Mark 4 - 5
The Parable of the SowerMark 4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”
A Lamp Under a Basket21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
The Parable of the Seed Growing26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
Jesus Calms a Storm35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Jesus Heals a Man with a DemonMark 5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Jesus Heals a Woman and Jairus’s Daughter21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
What I'm Reading
How Many Women Visited the Tomb of Jesus?
By J. Warner Wallace 12/11/2017
In my most recent posts I’ve been investigating issues and passages commonly offered as examples of “contradictions” between Gospel accounts. One such alleged contradiction seems to exist in the description of the women who discovered the empty tomb of Jesus. How many women visited the tomb? One? Two? Three? It seems to depend on which Gospel you read. Are the Gospel authors confused about this issue or fabricating the story altogether? I don’t think so, but before we investigate the narratives, let’s review the description of the women in each account:
Matthew 28:1-10 | Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
Mark 16:1-10 | When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping.
Luke 23:27 | And following Him [on the way to the crucifixion] was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Luke 23:48-49 | And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
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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.
Far as the Curse is Found
By Albert Mohler 12/08/2017
Many Christians would be surprised, and perhaps even disappointed, to learn that the song often cited as our favorite Christmas carol is not actually a Christmas carol at all. The famed hymn writer Isaac Watts published “Joy to the World” in 1719. Millions of Christians sing this great hymn at Christmas, celebrating the great news of the incarnation and declaring “let earth receive her king.”
“Let every heart, prepare him room, and heaven and angels sing.” At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of Christ, the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem. But “Joy to the World,” though sung rightly and triumphantly at Christmas, is really about the Second Coming of Christ.
Watts led in the development of hymns in the English tradition, drawing many of his hymn texts directly from the Psalms. “Joy to the World” is based upon Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge. When we sing “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come,” it applies when we talk about Bethlehem and when we rejoice in the gift of the infant Christ. But the song also reminds us that Christmas isn’t over; the promises of Christmas are not yet fulfilled. Earth will fully receive her King when Christ comes again, to reign and to rule.
Think with me about verse three of the hymn, in which we read,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”
The reversal of the curse is promised in the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of his atoning work. Implicit in this third verse is the promise of the new creation. We live in light of that promise, even as we look back to Bethlehem and as we celebrate Christmas.
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By John Walvoord (1990)
Major Features of the Millennium
The millennial kingdom, which will run its course before the events that climax it, is described at length in many passages in Scripture. Though the exact figure of one thousand years is not mentioned except in Revelation 20, the fact of a kingdom that has long duration is clearly the intent of the prophetic passages ( Isa. 2:2–4; 11:4–9; Ps. 72; etc.). According to the Old Testament, Jerusalem will be the capital of the millennial kingdom ( Isa. 2:3 ). War will cease (v. 4 ). The millennial kingdom will be characterized by righteousness, peace, and tranquility, and there will be justice for all the oppressed ( 11:3–5 ). Even the ferocity of beasts will be tamed (vv. 6–9 ). Isaiah summarized the thought in verse 9: “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” as indicated in Isaiah 11:11–16; Jeremiah 23:3–4, 8; 30:3–9; 31:3–14.
Psalm 72, as well as many other psalms, gives the glowing prophetic picture of the future millennium. The future is described as flourishing and the government as righteous, and abundant peace is promised as long as the moon endures. All kings bow down before Christ, and His rule extends from sea to sea. The earth will be filled with the glory of God. The desire of nations for peace, righteousness, knowledge of the Lord, economic justice, and deliverance from Satan will have its prophetic fulfillment. The major factors of the millennium, including Christ’s absolute power, will include the perfect and righteous government and ideal circumstances on the earth. In many respects the rule of Christ as the last Adam replaces what God had intended for Adam, who was placed in charge of the garden of Eden.
Psalm 72 (ESV) Of Solomon
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
5 May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
15 Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!
18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
Many passages in the Old Testament emphasize the fact that Israel will have a prominent place. According to Ezekiel 20:33–38, at the time of the second coming Israel will experience a purging judgment and only the righteous, godly remnant will be allowed to enter the kingdom. Israel, pictured in the Old Testament as being an untrue wife, will now be rejoined to Christ in the symbol of marriage and experience the love of Christ ( Hos. 1:10–11; 2:14–23 ).
Though Israel will enjoy the blessings of being regathered to her ancient land and under the special rule of Christ, the rest of the world will also experience the rule of Christ as King of kings. The nation of Israel, however, will also have the benefits of the rule of David resurrected from the dead as a regent of Christ ( Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23–24; 37:24–25 ).
The Final Rebellion against Christ
Revelation 20:7–9. John described the climax of the millennial kingdom, “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (vv. 7–9 ).
At the end of the millennium Satan will be released and will go out and deceive the nations (vv. 7–8 ). The nations are referred to as “God and Magog” (v. 8 ). This has confused some who try to connect this with Ezekiel 38 and 39. The war of Ezekiel is an invasion of Israel from the north by Russia and a few other nations. By a series of judgments from God, the armies are completely wiped out and months are spent in burying the bodies.
The battle here is totally different. Those who form the attackers come from all nations of the world, not just a few. They gather about the city of Jerusalem in attempting to capture the capital city, but fire comes down from heaven and devours them. The war of Ezekiel 38–39 is far north of Jerusalem. The time situation is different.
The war of Ezekiel 38–39 occurs at a time when Israel is at peace and not expecting war. The battle here is at the end of the millennial kingdom and is Satan’s final attempt to conquer the world. There is no need to bury the dead bodies because they have been consumed by fire in contrast to Ezekiel 38–39. Life does not go on after this battle as in Ezekiel, for the world immediately moves into the new heaven and new earth situation.
People have asked the question why Satan would be loosed from his prison after one thousand years. This action is in keeping with God’s purpose to demonstrate in history that man left to his own devices will, nevertheless, sin against God. Even though the millennium provided a perfect environment for humanity with abundant revelation of God’s power, the evil heart of man is manifest in the fact that people reject Christ and follow Satan when he is loosed. The loosing of Satan also is a demonstration of the wickedness of Satan and the fallen angels and how even one thousand years in confinement does not change this.
Satan Cast into the Lake of Fire
Revelation 20:10. The wickedness of Satan is the basis for justifying God’s judgment on Satan who is here “thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” (v. 10 ). Important to note is the fact that the beast and the false prophet, who had been thrown into the lake of burning sulfur one thousand years before, are still there, demonstrating that this is not annihilation but continued punishment. The beast and the false prophet as well as the Devil are included in the statement, “They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (v. 10 ).
The Great White Throne Judgment
Revelation 20:11–15. John then recorded the change in the scene and introduced the revelation concerning the great white throne and the judgment of the wicked dead. He wrote, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them” (v. 11 ). Though the word throne appears some thirty times in the book of Revelation, this is a reference to a throne different from any previously mentioned, and, accordingly, it is called “a great white throne.” Unlike the previous thrones on earth or heaven, it is pictured as being in space and occupied by Christ Himself.
This is supported by the statement in John 5:22–23: “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” Like the judgment seat of Christ that took place in heaven before the millennium, this judgment does not have its scene on earth but in space.
The fact that earth and sky fled from the presence of the One on the throne is in keeping with Revelation 21:1 in which a new heaven and a new earth are introduced. As John watched, he saw this great judgment taking place. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” ( Rev. 20:12–15 ).
As this text makes plain, this is the final judgment. As the righteous have already been judged, this judgment relates to the wicked. This is the final resurrection in contrast to the first resurrection, which had to do with the righteous ( Dan. 12:2; John 5:29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:5 ).
The fact that both small and great are specified is similar to descriptions previously used in Revelation ( 11:18; 13:16; 19:5, 18 ). Those standing before the throne come from all walks of life, but now are being judged on the basis of their works. According to Hebrews 9:27, everyone has to face Christ in judgment. The judgment is based on what occurs in the books that record their works and whether their names are in the Book of Life.
The Book of Life is presented as including the names of all who are genuinely saved. The description of this resurrection indicates that it is a universal resurrection of all who are yet in the grave, that is, the unrighteous. Special mention is made of the sea as giving up the dead in it because bodies lost at sea disintegrate and are scattered as far as the particles of their human bodies are concerned. This is no problem for an omnipotent God, and their bodies are raised from the dead in the sea. Hades is also declared to give “up the dead that were in” it ( Rev. 20:13 ), and those in Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
Distinction in Scripture should be observed between Hades, which is the place of the dead between death and resurrection, and the lake of fire, which is the final destiny of those who are unsaved. The resurrection of the wicked is distinguished from the resurrection of the righteous in that there is no reward or recognition of righteousness on their part.
Like the righteous, they are given bodies that cannot be destroyed. But while the righteous receive bodies that are holy and suited for the presence of God, the wicked dead receive bodies that are indestructible and suited for eternal punishment. They are still wicked and still in rebellion against God. The Scriptures are very clear that if anyone’s name is not found in the Book of Life, he will be thrown in the lake of fire.
Many have attempted to find some escape for the wicked so that they would not be the objects of eternal punishment. From a human viewpoint this may be desired, but the Bible never suggests that the punishment of the wicked continues only for a time. If the beast and the false prophet after one thousand years in the lake of fire are still intact, it is obvious that those who are now being thrown into the lake of fire will, likewise, continue in the place of torment. Christ Himself emphasized the destiny of the wicked ( Matt. 13:42; 25:41, 46 ). In Revelation 14:11 those who received the mark of the beast were declared to be the objects of eternal punishment. Scriptural revelation limits the destiny of mankind to either heaven or the lake of fire.
The Mystery in Ephesians 3
By Charles C. Ryrie 1966
The mystery of Ephesians 3:1–12 is a touchstone of interpretations.
Amillennial eschatology is quite certain that in this passage Paul is not saying that the mystery is something that was not revealed until New Testament times but is a further revelation of the covenant promises made with Abraham. Oswald T. Allis, for instance, says: “… It was new and unknown in a relative sense only, being in its essentials an important theme of prophecy from the time of Abraham …”1 A more recent writer speaks in the same vein. “What he [Paul] does mean is that this mystery truth, although known and written in kernel form in the text of the Old Testament, was not fully comprehended nor understood until the times of the New Testament, and so can be spoken of, relatively speaking, as being hidden.”
Covenant premillennialists hold essentially the same interpretation. Payne, for instance, writes: “Second, the Greek musterion, ‘mystery,’ does not necessarily imply discontinuity.… A ‘mystery’ need not even have been unknown or unappreciated previously, except perhaps relatively so …”3 The purpose of this sort of interpretation is to obviate the necessity of recognizing the distinctiveness of the church, the body of Christ, by attempting to show that the church was revealed, at least partially, in the Old Testament. This idea also implies, of course, that the church as spiritual Israel is the continuation of God’s redemptive program through Old Testament Israel.
On the other hand, dispensational premillennialism has insisted that the mystery is something unrevealed in the Old Testament (though now revealed) in order to demonstrate the distinctiveness of the church from Israel and to emphasize its unique place in God’s program for this age. Pentecost, for instance, writes as follows: “Paul then, is explaining, not limiting the mystery there set forth. The concept must stand that this whole age with its program was not revealed in the Old Testament, but constitutes a new program and a new line of revelation in this present age.”
Ultra-dispensationalists enter and further complicate the interpretative picture by insisting not only on the distinctiveness of the body church but on the fact that this was not revealed until sometime in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. The extreme ultra-dispensationalist believes that the mystery was made known by Paul during his first Roman imprisonment, while the moderate ultra-dispensationalist holds that it was revealed earlier in his ministry — either at the time of his conversion or during the first missionary journey. Ultra-dispensationalists are agreed on the fact that Paul was the initial revelator of the mystery, but they cannot agree among themselves as to when he first revealed it.
What is a mystery? What is this mystery in Ephesians 3? Is the church distinct to this age or were Old Testament saints in the body too? Did the Old Testament reveal this mystery? What was Paul’s relation to its revelation? These are some of the questions germane to an understanding of the mystery in Ephesians 3.
The Concept of a Mystery
In classical Greek the meaning of musterion is something hidden or secret. In the plural the word was used to designate the sacred rites of the Greek mystery religions — secrets which only the initiated shared. In the Old Testament the Aramaic equivalent appears only in Daniel 2:18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 47; 4:9. In the second chapter of Daniel the mystery was the dream and its interpretation; in the fourth chapter, the mystery was apparently only the interpretation, for the king remembered the dream. The secret (mystery) which the king wanted revealed was the interpretation; thus, this was the content of the mystery. It seems to be an unwarranted conclusion to say that in 4:9 “the musterion is not something unknown (Nebuchadnezzar knows the facts of the dream) but is only something which the king does not understand.”5 Just because the mystery in chapter 2 was the dream and the interpretation does not require that this be the case in chapter 4. After all, the content of the various mysteries in the New Testament must be determined from the passages in which the word is used, and the content is not the same in each occurrence. Thus we may conclude that in the Old Testament a mystery was something unknown until revealed.
In the Dead Sea Scrolls the same Old Testament word, raz, plus a synonym, pele’, are used in a number of references to indicate not so much something unknown but wisdom that is far above finite understanding.
The word mystery therefore means a secret containing high or deep truth. In the New Testament the word musterion occurs twenty-seven times with both ideas of something secret and something deep. The idea of supernatural wisdom in a mystery is found in the only uses of the word in the Gospels in relation to the mysteries of the kingdom ( Matt 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10 ). The idea of a mystery being something secret in Old Testament times but revealed in the New Testament is clearly seen in a passage like Colossians 1:26. Four occurrences are found in the Revelation ( 1:20; 10:7; 17:5, 7 ) and the other twenty are in the writings of Paul.6 All seem to involve some higher wisdom which God reveals.
Thus the concept of a mystery is basically a secret which only the initiated share. This includes two ideas: (1) a time when the secret was not known followed by a time when it became known; and (2) deeper or higher wisdom which is revealed to the one initiated into an understanding of the mystery.
The Content of the Mystery
The content of the mystery is expressly stated in Ephesians 3:6: “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” In other words, the mystery concerns Jews and Gentiles as joint-heirs, in a joint-body, and joint-sharers of the promise in Christ. That the mystery contains the fact that Gentiles are included in God’s plan of redemption is clear, and most nondispensational writers stop at this point. But is this all there is to the mystery? If so, there is little mystery in that, for the Old Testament made this clear ( Gen 12:3; Isa 42:6–7 ). If this is the mystery then Paul was wrong to label it a mystery, for it is neither something new nor some higher truth. The heart of the mystery is that there would be a “joint-body” for Jews and Gentiles. Thus the crux of the interpretation of the mystery in this passage is whether or not the one body for Jews and Gentiles is an Old Testament revelation.
A concordance examination of the use of the word body will reveal very quickly and conclusively that the idea of the body of Christ or of any body into which the redeemed were placed is nowhere found in the Old Testament. Indeed, almost all the uses of the word body are of the physical body. The first occurrence of the word body in connection with the body of Christ is in the extended discussion of that concept in 1 Corinthians 12:12–25. The next occurrence is in Romans 12:5, and the remainder occur in Ephesians and Colossians. The concept of one body or of any body was unknown in the Old Testament.
Ephesians 3 cannot be dealt with accurately without considering some features in the extended discussion of the body in 1 Corinthians 12. Two important features of the body of Christ are detailed in verse 13. First, Jews and Gentiles are not distinguished in the body of Christ. This is the emphasis of the mystery of Ephesians 3. Second, entrance into that body is effected by the baptism of the Spirit. That baptizing work did not occur in the Old Testament nor during the earthly ministry of Christ. Even after the resurrection Lord said that it was still future ( Acts 1:5 ). It did take place for the first time in the history of the world on the day of Pentecost ( Acts 11:15–16 ). Therefore the inescapable conclusion is that the body of Christ did not come into existence until the day of Pentecost when the first members of that body were joined to the risen Head.
If by stretch of the interpretative imagination the body could be said to have existed before Pentecost, then it was without a head, for it was not until after the resurrection and ascension of Christ that He was made head of the body which is the church ( Eph 1:22 ). In His capacity as risen Head, He gives gifts ( Eph 4:9–11 ) which further underscores the distinctiveness of the body to this age. That body-church is called a “new man” ( Eph 2:15 ), not a continuation or remaking of Israel, but something new and distinct from the Israel of the Old Testament.
There is certainly continuity of the body of Christ with the redeemed of all ages simply because those in the body are redeemed people. But there is also discontinuity in that the redeemed today are in the body of Christ and not some sort of Israel. Just as the redeemed before Abraham’s day (like Enoch and Noah) were not a part of Israel, so the redeemed of this age are not either. Enoch and Noah and other pre-Abrahamic saints belong to the family of God’s redeemed, but they never belonged to the commonwealth of Israel. So today redeemed Jew and Gentile belong to God’s family of saints without being members of any kind of Israel. They are members of the body of Christ, a new man, entered by the baptizing work of the Spirit, and all, whether Jew or Gentile have equal standing. This is the content of the mystery of Ephesians 3:6.
The Relation of the Mystery to Old Testament Revelation
Was this mystery revealed in the Old Testament? The covenant theologian responds in the affirmative, and the dispensationalist in the negative. What does Paul say? In this passage he declares that the mystery “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” ( Eph 3:5 ). Covenant theologians have seized on the word as as proving the validity of their contention that the church was in the Old Testament, while dispensationalists have sought to explain the verse otherwise.
Before investigating the possible meaning of the as phrase, it is important to notice that in the parallel passage in Colossians 1:26 there is no as. The statement there is unequivocal — the mystery was not known at all in Old Testament times. It is also rather significant that non-dispensational writers on this subject never mention the Colossians passage in connection with their discussions of Ephesians 3, for it would obviously damage their position.
But exactly what is Paul saying in Ephesians 3:5? First of all let it be said that even if the as clause means that there was some revelation of the church in the Old Testament, it does not necessarily follow that the church was in existence in those days. The second coming of Christ is revealed in a number of Old Testament passages but it has not come to pass yet. In fact the considerations given above concerning the body of Christ prove that the church was not operative in Old Testament times.
Second, let it be noted that the Greek word as has several meanings. Undoubtedly the most frequently used sense is a comparative one. If this is the use in Ephesians 3:5, then Paul is saying that the mystery was not revealed in the Old Testament to the extent that it is in the New, but it was revealed in the Old. Such an interpretation would stand in contradiction to Colossians 1:25 and the use of the word body (meaning the church) in the Scriptures.
But as has another meaning which would not impose a contradiction. It may express an adjectival or declarative force which simply means that the as clause merely adds additional information. For instance, “as ye suppose” in Acts 2:15 adds additional information to the sentence and can in no way be understood as a comparative. Furthermore, with a negative in the preceding clause (as in Eph 3:5 ) as may have the meaning of but. A clear example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 7:31. Thus Paul may very well be saying in Ephesians 3:5 that the mystery was not made known unto the sons of men in other ages, but it is now revealed. Of course this would be in harmony with the clear passage, Colossians 1:25.
It is true that the Old Testament testifies to the coming of Christ which is involved in the mystery since the church is His body. That the Old Testament witnesses to Him is what is meant in a passage like Romans 16:24–25, but this witness was not comprehended until the mystery had been revealed in the New Testament (cp. 1 Pet 1:11–12 ). Dispensationalists do not deny that the Old Testament predicted the coming of Messiah and blessing on Gentiles, but one looks in vain to find a revelation in the Old Testament of the body of Christ, the church, and of equality of Jews and Gentiles. Even in the millennial kingdom there will not be equality.8 Covenant theologians seem to imply that since the Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ it also revealed these other truths. The mystery in Ephesians 3 is not that Messiah would come nor that Gentiles would be blessed, but it is that Jews and Gentiles would find an equal position in the new and unique body of Christ.
This is a favorite passage of ultra-dispensationalists (followers of the teachings of Bullinger, O’Hair, Stam), for in it they believe they have proof that Paul was the first to reveal the mystery of the body church to the world. Three considerations in this passage alone disallow such a conclusion.
First, Paul explicitly states that the mystery was revealed to “his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” In other words, others (plural) understood the mystery and that not through the agency of Paul but through the ministry of the Spirit. Paul did not receive it first and then reveal it to the others. They received it, as he did, from the Spirit. The ultra-dispensationalist’s point would be proved if the text said that the mystery was revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets “by me.” But it does not say that.
Second, the verb revealed in verse 5 is in the aorist tense. This in conjunction with the word now indicates that the revelation of the mystery was “made definitely at a former period in these [New Testament] times.”9 This definitely contradicts the extreme type of ultra-dispensationalism which teaches that the mystery was not revealed to Paul until the time of the imprisonment during which Ephesians was written.
Third, in declaring that he had received this revelation, Paul gives himself no priority (v. 3 ). “To me” is an unemphatic form (moi) and it does not stand in a place of emphasis in the sentence. In verse 8 when he writes of his proclaiming the mystery he does use the emphatic form and places it in the emphatic position at the beginning of the sentence. Thus, when speaking of receiving the mystery he gives himself no priority, while in the matter of preaching it he emphasizes the prominent part he played. The constructions ought to be reversed if the claims of the ultradispensationalists were correct.
The mystery of Ephesians 3 is the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ. This equality and this body were not revealed in the Old Testament. They were made known only after the coming of Christ by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets including Paul but not excluding others.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
Having a "Peace" About It
By Greg Koukl 2/4/2013
Colossians 3:15 is a text that is constantly misunderstood by well-meaning Christians. Paul writes, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Some have accurately pointed out that the Greek word for "rule" means to act as arbiter or judge. They see this verse as a tool for knowing God's will for our lives.
The conventional thinking goes something like this. When confronted with a decision, pray. If you feel a "peace" in your heart, go ahead. If you don't feel peace, don't proceed. This internal sense of peace acts like a judge helping you make decisions according to the will of God. A paraphrase might be: "And let feelings of peacefulness in your heart be the judge about God's individual will for your life." Is this what Paul means?
This is a classic example of how knowledge of the Greek can be dangerous if context is not taken into consideration. The word "peace" actually has two different meanings. It could mean a sense of inner harmony and emotional equanimity. Paul seems to have this definition in mind in Philippians 4:7: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This is the subjective sense of peace.
The word also has an objective sense. It sometimes means lack of conflict between two parties formerly at war with each other. This definition of peace is what Paul intends in Romans 5:1: "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Note the distinction between the peace of God and peace with God in these two verses.)
What sense of peace did Paul have in mind when writing to the Colossians? The Greek gives us no indication because the same word is used in all three cases. Once again, context is king. The specific meaning can only be known from the surrounding material.
Greg started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg's speaking and writing is that Christianity—if it's properly understood and properly communicated—makes the most sense of the world as we find it.
Greg has spoken on more than 70 college and university campuses both in the U.S. and abroad and has hosted his own call-in radio show for 27 years advocating “Christianity worth thinking about.” He’s debated atheist Michael Shermer on national radio and Deepak Chopra on national television on Lee Strobel's “Faith Under Fire.” He is an award-winning writer and best-selling author. Greg has been featured on Focus on the Family radio and has been interviewed for CBN and the BBC. He's been quoted in Christianity Today, the U.S. News and World Report, and the L.A. Times.
Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics with honors from Simon Greenleaf University. He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University. Greg Koukl Books:
- 1 The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between
- 2 Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions
- 3 Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air
- 4 Jesus, the Only Way: 100 Verses
- 5 Faith Is Not Wishing: 13 Essays for Christian Thinkers
- 6 "Misquoting" Jesus? Answering Bart Ehrman (Solid Ground)
- 7 Precious Unborn Human Persons
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 114Tremble at the Presence of the Lord
114:1 When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2 Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
3 The sea looked and fled;
Jordan turned back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
5 What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
6 O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.
Chapter 4 | Papal Persecutions
The Bartholomew Massacre at Paris, etc.On the twenty second day of August, 1572, commenced this diabolical act of sanguinary brutality. It was intended to destroy at one stroke the root of the Protestant tree, which had only before partially suffered in its branches. The king of France had artfully proposed a marriage, between his sister and the prince of Navarre, the captain and prince of the Protestants. This imprudent marriage was publicly celebrated at Paris, August 18, by the cardinal of Bourbon, upon a high stage erected for the purpose. They dined in great pomp with the bishop, and supped with the king at Paris. Four days after this, the prince (Coligny), as he was coming from the Council, was shot in both arms; he then said to Maure, his deceased mother's minister, "O my brother, I do now perceive that I am indeed beloved of my God, since for His most holy sake I am wounded." Although the Vidam advised him to fly, yet he abode in Paris, and was soon after slain by Bemjus; who afterward declared he never saw a man meet death more valiantly than the admiral.
The soldiers were appointed at a certain signal to burst out instantly to the slaughter in all parts of the city. When they had killed the admiral, they threw him out at a window into the street, where his head was cut off, and sent to the pope. The savage papists, still raging against him, cut off his arms and private members, and, after dragging him three days through the streets, hung him by the heels without the city. After him they slew many great and honorable persons who were Protestants; as Count Rochfoucault, Telinius, the admiral's son-in-law, Antonius, Clarimontus, marquis of Ravely, Lewes Bussius, Bandineus, Pluvialius, Burneius, etc., and falling upon the common people, they continued the slaughter for many days; in the three first they slew of all ranks and conditions to the number of ten thousand. The bodies were thrown into the rivers, and blood ran through the streets with a strong current, and the river appeared presently like a stream of blood. So furious was their hellish rage, that they slew all papists whom they suspected to be not very staunch to their diabolical religion. From Paris the destruction spread to all quarters of the realm.
At Orleans, a thousand were slain of men, women, and children, and six thousand at Rouen.
At Meldith, two hundred were put into prison, and later brought out by units, and cruelly murdered.
At Lyons, eight hundred were massacred. Here children hanging about their parents, and parents affectionately embracing their children, were pleasant food for the swords and bloodthirsty minds of those who call themselves the Catholic Church. Here three hundred were slain in the bishop's house; and the impious monks would suffer none to be buried.
At Augustobona, on the people hearing of the massacre at Paris, they shut their gates that no Protestants might escape, and searching diligently for every individual of the reformed Church, imprisoned and then barbarously murdered them. The same curelty they practiced at Avaricum, at Troys, at Toulouse, Rouen and many other places, running from city to city, towns, and villages, through the kingdom.
As a corroboration of this horrid carnage, the following interesting narrative, written by a sensible and learned Roman Catholic, appears in this place, with peculiar propriety.
"The nuptials (says he) of the young king of Navarre with the French king's sister, was solemnized with pomp; and all the endearments, all the assurances of friendship, all the oaths sacred among men, were profusely lavished by Catharine, the queen-mother, and by the king; during which, the rest of the court thought of nothing but festivities, plays, and masquerades. At last, at twelve o'clock at night, on the eve of St. Bartholomew, the signal was given. Immediately all the houses of the Protestants were forced open at once. Admiral Coligny, alarmed by the uproar jumped out of bed, when a company of assassins rushed in his chamber. They were headed by one Besme, who had been bred up as a domestic in the family of the Guises. This wretch thrust his sword into the admiral's breast, and also cut him in the face. Besme was a German, and being afterwards taken by the Protestants, the Rochellers would have brought him, in order to hang and quarter him; but he was killed by one Bretanville. Henry, the young duke of Guise, who afterwards framed the Catholic league, and was murdered at Blois, standing at the door until the horrid butchery should be completed, called aloud, 'Besme! is it done?' Immediately after this, the ruffians threw the body out of the window, and Coligny expired at Guise's feet.
"Count de Teligny also fell a sacrifice. He had married, about ten months before, Coligny's daughter. His countenance was so engaging, that the ruffians, when they advanced in order to kill him, were struck with compassion; but others, more barbarous, rushing forward, murdered him.
"In the meantime, all the friends of Coligny were assassinated throughout Paris; men, women, and children were promiscuously slaughtered and every street was strewed with expiring bodies. Some priests, holding up a crucifix in one hand, and a dagger in the other, ran to the chiefs of the murderers, and strongly exhorted them to spare neither relations nor friends.
"Tavannes, marshal of France, an ignorant, superstitious soldier, who joined the fury of religion to the rage of party, rode on horseback through the streets of Paris, crying to his men, 'Let blood! let blood! bleeding is as wholesome in August as in May.' In the memories of the life of this enthusiastic, written by his son, we are told that the father, being on his deathbed, and making a general confession of his actions, the priest said to him, with surprise, 'What! no mention of St. Bartholomew's massacre?' to which Tavannes replied, 'I consider it as a meritorious action, that will wash away all my sins.' Such horrid sentiments can a false spirit of religion inspire!
"The king's palace was one of the chief scenes of the butchery; the king of Navarre had his lodgings in the Louvre, and all his domestics were Protestants. Many of these were killed in bed with their wives; others, running away naked, were pursued by the soldiers through the several rooms of the palace, even to the king's antichamber. The young wife of Henry of Navarre, awaked by the dreadful uproar, being afraid for her consort, and for her own life, seized with horror, and half dead, flew from her bed, in order to throw herself at the feet of the king her brother. But scarce had she opened her chamber door, when some of her Protestant domestics rushed in for refuge. The soldiers immediately followed, pursued them in sight of the princess, and killed one who crept under her bed. Two others, being wounded with halberds, fell at the queen's feet, so that she was covered with blood.
"Count de la Rochefoucault, a young nobleman, greatly in the king's favor for his comely air, his politeness, and a certain peculiar happiness in the turn of his conversation, had spent the evening until eleven o'clock with the monarch, in pleasant familiarity; and had given a loose, with the utmost mirth, to the sallies of his imagination. The monarch felt some remorse, and being touched with a kind of compassion, bid him, two or three times, not to go home, but lie in the Louvre. The count said he must go to his wife; upon which the king pressed him no farther, but said, 'Let him go! I see God has decreed his death.' And in two hours after he was murdered.
"Very few of the Protestants escaped the fury of their enthusiastic persecutors. Among these was young La Force (afterwards the famous Marshal de la Force) a child about ten years of age, whose deliverance was exceedingly remarkable. His father, his elder brother, and he himself were seized together by the Duke of Anjou's soldier. These murderers flew at all three, and struck them at random, when they all fell, and lay one upon another. The youngest did not receive a single blow, but appearing as if he was dead, escaped the next day; and his life, thus wonderfully preserved, lasted four score and five years.
"Many of the wretched victims fled to the water side, and some swam over the Seine to the suburbs of St. Germaine. The king saw them from his window, which looked upon the river, and fired upon them with a carbine that had been loaded for that purpose by one of his pages; while the queen-mother, undisturbed and serene in the midst of slaughter, looking down from a balcony, encouraged the murderers and laughed at the dying groans of the slaughtered. This barbarous queen was fired with a restless ambition, and she perpetually shifted her party in order to satiate it.
"Some days after this horrid transaction, the French court endeavored to palliate it by forms of law. They pretended to justify the massacre by a calumny, and accused the admiral of a conspiracy, which no one believed. The parliament was commended to proceed against the memory of Coligny; and his dead body was hanged in chains on Montfaucon gallows. The king himself went to view this shocking spectacle. So one of his courtiers advised him to retire, and complaining of the stench of the corpse, he replied, 'A dead enemuy smells well.' The massacres on St. Bartholomew's day are painted in the royal saloon of the Vatican at Rome, with the following inscription: Pontifex, Coligny necem probat, i.e., 'The pope approves of Coligny's death.'
"The young king of Navarre was spared through policy, rather than from the pity of the queen-mother, she keeping him prisoner until the king's death, in order that he might be as a security and pledge for the submission of such Protestants as might effect their escape.
"This horrid butchery was not confined merely to the city of Paris. The like orders were issued from court to the governors of all the provinces in France; so that, in a week's time, about one hundred thousand Protestants were cut to pieces in different parts of the kingdom! Two or three governors only refused to obey the king's orders. One of these, named Montmorrin, governor of Auvergne, wrote the king the following letter, which deserves to be transmitted to the latest posterity.
"SIRE: I have received an order, under your majesty's seal, to put to death all the Protestants in my province. I have too much respect for your majesty, not to believe the letter a forgery; but if (which God forbid) the order should be genuine, I have too much respect for your majesty to obey it."
At Rome the horrid joy was so great, that they appointed a day of high festival, and a jubilee, with great indulgence to all who kept it and showed every expression of gladness they could devise! and the man who first carried the news received 1000 crowns of the cardinal of Lorraine for his ungodly message. The king also commanded the day to be kept with every demonstration of joy, concluding now that the whole race of Huguenots was extinct.
Many who gave great sums of money for their ransom were immediately after slain; and several towns, which were under the king's promise of protection and safety, were cut off as soon as they delivered themselves up, on those promises, to his generals or captains.
At Bordeaux, at the instigation of a villainous monk, who used to urge the papists to slaughter in his sermons, two hundred and sixty-four were cruelly murdered; some of them senators. Another of the same pious fraternity produced a similar slaughter at Agendicum, in Maine, where the populace at the holy inquisitors' satanical suggestion, ran upon the Protestants, slew them, plundered their houses, and pulled down their church.
The duke of Guise, entering into Blois, suffered his soldiers to fly upon the spoil, and slay or drown all the Protestants they could find. In this they spared neither age nor sex; defiling the women, and then murdering them; from whence he went to Mere, and committed the same outrages for many days together. Here they found a minister named Cassebonius, and threw him into the river.
At Anjou, they slew Albiacus, a minister; and many women were defiled and murdered there; among whom were two sisters, abused before their father, whom the assassins bound to a wall to see them, and then slew them and him.
The president of Turin, after giving a large sum for his life, was cruelly beaten with clubs, stripped of his clothes, and hung feet upwards, with his head and breast in the river: before he was dead, they opened his belly, plucked out his entrails, and threw them into the river; and then carried his heart about the city upon a spear.
At Barre great cruelty was used, even to young children, whom they cut open, pulled out their entrails, which through very rage they gnawed with their teeth. Those who had fled to the castle, when they yielded, were almost hanged. Thus they did at the city of Matiscon; counting it sport to cut off their arms and legs and afterward kill them; and for the entertainment of their visitors, they often threw the Protestants from a high bridge into the river, saying, "Did you ever see men leap so well?"
At Penna, after promising them safety, three hundred were inhumanly butchered; and five and forty at Albia, on the Lord's Day. At Nonne, though it yielded on conditions of safeguard, the most horrid spectacles were exhibited. Persons of both sexes and conditions were indiscriminately murdered; the streets ringing with doleful cries, and flowing with blood; and the houses flaming with fire, which the abandoned soldiers had thrown in. One woman, being dragged from her hiding place with her husband, was first abused by the brutal soldiers, and then with a sword which they commanded her to draw, they forced it while in her hands into the bowels of her husband.
At Samarobridge, they murdered above one hundred Protestants, after promising them peace; and at Antsidor, one hundred were killed, and cast part into a jakes, and part into a river. One hundred put into a prison at Orleans, were destroyed by the furious multitude.
The Protestants at Rochelle, who were such as had miraculously escaped the rage of hell, and fled there, seeing how ill they fared who submitted to those holy devils, stood for their lives; and some other cities, encouraged thereby, did the like. Against Rochelle, the king sent almost the whole power of France, which besieged it seven months; though by their assaults, they did very little execution on the inhabitants, yet by famine, they destroyed eighteen thousand out of two and twenty. The dead, being too numerous for the living to bury, became food for vermin and carnivorous birds. Many took their coffins into the church yard, laid down in them, and breathed their last. Their diet had long been what the minds of those in plenty shudder at; even human flesh, entrails, dung, and the most loathsome things, became at last the only food of those champions for that truth and liberty, of which the world was not worthy. At every attack, the besiegers met with such an intrepid reception, that they left one hundred and thirty-two captains, with a proportionate number of men, dead in the field. The siege at last was broken up at the request of the duke of Anjou, the king's brother, who was proclaimed king of Poland, and the king, being wearied out, easily complied, whereupon honorable conditions were granted them.
It is a remarkable interference of Providence, that, in all this dreadful massacre, not more than two ministers of the Gospel were involved in it.
The tragical sufferings of the Protestants are too numerous to detail; but the treatment of Philip de Deux will give an idea of the rest. After the miscreants had slain this martyr in his bed, they went to his wife, who was then attended by the midwife, expecting every moment to be delivered. The midwife entreated them to stay the murder, at least till the child, which was the twentieth, should be born. Notwithstanding this, they thrust a dagger up to the hilt into the poor woman. Anxious to be delivered, she ran into a corn loft; but hither they pursued her, stabbed her in the belly, and then threw her into the street. By the fall, the child came from the dying mother, and being caught up by one of the Catholic ruffians, he stabbed the infant, and then threw it into the river.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Why Fear Death?
By Michael Rogers 6/01/2015
Since we had been to Niagara Falls many times before, my wife and I guided friends on their first visit. On a warm July morning, we walked from our car through heavy ground fog with visibility of about fifty feet. We stood at the railing above the Horseshoe Falls hearing thundering water; just fifty yards from us, the falls were invisible. We assured our friends that nature’s great scenic wonder did exist. They believed us, based on the sound of the rushing water alone.
In ten minutes, the morning fog burned away, and before us the awesome panorama of Niagara Falls was fully visible. I take that experience as a paradigm for the present-day comfort of Christian hope. We have plain indicators of eternal life today, but only beyond our death will heaven’s splendor and the face of Christ be fully revealed.
The Bible’s answer to the fear of death unfolds in stages. The Old Testament knows it in anticipation. Psalm 23 assures us that God will be “with us” in death’s valley. Psalm 16 declares, “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol … at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” The lifeline for pre-Christian saints was the bold belief that death would be a passageway into God’s secure presence. No clear road map told how this would happen — somehow God would do it.
For centuries, the prophets looked forward to the keystone event of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Only by this did we gain the historic foundation for the answer to the fear of death: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Consequent to His own rising from the dead, Jesus could promise, “I go to prepare a place for you … and I will come again and receive you to myself” (14:2–3). He guaranteed to those who trust exclusively in Him, “Because I live, you also will live” (14:19).
That should seal the matter. Why would any Christian not have airtight eternal hope, banishing all tremors of mind regarding physical death? Since Christ has risen for us, He has “delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15). Do any Christians have a problem with that? Yes, in fact, many do. A ninety-eight-year-old woman, eyes brimming with tears, once confessed to me, “Pastor, I’m afraid to die.” She was not connecting the Easter doctrine of resurrection she had professed for a lifetime to a possession of comfort by that hope. We may have our biblical foundation correct without making lively and habitual applications of it to the soul.
Sustaining hope in the face of death matures best as we consciously recognize that Christ Himself is on heaven’s throne. Many Christians have a “me-centered” view of eternity. They ask, What will the place be like? What will I do all the time? Eternity exerts its magnetic pull on us when we study Christ Jesus Himself as our all-consuming final destination. Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). If we say Christ is presently our “all in all” during this imperfect lifetime, think what it will mean to be possessed by Him completely:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
The heavy fog of our sin will be gone, and we shall behold His face.
Every engaged woman gives supreme attention to obtaining her bridal gown, the dress she will wear on one of the biggest days of her life. As a pastor, I watch the bride emerge on her father’s arm. Halfway down the aisle, she forgets her dress, as her eyes lock on to her groom and her smile beams at him alone. Christians await just such a moment. A hymn based on Samuel Rutherford’s writing says, “The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face; I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace.”
In John 17:24, Jesus prayed, “Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me, will be with me where I am, to see my glory”. We can gradually be weaned away from our natural fear of death as we dwell much upon the preeminent Lord who will greet us there. Comparing Christ to every earthly joy left behind, Jonathan Edwards wrote:
Beside [Jesus], father and mother, husbands, wives, or children are but shadows, while the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.
Is your view of heaven Christ-centered? Heaven exists for us to know Jesus Christ in His exalted glory. Apart from Him, it really has no meaning at all.
Instead of Worrying
By Tim Witmer 7/01/2015
“What? Me Worry?” Those of us who are old enough remember Alfred E. Neumann’s mindless approach to worry. Similarly, Bobby McFerrin’s smash hit “Don’t Worry Be Happy” resonated with millions of people who just hoped that it could be that easy. It isn’t. All of us wrestle with anxiety. After all, there are lots of things to worry about: money, health, family, career — you can fill in the rest.
One of the more popular approaches to addressing worry these days is the suggestion to set aside a thirty-minute period of time to do your worrying. Have you ever tried this? It doesn’t work. Trying to confine worry to a time slot is about as doable as herding cats.
The good news is that the Scriptures give us clear direction when the burdens of life press in upon us. Paul was a man who had a lot to worry about. There were all those struggling new churches, his concern for those who had not yet heard the gospel, not to mention his own health and safety. But it was while he was under confinement in Rome that he wrote some of the most memorable words on worry and anxiety, words that God has used to encourage His people ever since. These remarkable words are found in Philippians 4:6–8. In these verses we are given two antidotes to anxiety that we will explore below.
Instead of Worrying, Pray
In vv. 6-7, Paul writes:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
These are amazing words. We are told not to worry about anything but to pray about everything.
There are several different words for “prayer” in v. 6. The first is a general word for prayer but the second two words refer to specific prayer requests. We worry specifically, so we need to pray specifically. Worried about that unexpected bill? Pray specifically for the Lord’s provision. Worried about that diagnosis? Pray specifically for wisdom for the way forward.
Remarkably, we are promised that when we pray, the Lord will give us peace instead of anxiety. It is a kind of peace that defies the circumstances that we face. God’s peace is not the absence of conflict but a settled security grounded in our relationship with Him. Paul writes that the resultant peace will safeguard our hearts and minds. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones described it this way:
What will happen is that this peace of God will walk round the ramparts and towers of our life. We are inside, and the activities of the heart and mind are producing those stresses and anxieties and strains from the outside. But the peace of God will keep them all out and we ourselves inside will be at perfect peace. Don’t forget to pray. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He gives us another antidote to anxiety.
Think about What You Think About
There is good reason that v. 8 follows vv. 6–7. In vv. 6–7, we are told that prayer is the place to begin. In v. 8, we are told what to think about instead of worrying. To be honest with you, I don’t know anyone who can pray all the time. Paul gives us some important principles to think about instead of worrying.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (v. 8)
Essentially, we are being challenged to think about what we think about. Each of these words represents a brand-new vista to replace the worry weeds that can crowd into the landscape of our minds. Just take the first phrase, “whatever is true.” This is the foundation for all the rest. We are blessed to have the truth of God’s Word, which includes all His wonderful promises. Worried about finances? The truth is that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). Worried that you won’t have the strength to carry on? The truth is that “I can do all things through Him that strengthens me” (4:13). If you are feeling lonely, isolated, or neglected, the truth is that “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Instead of worrying, spend some time plumbing the depths of this new way of thinking.
You will notice that these antidotes to anxiety take into account your vertical relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Remember to look up to the One who hears you when you cry out to Him and who has given you His amazing promises to reflect and meditate on in the midst of the storms of life.
- The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church
- The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Family
- Mindscape: What to Think About Instead of Worrying
- By Timothy Z. Witmer - The Shepherd Leader, Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church (First) (1.5.2012)
The Continual Burnt Offering (Galatians 4:4)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
October 16Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” ESV
Sonship is more than new birth. By spiritual birth we become children of God. This has been true of believers in all dispensations. But now by the reception of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of adoption, we become sons. This is the distinctive blessing of the present dispensation of grace. Old Testament saints were as infants. New Testament Christians are sons who have come of age and are joint heirs with Christ. We are all children of God by the second birth and sons of God by adoption. This is what is unfolded here in Galatians, and also in Romans 8:14-17. In Roman law all born in the family were children, but only those legally adopted were reckoned as sons.
Romans 8:14–17 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ESV
“Abba,” Father—thus we call Thee,
(Hallowed name!) from clay to day;—
‘Tis Thy children’s right to know Thee,
None but children “Abba” say.
This high honor we inherit,
Thy free gift, through Jesus’ blood;
God the Spirit, with our spirit,
Witnesseth we’re sons of God.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
(Oct 16) Bob Gass
‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning.’
(Pr 1:5) 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, ESV
In order to keep growing, you must understand three principles: 1) You grow to the extent you give. By giving out, you create more room to grow on the inside. So, give until it hurts, and keep giving until it feels good. Always endeavour to leave people better off than you found them, and you’ll be better off too. Solomon said, ‘The liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself’ (Proverbs 11:25 TLB). This epitaph on a tombstone says it all: ‘What I gave, I have. What I spent, I had. What I kept, I lost.’ 2) To accomplish more, you’ve got to grow more. Do you feel stuck spiritually, relationally, career-wise, or at home? You won’t get unstuck by making external changes, like pursuing a new career, leaving your family, or changing churches. Nobody’s keeping you down but yourself. The lid on your life is - you. So, if you’re serious about getting unstuck, instead of looking for quick fixes take a long hard look at yourself, accept responsibility for what you see, pray, and decide to do something about it. 3) It’s not enough to dream; you must do. The Tartar tribes of Central Asia are reputed to have used a particular curse against their enemies. They didn’t call for their swords to rust or their people to die of disease. They simply said, ‘May you stay in one place forever.’ If you don’t work daily to improve yourself, that will be your fate too. You’ll end up stuck in the same place, doing the same things, dreaming the same dreams, and never getting anywhere. So, keep growing!
1 Tim 5
by Bill Federer
His barn in Pennsylvania was a station on the Underground Railway, helping slaves escape to freedom. But on this day, October 16, 1859, John Brown and 21 men raided Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and seized the armory. He was captured, sentenced, and hanged. Labeled insane by some, Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, called him Saint John the Just. Years before, after hearing the story of how abolitionist publisher Elijah Lovejoy was murdered, John Brown stood up in the back of church and declared: “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
Public prayer is, on the whole, the most difficult part of the work of the minister. To help the difficulty I have always claimed that pulpit notes of prayer may be used. “The Lord’s Prayer” itself is of this nature. It is not a prayer, but a scheme of prayer, heads of prayer, or buoys in the channel. But even with the use of all helps there are perils enough. There are prayers that, in the effort to become real, are much too familiar in their fashion of speech. A young man began his prayer, in my own hearing, with the words, “O God, we have come to have a chat with Thee.” It was gruesome. Think of it as a sample of modern piety for the young! No prayers, certainly no public prayers, should be “chats with God.” Again, other prayers are sentimental prayers. George Dawson’s volume has this fault. The prayers of the Church should not be exposures of the affectional man. The public prayer of the Church, as the company of grace, is the saved soul returning to God that gave it; it is the sinner coming to the Saviour, or the ransomed of the Lord returning to Zion; it is the sanctified with the sanctifier; it is not primarily the child talking to the Father—though that note may prevail in more private prayers. We are more than stray sheep reclaimed. We are those whose defiant iniquity has lain upon Christ for us all.
But the root of the difficulty of public prayer lies further back than in the matter of style. It lies in the difficulty of private prayer, in its spiritual poverty, its inertia, its anemia. What culture can deal with the rooted difficulty that resides there, out of sight, in the inner man of the heart, for lack of the courage of faith, for sheer spiritual fecklessness? Yet the preparation for prayer is to pray. The prayer is the practice of prayer. It is only prayer that teaches to pray. The minister ought never to speak before men in God’s name without himself first speaking to God in man’s name, and making intercession as for himself so for his people.
Intercession! We are properly vigilant that the minister do not sever himself from his people in any sacredotal way. But for all that, is the minister’s personal and private prayer on exactly the same footing as a layman’s? It is a question that leads to the distinction between intercessory and vicarious prayer. The personal religion of the minister is vicarious even when it is not intercessory. Great indeed is the spiritual value of private intercession. The intercessory private prayer of the minister is the best corrective of the critical spirit or the grumbling spirit which so easily besets and withers us to-day. That reconciliation, that pacification of heart, which comes by prayer opens in us a fountain of private intercession, especially for our antagonists. Only, of course, it must be private. But the minister is also praying to his people’s good even when he is not interceeding on their behalf, or leading them in prayer. What he is for his Church he is with his whole personality. And so his private and personal prayers are vicarious for his people even when he does not know it. No Christian man lives for himself, nor believes for himself. And if the private Christian in his private prayers does not pray, any more than he lives, unto himself alone, much more is this true for the minister. His private prayers make a great difference to his people. They may not know what makes his spell and blessing; even he may not. But it is his most private prayers; which, thus, are vicarious even where not intercessory.
What he is for his Church, I have said, he is with his whole personality. And nothing gives us personality like true prayer. Nothing makes a man so original. We cannot be true Christians without being original. Living faith destroys the commonplaceness, the monotony of life. Are not all men original in death? “Je mourrai seul.” Much more are they original and their true selves in Christ’s death, and in their part and lot in that. For true originality we must be one, and closely one, with God. To be creative we must learn with the Creator. The most effectual man in history was he who said, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” What a reflection on our faith that so much piety should be humdrum, and deadly dull! Private prayer, when it is real action, is the greatest forge of personality. It places a man in direct and effective contact with God the Creator, the source of originality, and especially with God the Redeemer as the source of the new creation. For the minister personality is everything—not geniality, as it is the day’s fashion to say, but personality; and prayer is the spring of personality. This impressive personality, due to prayer, you may often have in “the peasant saint.” And in some cases its absence is as palpable. Hence comes vulgarity in prayer, essential vulgarity underlying much possible fineness of phrase or manner. Vulgarity in prayer lies not so much in its offenses to good taste in style as in its indications of the absence of spiritual habit and reality. If the theology of rhetoric destroys the theology of reality in the sermon, how much more in prayer!
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Indulgence says, “Drink your way out.”
Philosophy says, “Think your way out.”
Science says, “Invent your way out.”
Industry says, “Work your way out.”
Communism says, “Strike your way out.”
Militarism says, “Fight your way out.”
Christ says, “I AM THE WAY OUT!”
God understands our prayers
even when we can’t find the words to say them.
A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.
--- Wendell Berry
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning A Stratagem That Was Devised By The Jews, By Which They Burnt Many Of The Romans; With Another Description Of The Terrible Famine That Was In The City.
1. But now the seditious that were in the temple did every day openly endeavor to beat off the soldiers that were upon the banks, and on the twenty-seventh day of the forenamed month [Panemus or Tamuz] contrived such a stratagem as this: They filled that part of the western cloister 14 which was between the beams, and the roof under them, with dry materials, as also with bitumen and pitch, and then retired from that place, as though they were tired with the pains they had taken; at which procedure of theirs, many of the most inconsiderate among the Romans, who were carried away with violent passions, followed hard after them as they were retiring, and applied ladders to the cloister, and got up to it suddenly; but the prudent part of them, when they understood this unaccountable retreat of the Jews, stood still where they were before. However, the cloister was full of those that were gone up the ladders; at which time the Jews set it all on fire; and as the flame burst out every where on the sudden, the Romans that were out of the danger were seized with a very great consternation, as were those that were in the midst of the danger in the utmost distress. So when they perceived themselves surrounded with the flames, some of them threw themselves down backwards into the city, and some among their enemies [in the temple]; as did many leap down to their own men, and broke their limbs to pieces; but a great number of those that were going to take these violent methods were prevented by the fire; though some prevented the fire by their own swords. However, the fire was on the sudden carried so far as to surround those who would have otherwise perished. As for Caesar himself, he could not, however, but commiserate those that thus perished, although they got up thither without any order for so doing, since there was no way of giving the many relief. Yet was this some comfort to those that were destroyed, that every body might see that person grieve, for whose sake they came to their end; for he cried out openly to them, and leaped up, and exhorted those that were about him to do their utmost to relieve them; So every one of them died cheerfully, as carrying along with him these words and this intention of Caesar as a sepulchral monument. Some there were indeed who retired into the wall of the cloister, which was broad, and were preserved out of the fire, but were then surrounded by the Jews; and although they made resistance against the Jews for a long time, yet were they wounded by them, and at length they all fell down dead.
2. At the last a young man among them, whose name was Longus, became a decoration to this sad affair, and while every one of them that perished were worthy of a memorial, this man appeared to deserve it beyond all the rest. Now the Jews admired this man for his courage, and were further desirous of having him slain; so they persuaded him to come down to them, upon security given him for his life. But Cornelius his brother persuaded him on the contrary, not to tarnish his own glory, nor that of the Roman army. He complied with this last advice, and lifting up his sword before both armies, he slew himself. Yet there was one Artorius among those surrounded by the fire who escaped by his subtlety; for when he had with a loud voice called to him Lucius, one of his fellow soldiers that lay with him in the same tent, and said to him, "I do leave thee heir of all I have, if thou wilt come and receive me." Upon this he came running to receive him readily; Artorius then threw himself down upon him, and saved his own life, while he that received him was dashed so vehemently against the stone pavement by the other's weight, that he died immediately. This melancholy accident made the Romans sad for a while, but still it made them more upon their guard for the future, and was of advantage to them against the delusions of the Jews, by which they were greatly damaged through their unacquaintedness with the places, and with the nature of the inhabitants. Now this cloister was burnt down as far as John's tower, which he built in the war he made against Simon over the gates that led to the Xystus. The Jews also cut off the rest of that cloister from the temple, after they had destroyed those that got up to it. But the next day the Romans burnt down the northern cloister entirely, as far as the east cloister, whose common angle joined to the valley that was called Cedron, and was built over it; on which account the depth was frightful. And this was the state of the temple at that time.
3. Now of those that perished by famine in the city, the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable; for if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did any where appear, a war was commenced presently, and the dearest friends fell a fighting one with another about it, snatching from each other the most miserable supports of life. Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food, but the robbers would search them when they were expiring, lest any one should have concealed food in their bosoms, and counterfeited dying; nay, these robbers gaped for want, and ran about stumbling and staggering along like mad dogs, and reeling against the doors of the houses like drunken men; they would also, in the great distress they were in, rush into the very same houses two or three times in one and the same day. Moreover, their hunger was so intolerable, that it obliged them to chew every thing, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them; nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed: the very wisps of old hay became food to some; and some gathered up fibres, and sold a very small weight of them for four Attic [drachmae]. But why do I describe the shameless impudence that the famine brought on men in their eating inanimate things, while I am going to relate a matter of fact, the like to which no history relates, 15 either among the Greeks or Barbarians? It is horrible to speak of it, and incredible when heard. I had indeed willingly omitted this calamity of ours, that I might not seem to deliver what is so portentous to posterity, but that I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age; and besides, my country would have had little reason to thank me for suppressing the miseries that she underwent at this time.
4. There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezob, which signifies the house of Hyssop. She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time. The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon, such I mean as she had brought with her out of Perea, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had been also carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose. This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she cast at these rapacious villains, she had provoked them to anger against her; but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labors were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her any way to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself; nor did she consult with any thing but with her passion and the necessity she was in. She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, "O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews." As soon as she had said this, she slew her son, and then roasted him, and eat the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight, when she said to them, "This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also." After which those men went out trembling, being never so much affrighted at any thing as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while every body laid this miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard of action had been done by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die, and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries.
5. This sad instance was quickly told to the Romans, some of whom could not believe it, and others pitied the distress which the Jews were under; but there were many of them who were hereby induced to a more bitter hatred than ordinary against our nation. But for Caesar, he excused himself before God as to this matter, and said that he had proposed peace and liberty to the Jews, as well as an oblivion of all their former insolent practices; but that they, instead of concord, had chosen sedition; instead of peace, war; and before satiety and abundance, a famine. That they had begun with their own hands to burn down that temple which we have preserved hitherto; and that therefore they deserved to eat such food as this was. That, however, this horrid action of eating an own child ought to be covered with the overthrow of their very country itself, and men ought not to leave such a city upon the habitable earth to be seen by the sun, wherein mothers are thus fed, although such food be fitter for the fathers than for the mothers to eat of, since it is they that continue still in a state of war against us, after they have undergone such miseries as these. And at the same time that he said this, he reflected on the desperate condition these men must be in; nor could he expect that such men could be recovered to sobriety of mind, after they had endured those very sufferings, for the avoiding whereof it only was probable they might have repented.
by D.H. Stern
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
From Simply Christian - N.T. Wright
When the first disciples were sent off by Jesus into the wider world to announce that he was Israel’s Messiah and hence the world’s true Lord, they knew that their message would make little or no sense to most of their hearers. It was an affront to Jewish people to tell them that Israel’s Messiah had arrived—and that the Romans had crucified him at least in part because the Jewish leaders hadn’t wanted to accept him! It was sheer madness, something to provoke sniggers or worse, to tell non-Jews that there was a single true God who was calling the whole world to account through a man whom he had sent and whom he had raised from the dead. And yet the early Christians discovered that telling this story carried a power which they regularly associated with the Spirit, but which they often referred to simply as “the word.” Note these references from Acts: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke God’s word with boldness.” “The word of God continued to spread.” “The word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.” “The word of God grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 4:31; 6:7; 12:24; 19:20).
Paul spoke this way, too. “When you received the word of God from us,” he wrote, “you accepted it not as a human word, but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” This is “the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you…bearing fruit and growing in the whole world” (1 Thessalonians 2:13; Colossians 1:5–6). This last passage gives us another hint that the word is old as well as new: the phrase “bearing fruit and growing” is a direct allusion to the language of the first creation, of Genesis 1. “By the word of YHWH were the heavens made,” sang the Psalmist, “and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). Yes, replied the early Christians, and this same word is now at work through the good news, the “gospel,” the message that declares Jesus as the risen Lord. “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart; because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:8–9). In other words, when you announce the good news that the risen Jesus is Lord, that very word is the word of God, a carrier or agent of God’s Spirit, a means by which, as Isaiah had predicted, new life from God’s dimension comes to bring new creation within ours (Isaiah 40:8; 55:10–13).
So, finally, with wisdom as well. Wisdom (personified) was already thought of within Judaism as God’s agent in creation, the one through whom the world was made. John, Paul, and the Letter to the Hebrews all draw on this idea to speak of Jesus himself as the one through whom God made the world. But it doesn’t stop there. Paul, like the book of Proverbs, goes on to speak of this wisdom (no longer personified) being accessible to humans through the power of God’s Spirit. As in Proverbs, part of the point about wisdom is that it’s what you need in order to live a fully, genuinely human life. It is not, he says, a wisdom “of this age”—that is, of the present world and the way this world sees things. It doesn’t conform to the kind of wisdom the rulers of the present world like to acknowledge. Instead, “we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). God has given us access to a new kind of wisdom, through the Spirit.
All God’s treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in the Messiah himself. This means that those who belong to the Messiah have this wisdom accessible to them, and hence the chance to grow toward mature human and Christian living: “It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in the Messiah” (Colossians 1:28; 2:2–3). At this point, too, those in whom the Spirit dwells are called to be people who live at, and by, the intersection of heaven and earth.
Please note: only those who subscribe to Option Two could ever think of someone being “so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use.” For Option Three, the way to be truly of use on this earth is to be genuinely heavenly minded—and to live as one of the places where, and the means by which, heaven and earth overlap.
That’s how the church is to carry forward the work of Jesus. The book of Acts says that in the previous book (referring back to the author’s earlier volume—that is, the Gospel of Luke) the writer had described “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” The implication is clear: that the story of the church, led and energized by the power of the Spirit, is the story of Jesus continuing to do and to teach—through his Spirit-led people. Once more, that’s why we pray that God’s kingdom will come, and his will will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The key to the Master’s orders
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest. --- Matthew 9:38.
The key to the missionary problem is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work, that is, not work as the word is popularly understood to-day, because that may mean the evasion of concentration on God. The key to the missionary problem is not the key of common sense, nor the medical key, nor the key of civilization or education or even evangelization. The key is prayer. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest.” Naturally, prayer is not practical, it is absurd; we have to realize that prayer is stupid from the ordinary commonsense point of view.
There are no nations in Jesus Christ’s outlook, but the world. How many of us pray without respect of persons, and with respect to only one Person, Jesus Christ? He owns the harvest that is produced by distress and conviction of sin, and this is the harvest we have to pray that labourers may be thrust out to reap. We are taken up with active work while people all round are ripe to harvest, and we do not reap one of them, but waste our Lord’s time in over-energized activities. Suppose the crisis comes in your father’s life, in your brother’s life, are you there as a labourer to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ? ‘Oh, but I have a special work to do!’ No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, one who is not above his Master, one who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls to no special work: He calls to Himself. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest,” and He will engineer circumstances and thrust you out.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Did you notice the farm on the hill side
A bit larger than the others, a bit more hay
In the Dutch barn, four cows instead of two?
Prosperity is a sign of divine favour:
Whoever saw the righteous forsaken
Or his seed begging their bread? It even entitles
A chapel deacon to a tame pastor.
There were people here before these,
Measuring truth according to the moor's
Pitiless commentary and the wind's veto.
Out in the moor there is a bone whitening,
Worn smooth by the long dialectic
Of rain and sunlight. What has that to do
With choosing a minister? Nothing, nothing.
Thick darkness is about us, we cannot see
The future, nor the thin face
Of him whom necessity will bring
To this lean oasis at the moor's rim,
The marginal land where flesh meets spirit
Only on Sundays and the days between
Are mortgaged, mortgaged, mortgaged,
But we can see the faces of the men
Grouped together under the one lamp,
Waiting for the name to be born to them
Out of time's heaving thighs.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Abraham, Maimonides’ model of pre-Mosaic man, illustrates a relationship of man to God that is not grounded in Halakhah. Maimonides, who claimed that talmudic Aggadah reflects the philosophical tradition in Judaism, utilizes Aggadah for his understanding of Abraham.
The Bible introduces Abraham at the age of seventy-five and is silent about his activities prior to his calling. Maimonides appeals to the aggadic picture of Abraham which fills the gaps. Maimonides accepts the view that Abraham discovered God when he was forty years old and not when he was three. Maimonides ascribes Abraham’s discovery of God to Abraham’s relentless attempts to understand the nature and origin of celestial movements.
Abraham rejected the teachings of his father and his environment solely on the convictions which he gained through reason. He is able to stand alone against the ethos of his generation because of the certainty he possessed from discovering demonstrative truth:
For when something has been demonstrated, the correctness of the matter is not increased and certainty regarding it is not strengthened by the consensus of all men of knowledge with regard to it. Nor could its correctness be diminished and certainty regarding it be weakened even if all the people on earth disagreed with it.
Reason not only provides Abraham with demonstrative knowledge of God but is also the source of his attack on idol-worship. Maimonides does not quote a biblical text to indicate that Abraham’s missionary activity is the result of a divine command; rather, Maimonides writes, “having attained this knowledge he began to refute the inhabitants of Ur of the Chaldees.” The midrashic picture of Abraham provides Maimonides with an archetype of how the tradition understood reason’s way to God. By reflecting on nature one comes to realize that without recognizing God as the source of existence, the universe is unintelligible. Equally crucial is that aggadic man feels compelled to challenge an idolatrous world. Abraham recognized the factor of human alienation in transforming the idol- and star-worshiper into a pagan:
He realized that the whole world was in error, and that what had occasioned their error was that they worshiped the stars and the images, so that the truth perished from their minds.
Abraham’s arguments againts idol-worship are intelligible to those who are made to understand the process of alienation, i.e., that “the multitude grasp only the actions of worship, not their meanings or the true reality of the Being worshiped through them.”
Although intermediary worship, as distinct from belief in God’s corporeality, is compatible with truth, it is not compatible with one’s responsibility to safeguard belief in God within the broader community. Abraham appeals to this sense of responsibility toward community in his confrontation with the wise men of his generation:
He broke the images and commenced to instruct the people that it was not right to serve anyone but the God of the Universe to whom alone it was proper to bow down, offer up sacrifices and make libations, so that all human creatures might, in the future, know Him; and that it was proper to destroy and shatter all the images, so that the people might not err like these who thought that there was no God but these images.
Maimonides selects only one biblical text in his treatment of Abraham, “And invoked there the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). This text shows how man is driven to act on God’s behalf without having to appeal to God’s legislative authority. This is the paradigm text of aggadic man. This way of reasoning, including a concern for both thought and action, is the basis for Maimonides’ description of the community forged by the patriarchs as “a people that knew God.” The community of the patriarchs, embodying the way of Abraham, is organized around the knowledge of God provided by reason. Maimonides knew of other views in the tradition which presented the patriarchs as observing the laws of the Torah. The model of God as legislative authority, however, is completely absent from Maimonides’ description of the patriarchs. The patriarchs are, for Maimonides, models of the aggadic personality to which he refers in his halakhic works.
Given the emergence of the Abrahamic way to God, what factors could explain the appearance in history of Moses and the legislative model of God?
When the Israelites had stayed a long while in Egypt, they relapsed, learned the practices of their neighbors, and, like them, worshiped idols, with the exception of the tribe of Levi, which steadfastly kept the charge of the Patriarch. This tribe of Levi never practiced idolatry. The doctrine implanted by Abraham, would in a very short time, have bean uprooted, and Jacob’s descendants would have relapsed into the error and perversities universally prevalent. But because of God’s love for us and because He kept the oath made to our ancestor Abraham, He appointed Moses to be our teacher and the teacher of all the Prophets, and charged him with his mission. After Moses had begun to exercise his Prophetic functions and Israel had been chosen by the Almighty as His heritage, he crowned them with precepts, and showed them the way to worship Him, and how to deal with idolatry and with those who go astray after it.
Abraham’s community, based exclusively on knowledge of God, could not sustain its belief in God within a broader society which was idolatrous and pagan. The experience of the Israelites in Egypt revealed the inadequacy of sustaining a community solely on the basis of knowledge. Maimonides points to an actual—but not a necessary—process in history which created the need for Torah. He specifically notes that the tribe of Levi was able to withstand the influences of their environment. Singular individuals can remain steadfast in their loyalty to God through Aggadah. However the community which is composed of a variety of people—not all of whom are scholars—cannot sustain its allegiance to God if it is not supported by a total way of life. Abraham instituted worship of God based upon knowledge. Moses was compelled to promulgate laws whose actualization reinforces and sustains this belief: “… He crowned them with precepts and showed them the way to worship Him.…”
God appointed Moses the legislative teacher of Israel. The mode of discourse changes correspondingly. Where Abraham appeals to reason and offers convincing arguments, Moses appeals to divine authority and legislates a comprehensive way of life. Abraham rejects practices which can lead to the forgetting of God, Moses introduces practices which support and reinforce the belief in God.
Our analysis. of Maimonides’ introduction to the laws of idolatry now puts us in a better position to understand both his model of pre-Mosaic man and how the way of Aggadah leads to the way of Halakhah. If we are correct in claiming that integration is the model according to which one should understand Maimonides, we should also discover an account of how Halakhah is enhanced by Aggadah.
After describing laws dealing with the prohibitions against divination, astrology, magic, and necromancy, Maimonides writes in the Laws of Idolatry:
These practices are all false and deceptive, and were means employed by the ancient idolaters to deceive the peoples of various countries and induce them to become their followers. It is not proper for Israelites who are highly intelligent to suffer themselves to be deluded by such inanities or imagine that there is anything in them, as it is said, “Lo, there is no augury in Jacob, no divining in Israel” (Num. 23:23); and further, “These nations that you are about to dispossess do indeed resort to soothsayers and augurs; to you, however, the Lord your God has not assigned the like” (Deut. 18:14). Whoever believes in these and similar things, and in his heart, holds them to be true and scientific and only forbidden by the Torah, is nothing but a fool, deficient in understanding, who belongs to the same class with women and children whose intellects are immature. Sensible people, however, who possess sound mental faculties, know by clear proofs that all these practices which the Torah prohibited have no scientific basis but are chimerical and inane; and that only those deficient in knowledge are attracted by these follies and, for their sake, leave the ways of truth. The Torah, therefore, in forbidding all these follies, exhorts us, “You must be wholehearted with the Lord your God” (Deut. 18:13).
In this short but powerful statement Maimonides presents two approaches to the observance of the law. The approach of those who are ignorant of science is to obey the law exclusively because of divine authority. This attitude is similar to that previously discussed—the approach of those who accept aggadic statements as true even though those statements conflict with what could be observed in nature: Obedience to authority enables one to live by a tradition which has no connection with the structure of nature. Maimonides rejects this approach to Halakhah for the same reason that he rejects a literalist approach to Aggadah. Commitment to Torah is wholehearted only if the individual understands the laws and teachings of the Torah from a rational perspective. Although the model of the legal authority of God is introduced by Moses, and the Jew is now called upon to obey God’s commandments, one must not think that obedience unsupported by reason’s understanding of nature is a new path to God. Commandments and truth form a unity, if one understands that Moses consummates—without altering—the way of Abraham.
The unification of Aggadah and Halakhah by Maimonides is an attempt to protect the tradition from the risks involved in separating the one from the other. Aggadah divorced from Halakhah cannot sustain a community in history. Halakhah organizes the community and thus enables its members to withstand the influences of competing ways of life. The mind’s understanding of God gains living expression in the norms which structure one’s daily activities. Halakhah continuously sets God before the individual:
A person should pay heed to the precept of the mezuzah; for it is an obligation perpetually binding upon all. Whenever one enters or leaves a home with the mezuzah on the doorpost he will be confronted with the declaration of God’s unity, blessed be His holy name; and will remember the love due to God, and will be aroused from his slumbers and his foolish absorption in temporal vanities. He will realize that nothing endures to all eternity save knowledge of the Ruler of the Universe. This thought will immediately restore him to his right senses and he will walk in the paths of righteousness. Our ancient teachers said: He who has phylacteries on his head and arm, fringes on his garment, and a mezuzah on his door may be presumed not to sin, for he has many monitors—angels that save him from sinning, as it is said (Ps. 34:8): “The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, and delivers them.”
Halakhah provides concrete symbols which remind a person of his ultimate task: to know God. Halakhah prevents the individual from becoming totally absorbed in the demands of economic and political survival. It provides, within the everyday framework, a means by which to achieve spiritual transcendence beyond the dehumanizing effect of mundane routines.
However, the minute symbolic details of Halakhah present a risk as well. The risk of a religious, legal tradition is that man may focus on what one must or must not do, and forget or misunderstand for whom these actions are performed. Maimonides cannot tolerate the possible separation of Halakhah from God; the law must express the relationship of a man with God. He cannot overlook the person who observes the law yet conceives of God in corporeal terms. To Maimonides, to believe that God is corporeal is to believe in that which does not exist. Maimonides can accept imperfect motives in one’s performance of commandments—but he will not tolerate belief in God’s corporeality. Such a belief makes the halakhic mode a monologue—not a dialogue.
The Mishneh Torah begins with four chapters dealing with norms which cannot be separated from the understanding of God as He is revealed in nature. The existence, unity, and non-corporeality of God are presented as the content of norms even though they are demonstrative truths. One is wholehearted in fulfilling these norms only when he understands, through his own intellect, that God exists—is one and is non-corporeal. By beginning the Mishneh Torah in this way the halakhic Jew is forced to perceive God’s reality as extending beyond the structure of the law.
Halakhah is a means to serve God. Maimonides, who is so sensitive to the problem of alienation, as is revealed in his treatment of the origins of paganism, is equally aware of the possibilities of alienation within Halakhah itself. In his “Treatise on Resurrection,” he explains why he dealt with matters of belief in his legal works. He was aware that one could become enamored and totally preoccupied with details of Halakhah at the expense of knowledge of God. His concern with the fundamental principles of Judaism in his legal works, and his insistence upon a correct conception of God in the Mishneh Torah, are not the result of philosophical intellectualism. ( Philosophies of Judaism ) They are based, rather, on a fear that a student of Halakhah can become an expert in legal matters and a pagan in matters of belief. The aggadic themes briefly discussed in the legal works are addressed to legal students in the hope that their passion for law will lead to a passion for God.
Thus far, we have argued against the alleged schism between Maimonides’ philosophic and halakhic writings. There still remains the explanation of how the studies of nature and metaphysics alter the practices of the halakhic Jew. The talmudic student of Maimonides will have followed his guidance well by studying both the written and oral law and then devoting most of his time to Talmud, a study which includes pardes, i.e., physics and metaphysics.
Insofar as we are dealing with a spiritual outlook, we must expect that such cognitive development will alter one’s perception of self, nature, history, and God. Philosophy, to Maimonides, not only points to the contemplative ideal, but also suggests a method of changing the religious attitudes and perspectives of a person. This leads directly to an exploration of the ḥasid.
For your sakes he became poor. --- 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Christ humbled himself in his birth. Samuel Willard, “Christ Humbled Himself,” preached May 12, 1696, the second in a series of twelve sermons on this question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism; downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritansermons.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001. The humiliation of the birth of Christ consists mainly in its humble state. There were indeed notable flashes of his glory attending his birth by which God testified that he was the Messiah. But his birth itself was accompanied with an awe-inspiring humility, as he abased himself through it. He was born for us, and so he was born in a condition appropriate to our need. He showed in his birth what sin had made us. There are a few things we may take notice of as properly belonging to his humiliation:
1. He was born under a sentence of condemnation. As soon as he put on our nature, he stood under the doom of the Law. He was born to die and was adjudged by it as soon as he was human. We are all born children of wrath in our natural state, and he put himself in our place, and therefore came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17), and this is the main article of it. He intended to be made a sacrifice; God prepared him a body for this (Heb. 12:5). Justice took hold on him as soon as he came into the world and did not discharge him until it had taken its satisfaction of him, and he lived in view of it all his days and spoke of it frequently.
2. He was born of a sinful woman. It was a particular condescension of the Son of God to be born of any of Adam’s sinful children. True honor in God’s account consists in holiness, and sin is to him the vilest disgrace. Original sin in Christ’s mother had made her more contemptible and ignoble than anything else could; had she been an empress, it would yet have been to Christ a degrading of himself to derive his humanity from her. As it is a disgrace to have a traitor as one’s father, so it is no less to have a sinner for one’s mother. Thus Christ, though without sin, would be intimately related to sinners, for whose sake he came into the world.
3. Joseph and Mary were very poor and wretched. Mary was his true mother, as really as any other mother is the mother of her children. And Joseph, though not really his father, was commonly accepted so, and the honor or contempt of his father’s condition reflected on him. They were indeed descendants of King David, but they were reduced to an inferior condition, little to be regarded among rich and wealthy neighbors. Joseph was a carpenter, a laborious calling that was not very profitable.
--- Samuel Willard
It is a mistake to nail the English Reformation just to the door of King Henry VIII. While Henry broke relations with Rome, he still believed Catholic doctrine. He just wanted Catholicism without the pope. The real English Reformation is better credited to a scholar at Cambridge University named Thomas Bilney who embraced Reformation truth after reading Erasmus’s Greek New Testament. Bilney gathered a group at White Horse Inn for secret Bible study and prayer. He was eventually found out, and he perished in the flames at Norwich on August 19, 1531—but not before influencing Hugh Latimer, a spiritual giant who is known as the “Apostle to the English.”
Latimer had bitterly opposed the Reformation; but Bilney, hearing him preach a scathing sermon at Cambridge against Lutheranism, sought him out and succeeded in persuading him otherwise. Soon Latimer was preaching the faith he had once labored to destroy. As a result, he fell from favor during Henry’s reign and spent time in the Tower of London. When Edward VI came to the throne, Latimer was released for ministry; but when Edward died, Latimer was among those caught and condemned by officials of Queen Mary. On October 16, 1555 he and Nicholas Ridley were tied back-to-back to the stake in Oxford and set aflame. “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley,” Latimer cried. “Play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
And the flames leaped up, but the blinding smoke
Could not the soul of Hugh Latimer choke;
For, said he, “Brother Ridley, be of good cheer,
A candle in England is lighted here,
Which by the grace of God shall never go out!”—
And that speech in whispers was echoed about—
Latimer’s Light shall never go out,
However the winds may blow it about.
Latimer’s Light can come to stay
Till the trump of a coming judging day.*
So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up.
--- Hebrews 12:3.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 16
“Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine.” --- John 21:12.
In these words the believer is invited to a holy nearness to Jesus. “Come and dine,” implies the same table, the same meat; aye, and sometimes it means to sit side by side, and lean our head upon the Saviour’s bosom. It is being brought into the banqueting-house, where waves the banner of redeeming love. “Come and dine,” gives us a vision of union with Jesus, because the only food that we can feast upon when we dine with Jesus is himself. Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven. At the table of fellowship with Jesus we are one bread and one cup. As the loving cup goes round we pledge one another heartily therein. Get nearer to Jesus, and you will find yourself linked more and more in spirit to all who are like yourself, supported by the same heavenly manna. If we were more near to Jesus we should be more near to one another. We likewise see in these words the source of strength for every Christian. To look at Christ is to live, but for strength to serve him you must “come and dine.” We labour under much unnecessary weakness on account of neglecting this percept of the Master. We none of us need to put ourselves on low diet; on the contrary, we should fatten on the marrow and fatness of the Gospel that we may accumulate strength therein, and urge every power to its full tension in the Master’s service. Thus, then, if you would realize nearness to Jesus, union with Jesus, love to his people and strength from Jesus, “come and dine” with him by faith.
Evening - October 16
“With thee is the fountain of life.” --- Psalm 36:9.
There are times in our spiritual experience when human counsel or sympathy, or religious ordinances, fail to comfort or help us. Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because we have been living too much without him, and he therefore takes away everything upon which we have been in the habit of depending, that he may drive us to himself. It is a blessed thing to live at the fountain head. While our skin- bottles are full, we are content, like Hagar and Ishmael, to go into the wilderness; but when those are dry, nothing will serve us but “Thou God seest me.” We are like the prodigal, we love the swine-troughs and forget our Father’s house. Remember, we can make swine-troughs and husks even out of the forms of religion; they are blessed things, but we may put them in God’s place, and then they are of no value. Anything becomes an idol when it keeps us away from God: even the brazen serpent is to be despised as “Nehushtan,” if we worship it instead of God. The prodigal was never safer than when he was driven to his father’s bosom, because he could find sustenance nowhere else. Our Lord favours us with a famine in the land that it may make us seek after himself the more. The best position for a Christian is living wholly and directly on God’s grace—still abiding where he stood at first—“Having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Let us never for a moment think that our standing is in our sanctification, our mortification, our graces, or our feelings, but know that because Christ offered a full atonement, therefore we are saved; for we are complete in him. Having nothing of our own to trust to, but resting upon the merits of Jesus—his passion and holy life furnish us with the only sure ground of confidence. Beloved, when we are brought to a thirsting condition, we are sure to turn to the fountain of life with eagerness.
MUST JESUS BEAR THE CROSS ALONE?
Thomas Shepherd, 1665–1739
Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)
The scriptural qualifications for discipleship are very clear: Self-denial and a resolve to bear a cross of consecration for the sake of the Gospel. Each true follower of Christ will have a cross to bear at various times throughout life. The cross is the badge that identifies us as a worthy representative and servant of our Master. For some, the cross might be a physical weakness; for others it could be an unachieved goal, a discouraging situation, or a concern for a loved one. Whatever it may be, the way we bear our individual cross can in itself be a testimony to the power of the Gospel as well as a source of encouragement to weaker Christians.
The text for this hymn was the work of several different authors through the centuries. Thomas Shepherd, a 17th century English dissenter preacher, published a volume of poems in 1693 titled Penitential Cries. At least the first stanza with some possible alterations is believed to have come from that volume. One of the original stanzas from this work reads as follows:
Shall Simon bear the Cross alone, and other Saints be free?
Each Saint of Thine shall find his own— And there is one for me.
George Nelson Allen, music teacher at Oberlin College, collected the verses and composed the music for the text in 1844 for inclusion in his collection, Oberlin Social and Sabbath School Hymn Book. “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?” has since challenged Christians in their commitment to Christ and His service with the realization that an earthly cross always precedes the heavenly crown.
Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for ev’ry one, and there’s a cross for me.
The consecrated cross I’ll bear till death shall set me free, and then go home my crown to wear, for there’s a crown for me.
How happy are the saints above, who once went sorrowing here! But now they taste unmingled love, and joy without a tear.
O precious cross! O glorious crown! O resurrection day! Ye angels, from the stars come down and bear my soul away.
For Today: Matthew 16:24–27; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:21–24
Reflect on the example of our Lord, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame …” (Hebrews 12:2). Relate this to the cross you may be bearing. Carry this musical truth with you ---
I. What wisdom is. Wisdom, among the Greeks, first signified an eminent perfection in any art or mystery; so a good statuary,
engraver, or limner, was called wise, as having an excellent knowledge in his particular art. But afterwards the title of wise was
appropriated to those that devoted themselves to the contemplation of the highest things that served for a foundation to speculative
sciences. But ordinarily we count a man a wise man, when he conducts his affairs with discretion, and governs his passions with
moderation, and carries himself with a due proportion and harmony in all his concerns. But in particular, wisdom consists,
1. In acting for a right end. The chiefest part of prudence is in fixing a right end, and in choosing fit means, and directing them to that scope; to shoot at random is a mark of folly. As he is the wisest man that hath the noblest end and fittest means, so God is infinitely wise; as he is the most excellent being, so he hath the most excellent end. As there is none more excellent than himself, nothing can be his end but himself; as he is the cause of all, so he is the end of all; and he puts a true bias into all the means he useth to hit the mark he aims at: “Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Rom. 11:36).
2. Wisdom consists in observing all circumstances for action. He is counted a wise man that lays hold of the fittest opportunities to bring his designs about, that hath the fullest foresight of all the little intrigues which may happen in a business he is to manage, and times every part of his action in an exact harmony with the proper minutes of it. God hath all the circumstances of things in one entire image before him; he hath a prospect of every little creek in any design. He sees what second causes will act, and when they will act this or that; yea, he determines them to such and such acts; so that it is impossible he should be mistaken, or miss of the due season of bringing about his own purposes. As he hath more goodness than to deceive any, so he hath more understanding than to be mistaken in any thing. Hence the time of the incarnation of our blessed Saviour is called the fulness of time, the proper season for his coming. Every circumstance about Christ was timed according to the predictions of God; even so little a thing as not parting his garment, and the giving him gall and vinegar to drink; and all the blessings he showers down upon his people, according to the covenant of grace, are said to come “in his season” (Ezek. 34:25, 26). ( God is never, never late. )
3. Wisdom consists in willing and acting according to the right reason, according to a right judgment of things. We can never count a wilful man a wise man; but him only that acts according to a right rule, when right counsels are taken and vigorously executed. The resolves and ways of God are not mere will, but will guided by the reason and counsel of his own infinite understanding (Eph. 1:11); “Who works all things according to the counsel of his own will.” The motions of the Divine will are not rash, but follow the proposals of the Divine mind; he chooses that which is fittest to be done, so that all his works are graceful, and all his ways have a comeliness and decorum in them. Hence all his ways are said to be “judgment” (Deut. 32:4), not mere will. Hence it appears, that wisdom and knowledge are two distinct perfections. Knowledge hath its seat in the speculative understanding, wisdom in the practical. Wisdom and knowledge are evidently distinguished as two several gifts of the Spirit in man (1 Cor. 12:8); “To one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit.” Knowledge is an understanding of general rules, and wisdom is a drawing conclusions from those rules in order to particular cases. ( Every day, at least once a day, sometimes more, I pray that my bride will be filled with Godly wisdom, Godly discernment and Godly understanding, the joy of the Lord and the peace of God. ) A man may have the knowledge of the whole Scripture, and have all learning in the treasury of his memory, and yet be destitute of skill to make use of them upon particular occasions, and untie those knotty questions which may be proposed to him, by a ready application of those rules. Again, knowledge and wisdom may be distinguished, in our conception, as two distinct perfections in God: the knowledge of God is his understanding of all things; his wisdom is the skilful resolving and acting of all things. And the apostle, in his admiration of him, owns them as distinct; “O the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33)! Knowledge is the foundation of wisdom, and antecedent to it; wisdom the superstructure upon knowledge: men may have knowledge without wisdom, but not wisdom without knowledge; according to our common proverb, “The greatest clerks are not the wisest men.” All practical knowledge is founded in speculation, either secundum rem, as in a man; or, secundum rationem, as in God. They agree in this, that they are both acts of the understanding; but knowledge is the apprehension of a thing, and wisdom is the appointing and ordering of things. Wisdom is the splendor and lustre of knowledge shining forth in operations, and is an act both of understanding and will; understanding in counselling and contriving, will in resolving and executing: counsel and will are linked together (Eph. 1:11).
II. . The second thing is to lay down some propositions in general, concerning the wisdom of God. First, There is an essential and a personal wisdom of God. The essential wisdom, is the essence of God; the personal wisdom is the Son of God. Christ is called Wisdom by himself (Luke 7:35). The wisdom of God by the apostle (1 Cor. 1:24). The wisdom I speak of belongs to the nature of God, and is considered a necessary perfection. The personal wisdom is called so, because he opens to us the secrets of God. If the Son were that wisdom whereby the Father is wise, the Son would be also the essence whereby the Father is God. If the Son were the wisdom of the Father, whereby he is essentially wise, the Son would be the essence of the Father, and the Father would have his essence from the Son, since the wisdom of God is the essence of God; and so the Son would be the Father, if the wisdom and power of the Father were originally in the Son.
Secondly, Therefore the wisdom of God is the same with the essence of God. Wisdom in God is not a habit added to his essence, as it is in man, but it is his essence. It is like the splendor of the sun, the same with the sun itself; or like the brightness of crystal, which is not communicated to it by anything else, as the brightness of a mountain is by the beam of the sun, but it is one with the crystal itself. It is not a habit superadded to the Divine essence; that would be repugnant to the simplicity of God, and speak him compounded of divers principles; it would be contrary to the eternity of his perfections: if he be eternally wise, his wisdom is his essence; for there is nothing eternal but the essence of God. As the sun melts some things, and hardens others; blackens some things, and whitens others, and produceth contrary qualities in different subjects, yet it is but one and the same quality in the sun, which is the cause of those contrary operations; so the perfections of God seem to be diverse in our conceptions, yet they are but one and the same in God. The wisdom of God, is God acting prudently; as the power of God, is God acting powerfully; and the justice of God, is God acting righteously; and therefore it is more truly said, that God is wisdom, justice, truth, power, than that he is wise, just, true, &c. as if he were compounded of substance and qualities. All the operations of God proceed from one simple essence; as all the operations of the mind of man, though various, proceed from one faculty of understanding. Thirdly, Wisdom is the property of God alone: He is “only wise.” It is an honor peculiar to him. Upon the account that no man deserved the title of wise, but that it was a royalty belonging to God, Pythagoras would not be called Ζὸφος, a title given to their learned men, but Φ ιλόσοφος. The name philosopher arose out of a respect to this transcendent perfection of God.
1. God is “only wise” necessarily. As he is necessarily God, so he is necessarily wise; for the notion of wisdom is inseparable from the notion of a Deity. When we say, God is a Spirit, is true, righteous, wise; we understand that he is transcendently these, by an intrinsic and absolute necessity, by virtue of his own essence, without the efficiency of any other, or any efficiency in and by himself. God doth not make himself wise, no more than he makes himself God. As he is a necessary Being in regard of his life, so he is necessarily wise in regard of his understanding. Synesius saith, that God is essentiated; οὐσιοῦοθαι, by his understanding. He places the substance of God in understanding and wisdom: wisdom is the first vital operation of God. He can no more be unwise than he can be untrue; for folly in the mind is much the same with falsity in speech. Wisdom among men is gained by age and experience, furthered by instructions and exercise; but the wisdom of God is his nature. As the sun cannot be without light, while it remains a sun, and as eternity cannot be without immortality, so neither can God be without wisdom as he only hath immortality (1 Tim. 6:16), not arbitrarily, but necessarily; so he only hath wisdom: not because he will be wise, but because he cannot but be wise. He cannot but contrive counsels, and exert operations, becoming the greatness and majesty of his nature.
2. Therefore “only wise” originally. God is αν δίδακτος αν τόσοφος. Men acquire wisdom by the loss of their fairest years; but his wisdom is the perfection of the Divine nature, not the birth of study, or the growth of experience, but as necessary, as eternal, as his essence. He goes not out of himself to search wisdom: he needs no more the brains of creatures in the contrivance of his purposes, than he doth their arm in the execution of them. He needs no counsel, he receives no counsel from any (Rom. 11:34): “Who hath been his counsellor?” and (Isa. 40:14) “With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, or taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the path of understanding?” He is the only Fountain of wisdom to others; angels and men have what wisdom they have, by communication from him. All created wisdom is a spark of the Divine light, like that of the stars borrowed from the sun. He that borrows wisdom from another, and doth not originally possess it in his own nature, cannot properly be called wise. As God is the only Being, in regard that all other beings are derived from him, so he is only wise, because all other wisdom flows from him. He is the spring of wisdom to all; none the original of wisdom to him.
3. Therefore “only wise” perfectly. There is no cloud upon his understanding. He hath a distinct and certain knowledge of all things that can fall under action; as he hath a perfect knowledge without ignorance, so he hath a beautiful wisdom without mole or wart. Men are wise, yet have not an understanding so vast as to grasp all things, nor a perspicacity so clear, as to penetrate into the depths of all being. Angels have more delightful and lively sparks of wisdom, yet so imperfect, that in regard of the wisdom of God they are charged with folly (Job 4:18). Their wisdom as well as their holiness is veiled in the presence of God. It vanisheth, as the glowing of a fire doth before the beauty of the sun, or as the light of a candle in the midst of a sunshine contracts itself, and none of its rays are seen, but in the body of the flame. The angels are not perfectly wise, because they are not perfectly knowing: the gospel, the great discovery of God’s wisdom, was hid from them for ages.
4. Therefore “only wise” universally. Wisdom in one man is of one sort, in another of another sort; one is a wise tradesman, another a wise statesman, and another a wise philosopher: one is wise in the business of the world, another is wise in divine concerns. One hath not so much of plenty of one sort, but he may have a scantiness in another; one may be wise for invention, and foolish in execution; an artificer may have skill to frame an engine, and not skill to use it. The ground that is fit for olives may not be fit for vines; that will bear one sort of grain and not another. But God hath an universal wisdom, because his nature is wise; it is not limited, but hovers over everything, shines in every being. His executions are as wise as his contrivances: he is wise in his resolves, and wise in his ways: wise in all the varieties of his works of creation, government, redemption. As his will wills all things, and his power effects all things, so his wisdom is the universal director of the motions of his will, and the executions of his power: as his righteousness is the measure of the matter of his actions, so his wisdom is the rule that directs the manner of his actions. The absolute power of God is not an unruly power: his wisdom orders all things, so that nothing is done but what is fit and convenient, and agreeable to so excellent a Being: as he cannot do an unjust thing because of his righteousnesness, so he cannot do an unwise act, because of his infinite wisdom. Though God be not necessitated to any operation without himself, as to the creation of anything, yet supposing he will act, his wisdom necessitates him to do that which is congruous, as his righteousness necessitates him to do that which is just: so that though the will of God be the principle, yet his wisdom is the rule of his actions. We must, in our conceiving of the order, suppose wisdom antecedent to will none that acknowledges a God can have such an impious thought as to affix temerity and rashness to any of his proceedings. All his decrees are drawn out of the infinite treasury of wisdom in himself. He resolves nothing about any of his creatures without reason; but the reason of his purposes is in himself, and springs from himself, and not from the creatures: there is not one thing that he wills but “he wills by counsel, and works by counsel” (Eph. 1:11). Counsel writ down every line, every letter, in his eternal Book; and all the orders are drawn out from thence by his wisdom and will: what was illustrious in the contrivance, glitters in the execution. His understanding and will are infinite; what is therefore the act of his will, is the result of his understanding, and therefore rational. His understanding and will join hands; there is no contest in God, will against mind, and mind against will; they are one in God, one in his resolves, and one in all his works.
5. Therefore he is “only wise” perpetually. As the wisdom of man is got by ripeness of age, so it is lost by decay of years; it is got by instruction, and lost by dotage. The perfectest minds, when in the wane, have been darkened with folly: Nebuchadnezzar, that was wise for a man, became as foolish as a brute.
But the Ancient of Days is an unchangeable possessor of prudence; his wisdom is a mirror of brightness, without a defacing spot. It was “possessed by him in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old” (Prov. 8:22), and he can never be dispossessed of it in the end of his works. It is inseparable from him: the being of his Godhead may as soon cease as the beauty of his mind; “with him is wisdom” (Job 12:13); it is inseparable from him; therefore, as durable as his essence. It is a wisdom infinite, and therefore without increase or decrease in itself. The experience of so many ages in the government of the world hath added nothing to the immensity of it, as the shining of the sun since the creation of the world hath added nothing to the light of that glorious body. As ignorance never darkens his knowledge, so folly never disgraces his prudence. God infatuates men, but neither men nor devils can infatuate God; he is unerringly wise; his counsel doth not vary and flatter; it is not one day one counsel, and another day another, but it stands like an immovable rock, or a mountain of brass. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11).
6. He is only wise incomprehensibly. “His thoughts are deep” (Psalm 92:5); “His judgments unsearchable, his ways past finding out” (Rom. 11:33): depths that cannot be fathomed; a splendor more dazzling to our dim minds than the light of the sun to our weak eyes. The wisdom of one man may be comprehended by another, and over-comprehended; and often men are understood by others to be wiser in their actions than they understand themselves to be; and the wisdom of one angel may be measured by another angel of the same perfection. But as the essence, so the wisdom of God is incomprehensible to any creature; God is only comprehended by God. The secrets of wisdom in God are double to the expressions of it in his works (Job 11:6, 7): “Canst thou, by searching, find out God?” There is an unfathomable depth in all his decrees, in all his works; we cannot comprehend the reason of his works, much less that of his decrees, much less that in his nature; because his wisdom, being infinite as well as his power, can no more act to the highest pitch than his power. As his power is not terminated by what he hath wrought, but he could give further testimonies of it, so neither is his wisdom, but he could furnish us with infinite expressions and pieces of his skill. As in regard of his immensity he is not bounded by the limits of place; in regard of his eternity, not measured by the minutes of time; in regard of his power, not terminated with this or that number of objects; so, in regard of his wisdom, he is not confined to this or that particular mode of working; so that in regard of the reason of his actions, as well as the glory and majesty of his nature, he dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16); and whatsoever we understand of his wisdom in creation and providence, is infinitely less than what is in himself and his own unbounded nature. Many things in Scripture are declared chiefly to be the acts of the Divine will, yet we must not think that they were acts of mere will without wisdom, but they are represented so to us, because we are not capable of understanding the infinite reason of its acts: his sovereignty is more intelligible to us than his wisdom. We can better know the commands of a superior, and the laws of a prince, than understand the reason that gave birth to those laws. We may know the orders of the Divine will, as they are published, but not the sublime reason of his will. Though election be an act of God’s sovereignty, and he hath no cause from without to determine him, yet his infinite wisdom stood not silent while mere dominion acted. Whatsoever God doth, he doth wisely, as well as sovereignly; though that wisdom which lies in the secret places of the Divine Being be as incomprehensible to us as the effects of his sovereignty and power in the world are visible, God can give a reason of his proceeding, and that drawn from himself, though we understand it not. The causes of things visible lie hid from us. Doth any man know how to distinguish the seminal virtue of a small seed from the body of it, and in what nook and corner that lies, and what that is that spreads itself in so fair a plant, and so many flowers? Can we comprehend the justice of God’s proceedings in the prosperity of the wicked, and the afflictions of the godly? Y et as we must conclude them the fruits of an unerring righteousness, so we must conclude all his actions the fruits of an unspotted wisdom, though the concatenation of all his counsels is not intelligible to us; for he is as essentially and necessarily wise, as he is essentially and necessarily good and righteous. God is not only so wise that nothing more wise can be conceived, but he is more wise than can be imagined; something greater in all his perfections than can be comprehended by any creature. It is a foolish thing, therefore, to question that which we cannot comprehend; we should adore it instead of disputing against it; and take it for granted, that God would not order anything, were it not agreeable to the sovereignty of his wisdom, as well as that of his will. Though the reason of man proceed from the wisdom of God, yet there is more difference between the reason of man, and the wisdom of God, than between the light of the sun, and the feeble shining of the glow-worm; yet we presume to censure the ways of God, as if our purblind reason had a reach above him.
7. God is “only wise” infallibly. The wisest men meet with rubs in the way, that make them fall short of what they aim at; they often design, and fail; then begin again; and yet all their counsels end in smoke, and none of them arrive at perfection. If the wisest angels lay a plot, they may be disappointed; for though they are higher and wiser than man, yet there is One higher and wiser than they, that can check their projects. God always compasseth his end, never fails of anything he designs and aims at; all his undertakings are counsel and will; as nothing can resist the efficacy of his will, so nothing can countermine the skill of his counsel: “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30). He compasseth his ends by those actions of men and devils, wherein they think to cross him; they shoot at their own mark, and hit his. Lucifer’s plot, by divine wisdom, fulfilled God’s purpose against Lucifer’s mind. The counsel of redemption by Christ, the end of the creation of the world, rode into the world upon the back of the serpent’s temptation. God never mistakes the means, nor can there be any disappointments to make him vary his counsels, and pitch upon other means than what before he had ordained. His “word that goeth forth of his mouth shall not return to him void, but it shall accomplish that which he pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto he sent it” (Isa. 55:11). What is said of his word is true of his counsel; it shall prosper in the thing for which it is appointed; it cannot be defeated by all the legions of men and devils; for “as he thinks, so shall it come to pass; and as he hath purposed, so shall it stand; the Lord hath purposed, and who shall disannul it” (Isa. 14:24, 27)? The wisdom of the creature is a drop from the wisdom of God, and is like a drop to the ocean, and a shadow to the sun; and, therefore, is not able to meet the wisdom of God, which is infinite and boundless. No wisdom is exempted from mistakes, but the Divine: he is wise in all his resolves, and never “calls back his words” and purposes (Isa. 31:2).
III. The third general is to prove that God is wise. This is ascribed to God in Scripture (Dan. 2:20); “Wisdom and might are his;” wisdom to contrive, and power to effect. Where should wisdom dwell, but in the head of a Deity? and where should power triumph, but in the arm of Omnipotency? All that God doth, he doth artificially, skilfully; whence he is called the “Builder of the heavens” (Heb. 11:10), Τεχ νίτης an artifical and curious builder, a builder by art: and that word (Prov. 8:30) meant of Christ; “Then I was by him as one brought up with him;” some render it, Then I was the curious artificer; and the same word, is translated, a cunning workman (Cant. 7:5). For this cause, counsel is ascribed to God; not properly, for counsel implies something of ignorance, or irresolution, antecedent to the consultation, and a posture of will afterwards, which was not before. Counsel is, properly, a laborious deliberation, and a reasoning of things; an invention of means for the attainment of the end, after a discussing and reasoning of all the doubts which arise, pro re natâ, about the matter in counsel. But God hath no need to deliberate in himself what are the best means to accomplish his ends: he is never ignorant or undetermined what course he should take, as men are before they consult. But it is an expression, in condescension to our capacity, to signify that God doth nothing but with reason and understanding, with the highest prudence and for the most glorious ends, as men do after consultation and the weighing of every foreseen circumstance. Though he acts all things sovereignly by his will, yet he acts all things wisely by his understanding; and there is not a decree of his will but he can render a satisfactory reason for, in the face of men and angels. As he is the cause of all things, so he hath the highest wisdom for the ordering of all things. If wisdom among men be the knowledge of divine and human things, God must be infinitey wise, since knowledge is most radiant in him; he knows what angels and men do. and infinitely more; what is known by them obscurely, is known by him clearly; what is known by man after it is done, was known by God before it was wrought. By his wisdom, as much as by anything, he infinitely differs from all his creatures, as by wisdom man differs from a brute. We cannot frame a notion of God, without conceiving him infinitely wise. We should render him very inconsiderable, to imagine him furnished with an infinite knowledge, and not have an infinite wisdom to make use of that knowledge, or to fancy him with a mighty power destitute of prudence. Knowledge without prudence, is an eye without motion; and power without discretion, is an arm without a head; a hand to act, without understanding to contrive and model; a strength to act, without reason to know how to act: it would be a miserable notion of a God, to fancy him with a brutish and unguided power. The heathens, therefore, had, and could not but have, this natural notion of God. Plato, therefore, calls him Mens; and Cleanthes used to call God Reason; and Socrates thought the title of Ζοφός too magnificent to be attributed to anything else but God alone.
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A Diagnosis of the Soils 1 and 2
The Power and Pity of Jesus, Part 1
The Power and Pity of Jesus, Part 2
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