The Healing at the Pool on the SabbathJohn 5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Jesus Is Equal with God18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
The Authority of the Son19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Witnesses to Jesus30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” . . . for he wrote of me. Jesus does not mention any specific passage in the five books of Moses although there are many (e.g., Deut. 18:15; cf. 1:21; 4:19; 6:14; 7:40, 52). ESV MacArthur Study Bible
Jesus Feeds the Five ThousandJohn 6:1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
6:3 Jesus went up on the mountain. This detail may be intended to suggest a comparison of Jesus and Moses, who went up on Mount Sinai.15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
6:5–15 The feeding of the five thousand. Jesus brings food to a multitude, as Moses did in the wilderness (Num. 11).
6:5 that these may eat. Reminiscent of Num. 11:13, where Moses asks God a similar question.
6:7 Two hundred denarii. A denarius was about one day’s wage (Matt. 20:2).
6:10 five thousand. The figure does not include women and children (Matt. 14:21; cf. 2 Kin. 4:42–44).
6:14 the Prophet. That is, the Prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15). ESV Reformation Study Bible
Jesus Walks on Water16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
I Am the Bread of Life22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical “Gospel of Philip”?
By J. Warner Wallace 11/3/2017
The Gospel of Philip is an ancient text purportedly written by the disciple who knew Jesus personally. But is this non-biblical text reliable? Was it really written by Philip? There are four characteristics of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first attribute requires that the account be old enough to actually be written by someone who was present to see what he or she reports. The Gospel of Philip was written too late in history to have been written by the disciple we know as Philip, and like other late non-canonical texts, this errant document was rejected by the Church. In spite of this, The Gospel of Philip does mention many accurate (and ancient) claims related to Jesus. Although it is a legendary fabrication written by an author who altered the story of Jesus to suit the purposes of his religious community, much can still be learned about the historic Jesus from this late text:
The Gospel of Philip (180-250AD) | The Gospel of Philip is yet another Gnostic gospel discovered as part of the Nag Hammadi collection in Egypt in 1945. The text was bound in the same codex that also contained The Gospel of Thomas, but unlike The Gospel of Thomas, this text is not a collection of “sayings of Jesus” as much as it is a collection of “Gnostic teachings”. The original text was not called The Gospel of Philip; this title has been applied to the text in modern times because Philip is the only disciple of Jesus that is mentioned in the document.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable? | Because The Gospel of Philip was not originally known by this name, it’s difficult to determine how the Church Fathers and those closest to the eyewitnesses of Jesus assessed the document. Scholars typically date the authorship of the text from the late 2nd to mid-3rd century (most preferring the later dating) and this dating places it far too late in history to be an eyewitness account of the statements and sayings it records (Philip, for example, died in 80AD). This late dating seems quite reasonable given the fact that The Gospel of Philip repeatedly quotes several New Testament texts (such as the Gospels of Matthew and John, 1 Corinthians and 1 Peter) as though they were already well established in Christendom. Scholars also believe that the text reflects the Gnostic theology of Valentinus (a 2nd century Gnostic theologian). Valentinian Gnosticism was vigorously denounced by Irenaeus in Against Heresies (170AD), by Tertullian in Against Valentinus (early 200’s), and by Epiphanius of Salamis in Against Heresies (374-377AD). The Gospel of Philip is clearly a Gnostic document similar to other heretical texts condemned by those who were evaluating the manuscript closest to the time of its alleged authorship.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus? | In spite of the Gnostic nature of The Gospel of Philip, it does acknowledge a number of details related to the life and ministry of Jesus. It identifies Jesus as the “Christ”, the “Savior”, “Jesus the Nazorean, Messiah”, the “Son of Man” and the “Word” who clearly possesses the wisdom of God. It also identifies the followers of Jesus as “Christians” and acknowledges the existence of “disciples” and “apostles”. The Gospel of Philip also acknowledges that Jesus laid down his life to “ransom”, “save” and “redeem”, dying a sacrificial death on the cross and resurrecting from the dead. The text also acknowledges a few Biblical characters, including Mary and Joseph, Mary Magdalene and Philip. The text also acknowledges and quotes several passages from the canonical New Testament documents, including “He said, ‘My Father who is in secret’. He said, ‘Go into your chamber and shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father who is in secret’” (from Matthew 6:6), “He who sins is the slave of sin” (from John 8:34), “Love builds up” (from 1 Corinthians 8:1), “love covers a multitude of sins” (from 1 Peter 4:8), “Already the axe is laid at the root of the trees” (from Matthew 3:10), “If you know the truth, the truth will make you free” (from John 8:32) and “Every plant which my father who is in heaven has not planted will be plucked out.” (from Matthew 15:13).
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts? | The Gospel of Philip once again portrays Jesus as the source of hidden, esoteric knowledge in a manner that is very similar to other Gnostic texts. It is most famous for its references to Mary Magdalene. The Gospel of Philip contains a passage which describes Jesus as favoring Mary Magdalene and refers to her as his companion. In addition, there is a second passage that is badly damaged that some have reconstructed in the following way (assumptions about the text are in brackets and italicized): “And the companion of [the Savior was Mar]y Ma[gda]lene. [Christ loved] M[ary] more than [all] the disci[ples, and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth].” This reconstruction clearly presumes a great deal and may be completely mistaken. It does appear that the author is claiming that Jesus favored Mary in some way, but this favoritism is not based on a sexual interest. It is based, instead, on Mary’s alleged ability to comprehend the teaching of Jesus: “They said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Saviour answered and said to them, “Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.” In addition, another Gnostic document found in the Nag Hammadi library (The Second Apocalypse of James) describes Jesus kissing James in a very similar way and calling James His “beloved”. Like this text, the Apocalypse of James uses a Gnostic literary device of a “kiss” as a metaphor for the passing of “gnosis”. Nothing in The Gospel of Philip indicates that the author was claiming that Jesus was married to Mary (as some have suggested), and although the author used the word “wife” in other passages, it was never used to describe Mary.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Research Proves The No. 1 Social Justice Imperative Is Marriage
By Glenn T. Stanton 11/3/2017
A foundational value in our nation is the opportunity for all its citizens to be able to compete for a fair and meaningful shot at the American dream. This begins with access to citizenship, educational opportunity, and securing meaningful work that leads to greater life opportunities via commitment, diligence, and self-sacrifice. But an important contributor to putting and keeping men, women, and children on the escalator toward the American dream is little-known and widely ignored.
Just 70 years ago, social mobility and protection from poverty were largely a factor of employment. Those who had full-time work of any kind were seldom poor. Fifty years ago, education marked the gulf separating the haves from the have-nots. For the last 20 years or more, though, marital status has increasingly become the central factor in whether our neighbors and their children rise above, remain, or descend into poverty. The research is astounding.
Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute explains in his important book “Coming Apart: The State of White America” that in 1960, the poorly and moderately educated were only 10 percent less likely to be married than the college educated, with both numbers quite high: 84 and 94 respectively. That parity largely held until the late 1970s.
35 percent margin and the gap continues to expand. All the movement is on one side. Marriage is sinking dramatically among lower- and middle-class Americans, down to a minority of 48 percent today. No indicators hint at any slowing. It’s remained generally constant among the well-to-do. This stark trend line led Murray to lament, “Marriage has become the fault line dividing America’s classes.” He has company in this conclusion.
Marriage Matters Lots More than Income and Race | Jonathan Rauch writing in the National Journal, certainly no conservative, notes that “marriage is displacing both income and race as the great class divide of the new century.” Isabel Sawhill, a senior scholar at the center-left Brookings Institute, boldly and correctly proclaimed some years ago that “the proliferation of single-parent households accounts for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since the early 1970s.” Virtually all of the increase!
He and his wife Jacqueline have five endlessly growing kids and they all live relatively happily in the shadow of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He blogs at glenntstanton.com.
Glenn T. Stanton Books:
- 1 Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth
- 2 The Family Project: How God's Design Reveals His Best for You
- 3 The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage
- 4 Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity
- 5 Why Marriage Matters: Reasons to Believe in Marriage in Postmodern Society (Experiencing God)
- 6 My Crazy Imperfect Christian Family: Living Out Your Faith with Those Who Know You Best
- 7 Plough Quarterly No. 3: Childhood
- 8 Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting
The World Is God’s Classroom
By J.A. Medders 5/8/2016
Theology is all around you, ripe for the picking. Take, eat: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8).
Having a right and rotund theology of God is vital to our discipleship with Jesus Christ. Theology isn’t meant to be quarantined to books on shelves, or chained to the grounds of a seminary’s campus. Theology is for everyday Christianity, for us “ordinary” Christians, for all of life, in all of life, for the glory of God. Theology is always relevant because God is omni-relevant.
Theology is everywhere because God is everywhere. His omnipresence provides a fresh lens for the present. It’s easy to take cheap shots at theology as being a mere mind-filler, but thanks be to God it is more.
We must see that, yes, theology is for the mind, but it is for loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. To belittle theology is to belittle our God who architected the universe to be an animated systematic theology. God loves theology. God’s world is a free seminary course for every saint under the sun.
The World Is a Seminary | God tells us in the Psalms that he is theologizing — teaching, training, informing — us about himself. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Again, “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory” (Psalm 97:6).
By R.C. Sproul
We point now to one more man in the Old Testament who challenged God. The prophet Habakkuk took God to task for doing things that offended his sense of justice. The prophet was appalled that God’s people should suffer at the hands of a more wicked nation than they were themselves. On the surface it looked as if God had abandoned his promises to the Jews and had become a turncoat, giving His divine allegiance to the wicked Babylonians. For Habakkuk this was comparable to a modern-day Jew wondering if God was on Hitler’s side during the Holocaust. Habakkuk’s complaint was registered with a loud protest:
See Habakkuk 1:2-4 in the Daily Bible reading above.
Habakkuk was flaming angry. His complaint was so heated that he overdid it a bit. He said, “Justice never prevails.” Surely there is injustice in this world that awaits final rectification, but to say that justice never prevails is going overboard. Like Job, Habakkuk demanded some answers. He went to the mat with God and was prepared to wrestle it out. He stood in his watchtower, waiting for a reply from the Almighty. When God finally spoke, Habakkuk’s reaction was like Job’s:
See Habakkuk 3:1-16 in the Daily Bible reading above.
The response of the prophet was like a small child who is scolded by a parent. His heart palpitated, and his lips began to quiver. We have all seen small children on the verge of tears. They try to hold back the flood but the tremor in the lower lip gives them away. Here was a grown man whose lips quivered in the presence of God. He felt a kind of internal rottenness, a decay entering his very bones. The skeletal structure of the man felt as if it were collapsing. The trembling of the mysterium tremendum attacked his legs; his knees began to knock. He walked away from his wrestling match with God, but he walked on wobbly legs.
With the appearance of God, all of Habakkuk’s angry protests ceased. Suddenly the tone of his speech changed from one of bitter despair to one of unwavering confidence and hope:
See Habakkuk 3:17-18 in the Daily Bible reading above.
Habakkuk was now as fierce in his joy as he had been in his despair. He was able to rest absolutely in God’s sovereignty. His words, translated into modern jargon, might sound like this:
Though the budget is never balanced, though the stock market crashes; if food prices skyrocket and basic steel loses to Japanese imports, though the auto industry folds, and the banks close their doors; if the Russians rape our land and the Steelers lose the Super Bowl; yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation.
Jacob, Job, and Habakkuk all declared war on God. They all stormed the battlements of heaven. They were all defeated, yet they all came away from the struggle with uplifted souls. They paid a price in pain. God allowed the debate, but the battle was fierce before peace was established.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Distinguishing Mark of Christianity
By John MacArthur
Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3) is the distinguishing article of Christianity and marks the essential confession of faith (Romans 10:9). Jesus proclaimed it to His disciples, His enemies, and His casual inquirers alike — and He refused to tone down its implications.
The expression "Lord" (kurios) speaks of ownership, while "Master/Lord" (despotes) denotes an unquestionable right to command (John 13:13; Jude 4). Both words describe a master with absolute dominion over someone else. That explains Jesus' incredulity at the practice of those who paid homage to Him with their lips but not with their lives: "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
Doulos frequently describes what it means to be a true Christian: "He who was called while free, is Christ's slave [doulos]. You were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 7:22-23). It describes the lowest, abject bond slave; his service is not a matter of choice.
A Misleading Translation | Unfortunately, readers of the English Bible have long been shielded from the full force of doulos because of an ages-old tendency to translate it as "servant" or "bond-servant." This tendency is regrettable, since service and slavery are not the same thing. "No one can be a slave to two masters" (Matthew 6:24) makes better sense than "No one can serve two masters." An employee with two jobs could indeed serve two masters; but a slave could not. Scripture repeatedly calls Christians "slaves" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), purchased for God (Revelation 5:9). This is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (Romans 14:7-9).
A Revolting Concept | Not only is slave a word loaded with negative connotations, but our generation is also fixated on the concepts of freedom, fulfillment, and autonomy. Saving faith and Christian discipleship have been reduced to the cliché "a personal relationship with Jesus." It's hard to imagine a more disastrous twisting of what it means to be a Christian. Many people (including Judas and Satan) had some kind of "personal relationship" with Jesus during His earthly ministry without submitting to Him as Lord. But His only true friends were those who did what He said (John 15:14).
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
Another Look at the Earliest Complete List of the Canon of the New Testament
By Michael J. Kruger 7/12/2016
Last year I posted an article entitled “What Is The Earliest Complete List of the Canon of the New Testament?” In that post I argued, contrary to common opinion, that the earliest (nearly complete) list is not Athanasius’ Festal Letter in 367. Instead, the earliest complete list occurs more than a century earlier in the writings of Origen (see picture).
My blog post was based off a fuller academic piece I wrote for the recent festschrift for Larry Hurtado, Mark Manuscripts and Monotheism (edited by Chris Keith and Dieter Roth; T&T Clark, 2015), entitled, “Origen’s List of New Testament Books in Homiliae on Josuam 7.1: A Fresh Look.”
Around 250 A.D., in his typical allegorical fashion, Origen used the story of Joshua to describe what seems to be the complete New Testament canon:
"But when our Lord Jesus Christ comes, whose arrival that prior son of Nun designated, he sends priests, his apostles, bearing “trumpets hammered thin,” the magnificent and heavenly instruction of proclamation. Matthew first sounded the priestly trumpet in his Gospel; Mark also; Luke and John each played their own priestly trumpets. Even Peter cries out with trumpets in two of his epistles; also James and Jude. In addition, John also sounds the trumpet through his epistles [and Revelation], and Luke, as he describes the Acts of the Apostles. And now that last one comes, the one who said, “I think God displays us apostles last,” and in fourteen of his epistles, thundering with trumpets, he casts down the walls of Jericho and all the devices of idolatry and dogmas of philosophers, all the way to the foundations (Hom. Jos. 7.1)."
So, why is this list not accepted by modern scholars? Because some have argued that the list has been modified by Rufinus who translated Origen’s sermon on Joshua into Latin. Rufinus, it is argued, changed the list to fit his own view of the New Testament a century later.
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament
By Stephen J. Nichols 3/2013
Maybe it began earlier than the 1950s and 60s, but those decades seem to mark the rise of the fascination with youth in American culture. The famous line that celebrates all things young, often wrongly attributed to James Dean, declares, “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse behind.”
Popular music, that telling barometer of popular culture, has kept pace with this trend. Nearly every heavy-metal band of the 1980s and ’90s had a stock ballad about young heroes going down in a “blaze of glory.” Other popmusic references stress the invincible power of youth. Rod Stewart sings of being “Forever Young.” In their hit single “We Are Young,” the contemporary super group Fun declares that these same youth will “set the world on fire.” Bruce Springsteen’s barstool-seated narrator in “Glory Days” drowns the disappointments of his middle-aged life by retelling stories of high school exploits and triumphs. None of us may want to relive our awkward junior high moments, but who among us doesn’t harbor secret desires to be young again and seemingly able to conquer the world?
The subtle and not-so-subtle pulls of the idolization of youth manifest themselves in three areas. The first is an elevation of youth over the aged. This reverses the biblical paradigm. The second is a view of being human that values prettiness (not to be confused with beauty and aesthetics), strength, and human achievement. Think of the captain of the cheerleading squad and the star quarterback. The third is the dominance of the market by the youth demographic. That is to say, in order to be relevant and successful, one must appeal to the youth or to youthful tastes. These manifestations of our youth-driven culture deserve a closer look.
The trend of exalting youth and sidelining the elderly stems from a deeper problem summed up in the expression, “Newer is better.” We celebrate the new and innovative while looking down on the past and tradition. There is a compelling vitality to youth and to new ideas, but that does not mean there is no wisdom to be found in the past. It is a sign of hubris to think one can face life without the wisdom of those who have gone before. There is something about being young that makes the young think they are immune to the mistakes or missteps of those who have gone before. We all think too highly of ourselves and our capacities. Simply put, we need the wisdom of the past and of the elderly.
The idolization of youth even seeps into the church. One of the ways in which we see this is in the stress on church youth groups. Curiously, Jonathan Edwards, in his letter to Deborah Hathaway, referred to as “Letter to a Young Convert,” encouraged her to join with the other youth in the church to pray together and to discuss their progress in sanctification as an encouragement to one another. In short, he was calling for her to start a youth group. Youth groups can serve a significant purpose and can be meaningful ministries. However, they can separate the youth from the other age groups in the church. The church needs to worship, learn, and pray together, old and young side by side. The culture tries to push the aged away. The church cannot afford to do that.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols Books | Go to Books Page
By Don Carson 3/15/2018
One of the most striking biblical passages dealing with what it means to confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is John 5:16-30.
In a preindustrial culture, the majority of sons do what their father does. A baker’s son becomes a baker; a farmer’s son becomes a farmer. This stance — like father, like son — enables Jesus on occasion to refer to his own followers as “sons of God.” Thus Jesus declares, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). In other words, God himself is the supreme peacemaker; therefore, people who are peacemakers act, in this respect, like God, and therefore can be designated, in this respect, “sons of God.”
That is the kind of functional category with which Jesus begins in John 5:17. When challenged about his “working” on the Sabbath, he does not offer a different reading of what “Sabbath” means, or suggest that what he was doing was not “work” but some deed of mercy or necessity; rather, he justifies his “working” by saying that he is only doing what his Father does. His Father works (even on the Sabbath, or providence itself would cease!), and so does he.
His interlocutors perceive that this is an implicit claim to equality with God (5:18). Yet almost certainly they misunderstand Jesus in one respect. They think the claim blasphemous, because it would make Jesus into another God — and they are quite right to hold that there is but one God. Jesus responds with two points. First, he insists he is functionally dependent on his Father: “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing” (5:19). Jesus is not another “God-center”: he is functionally subordinate to his Father. Yet second, this functional subordination is itself grounded in the fact that this Son does whatever the Father does (5:19). Christians may be “sons of God” in certain respects; Jesus is the unique Son, in that “whatever the Father does the Son also does.” If the Father creates, so does the Son: indeed, the Son is the Father’s agent in creation (1:2-3). In the following verses, the Son, like the Father, raises people from the dead, and is the Father’s agent in the final judgment.
Muslims with little grasp of Christian theology think the Christian Trinity is made up of God, Mary, and Jesus: God copulated with Mary and produced Jesus. They think the notion bizarre and blasphemous, and they are right. But this is not what we hold, nor what Scripture teaches. I wish they could study John 5.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 119119 MEM
119:97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
To the Obstinate Heretics Inhabiting RorasYou shall have your request, for the troops sent against you have strict injunctions to plunder, burn, and kill. PIANESSA.
The three armies were then put in motion, and the attacks ordered to be made thus: the first by the rocks of Vilario; the second by the pass of Bagnol; and the third by the defile of Lucerne.
The troops forced their way by the superiority of numbers, and having gained the rocks, pass, and defile, began to make the most horrid depradations, and exercise the greatest cruelties. Men they hanged, burned, racked to death, or cut to pieces; women they ripped open, crucified, drowned, or threw from the precipices; and children they tossed upon spears, minced, cut their throats, or dashed out their brains. One hundred and twenty-six suffered in this manner on the first day of their gaining the town.
Agreeable to the marquis of Pianessa's orders, they likewise plundered the estates, and burned the houses of the people. Several Protestants, however, made their escape, under the conduct of Captain Gianavel, whose wife and children were unfortunately made prisoners and sent under a strong guard to Turin.
The marquis of Pianessa wrote a letter to Captain Gianavel, and released a Protestant prisoner that he might carry it him. The contents were, that if the captain would embrace the Roman Catholic religion, he should be indemnified for all his losses since the commencement of the war; his wife and children should be immediately released, and himself honorably promoted in the duke of Savoy's army; but if he refused to accede to the proposals made him, his wife and children should be put to death; and so large a reward should be given to take him, dead or alive, that even some of his own confidential friends should be tempted to betray him, from the greatness of the sum.
To this epistle, the brave Gianavel sent the following answer.
My Lord Marquis,
There is no torment so great or death so cruel, but what I would prefer to the abjuration of my religion: so that promises lose their effects, and menaces only strengthen me in my faith.
With respect to my wife and children, my lord, nothing can be more afflicting to me than the thought of their confinement, or more dreadful to my imagination, than their suffering a violent and cruel death. I keenly feel all the tender sensations of husband and parent; my heart is replete with every sentiment of humanity; I would suffer any torment to rescue them from danger; I would die to preserve them.
But having said thus much, my lord, I assure you that the purchase of their lives must not be the price of my salvation. You have them in your power it is true; but my consolation is that your power is only a temporary authority over their bodies: you may destroy the mortal part, but their immortal souls are out of your reach, and will live hereafter to bear testimony against you for your cruelties. I therefore recommend them and myself to God, and pray for a reformation in your heart. -- JOSHUA GIANAVEL.
This brave Protestant officer, after writing the above letter, retired to the Alps, with his followers; and being joined by a great number of other fugitive Protestants, he harassed the enemy by continual skirmishes.
Meeting one day with a body of papist troops near Bibiana, he, though inferior in numbers, attacked them with great fury, and put them to the rout without the loss of a man, though himself was shot through the leg in the engagement, by a soldier who had hid himself behind a tree; but Gianavel perceiving whence the shot came, pointed his gun to the place, and despatched the person who had wounded him.
Captain Gianavel hearing that a Captain Jahier had collected together a considerable body of Protestants, wrote him a letter, proposing a junction of their forces. Captain Jahier immediately agreed to the proposal, and marched directly to meet Gianavel.
The junction being formed, it was proposed to attack a town, (inhabited by Roman Catholics) called Garcigliana. The assault was given with great spirit, but a reinforcement of horse and foot having lately entered the town, which the Protestants knew nothing of, they were repulsed; yet made a masterly retreat, and only lost one man in the action.
The next attempt of the Protestant forces was upon St. Secondo, which they attacked with great vigor, but met with a strong resistance from the Roman Catholic troops, who had fortified the streets and planted themselves in the houses, from whence they poured musket balls in prodigious numbers. The Protestants, however, advanced, under cover of a great number of planks, which some held over their heads, to secure them from the shots of the enemy from the houses, while others kept up a well-directed fire; so that the houses and entrenchments were soon forced, and the town taken.
In the town they found a prodigious quantity of plunder, which had been taken from Protestants at various times, and different places, and which were stored up in the warehouses, churches, dwelling houses, etc. This they removed to a place of safety, to be distributed, with as much justice as possible, among the sufferers.
This successful attack was made with such skill and spirit that it cost very little to the conquering party, the Protestants having only seventeen killed, and twenty-six wounded; while the papists suffered a loss of no less than four hundred and fifty killed, and five hundred and eleven wounded.
Five Protestant officers, viz., Gianavel, Jahier, Laurentio, Genolet and Benet, laid a plan to surprise Biqueras. To this end they marched in five respective bodies, and by agreement were to make the attack at the same time. The captains, Jahier and Laurentio, passed through two defiles in the woods, and came to the place in safety, under covert; but the other three bodies made their approaches through an open country, and, consequently, were more exposed to an attack.
The Roman Catholics taking the alarm, a great number of troops were sent to relieve Biqueras from Cavors, Bibiana, Feline, Campiglione, and some other neighboring places. When these were united, they determined to attack the three Protestant parties, that were marching through the open country.
The Protestant officers perceiving the intent of the enemy, and not being at a great distance from each other, joined forces with the utmost expedition, and formed themselves in order of battle.
In the meantime, the captains, Jahier and Laurentio, had assaulted the town of Biqueras, and burnt all the out houses, to make their approaches with the greater ease; but not being supported as they expected by the other three Protestant captains, they sent a messenger, on a swift horse, towards the open country, to inquire the reason.
The messenger soon returned and informed them that it was not in the power of the three Protestant captains to support their proceedings, as they were themselves attacked by a very superior force in the plain, and could scarce sustain the unequal conflict.
The captains, Jahier and Laurentio, on receiving this intelligence, determined to discontinue the assault on Biqueras, and to proceed, with all possible expedition, to the relief of their friends on the plain. This design proved to be of the most essential service, for just as they arrived at the spot where the two armies were engaged, the papist troops began to prevail, and were on the point of flanking the left wing, commanded by Captain Gianavel. The arrival of these troops turned the scale in favor of the Protestants: and the papist forces, though they fought with the most obstinate intrepidity, were totally defeated. A great number were killed and wounded, on both sides, and the baggage, military stores, etc., taken by the Protestants were very considerable.
Captain Gianavel, having information that three hundred of the enemy were to convoy a great quantity of stores, provisions, etc., from La Torre to the castle of Mirabac, determined to attack them on the way. He, accordingly, began the assault at Malbec, though with a very inadequate force. The contest was long and bloody, but the Protestants at length were obliged to yield to the superiority of numbers, and compelled to make a retreat, which they did with great regularity, and but little loss.
Captain Gianavel advanced to an advantageous post, situated near the town of Vilario, and then sent the following information and commands to the inhabitants.
• 1. That he should attack the town in twenty-four hours.
• 2. That with respect to the Roman Catholics who had borne arms, whether they belonged to the army or not, he should act by the law of retaliation, and put them to death, for the numerous depredations and many cruel murders they had committed.
• 3. That all women and children, whatever their religion might be, should be safe.
• 4. That he commanded all male Protestants to leave the town and join him.
• 5. That all apostates, who had, through weakness, abjured their religion, should be deemed enemies, unless they renounced their abjuration.
• 6. That all who returned to their duty to God, and themselves, should be received as friends.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
By Don Carson 3/16/2018
Jesus declares himself to be “bread of life” (John 6:35), the “bread of God” (6:33).
The language is metaphorical, of course. That is made clear by John 6:35, where the metaphor is unpacked just a little: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” One normally eats bread; one does not “come” to bread or “believe” in bread. Thus what Jesus means by eating this bread of life must be largely equivalent to what it means to come to Jesus and believe in him.
This “bread of life discourse” (as it is called) follows the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-15). There Jesus provides bread and fish to the hungry masses. These were the staple foods of Galilee; he provided what was needed to sustain life. But in this gospel the evangelist points out that Jesus’ miracles are not mere events of power, they are significant: they point beyond themselves, like signs. This miracle points to the fact that Jesus not only provides bread, but rightly understood he is bread. He is the staple apart from which there is no real life at all.
Further, he is the ultimate “manna” (6:30-33). His interlocutors remind him that Moses provided manna, “bread from heaven” (Ex. 16), and they want him to do the same. After all, he had done it the day before in the feeding of the five thousand. If Jesus has performed the miracle once, why not again — and again and again? Isn’t that what Moses did?
But Jesus insists the ultimate source of the “bread from heaven” was not Moses but God, and the ultimate “bread from heaven” was not the manna of the wilderness years, but the One who came down from heaven — Jesus himself. After all, everyone who ate the manna in the wilderness died. Those who eat the ultimate bread from heaven, the antitype of the manna, never die.
People in an agrarian culture understand that almost everything they eat is something that has died. We think of food as packaged things. The reality is that when you eat a hamburger, you are eating a dead cow, dead wheat, dead lettuce, dead tomatoes, dead onions, and so forth. The chief exception is the odd mineral, like salt. Jesus’ audience, and John’s readership, understood that other things die so that we may live; if those other things don’t die, we do. Jesus gives his life so that we may live; either he dies, or we do. He is the true bread from heaven who gives his life “for the life of the world” (6:51).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
The rewards of generosity
(Nov 6) Bob Gass
‘Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded.’
(Ec 11:1) Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. ESV
The Dead Sea has such high mineral concentrations that even non-swimmers can stay afloat in it. The only problem is the smell. Because it has no outlets, any fresh water that comes in quickly becomes contaminated. There’s an important biblical principle at work here: ‘The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed’ (Proverbs 11:25 NLT). God never intended you to be a reservoir that just takes in, but a river of blessing that flows out to others. The Bible says: ‘A farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others’ (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NLT). So if you need a job, volunteer at a soup kitchen while you’re looking for work. If you’re praying for an increase in your business, pour your best into someone else’s business and ask God to prosper them. Solomon writes, ‘Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later. Divide your gifts among many, for in the days ahead you yourself may need much help’ (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 TLB). Even if you don’t have a specific need right now, sow a seed of kindness anyway. God knows what the future holds, and one day when you need it most, it will come back to you as a harvest.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Did you know both basketball and volleyball were invented by instructors at the YMCA? The YMCA, or Young Men’s Christian Association, was founded in 1844 by George Williams and has grown to a membership of over four million in seventy-six countries. Founder George Williams, who died this day, November 6, 1905, wrote: “My life-long experience as a business man and a… worker among young men, has taught me that the only power… that can effectually keep one from evil… is that which comes from an intimate knowledge of the Lord…. and… the safe Guide-Book by which one may be led to Christ is the Bible.”American Minute
by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Intimate Dialogue
Between Man and God
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
When I spoke of prayer without words I don't think I meant anything so exalted as what mystics call the "prayer of silence." And when I spoke of being "at the top of one's form" I didn't mean it purely in a spiritual sense. The condition of the body comes in; for I suppose a man may be in a state of grace and yet very sleepy.
And, talking of sleepiness, I entirely agree with you that no one in his senses, if he has any power of ordering his own day, would reserve his chief prayers for bed-time-obviously the worst possible hour for any action which needs concentration. The trouble is that thousands of unfortunate people can hardly find any other. Even for us, who are the lucky ones, it is not always easy. My own plan, when hard pressed, is to seize any time, and place, however unsuitable, in preference to the last waking moment. On a day of travelling-with, perhaps, some ghastly meeting at the end of itI'd rather pray sitting in a crowded train than put it off till midnight when one reaches a hotel bedroom with aching head and dry throat and one's mind partly in a stupor and partly in a whirl. On other, and slightly less crowded, days a bench in a park, or a back street where one can pace up and down, will do.
A man to whom I was explaining this said, "But why don't you tum into a church?" Partly because, for nine months of the year, it will be freezingly cold, but also because I have had bad luck with churches. No sooner do I enter one and compose my mind than one or other of two things happens. Either someone starts practicing the organ. Or else, with resolute tread, there appears from nowhere a pious woman in elastic side-boots, carrying mop, bucket, and dust-pan, and begins beating hassocks and rolling up carpets and doing things to flower vases. Of course (blessings on her) "work is prayer," and her enacted oratio is probably worth ten times my spoken one. But it doesn't help mine to become worth more.
When one prays in strange places and at strange times one can't kneel, to be sure. I won't say this doesn't matter. The body ought to pray as well as the soul. Body and soul are both the better for it. Bless the body. Mine has led me into many scrapes, but I've led it into far more. If the imagination were obedient, the appetites would give us very little trouble. And from how much it has saved me! And but for our body one whole realm of God's glory-all that we receive through the senses-would go unpraised. For the beasts can't appreciate it and the angels are, I suppose, pure intelligences. They understand colors and tastes better than our greatest scientists; but have they retinas or palates?
I fancy the "beauties of nature" are a secret God has shared with us alone. That may be one of the reasons why we were made-and why the resurrection of the body is an important doctrine.
But I'm being led into a digression; perhaps because I am still smarting under the charge of being a Manichean! The relevant point is that kneeling does matter, but other things matter even more. A concentrated mind and a sitting body make for better prayer than a kneeling body and a mind half asleep. Sometimes these are the only alternatives. (Since the osteoporosis I can hardly kneel at all in most places, myself.)
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. Since therefore the Roman commander Silva had now built a wall on the outside, round about this whole place, as we have said already, and had thereby made a most accurate provision to prevent any one of the besieged running away, he undertook the siege itself, though he found but one single place that would admit of the banks he was to raise; for behind that tower which secured the road that led to the palace, and to the top of the hill from the west; there was a certain eminency of the rock, very broad and very prominent, but three hundred cubits beneath the highest part of Masada; it was called the White Promontory. Accordingly, he got upon that part of the rock, and ordered the army to bring earth; and when they fell to that work with alacrity, and abundance of them together, the bank was raised, and became solid for two hundred cubits in height. Yet was not this bank thought sufficiently high for the use of the engines that were to be set upon it; but still another elevated work of great stones compacted together was raised upon that bank; this was fifty cubits, both in breadth and height. The other machines that were now got ready were like to those that had been first devised by Vespasian, and afterwards by Titus, for sieges. There was also a tower made of the height of sixty cubits, and all over plated with iron, out of which the Romans threw darts and stones from the engines, and soon made those that fought from the walls of the place to retire, and would not let them lift up their heads above the works. At the same time Silva ordered that great battering ram which he had made to be brought thither, and to be set against the wall, and to make frequent batteries against it, which with some difficulty broke down a part of the wall, and quite overthrew it. However, the Sicarii made haste, and presently built another wall within that, which should not be liable to the same misfortune from the machines with the other; it was made soft and yielding, and so was capable of avoiding the terrible blows that affected the other. It was framed after the following manner: They laid together great beams of wood lengthways, one close to the end of another, and the same way in which they were cut: there were two of these rows parallel to one another, and laid at such a distance from each other as the breadth of the wall required, and earth was put into the space between those rows. Now, that the earth might not fall away upon the elevation of this bank to a greater height, they further laid other beams over cross them, and thereby bound those beams together that lay lengthways. This work of theirs was like a real edifice; and when the machines were applied, the blows were weakened by its yielding; and as the materials by such concussion were shaken closer together, the pile by that means became firmer than before. When Silva saw this, he thought it best to endeavor the taking of this wall by setting fire to it; so he gave order that the soldiers should throw a great number of burning torches upon it: accordingly, as it was chiefly made of wood, it soon took fire; and when it was once set on fire, its hollowness made that fire spread to a mighty flame. Now, at the very beginning of this fire, a north wind that then blew proved terrible to the Romans; for by bringing the flame downward, it drove it upon them, and they were almost in despair of success, as fearing their machines would be burnt: but after this, on a sudden the wind changed into the south, as if it were done by Divine Providence, and blew strongly the contrary way, and carried the flame, and drove it against the wall, which was now on fire through its entire thickness. So the Romans, having now assistance from God, returned to their camp with joy, and resolved to attack their enemies the very next day; on which occasion they set their watch more carefully that night, lest any of the Jews should run away from them without being discovered.
6. However, neither did Eleazar once think of flying away, nor would he permit any one else to do so; but when he saw their wall burned down by the fire, and could devise no other way of escaping, or room for their further courage, and setting before their eyes what the Romans would do to them, their children, and their wives, if they got them into their power, he consulted about having them all slain. Now as he judged this to be the best thing they could do in their present circumstances, he gathered the most courageous of his companions together, and encouraged them to take that course by a speech 15 which he made to them in the manner following: "Since we, long ago, my generous friends, resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God himself, who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice. And let us not at this time bring a reproach upon ourselves for self-contradiction, while we formerly would not undergo slavery, though it were then without danger, but must now, together with slavery, choose such punishments also as are intolerable; I mean this, upon the supposition that the Romans once reduce us under their power while we are alive. We were the very first that revolted from them, and we are the last that fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God hath granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom, which hath not been the case of others, who were conquered unexpectedly. It is very plain that we shall be taken within a day's time; but it is still an eligible thing to die after a glorious manner, together with our dearest friends. This is what our enemies themselves cannot by any means hinder, although they be very desirous to take us alive. Nor can we propose to ourselves any more to fight them, and beat them. It had been proper indeed for us to have conjectured at the purpose of God much sooner, and at the very first, when we were so desirous of defending our liberty, and when we received such sore treatment from one another, and worse treatment from our enemies, and to have been sensible that the same God, who had of old taken the Jewish nation into his favor, had now condemned them to destruction; for had he either continued favorable, or been but in a lesser degree displeased with us, he had not overlooked the destruction of so many men, or delivered his most holy city to be burnt and demolished by our enemies. To be sure we weakly hoped to have preserved ourselves, and ourselves alone, still in a state of freedom, as if we had been guilty of no sins ourselves against God, nor been partners with those of others; we also taught other men to preserve their liberty. Wherefore, consider how God hath convinced us that our hopes were in vain, by bringing such distress upon us in the desperate state we are now in, and which is beyond all our expectations; for the nature of this fortress which was in itself unconquerable, hath not proved a means of our deliverance; and even while we have still great abundance of food, and a great quantity of arms, and other necessaries more than we want, we are openly deprived by God himself of all hope of deliverance; for that fire which was driven upon our enemies did not of its own accord turn back upon the wall which we had built; this was the effect of God's anger against us for our manifold sins, which we have been guilty of in a most insolent and extravagant manner with regard to our own countrymen; the punishments of which let us not receive from the Romans, but from God himself, as executed by our own hands; for these will be more moderate than the other. Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery; and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually, and preserve ourselves in freedom, as an excellent funeral monument for us. But first let us destroy our money and the fortress by fire; for I am well assured that this will be a great grief to the Romans, that they shall not be able to seize upon our bodies, and shall fail of our wealth also; and let us spare nothing but our provisions; for they will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessaries, but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Science, including philosophy, cannot establish man’s relationship to the infinite universe, or towards its origin, if no other reason than that before any kind of philosophy or science could come into existence there must have been that, without which it is impossible to have any kind of mental activity, or any kind of relationship whatsoever between man and the universe.
--- Leo Tolstoy
A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all.
No man can serve two masters.
Your life is shaped by the end you live for.
You are made in the image of what you desire.
--- Thomas Merton
When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you're smiling and everyone around you is crying.
The church is the great lost and found department.
--- Robert Short
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
9 If a person will not listen to Torah,
even his prayer is an abomination.
10 Whoever causes the honest to pursue evil ways
will himself fall into his own pit,
but the pure-hearted will inherit good.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Programme of belief
Believest thou this? --- John 11:26.
Martha believed in the power at the disposal of Jesus Christ; she believed that if He had been present He could have healed her brother. She also believed that Jesus had a peculiar intimacy with God and that whatever He asked of God, God would do; but she needed a closer personal intimacy with Jesus. Martha’s programme of belief had its fulfilment in the future; Jesus led her on until her belief became a personal possession, and then slowly emerged into a particular inheritance—“Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ …”
Is there something like that in the Lord’s dealings with you? Is Jesus educating you into a personal intimacy with Himself? Let Him press home His question to you—“Believest thou this?” What is your ordeal of doubt? Have you come, like Martha, to some overwhelming passage in your circumstances where your programme of belief is about to emerge into a personal belief? This can never be until a personal need arises out of a personal problem.
To believe is to commit. In the programme of mental belief I commit myself, and abandon all that is not related to that commitment. In personal belief I commit myself morally to this way of confidence and refuse to compromise with any other; and in particular belief I commit myself spiritually to Jesus Christ, and determine in that thing to be dominated by the Lord alone.
When I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and He says to me—“Believest thou this?” I find that faith is as natural as breathing, and I am staggered that I was so stupid as not to trust Him before.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Abercuawg ! Where is it?
Where is Abercuawg, that
place where the cuckoos sing?
I asked the professors.
Lo, here, lo, there: on the banks
of a river they explained
how Cuawg had become Dulas.
There was the mansion, Dolguog,
not far off to confirm them. I
looked at the surface of the water,
but the place that I was seeking
was not reflected therein.
I looked as though through a clear
window at pebbles that were the ruins
of no building, with no birds tolling
among them, as in the towers of the mind.
An absence is how we become surer
of what we want. Abercuawg
is not here now, but there. And
there is the indefinable point,
the incarnation of a concept,
the moment at which a little
becomes a lot. I have listened
to the word 'Branwen' and pictured
the horses and the soil red
with their blood, and the trouble
in Ireland, and have opened
my eyes on a child, sticky
with sweets and snivel. And : `Not
this,' I have cried. `This is the name,
not the thing that the name
stands for.' I have no faith
that to put a name to
a thing is to bring it
before one. I am a seeker
in time for that which is
beyond time, that is everywhere
and nowhere; no more before
than after, yet always
about to be; whose duration is
of the mind, but free as
Bergson would say of the mind's
degradation of the eternal.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
In chapter six of his Eight Chapters, Maimonides discusses this problem:
Philosophers maintain that though the man of self-restraint performs moral and praiseworthy deeds, yet he does them desiring and craving all the while for immoral deeds, but, subduing his passions and actively fighting against a longing to do those things to which his faculties, his desires, and his psychic disposition excite him, succeeds, though with constant vexation and irritation, in acting morally. The saintly man, however, is guided in his actions by that to which his inclination and disposition prompt him, in consequence of which he acts morally from innate longing and desire. Philosophers unanimously agree that the latter is superior to, and more perfect than, the one who has to curb his passions, although they add that it is possible for such a one to equal the saintly man in many regards. In general, however, he must necessarily be ranked lower in the scale of virtue, because there lurks within him the desire to do evil, and, though he does not do it, yet because his inclinations are all in that direction, it denotes the presence of an immoral psychic disposition.… When, however, we consult the Rabbis on this subject, it would seem that they consider him who desires iniquity, and craves for it [but does not do it], more praiseworthy and perfect than the one who feels no torment at refraining from evil; and they even go so far as to maintain that the more praiseworthy and perfect a man is, the greater is his desire to commit an iniquity, and the more irritation does he feel at having to desist from it.
The rabbis’ insistence on the necessity to subdue one’s natural impulses in obeying Halakhah suggests that the laws of Torah are not in harmony with the nature of man. If this is so, then the anthropology which Maimonides developed regarding cognitive aspects of the tradition would be subverted by the legal norms of Judaism by which submission to authority would exclusively characterize halakhic behavior.
Maimonides counters this potential conflict by restricting the scope of commandments which must be obeyed through willful self-repression.
At first blush, by a superficial comparison of the sayings of the philosophers and the Rabbis, one might be inclined to say that they contradict one another. Such, however, is not the case. Both are correct and, moreover, are not in disagreement in the least, as the evils which the philosophers term such—and of which they say that he who has no longing for them is more to be praised than he who desires them but conquers his passion—are things which all people commonly agree are evils, such as the shedding of blood, theft, robbery, fraud, injury to one who has done no harm, ingratitude, contempt for parents, and the like. The prescriptions against these are called “commandments” [mitzvot], about which the Rabbis said, “If they had not already been written in the Law, it would be proper to add them.” Some of our later Sages, who were infected with the unsound principles of the Mutakallimun, called these “rational laws.” There is no doubt that a soul which has the desire for, and lusts after, the above-mentioned misdeeds, is imperfect, that a noble soul has absolutely no desire for any such crimes and experiences no struggle in refraining from them. When, however, the Rabbis maintain that he who overcomes his desire has more merit and a greater reward [than he who has no temptation], they say so only in reference to laws that are ceremonial prohibitions. This is quite true, since, were it not for the Law, they would not at all be considered transgressions.
Although there remains a realm of halakhic observance, ḥukkim, which has no connection with the nature of man and thus requires a highly developed sense of obedience to authority, one must recognize that many laws of the Torah (mitzvot—termed mishpatim elsewhere) reflect and express the nature of man. Maimonides’ analysis of Jewish laws in his Eight Chapters, in terms of ḥukkim and mishpatim, indicates his need to counter the religious orientation which focuses exclusively on the nonintelligibility of norms and the consequent individual who solely values obedience to tradition.
Mishpatim express Jewish particularity as it embodies universal understanding of the nature of man. Ḥukkim reflect Jewish particularity in isolation from reason. There is an interesting parallelism between this approach to law and Judaism’s understanding of nature. To Maimonides, Judaism accepts mishpatim and those laws of nature which reason discovers. In both these areas, Judaism participates in a common universe of discourse with all rational men. Yet there still remains the belief in the independent will of God which is not identical with the horizontal structure of being. Miracles reflect the autonomous will of God which cannot be understood or predicted by human reason. To the believing Jew, miracles can symbolize God’s singling out of the Jewish community and therefore can reflect its unique relationship to God. The community’s unique status in history is confirmed, as well, by a way of life which includes ḥukkim, i.e., norms which are binding exclusively on the recipients of divine revelation.
Maimonides’ legal works give expression to a conception of Jewish spirituality which contains a balanced attitude to universality and particularity. The religious sensibility that Maimonides was attempting to heal is the one that focuses primarily on the miraculous events in nature and the laws of Torah which suggest Israel’s particular relationship to God. This type of sensibility experiences the immediacy of God in those events and laws in which only Israel participates.
In his Treatise on Resurrection, Maimonides writes of many committed Jews whose most beloved activity is to bifurcate Torah and reason by emphasizing miraculous features of Torah which openly contradict the order of nature. As opposed to this group, Maimonides states that his efforts were directed at making Torah compatible with the order of nature. Only when such an approach would do violence to the explicit sense of certain biblical statements does Maimonides feel compelled to admit the occurrence of a miracle. Maimonides did not believe that horizontal explanations, i.e., explanations which conform to criteria of objectivity as understood by all rational men, would weaken the personal immediacy of the relationship with God. Wherever possible, he tried to understand descriptions of God’s relationship to Israel within a context of universal intelligibility.
2 Chronicles 29:27.
It is not till the burnt offering begins that we ever hear a single strain of music. Classic Sermons on Praise Every human life has got its shadow, and every human life has got its cross. It is well to distinguish the shadow from the cross, lest by confusing them we go astray. For the shadow is something into which we enter and out of which we will pass in God’s good time. But the cross is something that we must take up, or stumble over into the mouth of hell. Now one of the deepest questions in life is, “In what way do you regard your crosses?” Do you hate them? Do you rebel against them? Would you give anything to fling them from you? Along that road there is no voice of song. Along that road there is the hardening heart. Along that road there is a growing bitterness, the foretaste of the bitterness of death. But take up your cross, as Jesus bids you do—take it up as a mother takes her child. Lay it against your heart and cherish it—say “This, too, like the summer roses, is from God.” And so this is how your poor life will become a harmony—and what is harmony but perfect music—and when the burnt offering begins, the song of the Lord will begin also.
--- George H. Morrison
Let a Thousand Fall
Along the edge of western Africa sits Liberia, black Africa’s first independent state. It was established in the early 1800s through the efforts of the American Colonization Society, an organization devoted to repatriating American ex-slaves in colonies along the African coast.
The first missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Melville Beveridge Cox, was directed there in 1833. He was a young widower, pale and prostrated with grief and planning for missions service in South America. “Why not go to Liberia?” asked his bishop, seeking someone to send to that land of fatal fevers.
“If the Lord wills,” replied Cox. “I have no lingering fear. A grave in Africa shall be sweet if he sustain me.” To a friend, Cox wrote, “I know I cannot live long in Africa, but I hope to live long enough to get there; and if it please God that my bones shall lie in an African grave, I shall have established such a bond between Africa and the church at home as shall not be broken until Africa be redeemed.”
To students of Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, he said, “If I die in Africa, you must come over and write my epitaph.” When a student asked what they should write, Cox replied, “Write, Let a thousand fall before Africa be given up.”
He made a final visit to the graves of his wife and small child, then on November 6, 1832, Cox boarded the Jupiter and set sail. The seas were rough, and at first he doubled over in seasickness. But by mid-ocean, he was at work, planning a mission house, school, and farm. Glimpsing the coast, he wrote, “I have seen Liberia and live! It rises up like a cloud of heaven!” He disembarked at Monrovia on March 7, 1833, and threw himself into the work. But on July 21 he awoke from a fitful sleep, bathed in sweat and shouting, “Come, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” He died in a fever, having served less than four months.
There were 999 left to go; and because of Cox’s example, five other youths were already on their way.
I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. Christ gives me strength to face anything.
--- Philippians 4:12,13.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - November 6
“I will pour water upon him that is thirsty.” --- Isaiah 44:3.
When a believer has fallen into a low, sad state of feeling, he often tries to lift himself out of it by chastening himself with dark and doleful fears. Such is not the way to rise from the dust, but to continue in it. As well chain the eagle’s wing to make it mount, as doubt in order to increase our grace. It is not the law, but the Gospel which saves the seeking soul at first; and it is not a legal bondage, but Gospel liberty which can restore the fainting believer afterwards. Slavish fear brings not back the backslider to God, but the sweet wooings of love allure him to Jesus’ bosom. Are you this Morning thirsting for the living God, and unhappy because you cannot find him to the delight of your heart? Have you lost the joy of religion, and is this your prayer, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation”? Are you conscious also that you are barren, like the dry ground; that you are not bringing forth the fruit unto God which he has a right to expect of you; that you are not so useful in the Church, or in the world, as your heart desires to be? Then here is exactly the promise which you need, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty.” You shall receive the grace you so much require, and you shall have it to the utmost reach of your needs. Water refreshes the thirsty: you shall be refreshed; your desires shall be gratified. Water quickens sleeping vegetable life: your life shall be quickened by fresh grace. Water swells the buds and makes the fruits ripen; you shall have fructifying grace: you shall be made fruitful in the ways of God. Whatever good quality there is in divine grace, you shall enjoy it to the full. All the riches of divine grace you shall receive in plenty; you shall be as it were drenched with it: and as sometimes the meadows become flooded by the bursting rivers, and the fields are turned into pools, so shall you be—the thirsty land shall be springs of water.
Evening - November 6
“Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.” --- Hebrews 9:20.
There is a strange power about the very name of blood, and the sight of it is always affecting. A kind heart cannot bear to see a sparrow bleed, and unless familiarized by use, turns away with horror at the slaughter of a beast. As to the blood of men, it is a consecrated thing: it is murder to shed it in wrath, it is a dreadful crime to squander it in war. Is this solemnity occasioned by the fact that the blood is the life, and the pouring of it forth the token of death? We think so. When we rise to contemplate the blood of the Son of God, our awe is yet more increased, and we shudder as we think of the guilt of sin, and the terrible penalty which the Sin-bearer endured. Blood, always precious, is priceless when it streams from Immanuel’s side. The blood of Jesus seals the covenant of grace, and makes it for ever sure. Covenants of old were made by sacrifice, and the everlasting covenant was ratified in the same manner. Oh, the delight of being saved upon the sure foundation of divine engagements which cannot be dishonoured! Salvation by the works of the law is a frail and broken vessel whose shipwreck is sure; but the covenant vessel fears no storms, for the blood ensures the whole. The blood of Jesus made his testament valid. Wills are of no power unless the testators die. In this light the soldier’s spear is a blessed aid to faith, since it proved our Lord to be really dead. Doubts upon that matter there can be none, and we may boldly appropriate the legacies which he has left for his people. Happy they who see their title to heavenly blessings assured to them by a dying Saviour. But has this blood no voice to us? Does it not bid us sanctify ourselves unto him by whom we have been redeemed? Does it not call us to newness of life, and incite us to entire consecration to the Lord? O that the power of the blood might be known, and felt in us this night!
I SING THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOD
Isaac Watts, 1674–1748, with alterations by others
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the rivers unto the ends of the earth. (Psalm 72:8 KJV)
Isaac Watts, the father of English hymnody, had a fervent concern about the dismal state of congregational singing that had developed in the English-speaking churches during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He wrote many new paraphrased versions of the Psalms to replace the ponderous literal settings that had long been used. Watts also believed that writers should be free to express praise and devotion to God in their own words. These texts became known as “hymns of human composure.” For having such convictions, Isaac Watts was often known as a revolutionary churchman of his day. Yet his ambition, according to his own words, was as follows: “My design was not to exalt myself to the rank and glory of poets, but I was ambitious to be a servant to the churches, and a helper to the joy of the meanest Christian.”
Although he never married, Isaac Watts always loved children and wrote much for them. In 1715 he wrote a book of songs especially for young people titled Divine Songs for Children. This hymnal, the first ever written exclusively for children, includes the text for “I Sing Mighty Power of God.”
How important it is, whether child or adult, that we recognize and praise the mighty power of our Creator God. This hymn also teaches that we should sing of His goodness and wisdom as well as His omnipresence. God’s people have much to sing about!
I sing the mighty pow’r of God that made the mountains rise, that spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies. I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day; the moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.
There’ s not a plant or flow’r below but makes Thy glories known; and clouds arise and tempests blow by order from Thy throne. While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care, and ev’rywhere that man can be, Thou, God, art present there.
For Today: 1 Chronicles 29:11–13; Psalm 95:3–5; 107:8; Isaiah 40:26, 28; Revelation 4:11
Try to catch a new awareness of God’s great power, goodness, and wisdom. Thank Him for His promise to be at your side. Praise Him as you go ---
(2.) Therefore a Divine power suddenly spirited them, and fitted them for so great a work. Instead of ignorance, they had the knowledge of the tongues; and they that were scarce well skilled in their own dialect, were instructed on the sudden to speak the most flourishing languages in the world, and discourse to the people of several nations the great things of God (Acts 2:11). Though they were not enriched with any worldly wealth, and possessed nothing, yet they were so sustained that they wanted nothing in any place where they came; a table was spread for them in the midst of their bitterest enemies. Their fearfulness was changed into courage, and they that a few days before skulked in corners for fear of the Jews (John 20:19), speak boldly in the name of that Jesus, whom they had seen put to death by the power of the rulers and the fury of the people: they reproach them with the murder of their Master, and outbrave that great people in the midst of their temple, with the glory of that person they had so lately crucified (Acts 2:23; 3:13). Peter, that was not long before qualmed at the presence of a maid, was not daunted at the presence of the council, that had their hands yet reeking with the blood of his Master; but being filled with the Holy Ghost, seems to dare the power of the priests and Jewish governors, and is as confident in the council chamber, as he had been cowardly in the high-priest’s hall (Acts 4:9), &c., the efficacy of grace triumphing over the fearfulness of nature. Whence should this ardor and zeal, to propagate a doctrine that had already borne the scars of the peoples’ fury be, but from a mighty Power, which changed those bares into lions, and stripped them of their natural cowardice to clothe them with a Divine courage; making them in a moment both wise and magnanimous, alienating them from any consultations with flesh and blood? As soon as ever the Holy Ghost came upon them as a mighty rushing wind, they move up and down for the interest of God; as fish, after a great clap of thunder, are roused, and move more nimbly on the top of the water; therefore, that which did so fit them for this undertaking, is called by the title of “power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
3. The Divine power appears in the means whereby it was propagated.
(1.) By means different from the methods of the world. Not by force of arms, as some religions have taken root in the world. Mahomet’s horse hath trampled upon the heads of men, to imprint an Alcoran in their brains, and robbed men of their goods to plant their religion. But the apostles bore not this doctrine through the world upon the points of their swords; they presented a bodily death where they would bestow an immortal life. They employed not troops of men in a warlike posture, which had been possible for them after the gospel was once spread; they had no ambition to subdue men unto themselve, but to God; they coveted not the possessions of others; designed not to enrich themselves; invaded not the rights of princes, nor the liberties and properties of the people: they rifled them not of their estates, nor scared them into this religion by a fear of losing their worldly happiness. The arguments they used would naturally drive them from an entertainment of this doctrine, rather than allure them to be proselytes to it: their design was to change their hearts, not their government; to wean them from the love of the world, to a love of a Redeemer; to remove that which would ruin their souls. It was not to enslave them, but ransom them; they had a warfare, but not with carnal weapons, but such as were “mighty through God for the pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4); they used no weapons but the doctrine they preached. Others that have not gained conquests by the edge of the sword and the stratagems of war, have extended their opinions to others by the strength of human reason, and the insinuations of eloquence. by the apostles had as little flourish in their tongues, as edge upon their swords: their preaching was “not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:4); their presence was mean, and their discourses without varnish; their doctrine was plain, a “crucified Christ;” a doctrine unlaced, ungarnished, untoothsome to the world; but they bad the demonstration of the Spirit, and a mighty power for their companion in the work. The doctrine they preached, viz. the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, are called the powers, not of this world, but “of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5). No less than a supernatural power could conduct them in this attempt, with such weak methods in human appearance.
(2.) Against all the force, power, and wit of the world. The division in the eastern empire, and the feeble and consuming state of the western, contributed to Mahomet’s success. But never was Rome in a more flourishing condition: learning, eloquence, wisdom, strength, were at the highest pitch. Never was there a more diligent watch against any innovations; never was that state governed by more severe and suspicious princes, than at the time when Tiberius and Nero held the reins. No time seemed to be more unfit for the entrance of a new doctrine than that age, wherein it begun to be first published; never did any religion meet with that opposition from men. Idolatry hath been often settled without any contest; but this hath suffered the same fate with the institutor of it, and endured the contradictions of sinners against itself: and those that published it, were not only without any worldly prop, but exposed themselves to the hatred and fury, to the racks and tortures, of the strongest powers on earth. It never set foot in any place, but the country was in an uproar (Acts 19:28); swords were drawn to destroy it; laws made to suppress it; prisons provided for the professors of it; fires kindled to consume them, and executioners had a perpetual employment to stifle the progress of it. Rome, in its conquest of countries, changed not the religion, rites, and modes of their worship: they altered their civil government, but left them to the liberty of their religion, and many times joined with them in the worship of their peculiar gods; and sometime imitated them at Rome, instead of abolishing them in the cities they had subdued. But all their councils were assembled, and their force was bandied “against the Lord, and against his Christ;” and that city that kindly received all manner of superstitions, hated this doctrine with an irreconcileable hatred. It met with reproaches from the wise, and fury from the potentates; it was derided by the one as the greatest folly, and persecuted by the other as contrary to God and mankind; the one were afraid to lose their esteems by the doctrine, and the other to lose their authority by a sedition they thought a change of religion would introduce. The Romans, that had been conquerors of the earth, feared intestine commotions, and the falling asunder the links of their empire: scarce any of their first emperors, but had their swords dyed red in the blood of the Christians. The flesh with all its lusts, the world with all its flatteries the statesmen with all their craft, and the mighty with all their strength, joined together to extirpate it: though many members were taken off by the fires, yet the church not only lived, but flourished, in the furnace. Converts were made by the death of martyrs; and the flames which consumed their bodies, were the occasion of firing men’s hearts with a zeal for the profession of it. Instead of being extinguished, the doctrine shone more bright, and multiplied under the sickles that were employed to cut it down. God ordered every circumstance so, both in the persons that published it, the means whereby, and the time when, that nothing but his power might appear in it, without anything to dim and darken it.
4. The Divine power was conspicuous in the great success it had under all these difficulties.
Multitudes were prophesied of to embrace it; whence the prophet Isaiah, after the prophecy of the death of Christ (Isa. 53.), calls upon the church to enlarge her tents, and “lengthen out her cords” to receive those multitudes of children that should call her mother (Isa. 54:2, 3); for she should “break forth on the right hand and on the left, and her seed should inherit the Gentiles” the idolaters and persecutors should list their names in the muster-roll of the church. Presently, after the descent of the Holy Ghost from heaven upon the apostles, you find the hearts of three thousand melted by a plain declaration of this doctrine; who were a little before so far from having a favorable thought of it, that some of them at least, if not all, had expressed their rage against it, in voting for the condemning and crucifying the Author of it (Acts 2:41, 42.): but in a moment they were so altered, that they breathe out affections instead of fury; neither the respect they had to their rulers, nor the honor they bore to their priests; not the derisions of the people, nor the threatening of punishment, could stop them from owning it in the face of multitudes of discouragements. How wonderful is it that they should so soon, and by such small means, pay a reverence to the servants, who had none for the Master! that they should hear them with patience, without the same clamor against them as against Christ, “Crucify them, crucify them” but, that their hearts should so suddenly be inflamed with devotion to him dead, whom they so much abhorred when living. It had gained footing not in a corner of the world, but in the most famous cities; in Jerusalem, where Christ had been crucified; in Antioch, where the name of Christians first began; in Corinth, a place of ingenious arts; and Ephesus, the seat of a noted idol. In less than twenty years, there was never a province of the Roman empire, and scarce any part of the known world, but was stored with the professors of it. Rome, that was the metropolis of the idolatrous world, had multitudes of them sprinkled in every corner, whose “faith was spoken of throughout the world” (Rom. 1:8). The court of Nero, that monster of mankind, and the cruelest and sordidest tyrant that ever breathed, was not empty of sincere votaries to it; there were “saints in Coesar’s house” while Paul was under Nero’s chain (Phil. 4.): and it maintained its standing, and and flourished in spite of all the force of hell, two hundred and fifty years before any sovereign prince espoused it. The potentates of the earth had conquered the lands of men, and subdued their bodies; these vanquished hearts and wills, and brought the most beloved thoughts under the yoke of Christ: so much did this doctrine overmaster the consciences of its followers, that they rejoiced more at their yoke, than others at their liberty; and counted it more a glory to die for the honor of it, than to live in the profession of it.
Thus did our Saviour reign and gather subjects in the midst of his enemies; in which respect, in the first discovery of the gospel, he is described as “a mighty Conqueror” (Rev. 6:2), and still conquering in the greatness of his strength. How great a testimony of his power is it, that from so small a cloud should rise so glorious a sun, that should chase before it the darkness and power of hell; triumph over the idolatry, superstition, and profaneness of the world! This plain doctrine vanquished the obstinacy of the Jews, baffled the understanding of the Greeks, humbled the pride of the grandees, threw the devil not only out of bodies, but hearts; tore up, the foundation of his empire, and planted the cross, where the devil had for many ages before established his standard. How much more than a human force is illustrious in this whole conduct! Nothing in any age of the world can parallel it: it being so much against the methods of nature, the disposition of the world, and (considering the resistance against it) seems to surmount even the works of creation. Never were there, in any profession, such multitudes, not of bedlams, but men of sobriety, acuteness, and wisdom, that exposed themselves to the fury of the flames, and challenged death in the most terrifying shapes for the honor of this doctrine. To conclude, this should be often meditated upon to form our understandings to a full assent to the gospel, and the truth of it; the want of which consideration of power, and the customariness of an education in the outward profession of it, is the ground of all the profaneness under it, and apostasy from it; the disesteem of the truth it declares, and the neglect of the duties it enjoins. The more we have a prospect and sense of the impressions of Divine power in it, the more we shall have a reverence of the Divine precepts. III. he third thing is, the power of God appears in the application of redemption, as well as in the Person redeeming, and the publication and propagation of the doctrine of redemption:
1. In the planting grace.
2. In the pardon of sin.
3. In the preserving grace.
First, In the planting grace. There is no expression which the Spirit of God hath thought fit in Scripture to resemble this work to, but argues the exerting of a Divine power for the effecting of it. When it is expressed by light, it is as much as the power of God in the creating the sun; when by regeneration, it is as much as the power of God in forming an infant, and fashioning all the parts of a man; when it is called resurrection, it is as much as the rearing of a body again out of putrified matter; when it is called creation, it is as much as erecting a comely world out of mere nothing, or an inform and uncomely mass.
As we could not contrive the death of Christ for our redemption, so we cannot form our souls to the acceptation of it; the infinite efficacy of grace is as necessary for the one, as the infinite wisdom of God was for laying the platform of the other. It is by his power we have whatsoever pertains to godliness as well as life (2 Pet. 1:3); he puts his fingers upon the handle of the lock, and turns the heart to what point he pleases; the action whereby he performs this, is expressed by a word of force; “He hath snatched us from the power of darkness:” the action whereby it is performed manifests it. In reference to this power , it is called creation, which is a production from nothing; and conversion is a production from something more incapable of that state, than mere nothing is of being. There is greater distance between the terms of sin and righteousness, corruption and grace, than between the terms of nothing and being; the greater the distance is, the more power is required to the producing any thing. As in miracles, the miracle is the greater, where the change is the greater; and the change is the greater, where the distance is the greater. As it was a more signal mark of power to change a dead man to life, than to change a sick man to health; so that the change here being from a term of a greater distance, is more powerful than the creation of heaven and earth. Therefore, whereas creation is said to be wrought by his hands, and the heavens by his fingers, or his word; conversion is said to be wrought by his arm (Isa. 53:1). In creation, we had an earthly; by conversion, a heavenly state: in creation, nothing is changed into something; in conversion, hell is transformed into heaven, which is more than the turning nothing into a glorious angel. In that thanksgiving of our Saviour, for the revelation of the knowledge of himself to babes, the simple of the world, he gives the title to his Father, of “Lord of heaven and earth” (Matt. 11:5); intimating it to be an act of his creative and preserving power; that power whereby he formed heaven and earth, hath preserved the standing, and governed the motions of all creatures from the beginning of the world. It is resembled to the most magnificent act of divine power that God ever put forth, viz. that “in the resurrection of our Saviour” (Eph. 1:19); wherein there was more than an ordinary impression of might. It is not so small a power as that whereby we speak with tongues, or whereby Christ opened the mouths of the dumb, and the ears of the deaf, or unloosed the cords of death from a person. It is not that power whereby our Saviour wrought those stupendous miracles when he was in the world: but that power which wrought a miracle that amazed the most knowing angels, as well as ignorant man; the taking off the weight of the sin of the world from our Saviour, and advancing him in his human nature to rule over the angelic host, making him head of principalities and powers; as much as to say, as great as all that power which is displayed in our redemption, from the first foundation to the last line in the superstructure. It is, therefore, often set forth with an emphasis, as “Excellency of power” (2 Cor. 4:7), and “Glorious power” (2 Pet. 1:3): “to glory and virtue,” we translate it, but it is διά δόξης, through glory and virtue, that is, by a glorious virtue or strength.
The instrument whereby it is wrought, is dignified with the title of power. The gospel which God useth in this great affair is called “The power of God to salvation” (Rom. 1:16), and the “Rod of his strength” (Psalm 110:2); and the day of the gospel’s appearance in the heart is emphatically called, “The day of power” (ver. 3); wherein he brings down strong-holds and towering imaginations. And, therefore, the angel Gabriel, which name signifies the power of God, was always sent upon those messages which concerned the gospel, as to Daniel, Zacharias, Mary. The gospel is the power of God in a way of instrumentality, but the almightiness of God is the principal in a way of efficiency. The gospel is the sceptre of Christ; but the power of Christ is the mover of that sceptre. The gospel is not as a bare word spoken, and proposing the thing; but as backed with a higher efficacy of grace; as the sword doth instrumentally cut, but the arm that wields it gives the blow, and makes it successful in the stroke. But this gospel is the power of God, because he edgeth this by his own power, to surmount all resistance, and vanquish the greatest malice of that man he designs to work upon. The power of God is conspicuous,
1. In turning the heart of man against the strength of the inclinations of nature. In the forming of man of the dust of the ground as the matter contributed nothing to the action whereby God formed it, so it had no principle of resistance contrary to the design of God; but in converting the heart, there is not only wanting a principle of assistance from him in this work, but the whole strength of corrupt nature is alarmed to combat against the power of his grace. When the gospel is presented, the understanding is not only ignorant of it, but the will perverse against it; the one doth not relish, and the other doth not esteem, the excellency of the object. The carnal wisdom in the mind contrives against it, and the rebellious will puts the orders in execution against the counsel of God, which requires the invincible power of God to enlighten the dark mind, to know what it slights; and the fierce will, to embrace what it loathes. The stream of nature cannot be turned, but by a power above nature; it is not all the created power in heaven and earth can change a swine into a man, or a venemous toad into an holy and illustrious angel. Yet this work is not so great, in some respect, as the stilling the fierceness of nature, the silencing the swelling waves in the heart, and the casting out those brutish affections which are born and grow up with us. There would be no, or far less, resistance in a mere animal, to be changed into a creature of a higher rank, than there is in a natural man to be turned into a serious Christian. There is in every natural man a stoutness of heart, a stiff neck, unwillingness to good, forwardness to evil; Infinite Power quells this stoutness, demolisheth these strongholds, turns this wild ass in her course, and routs those armies of turbulent nature against the grace of God. To stop the floods of the sea is not such an act of power, as to turn the tide of the heart. This power hath been employed upon every convert in the world; what would you say, then, if you knew all the channels in which it hath run since the days of Adam? If the alteration of one rocky heart into a pool of water be a wonder of power, what then is the calming and sweetening by his word those 144,000 of the tribes of Israel, and that numberless multitude of all nations and people that shall stand “before the throne” (Rev. 7:9), which were all naturally so many raging seas? Not one converted soul from Adam to the last that shall be in the end of the world, but is a trophy of the Divine conquest. None were pure volunteers, nor listed themselves in his service, till he put forth his strong arm to draw them to him. No man’s understanding, but was chained with darkness, and fond of it; no man but had corruption in his will, which was dearer to him than anything else which could be proposed for his true happiness. These things are most evident in Scripture and experience.
2. As it is wrought against the inclinations of nature, so against a multitude of corrupt habits rooted in the souls of men. A distemper in its first invasion may more easily be cured, than when it becomes chronical and inveterate. The strength of a disease, or the complication of many, magnifies the power of the physician, and efficacy of the medicine that tames and expels it. What power is that which hath made men stoop, when natural habits have been grown giants by custom; when the putrefaction of nature hath engendered a multitude of worms; when the ulcers are many and deplorable; when many cords, wherewith God would have bound the sinner, have been broken, and (like Sampson the wicked heart hath gloried in its strength, and grown more proud, that it hath stood like a strong fort against those batteries, under which others have fallen flat; every proud thought, every evil habit captivated, serves for matter of triumph to the “power of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). What resistance will a multitude of them make, when one of them is enough to hold the faculty under its dominion, and intercept its operations? So many customary habits, so many old natures, so many different strengths added to nature, every one of them standing as a barricado against the way of grace; all the errors the understanding is possessed with, think the gospel folly; all the vices the will is filled with, count it the fetter and band. Nothing so contrary to man, as to be thought a fool; nothing so contrary to man, as to enter into slavery. It is no easy matter to plant the cross of Christ upon a heart guided by many principles against the truth of it, and biased by a world of wickedness against the holiness of it. Nature renders a man too feeble and indisposed, and custom renders a man more weak and unwilling to change his hue (Jer. 13:23). To dispossess man then of his self-esteem and self-excellency; to make room for God in the heart, where there was none but for sin, as dear to him as himself; to hurl down the pride of nature; to make stout imaginations stoop to the cross; to makes desires of selfadvancement sink into a zeal for the glorifying of God, and an overruling design for his honor, is not to be ascribed to any but an outstretched arm wielding the sword of the Spirit. To have a heart full of the fear of God, that was just before filled with a contempt of him; to have a sense of his power, an eye to his glory, admiring thoughts of his wisdom, a faith in his truth, that had lower thoughts of him and all his perfections, than he had of a creature; to have a hatred of his habitual lusts, that had brought him in much sensitive pleasure; to loath them as much as he loved them; to cherish the duties he hated; to live by faith in, and obedience to, the Redeemer, who was before so heartily under the conduct of Satan and self; to chase the acts of sin from his members, and the pleasing thoughts of sin from his mind; to make a stout wretch willingly fall down, crawl upon the ground, and adore that Saviour whom before he outdared, is a triumphant act of Infinite Power that can subdue all things to itself, and break those multitudes of locks and bolts that were upon us.
3. Against a multitude of temptations and interests. The temptations rich men have in this world are so numerous and strong, that the entrance of one of them into the kingdom of heaven, that is, the entertainment of the gospel, is made by our Saviour an impossible thing with men, and procurable only by the power of God (Luke 18:24–26). The Divine strength only can separate the world from the heart, and the heart from the world. There must be an incomprehensible power to chase away the devil, that had so long, so strong a footing in the affections; to render the soil he had sown with so many tares and weeds, capable of good grain; to make spirits that had found the sweetness of worldly prosperity, wrapt up all their happiness in it, and not only bent down, but—as it were—buried in earth and mud, to be loosened from those beloved cords, to disrelish the earth for a crucified Christ; I say, this must be the effect of an almighty power.
4. The manner of conversion shows no less the power of God. There is not only an irresistible force used in it, but an agreeable sweetness. The power is so efficacious, that nothing can vanquish it; and so sweet, that none did ever complain of it. The Almighty virtue displays itself invincibly, yet without constraint; compelling the will without offering violence to it, and making it cease to be will: not forcing it, but changing it: not dragging it, but drawing it; making it will where before it pilled; removing the corrupt nature of the will, without invading the created nature and rights of the faculty; not working in us against the physical nature of the will, but working it “to will” (Phil. 2:13). This work is therefore called creation, resurrection, to skew its irresistible power; it is called illumination, persuasion, drawing, to spew the suitableness of its efficacy to the nature of the human faculties: it is a drawing with cords, which testifies an invincible strength; but, with cords of love, which testifies a delightful conquest. It is hard to determine whether it be more powerful than sweet, or more sweet than powerful. It is no mean part of the power of God to twist together victory and pleasure; to give a blow as delightful as strong, as pleasing to the sufferer, as it is sharp to the sinner. Secondly, The power of God, in the application of redemption, is evident in the pardoning a sinner.
1. In the pardon itself. The power of God is made the ground of his patience; or the reason why he is patient, is, because he would “shew his power” (Rom. 9:22). It is apart of magnanimity to pass by injuries: as weaker stomachs cannot concoct the tougher food, so weak minds cannot digest the harder injuries: he that passes over a wrong is superior to his adversary that does it. When God speaks of his own name as merciful he speaks first of himself as powerful (Exod. 34:6), “The Lord, The Lord God,” that is, The Lord, the strong Lord, Jehovah, the strong Jehovah. Let the power of my Lord be great, saith Moses, when he prays for the forgiveness of the people: the word jigdal is written with a great jod, or a jod above the other letters. The power of God in pardoning is advanced beyond an ordinary strain, beyond the creative strength. In the creation, he had power over the creatures; in this, power over himself: in creation, not himself, but the creatures were the object of his power; in that, no attribute of his nature could article against his design. In the pardon of a sinner, after many overtures made to him and refused by him, God exerciseth a power over himself; for the sinner path dishonored God, provoked his justice, abused his goodness, done injury to all those attributes which are necessary to his relief: it was not so in creation, nothing was incapable of disobliging God from bringing it into being. The dust, which was the matter of Adam’s body, needed only the extrinsic power of God to form it into a man, and inspire it with a living soul: it had not rendered itself obnoxious to Divine justice, nor was capable to excite any disputes between his perfections. But after the entrance of sin, and the merit of death, thereby there was a resistance in justice to the free remission of man: God was to exercise a power over himself, to answer his justice, and pardon the sinner; as well as a power over the creature, to reduce the run away and rebel.
Unless we have recourse to the infiniteness of God’s power, the infiniteness of our guilt will weigh us down: we must consider not only that we have a mighty guilt to press us, but a mighty God to relieve us. In the same act of his being our righteousness, he is our strength: “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength” (Isa. 45:24).
2. In the sense of pardon. When the soul hath been wounded with the sense of sin, and its iniquities have stared it in the face, the raising the soul from a despairing condition, and lifting it above those waters which terrified it, to cast the light of comfort, as well as the light of grace, into a heart covered with more than an Egyptian darkness, is an act of his infinite and creating power (Isa. 57:19); “I create the fruit of the lips; Peace.” Men may wear out their lips with numbering up the promises of grace and arguments of peace, but all will signify no more, without a creative power, than if all men and angels should call to that white upon the wall to shine as splendidly as the sun. God only can create Jerusalem, and every child of Jerusalem a rejoicing (Isa. 45:18). A man is no more able to apply to himself any word of comfort, under the sense of sin, than he is able to convert himself, and turn the proposals of the word into gracious affections in his heart. To restore the joy of salvation, is, in David’s judgment, an act of sovereign power, equal to that of creating a clean heart (Psalm 51:10, 12). Alas! it is a state like to that of death; as infinite power can only raise from natural death, so from a spiritual death; also from a comfortless death: “In his favor there is life;” in the want of his favor there is death. The power of God hath so placed light in the sun, that all creatures in the world, all the torches upon earth, kindled together, cannot make it day, if that doth not rise; so all the angels in heaven, and men upon earth, are not competent chirurgeons for a wounded spirit. The cure of ou r spiritual ulcers, and the pouring in balm, is an act of sovereign creative power: it is more visible in silencing a tempestuous conscience than the power of our Saviour was in the stilling the stormy winds and the roaring waves. As none but infinite power can remove the guilt of sin, so none but infinite power can remove the despairing sense of it.
Thirdly, This power is evident in the preserving grace. As the providence of God is a manifestation of his power in a continued creation, so the preservation of grace is a manifestation of his power in a continued regeneration. To keep a nation under the yoke, is an act of the same power that subdued it. It is this that strengthens men in suffering against the fury of hell (Col. 1:13); it is this that keeps them from falling against the force of hell—the Father’s hand (John 10:29). His strength abates and moderates the violence of temptations; his staff sustains his people under them; his might defeats the power of Satan , and bruiseth him under a believer’s feet. The counterworkings of indwelling corruption, the reluctances of the flesh against the breathings of the spirit, the fallacy of the senses, and the rovings of the mind, have ability quickly to stifle and extinguish grace, if it were not maintained by that powerful blast that first imbreathed it. No less power is seen in perfecting it, than was in planting it (2 Pet. 1:3); no less in fulfilling the work of faith, than in engrafting the word of faith (2 Thess. 1:11). The apostle well understood the necessity and efficacy of it in the preservation of faith, as well as in the first infusion , when he expresses himself in those terms of a greatness or hyperbole of power, “His mighty power,” or the power of his might (Eph. 1:19). The salvation he bestows, and the strength whereby he effects it, are joined together in the prophet’s song (Isa. 12:2): “The Lord is my strength and my salvation.” And indeed, God doth more magnify his power in continuing a believer in the world, a weak and half-rigged vessel, in the midst of so many sands wheron it might split, so many rocks whereon it might dash, so many corruptions within, and so many temptations without, than if he did immediately transport him into heaven, and clothe him with a perfect sanctified nature.—To conclude, what is there, then, in the world which is destitute of notices of Divine power? Every creature affords us the lesson; all acts of Divine government are the marks of it. Look into the word, and the manner of its propagation instructs us in it; your changed natures, your pardoned guilt, your shining comfort, your quelled corruptions, the standing of your staggering graces, are sufficient to preserve a sense, and to prevent a forgetfulness, of this great attribute, so necessary for your support, and conducing so much to your comfort.
The Existence and Attributes of God