acting on the truth of God. The responsibility must be left with the individual, you cannot act for him, it must be his own deliberate act, but the evangelical message ought always to lead a man to act. The paralysis of refusing to act leaves a man exactly where he was before; when once he acts, he is never the same. It is the foolishness of it that stands in the way of hundreds who have been convicted by the Spirit of God. Immediately I precipitate myself over into an act, that second I live; all the rest is existence. The moments when I truly live are the moments when I act with my whole will.
Never allow a truth of God that is brought home to your soul to pass without acting on it, not necessarily physically, but in will. Record it, with ink or with blood. The feeblest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is emancipated the second he acts; all the almighty power of God is on his behalf. We come up to the truth of God, we confess we are wrong, but go back again; then we come up to it again, and go back; until we learn that we have no business to go back. We have to go clean over on some word of our redeeming Lord and transact business with Him. His word ‘come’ means ‘transact.’ “Come unto Me.” The last thing we do is to come; but everyone who does come knows that that second the supernatural life of God invades him instantly. The dominating power of the world, the flesh and the devil is paralysed, not by your act, but because your act has linked you on to God and His redemptive power.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
I close my eyes.
The darkness implies your presence,
the shadow of your steep mind
on my world. I shiver in it.
It is not your light that
can blind us; it is the splendour
of your darkness.
And so I listen
instead and hear the language
of silence, the sentence
without an end. Is it I, then,
who am being addressed? A God's words
are for their own sake; we hear
at our peril. Many of us have gone
mad in the mastering
of your medium.
I will open
my eyes on a world where the problems,
remain but our doctrines
protect us. The shadow of the bent cross
is warmer than yours. I see how the sinners
of history run in and out
at its dark doors and are not confounded.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The preceding chapter on Maimonides’ epistemology indicated the extent to which he went to make the community aware of the universality of demonstrative truth. As Shlomo Pines wrote, “[Maimonides] evidently considered that philosophy transcended religious or national distinction.” It is this understanding of the universality and importance of philosophy which led to Maimonides’ attempt to integrate philosophic knowledge with his own tradition. Maimonides was convinced that his own tradition recognized the possibility of an approach to God which was not exclusive to Jews. His demonstration of the existence, unity, and noncorporeality of God on the basis of premises which do not presuppose creation can be viewed as an expression of this fundamental conviction. By proving the reality of God independent of premises which are the presuppositions of the Jewish world view, Maimonides was not simply fortifying the certainty of specific theological claims. He was also implying that there is a way to God independent of the particular traditions of community.
Given this understanding of God, we should recognize that the major spiritual problem facing the believing Jew is how simultaneously to accept the halakhic way to God specific to his community while believing in the possibility of a spiritual way that does not presuppose membership in Israel. What makes Maimonidean philosophy perennially significant is his attempt to explain Jewish particularity in the light of his acceptance of the universal way of reason.
Membership within the covenant-community is fundamental to the spiritual life of a believing Jew. His daily relationship to God is structured by the religious forms of the community. Heresy not only involves denying God’s existence, but is expressed as well by the individual’s willful separation from the historical and political realities of his community. The wicked son of the Passover liturgy is considered a heretic because he dissociates himself from the historical experience of the community in Egypt. ( Israel Passover Haggadah - Hebrew/English ) The three pilgrimage festivals—Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot—are all based on the relationship of God to a particular people.
The yearning for atonement, which one would assume to be the expression of an individual’s relationship to God, also has a significant connection with community. Maimonides writes in the Mishneh Torah:
Although repentance and supplication are always good, they are particularly so and are immediately accepted during the ten days intervening between the New Year and the Day of Atonement, as it is said, “Seek you the Lord while He may be found” (Is. 55:6). This only applies, however, to an individual. But as for a community, whenever its members repent and offer supplications with sincere hearts, they are answered, as it is said, “For what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand, as is the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him” (Deut. 4:7).
It should therefore be clear why Maimonides, in his Iggeret Hashmad, places the importance of community above that of the prophets, and why, in Iggeret Teman, he endangers his life for the welfare of community.
Attempts to explain Maimonides’ attachment to Judaism solely on the accident of heredity are contradicted both by what he wrote and by the way he lived. ( Maimonides and Halevi: a study in typical Jewish attitudes towards Greek philosophy in the Middles Ages ) Professor Pines writes of the significance of community for Maimonides’ political thought:
It is even more significant that he propounded a perhaps at least partly original theoretical legitimation for the actvity of the legislator and the statesman by regarding it as a kind of imitation of God. (In this he possibly went beyond the Plato of the Republic, who required the philosopher to return to the “cave,” but did not attempt to mitigate the regret that they must feel at being torn from the pure contemplation of the eternal truths and obliged to govern the polis.)
This feature of Maimonides’ philosophy is understandable if we remember the significance that the God of Israel has for Jewish spirituality. Within the framework of Plato and Aristotle to which the philosopher is drawn by the contemplative ideal, or within the framework of religious traditions which remove God from relatedness to a specific political community, there exists the ground for a detachment of the individual from community. The concept of Israel, however, does not merely refer to a collectivity of faithful individuals, but involves the notion of community—a convert to Judaism must identify himself with the political destiny of the people of Israel and not only with its god. Before one can stand at Sinai with the covenant-community, he must participate with pagan slaves in their political struggle for freedom in Egypt.
Because of these essential and characteristic features of Judaism, we believe that the way of integration is the most appropriate model for understanding Maimonides. Since community defined his spiritual consciousness so deeply, it is mistaken to presume that he separated his individual quest for God from communal forms of spirituality. The crux of Maimonides’ approach is how the individual rethinks the communal way based upon tradition after he has discovered the universal way of reason.
Gershom Scholem in his work Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism interprets Maimonides’ historical approach to biblical law as supporting a position opposed to our own understanding of Maimonides. He writes:
The whole world of religious law remained outside the orbit of philosophical inquiry, which means of course, too, that it was not subjected to philosophical criticism. It is not as if the philosopher denied or defied this world. He, too, lived in it and bowed to it, but it never became part and parcel of his work as a philosopher. It furnished no material for his thoughts. This fact, which is indeed undeniable, is particularly glaring in the case of thinkers like Maimonides and Saadia in whom the converging streams meet. They fail entirely to establish a true synthesis of the two elements, Halakhah and philosophy, a fact which has already been pointed out by Samuel David Luzzatto. Maimonides, for instance, begins the Mishneh Torah, his great codification of the Halakhah, with a philosophical chapter which has no relation whatever to the Halakhah itself. The synthesis of the spheres remains sterile, and the genius of the man whose spirit molded them into a semblance of union cannot obscure their intrinsic disparity.
For a purely historical understanding of religion, Maimonides’ analysis of the origin of the mitzvot, the religious commandments, is of great importance, but he would be a bold man who would maintain that his theory of the mitzvot was likely to increase the enthusiasm of the faithful for their actual practice, likely to augment their immediate appeal to religious feeling. If the prohibition against seething a kid in its mother’s milk and many similar irrational commandments are explicable as polemics against long-forgotten pagan rites, if the offering of sacrifice is a concession to the primitive mind, if other mitzvot carry with them antiquated moral and philosophical ideas—how can one expect the community to remain faithful to practices of which the antecedents have long since disappeared or of which the aims can be attained directly through philosophical reasoning? To the philosopher, the Halakhah either had no significance at all, or one that was calculated to diminish rather than to enhance its prestige in his eyes. ( Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism )
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. --- John 4:24
Why should we worship God? John A. Broadus, “Worship,” in Sermons of John A. Broadus, downloaded from the Web site of Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga., at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001. [First,] because it is due to him.
Robert Hall said that the idea of God subordinates to itself all that is great, borrows splendor from all that is fair, and sits enthroned on the riches of the universe. More than that is true. All that exalts our souls ought to lift them up toward God.
Especially we ought to adore the holiness of God. There is not a human heart that does not somehow, sometimes, love goodness. Find the most wicked in your city, and there are times when they admire goodness. I imagine there are times when they hope that they may yet be good themselves. When someone we love has died, we are prone to exaggerate in our funeral discourse, in our inscriptions on tombstones. We seldom exaggerate in speaking of a person’s talents or learning or possessions or influence, but we are ready to exaggerate her or his goodness. We feel that goodness is the great thing for someone who has gone into the unseen world. Long ago, a prophet saw the Lord seated high on a throne in the temple, with flowing robes of majesty, and on either side adoring seraphs bent and worshiped, and what was the theme of their worship?: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). And there do come times when we want to adore the holiness of God.
Then think of his love and mercy! He hates sin. And yet he loves sinners! How he yearns over the sinful! How he longs to save them! God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever will have it so, might through him be saved.
Holiness and redemption! We ought to adore if we had nothing to do with it, for we have a moral nature to appreciate it. And are we uninvolved spectators? That most wonderful demonstration of God’s mercy and love has been made toward us. And if the angels find their highest theme of praise in what the gracious God has done for us, how should we feel about it? Yes, there is a sense in which, amid the infirmities of earth, we can pay God a worship that the angels cannot offer.
And sinful beings out of grateful hearts for sins forgiven may strike a note of praise to God that will pierce through all the high anthems of the skies and enter into the ear of the Lord God Almighty.
--- John A. Broadus
Rock of Ages
On November 4, 1740 a baby in Farnham, England, was given the formidable name of Augustus Montague Toplady. His father died in a war, his mother spoiled him, his friends thought him “sick and neurotic,” and his relatives disliked him.
But Augustus was interested in the Lord. “I am now arrived at the age of eleven years,” he wrote on his birthday. “I praise God I can remember no dreadful crime; to the Lord be the glory.” By age 12 he was preaching sermons to whoever would listen. At 14 he began writing hymns. At 16 he was soundly converted to Christ while attending a service in a barn. And at 22 he was ordained an Anglican priest.
As a staunch Calvinist he despised John Wesley’s Arminian theology. He accused Wesley of “lying and forgery.” “I believe him to be the most rancorous hater of the Gospel-system that ever appeared on this island,” Augustus wrote. “Wesley is guilty of satanic shamelessness,” he said on another occasion, “of acting the ignoble part of a lurking, shy assassin.” He described the evangelist as a prizefighter and a chimney sweep.
In 1776 Augustus wrote an article about God’s forgiveness, intending it as a slap at Wesley. He ended his article with an original poem:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Augustus Toplady died at age 38, but his poem outlived him and has been called “the best known, best loved, and most widely useful” hymn in the English language. Oddly, it is remarkably similar to something Wesley had written 30 years before in the preface of a book of hymns for the Lord’s Supper:
O Rock of Salvation,
Rock struck and cleft for me,
let those two Streams of Blood and Water
which gushed from thy side,
bring down Pardon and Holiness into my soul.
Perhaps the two men were not as incompatible as they thought.
I love you, LORD God, and you make me strong.
You are my mighty rock, my fortress, my protector,
The rock where I am safe. …
--- Psalm 18:1,2a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 4
“For my strength is made perfect in weakness.” --- 2 Corinthians 12:9.
A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches forth to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my conquering sword shall get unto me the victory,” defeat is not far distant. God will not go forth with that man who marches in his own strength. He who reckoneth on victory thus has reckoned wrongly, for “it is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” They who go forth to fight, boasting of their prowess, shall return with their gay banners trailed in the dust, and their armour stained with disgrace. Those who serve God must serve him in his own way, and in his strength, or he will never accept their service. That which man doth, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth he casteth away; he will only reap that corn, the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love. God will empty out all that thou hast before he will put his own into thee; he will first clean out thy granaries before he will fill them with the finest of the wheat. The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in his battles but the strength which he himself imparts. Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give thee victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.
“When I am weak then am I strong,
Grace is my shield and Christ my song.”
Evening - November 4
“In thy light shall we see light.” --- Psalm 36:9.
No lips can tell the love of Christ to the heart till Jesus himself shall speak within. Descriptions all fall flat and tame unless the Holy Ghost fills them with life and power; till our Immanuel reveals himself within, the soul sees him not. If you would see the sun, would you gather together the common means of illumination, and seek in that way to behold the orb of day? No, the wise man knoweth that the sun must reveal itself, and only by its own blaze can that mighty lamp be seen. It is so with Christ. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona:” said he to Peter, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee.” Purify flesh and blood by any educational process you may select, elevate mental faculties to the highest degree of intellectual power, yet none of these can reveal Christ. The Spirit of God must come with power, and overshadow the man with his wings, and then in that mystic holy of holies the Lord Jesus must display himself to the sanctified eye, as he doth not unto the purblind sons of men. Christ must be his own mirror. The great mass of this blear-eyed world can see nothing of the ineffable glories of Immanuel. He stands before them without form or comeliness, a root out of a dry ground, rejected by the vain and despised by the proud. Only where the Spirit has touched the eye with eye-salve, quickened the heart with divine life, and educated the soul to a heavenly taste, only there is he understood. “To you that believe he is precious”; to you he is the chief corner-stone, the Rock of your salvation, your all in all; but to others he is “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” Happy are those to whom our Lord manifests himself, for his promise to such is that he will make his abode with them. O Jesus, our Lord, our heart is open, come in, and go out no more for ever. Show thyself to us now! Favour us with a glimpse of thine all-conquering charms.
PRAISE TO THE LORD, THE ALMIGHTY
Joachim Neander, 1650–1680
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1829–1878
Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the people praise Thee. (Psalm 67:3)
Great expressions of praise to God have come from many different traditions and backgrounds. Throughout the centuries God has used the talents of people from various cultures to provide His church with hymns of praise so His people might be known as people of praise and thanksgiving.
The author of this inspiring hymn text, Joachim Neander, has often been called the greatest of all German-Calvinist Reformed hymn writers. He wrote approximately 60 hymns and composed many tunes. Nearly all of his hymns are triumphant expressions of praise.
This hymn is a free paraphrase of Psalm 103:1–6, which begins, “Bless [praise] the Lord, O my soul: And all that is within me, bless His holy name.” The translator of this text, Catherine Winkworth, is regarded as one of the finest translators of the German language. Her translations helped to make German hymns popular in England and America during the 19th century. The tune, “Lobe Den Herren” (“Praise to the Lord”), first appeared in a German hymnal in 1665. It is said that Neander personally chose this tune for his text, and the words have never been used with any other melody.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; join me in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth, shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth! Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been granted in what He ordaineth?
Praise to the Lord, who with marvelous wisdom hath made thee, decked thee with health, and with loving hand guided and stayed thee; How oft in grief hath not He brought thee relief, spreading His wings for to shade thee!
Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him! All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him! Let the Amen sound from His people again: Gladly for aye we adore Him!
For Today: Psalm 100; 103:1–6; 104; 150; Colossians 1:15–20
It has been said that “he who sincerely praises God will soon discover within his soul an inclination to praise goodness in his fellow men.” Make this your day’s goal. Sing as you go ---
Thirdly, It appears in his gracious and judicial government.
1. In his gracious government. In the deliverance of his church he is the “strength of Israel” (1 Sam. 15:29), and hath protected his little flock in the midst of wolves; and maintained their standing, when the strongest kingdoms have sunk, and the best jointed states have been broken in pieces; when judgments have ravaged countries, and torn up the mighty, as a tempestuous wind hath often done the tallest trees, which seemed to threaten heaven with their tops, and dare the storm with the depth of their roots, when yet the vine and rose-bushes have stood firm, and been seen in their beauty next morning. The state of the church hath outlived the most flourishing monarchies, ( That is often forgotten ) when there hath been a mighty knot of adversaries against her; when the bulls of Bashan have pushed her, and the whole tribe of the dragon have sharpened their weapons, and edged their malice; when the voice was strong, and the hopes high to rase her foundation even with the ground; when hell hath roared; when the wit of the world hath contrived, and the strength of the world hath attempted her ruin; when decrees have been passed against her, and the bowers of the world armed for the execution of them; when her friends have drooped and skulked in corners; when there was no eye to pity, and no hand to assist, help hath come from heaven; her enemies have been defeated; kings have brought gifts to her, and reared her; tears have been wiped off her cheeks, and her very enemies, by an unseen power, have been forced to court her whom before they would have devoured quick.
The devil and his armies have sneaked into their den, and the church hath triumphed when she hath been upon the brink of the grave. Thus did God send a mighty angel to be the executioner of Sennacherib’s army, and the protector of Jerusalem, who run his sword into the hearts of eighty thousand (2 Kings 19:35), when they were ready to swallow up his beloved city. When the knife was at the throats of the Jews, in Shushan (Esther 8.), by a, powerful hand it was turned into the hearts of their enemies.
With what an outstretched arm were the Israelites freed from the Egyptian yoke (Deut. 4:34)! When Pharaoh had mustered a great army to pursue them, assisted with six hundred chariots of war, the Red Sea obstructed their passage before, and an enraged enemy trod on their rear; when the fearful Israelites despaired of deliverance, and the insolent Egyptian assured himself of his revenge, God stretches out his irresistible arm to defeat the enemy, and assist his people; he strikes down the wolves, and preserves the flock. God restrained the Egyptian enmity against the Israelites till they were at the brink of the Red Sea, and then lets them follow their humor, and pursue the fugitives, that his power might more gloriously shine forth in the deliverance of the one, and the destruction of the other. God might have brought Israel out of Egypt in the time of those kings that had remembered the good service of Joseph to their country, but he leaves them till the reign of a cruel tyrant, saffers them to be slaves, that they might by his sole power, be conquerors, which had had no appearance had there been a willing dismission of them at the first summons (Exod. 9:16); “In very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show my power, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” I have permitted thee to rise up against my people, and keep them in captivity, that thou mightest be an occasion for the manifestation of my power in their rescue; and whilst thou art obstinate to enslave them, I will stretch out my arm to deliver them, and make my name famous among the Gentiles, in the wreck of thee and thy host in the Red Sea. The deliverance of the church hath not been in one age, or in one part of the world, but God hath signalized his power in all kingdoms where she hath had a footing: as he hath guided her in all places by one rule, animated her by one spirit, so he hath protected her by the same arm of power. When the Roman emperors bandied all their force against her, for about three hundred years, they were further from effecting her ruin at the end than when they first attempted it; the church grew under their sword, and was hatched under the wings of the Roman eagle, which were spread to destroy her. The ark was elevated by the deluge, and the waters the devil poured out to drown her did but slime the earth for a new increase of her. She hath sometimes been beaten down, and, like Lazarus, hath seemed to be in the grave for some days, that the power of God might be more visible in her sudden resurrection, and lifting up her head above the throne of her persecutors.
2. In his judicial proceedings. The deluge was no small testimony of his power, in opening the cisterns of heaven, and pulling up the sluices of the sea. He doth but call for the waters of the sea, and they “pour themselves upon the face of the earth” (Amos 9:6.) In forty days’ time the waters overtopped the highest mountains fifteen cubits (Gen. 7:17–20); and by the same power he afterwards reduced the sea to its proper channel, as a roaring lion into his den. A shower of fire from heaven, upon Sodom, and the cities of the plain, was a signal display of his power, either in creating it on the sudden, for the execution of his righteous sentence, or sending down the element of fire, contrary to its nature, which affects ascent, for the punishment of rebels against the light of nature. How often hath he ruined the most flourishing monarchies, led princes away spoiled, and overthrown the mighty, which Job makes an argument of his strength (Job 12:13, 14). Troops of unknown people, the Goths and Vandals, broke the Romans, a warlike people, and hurled down all before them. They could not have had the thought to succeed in such an attempt, unless God had given them strength and motion for the executing his judicial vengeance upon the people of his wrath. How did he evidence his power, by daubing the throne of Pharaoh, and his chamber of presence, as well as the houses of his subjects, with the slime of frogs (Exod. 8:3); turning their waters into blood, and their dust into biting lice (Exod. 7:20); raising his militia of locusts against them; causing a three days’ darkness without stopping the motion of the sun; taking off their first-born, the excellency of their strength, in a night, by the stroke of the angel’s sword! He takes off the chariot wheels of Pharaoh, and presents him with a destruction where he expected a victory; brings those waves over the heads of him and his host, which stood firm as marble walls for the safety of his people; the sea is made to swallow them up, that durst not, by the order of their Governor, touch the Israelites: it only sprinkled the one as a type of baptism, and drowned the other as an image of hell. Thus he made it both a deliverer and a revenger, the instrument of an offensive and defensive war (Isa. 40:23, 24; “He brings princes to nothing, and makes the judges of the earth as vanity.” Great monarchs have, by his power, been hurled from their thrones and their sceptres, like Venice-glasses, broken before their faces, and they been advanced that have had the least hopes of grandeur. He hath plucked up cedars by the roots, lopped off the branches, and set a shrub to grow up in the place; dissolved rocks, and established bubbles (Luke 1:52): “He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he hath put down the mighty from their seat, and exalted them of low degree.”—And these things he doth magnify his power in:—
(I.) By ordering the nature of creatures as he pleases. By restraining their force, or guiding their motions. The restraint of the destructive qualities of the creatures argues as great a power as the change of their natures, yea, and a greater. The qualities of creatures may be changed by art and composition, as in the preparing of medicines; but what but a Divine Power could restrain the operation of the fire from the three children, while it retained its heat and burning quality in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace? The operation was curbed while its nature was preserved. All creatures are called his host, because he marshals and ranks them as an army to serve his purposes. The whole scheme of nature is ready to favor men when God orders it, and ready to punish men when God commissions it. He gave the Red Sea but a check, and it obeyed his voice (Psalm 106:9): “He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up;” the motion of it ceased, and the waters of it were ranged as defensive walls, to secure the march of his people: and at the motion of the hand of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the sea recovered its violence, and the walls that were framed came tumbling down upon the Egyptian’s heads (Exod. 14:27). The Creator of nature is not led by the necessity of nature: he that settled the order of nature, can change or restrain the order of nature according to his sovereign pleasure. The most necessary and useful creatures he can use as instruments of his vengeance: water is necessary to cleanse, and by that he can deface a world; fire is necessary to warm, and by that he can burn a Sodom: from the water he formed the fowl (Gen. 1:21), and by that he dissolves them in the deluge; fire or heat is necessary to the generation of creatures, and by that he ruins the cities of the plain. He orders all as he pleases, to perform every tittle and punctilio of his purpose. The sea observed him so exactly, that it drowned not one Israelite, nor saved one Egyptian (Psalm 106:11). There was not one of them left. And to perfect the Israelites’ deliverance, he followed them with testimonies of his power above the strength of nature. When they wanted drink, he orders Moses to strike a rock, and the rock spouts a river, and a channel is formed for it to attend them in their journey. When they wanted bread, he dressed manna for them in the heavens, and sent it to their tables in the desert. When he would declare his strength, he calls to the heavens to pour down righteousness, and to the earth to bring forth salvation (Isa. 45:8). Though God had created righteousness or deliverance for the Jews in Babylon, yet he calls to the heavens and the earth to be assistant to the design of Cyrus, whom he had raised for that purpose, as he speaks in the beginning of the chapter (verses 1–4). As God created man for a supernatural end, and all creatures for man as their immediate end, so he makes them, according to opportunities, subservient to that supernatural end of man, for which ie created him. He that spans the heavens with his fist, can shoot all creatures like an arrow, to hit what mark he pleases. He that spread the heavens and the earth by a word, and can by a word fold them up more easily than a man can a garment (Heb. 1:12), can order the streams of nature; cannot he work without nature as well as with it, beyond nature, contrary to nature, that can, as it were, fillip nature with his finger into that nothing whence he drew it; who can cast down the sun from his throne, clap the distinguished parts of the world together, and make them march in the same order to their confusion, as they did in their creation: who can jumble the whole frame together, and, by a word, dissolve the pillars of the world, and make the fabric be in a ruinous heap?
(2.) In effecting his purposes by small means: in making use of the meanest creatures. As the power of God is seen in the creation of the smallest creatures, and assembling so many perfections in the little body of an insect, as an ant, or spider, so his power is not less magnified in the use he makes of them. As he magnifies his wisdom, by using ignorant instruments, so he exalts his power, by employing weak instruments in his service: the meanness and imperfection of the matter sets off the excellency of the workman; so the weakness of the instrument is no foil to the power of the principal Agent. When God hath effected things by means in the Scripture, he hath usually brought about his purposes by weak instruments. Moses, a fugitive from Egypt, and Aaron a captive in it, are the instruments of the Israelites’ deliverance. By the motion of Moses’ rod, he works wonders in the court of Pharaoh, and summons up his judgments against him. He brought down Pharaoh’s stomach for a while, by a squadron of lice and locusts, wherein Divine power was more seen, than if Moses had brought him to his own articles by a multitude of warlike troops. The fall of the walls of Jericho by the sound of rams’ horns, was a more glorious character of God’s power, than if Joshua had battered it down with a hundred of warlike engines (Josh. 6:20). Thus the great army of the Midianites, which lay as grasshoppers upon the ground, were routed by Gideon in the head of three hundred men; and Goliath, a giant, laid level with the ground by David, a stripling, by the force of a sling: a thousand Philistines dispatched out of the world by the jaw-bone of an ass in the hand of Samson. He can master a stout nation by an army of locusts, and render the teeth of those little insects as destructive as the teeth, yea, the strongest teeth, the cheekteeth, of a great lion (Joel 1:6, 7). The thunderbolt, which produces sometimes dreadful effects, is compacted of little atoms which fly in the air, small vapors drawn up by the sun, and mixed with other sulphurous matter and petrifying juice. Nothing is so weak, but his strength can make victorious; nothing so small, but by his power he can accomplish his great ends by it; nothing so vile, but his might can conduct to his glory; and no nation so mighty, but he can waste and enfeeble by the meanest creatures. God is great in power in the greatest things, and not little in the smallest; his power in the minutest creatures which he uses for his service, surmounts the force of our understanding.
THIRDLY . The power of God appears in REDEMPTION. As our Saviour is called the Wisdom of God, so he is called the Power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). The arm of Power was lifted up as high as the designs of Wisdom were laid deep: as this way of redemption could not be contrived but by an Infinite Wisdom, so it could not be accomplished but by an Infinite Power. None but God could shape such a design, and none but God could effect it. The Divine Power in temporal deliverances, and freedom from the slavery of human oppressors, vails to that which glitters in redemption; whereby the devil is defeated in his designs, stripped of his spoils, and yoked in his strength. The power of God in creation requires not those degrees of admiration, as in redemption. In creation, the world was erected from nothing; as there was nothing to act, so there was nothing to oppose; no victorious devil was in that to be subdued; no thundering law to be silenced; no death to be conquered; no transgression to be pardoned and rooted out; no hell to be shut; no ignominious death upon the cross to be suffered. It had been, in the nature of the thing, an easier thing to Divine Power to have created a new world than repaired a broken, and purified a polluted one. This is the most admirable work that ever God brought forth in the world, greater than all the marks of his power in the first creation.
And this will appear, I. In the Person redeeming. II. In the publication and propagation of the doctrine of redemption. III. In the application of redemption.
I. In the Person redeeming. First, In his conception.
1. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin (Luke 1:35): “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee:” which act is expressed to be the effect of the infinite power of God; and it expresses the supernatural manner of the forming the humanity of our Saviour, and signifies not the Divine nature of Christ infusing itself into the womb of the virgin; for the angel refers it to the manner of the operation of the Holy Ghost in the producing the human nature of Christ, and not to the nature assuming that Humanity into union with itself. The Holy Ghost, or the Third Person in the Trinity, overshadowed the virgin, and by a creative act framed the humanity of Christ, and united it to the Divinity. It is, therefore, expressed by a word of the same import with that used in Gen. 1:2, “The Spirit moved upon the face of the waters,” which signifies (as it were) a brooding upon the chaos, shadowing it with his wings, as hens sit upon their eggs, to form them and hatch them into animals; or else it is an allusion to the “cloud which covered the tent of the congregation, when the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exod. 40:34). It was not such a creative act as we call immediate, which is a production out of nothing; but a mediate creation, such as God’s bringing things into form out of the first matter, which had nothing but an obediential or passive disposition to whatsoever stamp the powerful wisdom of God should imprint upon it. So the substance of the Virgin had no active, but only a passive disposition to this work: the matter of the body was earthy, the substance of the virgin; the forming of it was heavenly, the Holy Ghost working upon that matter. And therefore when it is said, that “she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 1:18), it is to be understood of the efficacy of the Holy Ghost, not of the substance of the Holy Ghost. The matter was natural, but the manner of conceiving was in a supernatural way, above the methods of nature. In reference to the active principle the Redeemer is called in the prophecy (Isa. 4:2), “The branch of the Lord,” in regard of the Divine hand that planted him: in respect to the passive principle, the fruit of the earth, in regard of the womb that bare him; and therefore said to be “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). That part of the flesh of the virgin whereof the human nature of Christ was made, was refined and purified from corruption by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, as a skilful workman separates the dross from the gold: our Saviour is therefore called, “that holy thing” (Luke 1:35), though born of the virgin: he was necessarily some way to descend from Adam. God, indeed, might have created his body out of nothing, or have formed it (as he did Adam’s) out of the dust of the ground: but had he been thus extraordinarily formed, and not propagated from Adam, though he had been a man like one of us, yet he would not have been of kin to us, because it would not have been a nature derived from Adam, the common parent of us all. It was therefore necessary to an affinity with us, not only that he should have the same human nature, but that it should flow from the same principle, and be propagated to him. But now, by this way of producing the humanity of Christ of the substance of the virgin, he was in Adam (say some) corporally, but not seminally; of the substance of Adam, or a daughter of Adam, but not of the seed of Adam: and so he is of the same nature that had sinned, and so what he did and suffered may be imputed to us; which, had he been created as Adam, could not be claimed in a legal and judicial way.
2. It was not convenient he should be born in the common order of nature, of father and mother: for whosoever is so born is polluted. “A clean thing cannot be brought out of an unclean” (Job 14:4). And our Saviour had been incapable of being a redeemer, had he been tainted with the least spot of our nature, but would have stood in need of redemption himself. Besides, it had been inconsistent with the holiness of the Divine nature, to have assumed a tainted and defiled body. He that was the fountain of blessedness to all nations, was not to be subject to the curse of the law for himself; which he would have been, had he been conceived in an ordinary way. He that was to overturn the devil’s empire, was not to be any way captive under the devil’s power, as a creature under the curse; nor could he be able to break the serpent’s head, had he been tainted with the serpent’s breath. Again, supposing that Almighty God by his divine power had so ordered the matter, and so perfectly sanctified an earthly father and mother from all original spot, that the human nature might have been transmitted immaculate to him, as well as the Holy Ghost, did purge that part of the flesh of the virgin of which the body of Christ was made, yet it was not convenient that that person, that was God blessed for ever as well as man, partaking of our nature, should have a conception in the same manner as ours, but different, and in some measure conformable to the infinite dignity of his person: which could not have been, had not a supernatural power and a Divine person been concerned as an active principle in it; besides, such a birth had not been agreeable to the first promise, which calls him “the Seed of the woman” (Gen. 1:15), not of the man; and so the veracity of God had suffered some detriment: the Seed of the woman only is set in opposition to the seed of the serpent.
3. By this manner of conception the holiness of his nature is secured, and his fitness for his office is atsured to us. It is now a pure and unpolluted humanity that is the temple and tabernacle of the Divinity: the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily, and dwells in him holily. His humanity is supernaturalized and elevated by the activity of the Holy Ghost, hatching the flesh of the virgin into man, as the chaos into a world. Though we read of some sanctified from the womb, it was not a pure and perfect holiness; it was like the light of fire mixed with smoke, an infused holiness accompanied with a natural taint: but the holiness of the Redeemer by this conception, is like the light of the sun, pure, and without spot. The Spirit of holiness supplying the place of a father in the way of creation. His fitness for his office is also assured to us; for being born of the virgin, one of our nature, but conceived by the Spirit of a Divine person, the guilt of our sins may be imputed to him because of our nature, without the stain of sin inherent in him; because of his supernatural conception he is capable, as one of kin to us, to bear our curse without being touched by our taint. By this means our sinful nature is assumed without sin in that nature which was assumed by him: “flesh he hath, but not sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Real flesh, but not really sinful, only by way of imputation. Nothing but the power of God is evident in this whole work: by ordinary laws and the course of nature a virgin could not bear a son:. nothing but a supernatural and almighty grace could intervene to make so holy and perfect a conjunction. The generation of others, in an ordinary way, is by male and female: but the virgin is overshadowed by the Spirit and power of the Highest. Man only is the product of natural generation; this which is born of the virgin is the holy thing, the Son of God. In other generations, a rational soul is only united to a material body: but in this, the Divine nature is united with the human in one person by an indissoluble union.
The Existence and Attributes of God
The Church 1 | Jerry Root
The Church 2 | Kathy McReynolds
John 1 38-51
Jesus Is God
Who Are You?
Turning Over Tables
Best Is Yet To Come - New Year's
He DOESN'T Believe In You
In the Beginning was the Word
John Testifies About Jesus
The First Disciples
The Sign at Cana of Galilee
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon