The Parable of the TenantsMark 12:1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Paying Taxes to Caesar13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
There is no conflict of duties between the spiritual life and one’s earthly responsibilities. The more truly we love God, the more sincerely will we seek the good of mankind. We express our faith in God by our love for our fellow men (1 John 3:23). The Christian should be an example in his community of devotion to everything that is good and for the well-being of his neighbors. But this does not involve a recognition of the present world order as the fulfillment of the divine ideal. So long as earth’s rightful ruler, the Lord Jesus Christ, is rejected there will never be perfect government in this scene. Nevertheless, “the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1), in the sense that they exist only by His permissive will, hence the importance of subjection to the existing authority in any given country.
If human edicts be positively opposed to the expressed will of God, the Christian is to obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19). Where conditions are such that he can with good conscience cooperate with the government, he is to do so. Any other course would be contrary to the spirit of Him who said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
Romans 13:13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, ESV The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
The Great Commandment28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Whose Son Is the Christ?35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’
Beware of the Scribes38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
The Widow’s Offering41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the TempleMark 13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Signs of the End of the Age3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The Abomination of Desolation14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
The Coming of the Son of Man24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day or Hour32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
What I'm Reading
Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical Gospels Attributed to Matthew?
By J. Warner Wallace 10/3/2017
The Gospel of Matthew is a reliable New Testament record of the life and ministry of Jesus, but this ancient document isn’t the only text attributed to the ex-tax collector formerly known as Levi. Other slightly less ancient texts also claim to have been written by the same man who wrote the gospel we accept as canon. But are these non-biblical texts reliable? Were they really written by Matthew? There are four characteristics of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first attribute requires that an alleged eyewitness account be old enough to actually be written by someone who was present to see what he or she reports. None of the following texts described in this article were written early enough to have been written by the Apostle Matthew, and like other late non-canonical texts, these errant documents were rejected by early Church leaders. In spite of this, these ancient fabrications were constructed around nuggets of truth. Although they were written by authors who altered the story of Jesus to suit the purposes of their religious communities, much can still be learned about the historic Jesus:
The Gospel of the Hebrews (100-150AD)
The Gospel According to the Hebrews no longer exists, but is mentioned in the writings of Jerome, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius and Cyril of Jerusalem. I’m including it in this list of non-canonical texts attributed to Matthew because several of these early Church leaders describe the text as being attributed in this way. Scholars believe it was composed in Egypt in the 2nd century and originally written in Hebrew. It is the most quoted of several “Judeo-Christian” gospels that were used by Jewish-Christian communities. Scholars are uncertain just how many Gospels were used in these Judeo-Christian communities; several have been mentioned by early Church leaders, including The Gospel of the Ebionites, The Gospel of the Nazoreans, and The Gospel of Cerinthus. These may be separate gospels or just different names used to identify the same gospel, based on which community used the text (for purposes of our investigation, we will examine all four texts independently).
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
Although several early Church Fathers described the book as being attributed to Matthew (written in the Hebrew language for use by Hebrew Christians), the quotations available to us from The Gospel of the Hebrews seem to show little or no dependence on the canonical Gospel of Matthew. Eusebius and Origen listed the text among the “disputed writings” that were rejected by some (although accepted by others). From the few quotes available to us, we can see that The Gospel of the Hebrews reflects a theological perspective that would resonate with Jewish believers committed to retaining their deep-seated Jewish beliefs. It is possible that these communities re-shaped the original text to fit their Jewish presuppositions. In addition, the text appears to have shared a verse with The Gospel of Thomas (saying 2), a text that was rejected as heretical by the early Church.
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.
How (Other) People Change
By Josh Squires 10/12/2017
Am I helping or hurting? Aiding or enabling?
Parents, friends, and church family often find themselves in this precarious position. Someone we know and love is in sin’s grip. We agonize over whether the help we might offer will help them find freedom, or just drive them further away.
We know that love will not allow us to simply ignore the situation. Scripture calls Christians to bear one another’s burdens through the chaos and mess of life, especially the darkest seasons (see Galatians 6:2, Colossians 3:13, 1 Peter 4:10, and others). We are called to do so with caution and care, in such a way that we are not pulled down into temptation ourselves (Galatians 6:1), but also persistently calling others to change (Galatians 6:5).
But what does that mean practically? Can we even tell when our words or actions are likely to help in the fight against sin or unintentionally enable it somehow?
What You Cannot Do | First, some caveats. While you will not find the phrase “Stages of Change” anywhere in Scripture, I want to introduce you to a tested and popular paradigm used among counselors around the world, because it has been helpful to me personally as a pastor, counselor, and Christian. It’s called “Prochaska & DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model (1983).”
Josh Squires (@jsquires12) serves as pastor of counseling and congregational care at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He and his wife have five children.
8 Ways The Protestant Reformation Continues To Shape Evangelism
By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Martin Luther’s great moment of theological clarification came at the climax of a command performance. Facing the threat of martyrdom and execution, Luther appeared on trial at the Diet of Worms before the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Asked on what authority he dared to defy the Pope and the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, Luther famously replied:
“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves–I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”
To those words were added: “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.”
The Diet of Worms was held in 1521. At the conclusion of his defense, Luther simply said, “I am finished.” There was good reason to believe that he was quite finished. He would be excommunicated from the church and he would live with the threat of martyrdom for the rest of his life. But now, 500 years after Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, the faith of the Reformation is still very much alive.
That moment of exquisite clarification came when Luther had nowhere to stand but on the authority of Scripture alone. Standing on biblical authority would not have been controversial, but the addition of that little sola changed everything. There is an infinite chasm between the authority of Scripture and the authority of Scripture alone.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
Knowing Our God
By Nathan Pitchford 10/2/2017Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD" Jeremiah 9:23-24
Introduction | Of all the possible pursuits, activities, or studies that are practically relevant and positively beneficial which we might spend our time pursuing, there is none, however profitable or necessary, that is as needful and uplifting and valuable as the subject matter of this study. As Christians, there is nothing more practical for us than to know our God. As created beings, there is nothing we need more than to understand our Creator. As desperate and wandering souls searching for significance, longing for something that is infinitely satisfying, seeking pleasure from finite things when God "œhas set eternity in [our] heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11), there is nothing that can even begin to answer to the depths of our vast needs, desires, and longings, except for one thing. That one thing is knowing our God. And that one thing is what we are hoping by his grace to pursue in this study. I hope that all of us can resonate with the truth A. W. Pink once observed, that "œa spiritual and saving knowledge of God is the greatest need of every human creature," and furthermore, that "œthe foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture." As we turn to the scriptures, it is with the hope and prayer that God will " shine in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6).
But how do we even begin to undertake a task so enormous? Our first and guiding principle is that, if we would learn about God aright, we must do so only from the pages of his word. The cause of man's first rebellion, and all the chaos and misery that ensued, was only this, that he failed to take his understanding of God's character at his own word, and instead listened to the whispered lies of the serpent. If we would regain the position from which we fell, it can only be by listening once more to God's word, and letting his own self-revelation shape our ideas of who he is.
However, as we embark on the process, we quickly realize that the task is overwhelming: there are thousands of passages that speak of the nature of God, and they are not laid out like a systematic theology: they are occasional, revealing the truths of God's nature as he takes opportunity to enter the world of mankind for a specific purpose, and show himself to his people. If we would learn about who he is, we must be able to take all of those truths which he reveals on specific occasions, and organize them in such a way that we do not emphasize any set of attributes to the exclusion of any other. We must be able to frame them in simple, accurate and memorable ways. This is the task of the systematic theologian; and like it or not, all Christians, as they pursue a deeper knowledge of God, must play the role of the systematic theologian to some degree.
So how might we best organize the characteristics of God as he reveals himself in his word, in order to understand who he is as intimately and accurately as possible? Theologians have come up with several organizing principles, speaking of God's communicable and incommunicable attributes, his absolute and immanent attributes, his moral and non-moral attributes, and other such classifications. For the purposes of this study, the following categories will be employed:
In reality, this is an overarching category, that affects every category which follows. The most foundational and non-negotiable truth of the Christian religion is that God is triune. Every other attribute that can be considered "“ God's sovereignty, his love, his justice, etc. "“ is an attribute of a triune God. In this study, we will consider the ontological trinity, that is, the inter-relationship of the persons of the Godhead that has existed from all eternity; and the economical trinity, that is, the way in which the eternal inter-relationships of the persons of the Godhead show up in the work of redemption which the triune God has undertaken to accomplish.
The Red Sea in Front of Me
By Sarah Walton 10/19/2017
There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.
While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.
In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:
Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)
Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.
Sarah is a stay-at-home mom with 4 kids under the age of 9. When she isn't wearing her mommy hat, her passion is writing and speaking on what the Lord is teaching her through His word and through the suffering that He has allowed in her life. She writes at Setapart.net and has been writing for Unlocking the Bible’s blog (Pastor Colin Smith’s teaching ministry) on a monthly basis. She has also been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Revive Our Hearts, Crosswalk, and Challies.com.
Sarah and her husband have been given a unique call to raise a son with a neurological/behavioral disorder, which they now have good reason to believe has been the devastating effect of Lyme’s Disease. After Sarah was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease after battling long-term struggles with chronic health problems, it was also discovered that the increasing health problems growing in all 4 of her children was the result of Lyme Disease being passed to each one of them. This awful disease has ravaged their family, physically, emotionally, and financially, and has left them fighting, sometimes clinging, for hope, joy, and strength with every breath they take. This has been a painful, heartbreaking, and even scary journey at times. Many days, survival is the only reasonable goal. It’s been an exhausting, wearing, confusing journey for them, which at times has even felt hopeless. While it has been a lonely road to travel, Sarah is confident that everyone knows pain, in one form or another. Therefore, Sarah's writing and speaking is rooted in the hope that God will use her current pain and heartache to encourage and lift another’s spirit and point them to hope, joy, and contentment in Christ. Her greatest desire is that Christ will speak through her to those who need to be reminded that there is a greater hope than anything this world can offer.
"My hope and prayer is that many will join me on this narrow road to find the treasures of the gospel in the brokenness of our lives, 'these jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us' (2 Cor.4:7)." ~ Sarah
The Silence We Desperately Need Today
By Ryan Hawkins 10/17/2017
I often hear about the benefits of silence in our world of sound. Many people — secular and religious — recommend taking time away from television, music, videos, news, and social media to sit in silence and just be.
This is all well and good, but it can get confusing as to why. What is the point of silence?
Three Types of Silence | Many people associate silence with hearing nothing audibly and thinking nothing. But we cannot just think nothing. Even when we are not saying or hearing anything, we will be thinking something. It’s how we work.
Since we cannot turn our minds off, we can take one of three routes. Three main sounds, if you will, can fill our times of silence.
First, we can hear our own thoughts. If we go into a room and try to be silent, we most likely will “hear” whatever is in our minds. And this may be why silence is not devotionally helpful to most people. When many of us take some time in silence, we often just end up spending more time with our own chaotic thoughts.
Mark 12 - 13
By R. Alan Cole
12:1–12 The bad tenants (see Mt. 21:33–46; Lk. 20:9–19 ). Jesus exposed this wilful, stubborn opposition in a parable so plain that even the priests could see the meaning ( 12 ). Everybody would have recognized the vineyard as a picture of Israel; even the details of the owner’s loving care were drawn from the OT. The prophets were often seen as the servants of God, and everybody knew that they had been rejected and mistreated by Israel. But who was this much-loved son? Those who remembered the father’s witness at the baptism or transfiguration would know. Probably even the priests realized that it was a claim by Jesus to be the Son of God, because they brought the claim up at his trial and crucifixion. This is one of only two places where Jesus himself indirectly claimed to be the Son of God before his trial, though others (whether disciples or even demons) might have previously recognized him as such.
In this story the son was killed; that is the cost of God’s kingdom. But the warning is the main point of the parable ( 9 ). Those who rejected the king would themselves be rejected, and their specially privileged position would be taken away and given to others. Mark’s readers would have recognized the fulfilment of Jesus’ words in the church, where Gentile shared with Jew on equal terms at last. The neglected and despised stone left lying on the ground by the builders would become the keystone of the whole new temple that was the Christian church ( 10 ). There is irony in Jesus’ suggestion that the priests did not know the very Scriptures of which they boasted. No wonder that they wanted to arrest him, but no wonder they feared to do so.
12:13–17 Taxes to Caesar (see Mt. 22:15–22; Lk. 20:20–26 ). This question was asked by those who had already rejected Jesus and wanted only to trap him. If Jesus agreed with paying taxes to Caesar, the patriots would reject him; if he opposed it, the Romans would arrest him. This issue would have been important for those in the early church who were being persecuted, whether at Rome or elsewhere, but who were still trying to show that they were ideal citizens. Jesus’ answer meant that if we enjoy the benefits of a state, we must pay the price, in the form of taxation and so on. But the sting of his answer lay in the tail, as far as the Pharisees and Herodians were concerned. If we must give Caesar what is his, then we must give God what is his too, and that is something which they were not doing.
For a persecuted church in the Roman Empire, it would have an even deeper meaning although Mark does not raise it. If Caesar asks for what belongs to God, not to Caesar, they could not give it, for conscience sake. So Christians died for refusing to give a pinch of incense to Caesar’s statue. In the same way, Christians suffer in our day for refusing to bow before pictures of emperors and dictators and presidents. We cannot worship person, party or state, but only God himself.
12:18–27 Marriage at the resurrection (see Mt. 22:23–33; Lk. 20:27–40 ). Having silenced the Pharisees, Jesus was approached by the Sadducees, the wealthy nobles who controlled both temple and Sanhedrin, the great religious council of Israel. They simply came to mock his belief in resurrection by giving an obviously ridiculous illustration of a much - married wife, probably not drawn from real life. The Pharisees had already ruled that such a wife would belong to her first husband at the resurrection (which they interpreted in a very material way, rather as popular Islam does today). The Sadducees approved, of course, of the Mosaic custom mentioned here, which was designed to keep property in the widow’s family, but they rejected any idea of resurrection altogether. To them, this life was all that there was; no wonder that they were hard, materialistic and often rich. We all know of people like that. First, Jesus undercut the whole argument by rejecting crudely materialistic ideas of the resurrection, in which he, like the Pharisees, believed. As Paul says, our resurrection body will be of a different kind ( 1 Cor. 15:44 ). Jesus compares it here to that of angels. Questions like sex and bodily relationships do not arise. So too we must reject crudely materialistic ideas of the meaning both of resurrection and of ‘Son of God’, as though it meant simple physical fatherhood. These things are stumbling-blocks in the way of receiving the good news.
From the books of Moses, which the Sadducees accepted, Jesus showed them that the idea of resurrection could be proved from the patriarchs’ relationship with the living God. They ‘caught’ eternal life from God, as we do from Christ today, but it is a new sort of life, demonstrating the power of God.
12:28–34 The greatest commandment (see Mt. 22:34–40; Lk. 10:25–28 ). This teacher of the law came to Jesus with what may have been a real question, to judge from Jesus’ answer. In a sense, Jesus’ reply to him contained nothing new; it was drawn from the Scriptures which would have been familiar to the teacher. Jesus placed love for God at the heart of the law; love for our neighbour should and will spring naturally from this as a consequence. If we try to put love of neighbour first or, worse still, leave out the love for God altogether, we shall make shipwreck of our lives and fail even to love our neighbour as we should. On the other hand, if we say that we love God, and do not love our neighbour, we are hypocrites ( 1 Jn. 4:20 ).
Although the teacher agreed that all this was true, and therefore was very near the kingdom of God, he was not yet a member of it as he had not yet acknowledged Jesus as king. Did he ever do so?
12:35–37 Is the Messiah divine or human? (see Mt. 22:41–46; Lk. 20:41–44 ). Now it was Jesus’ turn to ask a question. Israel was looking for a Messiah, a king of David’s line, to restore an earthly kingdom. As we have seen, it was probably because of this false hope that Jesus did not claim openly to be Messiah. It was also because of this that, as soon as Peter had recognized him as Messiah, he explained that God’s Messiah must suffer and die. How was he to show that the Jewish earthly expectation was wrong?
All Jesus’ audience would have agreed that Ps. 110 was written by David; they would also have agreed that ‘my Lord’ in the Psalm must refer to God’s anointed, the Messiah. How then could David, the honoured ancestor, possibly call his descendant, the Messiah, ‘my Lord’, so giving him a superior position? Any one from a culture which reveres ancestors will see the point at once here. It would be unthinkable, unless this Messiah was more than human and thus far superior to his ancestor. Whether or not this particular Psalm was written by David, and whether or not this was the original meaning, is quite beside the point; Jesus was speaking in a way his contemporaries would have understood.
12:38–44 Teachers and widows (see Lk. 20:45–21:4; cf. Mt. 23:1–36 ). Here we have two contrasting pictures of those who reject and those who accept the values of God’s kingdom. Those who reject are the teachers of the law who loved power and position and wealth. They made an outward show of religion, but ‘gobbled up’ the property of helpless folk like widows, perhaps by continually demanding religious contributions from them. On the other hand, there was a poor widow, who willingly and gladly gave to God all the money she had, on which her life depended ( 44 ). We all know the amazing generosity of the poor in our Christian congregations. This is the sort of giving that Jesus would show at Calvary, and so this is the sort of giving that he asks from us. In 14:3, we shall see another woman who gave like this, when she smashed an alabaster jar of perfume for Jesus’ sake.
13:1–37 Signs of the end (see Mt. 24; Lk. 21:5–37 ). Jesus has given warnings in plenty to those outside God’s kingdom; now, there are words of warning for those inside. They are given in terms of the coming judgment, which will only be a time of testing for the disciples, but yet will be a very real test. The whole subject is introduced by the prophecy of judgment on the temple ( 2 ). The ‘inner ring’ (Andrew is included this time) must have believed that the destruction of the temple would introduce the end times, and they were anxious to know the signs. Perhaps this was the same sort of curiosity that leads Christians today to try to work out the date of Christ’s second coming. But Jesus turned it directly into a challenge to Christians living in every age, which is the function of all such prophecy in the Bible.
The chief need is to be watchful ( 5 ), especially of plausible deceivers, and not to be alarmed by terrible circumstances. Both of these would have been relevant at Rome, home of several early heresies, and disturbed around the time of the writing of Mark’s gospel by the ‘year of the four emperors’ (AD 68), with several contenders fighting for the crown. Persecution will be unavoidable, but it is to be seen as an opportunity for witness with words that will be given at the time by the Holy Spirit. (This is one of the few direct references to the Spirit in Mark. ) The prediction that the gospel must first be proclaimed to all the nations ( 10 ) is almost Mark’s version of the ‘great commission’ at the end of Matthew ( 28:19 ). Had Mark seen some of this in the labour of Paul and the other apostles?
There is also the warning that even the closest of natural ties will break down under such stress ( 12 ), the opposite truth to that taught in the saying about the true ‘family of Jesus’ ( 3:34–35 ). Many of us will know how family members have betrayed each other in times of persecution, and the agony of seeming to be universally hated without reason, just because we are Christians ( 13 ). Yet there is a promise attached: faithful endurance to the end will bring eternal life, even if not safety in this world.
The four disciples had asked ‘When?’ In carefully veiled language, Jesus hinted that it would be when the idolatrous Roman army standards would be planted triumphantly in the temple at Jerusalem. Mark dare not report this openly (in Rome of all places) especially as, from the language, it does not yet seem to have taken place at the date of the writing of the gospel. But the little addition in v 14 shows that he expects his readers to understand. Jesus used language taken from the book of Daniel, telling in the first place of the desecration of the temple by the persecutor Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC. The abomination in that case was an idol, set up in the temple itself, thus defiling it. The following verses seem to describe the terrible suffering in the first Jewish wars, when Roman armies invaded Palestine. This took place only a generation after the death of Christ, and the Jewish Christian church would have shared in the general suffering. Tradition says that the Christians fled to Pella in Transjordan, taking Jesus’ warning to heart ( 14 ).
An even more urgent warning, in our case, is that against false Messiahs and false prophets ( 22 ). These abounded in the time after Christ, and they still abound today, in false sects at the ‘lunatic fringe’ of the Christian church. Most important to remember in our rediscovery of ‘signs and wonders’ is that even these may be false and signs of false prophets; we must be on our guard ( 23 ). Perhaps this is why Jesus used signs so sparingly in his ministry.
Up to this point, everything Jesus predicted can be fitted into the time around AD 70, with Roman armies ravaging Palestine and emperors fighting for the throne. Mark’s readers would have recognized the references, even if some are not clear to us now. From v 24 onwards it seems as though it is the end times that are being described (but for a different view see on Mt. 24 ). In these last days the greatest earthly powers symbolized as in the OT by sun, moon and stars, will fall, and the Son of Man will come in glory to gather his chosen ones ( 26–27 ). The ends of the earth is drawn from the imagery of Dn. 7, but the phrase may contain a hint of the Gentile mission. It cannot simply be a reference to the gathering in of faithful Jews from all over the world.
This time is apparently long after the period of the Jewish wars of AD 70, although they are a picture of the wider judgment to follow at the end times, as surely as summer follows spring in Palestine. It is most unlikely that the sprouting of the fig-tree here refers to the Jews’ return to Palestine and the setting up again of the state of Israel. It is more likely to be another popular proverb of the sort still used widely in the Third World, though no longer common in the west.
As often in OT prophecy, Jesus passed directly from a time close at hand to the very distant future; it is as though we saw two great mountain peaks, but not the great valley between them. That is why he could say that this generation would not pass away until the first set of signs was fulfilled. Many of his listeners would still be alive in AD 70. It is most unlikely that this generation refers to the survival of the Jewish people as a whole, but those who understand the phrase to refer to both the immediate and distant future understand it in this way.
Just as the book of Revelation is often called ‘the Apocalypse’ (which means ‘unveiling of the future’), so this chapter is often called ‘the little Apocalypse’, as in it Jesus also unveils the future. Three things should be borne in mind when reading this chapter. First, that open language is impossible in times of political danger. Secondly, that symbolic language is used to reveal things to us, not to mystify us; there is nothing ‘mysterious’ about it. Thirdly, all is designed to make us more faithful Christians here and now, not to enable us to make prophecies or speculations about the distant future ( 37 ). This is shown by the fact that not even the Son (this is another place where Jesus claims a unique relationship to God) knows the date of these things ( 32 ). But we have a promise, that in the shaking of all else, the words of Jesus will remain ( 31 ), a saying which is used of the words of God himself in the OT.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 116I Love The Lord
116:10 I believed, even when I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
“All mankind are liars.”
12 What shall I render to the LORD
for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
14 I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!
Fox's Book Of Martyrs
By John Foxe 1563
Chapter 5 | An Account of the InquisitionWhen the reformed religion began to diffuse the Gospel light throughout Europe, Pope Innocent III entertained great fear for the Romish Church. He accordingly instituted a number of inquisitors, or persons who were to make inquiry after, apprehend, and punish, heretics, as the reformed were called by the papists.
At the head of these inquisitors was one Dominic, who had been canonized by the pope, in order to render his authority the more respectable. Dominic, and the other inquisitors, spread themselves into various Roman Catholic countries, and treated the Protestants with the utmost severity. In process of time, the pope, not finding these roving inquisitors so useful as he had imagined, resolved upon the establishment of fixed and regular courts of Inquisition. After the order for these regular courts, the first office of Inquisition was established in the city of Toulouse, and Dominic became the first regular inquisitor, as he had before been the first roving inquisitor.
Courts of Inquisition were now erected in several countries; but the Spanish Inquisition became the most powerful, and the most dreaded of any. Even the kings of Spain themselves, though arbitrary in all other respects, were taught to dread the power of the lords of the Inquisition; and the horrid cruelties they exercised compelled multitudes, who differed in opinion from the Roman Catholics, carefully to conceal their sentiments.
The most zealous of all the popish monks, and those who most implicitly obeyed the Church of Rome, were the Dominicans and Franciscans: these, therefore, the pope thought proper to invest with an exclusive right of presiding over the different courts of Inquisition, and gave them the most unlimited powers, as judges delegated by him, and immediately representing his person: they were permitted to excommunicate, or sentence to death whom they thought proper, upon the most slight information of heresy. They were allowed to publish crusades against all whom they deemed heretics, and enter into leagues with sovereign princes, to join their crusades with their forces.
In 1244, their power was further increased by the emperor Frederic II, who declared himself the protector and friend of all the inquisitors, and published the cruel edicts, viz., 1. That all heretics who continue obstinate, should be burnt. 2. That all heretics who repented, should be imprisoned for life.
This zeal in the emperor, for the inquisitors of the Roman Catholic persuasion, arose from a report which had been propagated throughout Europe, that he intended to renounce Christianity, and turn Mahometan; the emperor therefore, attempted, by the height of bigotry, to contradict the report, and to show his attachment to popery by cruelty.
The officers of the Inquisition are three inquisitors, or judges, a fiscal proctor, two secretaries, a magistrate, a messenger, a receiver, a jailer, an agent of confiscated possessions; several assessors, counsellors, executioners, physicians, surgeons, doorkeepers, familiars, and visitors, who are sworn to secrecy.
The principal accusation against those who are subject to this tribunal is heresy, which comprises all that is spoken, or written, against any of the articles of the creed, or the traditions of the Roman Church. The inquisition likewise takes cognizance of such as are accused of being magicians, and of such who read the Bible in the common language, the Talmud of the Jews, or the Alcoran of the Mahometans.
Upon all occasions the inquisitors carry on their processes with the utmost severity, and punish those who offend them with the most unparalleled cruelty. A Protestant has seldom any mercy shown him, and a Jew, who turns Christian, is far from being secure.
A defence in the Inquisition is of little use to the prisoner, for a suspicion only is deemed sufficient cause of condemnation, and the greater his wealth the greater his danger. The principal part of the inquisitors' cruelties is owing to their rapacity: they destroy the life to possess the property; and, under the pretence of zeal, plunder each obnoxious individual.
A prisoner in the Inquisition is never allowed to see the face of his accuser, or of the witnesses against him, but every method is taken by threats and tortures, to oblige him to accuse himself, and by that means corroborate their evidence. If the jurisdiction of the Inquisition is not fully allowed, vengeance is denounced against such as call it in question for if any of its officers are opposed, those who oppose them are almost certain to be sufferers for the temerity; the maxim of the Inquisition being to strike terror, and awe those who are the objects of its power into obedience. High birth, distinguished rank, great dignity, or eminent employments, are no protection from its severities; and the lowest officers of the Inquisition can make the highest characters tremble.
When the person impeached is condemned, he is either severely whipped, violently tortured, sent to the galleys, or sentenced to death; and in either case the effects are confiscated. After judgment, a procession is performed to the place of execution, which ceremony is called an auto da fe, or act of faith.
The following is an account of an auto da fe, performed at Madrid in the year 1682.
The officers of the Inquisition, preceded by trumpets, kettledrums, and their banner, marched on the thirtieth of May, in cavalcade, to the palace of the great square, where they declared by proclamation, that, on the thirtieth of June, the sentence of the prisoners would be put in execution.
Of these prisoners, twenty men and women, with one renegade Mahometan, were ordered to be burned; fifty Jews and Jewesses, having never before been imprisoned, and repenting of their crimes, were sentenced to a long confinement, and to wear a yellow cap. The whole court of Spain was present on this occasion. The grand inquisitor's chair was placed in a sort of tribunal far above that of the king.
Among those who were to suffer, was a young Jewess of exquisite beauty, and but seventeen years of age. Being on the same side of the scaffold where the queen was seated, she addressed her, in hopes of obtaining a pardon, in the following pathetic speech: "Great queen, will not your royal presence be of some service to me in my miserable condition? Have regard to my youth; and, oh! consider, that I am about to die for professing a religion imbibed from my earliest infancy!" Her majesty seemed greatly to pity her distress, but turned away her eyes, as she did not dare to speak a word in behalf of a person who had been declared a heretic.
Now Mass began, in the midst of which the priest came from the altar, placed himself near the scaffold, and seated himself in a chair prepared for that purpose.
The chief inquisitor then descended from the amphitheater, dressed in his cope, and having a miter on his head. After having bowed to the altar, he advanced towards the king's balcony, and went up to it, attended by some of his officers, carrying a cross and the Gospels, with a book containing the oath by which the kings of Spain oblige themselves to protect the Catholic faith, to extirpate heretics, and to support with all their power and force the prosecutions and decrees of the Inquisition: a like oath was administered to the counsellors and whole assembly. The Mass was begun about twelve at noon, and did not end until nine in the evening, being protracted by a proclamation of the sentence of the several criminals, which were already separately rehearsed aloud one after the other.
After this followed the burnings of the twenty-one men and women, whose intrepidity in suffering that horrid death was truly astonishing. The king's near situation to the criminals rendered their dying groans very audible to him; he could not, however, be absent from this dreadful scene, as it is esteemed a religious one; and his coronation oath obliged him to give a sanction by his presence to all the acts of the tribunal.
What we have already said may be applied to inquisitions in general, as well as to that of Spain in particular. The Inquisition belonging to Portugal is exactly upon a similar plan to that of Spain, having been instituted much about the same time, and put under the same regulations. The inquisitors allow the torture to be used only three times, but during those times it is so severely inflicted, that the prisoner either dies under it, or continues always after a cripple, and suffers the severest pains upon every change of weather. We shall give an ample description of the severe torments occasioned by the torture, from the account of one who suffered it the three respective times, but happily survived the cruelties he underwent.
At the first time of torturing, six executioners entered, stripped him naked to his drawers, and laid him upon his back on a kind of stand, elevated a few feet from the floor. The operation commenced by putting an iron collar round his neck, and a ring to each foot, which fastened him to the stand. His limbs being thus stretched out, they wound two ropes round each thigh; which ropes being passed under the scaffold, through holes made for that purpose, were all drawn tight at the same instant of time, by four of the men, on a given signal.
It is easy to conceive that the pains which immediately succeeded were intolerable; the ropes, which were of a small size, cut through the prisoner's flesh to the bone, making the blood to gush out at eight different places thus bound at a time. As the prisoner persisted in not making any confession of what the inquisitors required, the ropes were drawn in this manner four times successively.
The manner of inflicting the second torture was as follows: they forced his arms backwards so that the palms of his hands were turned outward behind him; when, by means of a rope that fastened them together at the wrists, and which was turned by an engine, they drew them by degrees nearer each other, in such a manner that the back of each hand touched, and stood exactly parallel to each other. In consequence of this violent contortion, both his shoulders became dislocated, and a considerable quantity of blood issued from his mouth. This torture was repeated thrice; after which he was again taken to the dungeon, and the surgeon set the dislocated bones.
Two months after the second torture, the prisoner being a little recovered, was again ordered to the torture room, and there, for the last time, made to undergo another kind of punishment, which was inflicted twice without any intermission. The executioners fastened a thick iron chain round his body, which crossing at the breast, terminated at the wrists. They then placed him with his back against a thick board, at each extremity whereof was a pulley, through which there ran a rope that caught the end of the chain at his wrists. The executioner then, stretching the end of his rope by means of a roller, placed at a distance behind him, pressed or bruised his stomach in proportion as the ends of the chains were drawn tighter. They tortured him in this manner to such a degree, that his wrists, as well as his shoulders, were quite dislocated. They were, however, soon set by the surgeons; but the barbarians, not yet satisfied with this species of cruelty, made him immediately undergo the like torture a second time, which he sustained (though, if possible, attended with keener pains,) with equal constancy and resolution. After this, he was again remanded to the dungeon, attended by the surgeon to dress his bruises and adjust the part dislocated, and here he continued until their auto da fe, or jail delivery, when he was discharged, crippled and diseased for life.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Continual Burnt Offering (Ephesians 2:10)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
October 20Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ESV
Twice this word, here translated “workmanship” is used in the epistles of Paul. In Romans 1:20 it is translated “things that are made.” It is the Greek word poima, from which we get our English word “poem.” A poem is a well-constructed literary piece—the work of a master mind. In Romans 1 we see the creation as God’s great epic poem. In Ephesians 2 we have the poem of redemption.
‘Twas great to call a world from naught,
‘Twas greater to redeem.
Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. ESV
No good in creatures can be found,
All, all is found in Thee;
We must have all things and abound,
Through Thy sufficiency.
Thou that hast made our heaven secure
Wilt here all good provide;
While Christ is rich, can we be poor—
Christ who for us has died’?
O Lord, we cast each care on Thee,
And triumph and adore;
Oh that our great concern may be
To love and praise Thee more!
The End Of The Law
By Charles C. Ryrie 1967
The discussion of the end of the Mosaic law and the ramifications involved is one which usually bogs down in confusion. All interpreters of the Scripture are faced with the clear teaching that the death of Christ brought an end to the Mosaic law ( Rom 10:4 ) while at the same time recognizing that some of the commandments of that law are restated clearly and without change in the epistles of the New Testament. Or to state the problem in the form of a question, it is this: How can the law be ended if portions of it are repeated after it supposedly ended?
The Concept of the Law
The law which is involved in this question is the Mosaic law. Although the word “torah” was used quite widely in Judaism, it especially referred to the code that was given at Sinai. The lives of outstanding rabbis were sometimes called “torah.” The whole of the Old Testament was so designated, but particularly the Pentateuch was the Torah. This superiority of the Pentateuch was linked directly to the greatness of Moses ( Num 12:6–8; Deut 34:10 ), though the rabbis were careful to point out that any difference was only in matters of detail not of principle.
The law is generally divided into three parts — the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial. The moral part is termed “the words of the covenant, the ten words” ( Exod 34:28 ) — from which Greek equivalent we derive the label decalogue. The judgments begin at Exodus 21:2 and determine the rights between man and man with attendant judgments on offenders. The ceremonial part, which commences at Exodus 25:1, regulated the worship life of Israel.
Although this threefold division of the law is quite popularly accepted in Christian theology, the Jews either did not acknowledge it or at least did not insist on it. They first counted all the particular precepts; then divided them into families of commandments. By this method they counted 613 total laws and twelve families of commandments. “The numeral letters of torah denote six hundred and eleven of them; and the other two, which, as they say, are the first words of the decalogue, were delivered by God himself to the people, and so come not within the compass of the word Torah in that place: whence they take this important consideration, namely, Deut 33:4, ‘Moses commanded us the law,’ that is, of six hundred and eleven precepts; two being given by God himself, completes the number of six hundred and thirteen.”
These 613 individual laws were further divided into negative and positive commands, and it was said that there were 365 negative ones and 248 positive ones. This meant that there was one command for each day of the year, in order to keep man from temptation, and one command for each member of the body of man to remind him to obey God with his whole being.
In commenting on this, Schechter tries to minimize the actual numerical count in order to vitiate the Christian’s use of this large number to emphasize the burden of the law. He says that the numbers are relatively unimportant; this division into negative and positive commandments was largely homiletical — the sermon to beware of temptation and obey God with one’s entire body was what mattered, not the numbers.
The twelve families into which the law was categorized were according to the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. These were further subdivided into twelve families of affirmative and twelve of negative commands. The affirmative families concerned: (1) God and His worship, (2) the sanctuary and priesthood, (3) sacrifices, (4) cleanness and uncleanness, (5) alms and tithes, (6) things to be eaten, (7) passover and other feasts, (8) rule and judgment, (9) truth and doctrines, (10) women and matrimony, (11) criminal judgments and punishments, and (12) judgments in civil causes. The negative families concerned: (1) false worship, (2) separation from the heathen, (3) things sacred, (4) sacrifices and priests (5) meats, (6) fields and harvest, (7) house of doctrines, (8) justice and judgment, (9) feasts, (10) chastity, affinity and purity, (11) marriages, and (12) the kingdom. The total number of the commandments, which is far above the usual ten that the average person remembers when he thinks of the law, and the intricate dividing of them, easily and effectively illuminates several New Testament passages which speak of the detail and burden of the law (cf. Heb 9:1, 10; Acts 15:10; Eph 2:15 ).
The fact that the specific laws which made up these families were drawn from all parts of the Pentateuch emphasizes another very important fact which must not be obscured by the dividing of the law which the Jews did — and that fact is that the law was also considered as a unit. Commandments from every part were equally important and binding on the life of the Israelite, and the grouping of the various laws under each of the families proves this.
This unitized character of the law is further seen by noticing the penalties which are attached to certain commands in each of the three categories of the law — the commandments, judgments, and ordinances. One of the laws in the first division of commandments required the keeping of the Sabbath day. When a certain Israelite transgressed this command by gathering sticks on that day, the penalty was death by stoning ( Num 15:32–36 ). One of the precepts in the category of judgments concerned letting the land have its sabbatical year of rest. For 490 years Israel ignored that command, and God settled the account due His land by sending the people into Babylonian captivity, where many of them died ( Jer 25:11 ). In the third category, one of the regulations concerned the proper way to worship. This was transgressed by Nadab and Abihu, who were punished with immediate death when they offered strange fire before the Lord ( Lev 10:1–7 ). In each of these three examples the punishment for disobedience involved death, even though the violation was of a different part of the law. The commandments concerning the land or worship were no less binding, nor was the punishment less severe than the commandment to keep the Sabbath, which was one of the first ten. The law was given as a unit. (One might be facetious and remark that it was too bad that Nadab and Abihu were not Christians so that they could have claimed that they were not under any of the law except the Ten Commandments and thus have been spared!)
James’s use of the law is based on this same concept of the unitary nature of the law. When dealing with the problem of partiality in the synagogues, James decries it on the basis that it is in contradiction to the law of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self ( Lev 19:18; Jas 2:8 ). The single violation, he says, makes them guilty of the whole law ( Jas 2:10 ). He could not make such a drastic statement if the law were not considered as a unit. All of this, of course, has a very important bearing on the doing away of the law; for it seems to point to the fact that, unless the New Testament expressly says so, part of the law cannot be ended without doing away with all of it.
The earliest specific declaration in New Testament times that the law was ended came in the discussions of the Jerusalem council. The question before the council was whether or not circumcision was necessary to salvation. After hearing the evidence from Peter and Paul that God was saving Gentiles apart from the law and its ordinances, James declared emphatically that circumcision was not required in order that the Gentiles be saved ( Acts 15:19 ). In testifying concerning the problem, Peter had described the law as “a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (vs. 10 ). The necessity of circumcision was not the only matter with which the Judaizers were troubling the Gentile converts, for they were also trying to make them obliged to keep the whole law (cp. vs. 24 ). In the letters which the council authorized to be sent to the churches, James clearly stated that this was not obligatory for the Gentile converts (vs. 24 ). He asked them to curb the exercise of their liberty in certain practices, but not on the basis that they were under the law, simply on the grounds of love for their Jewish brethren and for the sake of the unity of the church. If there was ever a good opportunity to say that the Gentiles were under the law, this was it; for that would have settled the matter simply and quickly. But the apostles, who were Jews themselves, recognized that the law had no force any longer, and they did not try to impose it.
The council recognized what Paul stated later in his great doctrinal Epistle to the Romans, namely, that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” ( Rom 10:4 ). This is the same theme which Paul had preached earlier in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia on his first missionary journey, when he summarized his sermon by stating: “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” ( Acts 13:39 ). In these passages, as in others in the writings of Paul (cf. Gal 5:1; Rom 3:21–22; 7:6 ), it is made clear that whatever the law could or could not do came to an end with the work of Christ on the cross. Commenting on the specific phase “the end of the law,” Chafer concluded: “Some see only that He, by His suffering and death, paid the penalty the law imposed and thus discharged the indictment against the sinner, which is comprehended in forgiveness. Others see that Christ fulfills the law by supplying the merit which the holy Creator demands, which is comprehended in justification. Doubtless both of these conceptions inhere in this passage; but it will be observed that whatever is done is done for those who believe — with no other requirement added — and that belief results in the bestowment of the righteousness of God.”
There is one other passage in the writings of Paul which, because it is more particular, is even more emphatic concerning the ending of the law. In 2 Corinthians 3:7–11 Paul makes the comparison between what is ministered through Moses and what is ministered through Christ. That which Moses ministered is called a ministration of death and it is specifically said to have been written and engraved in stones. The only part of the Mosaic law which was written in stones was the Ten Commandments — that category which some designate as the moral part of the law. Thus, this passage says that the Ten Commandments are a ministration of death; and furthermore, the same passage declares in no uncertain terms that they are done away (vs. 11 ). Language could not be clearer, and yet there are fewer truths of which it is harder to convince people. All kinds of exegetical maneuvering goes on in the attempt to make this passage say something else.
2 Corinthians 3:7–11 (ESV) 7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
The writer to the Hebrews is also clear in teaching that the law has been superseded ( Heb 7:11–12 ). In this chapter the writer has shown that the priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than that of Aaron, and the proof he cites relates to tithing. Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek, and since Levi — Abraham’s great - grandson, out of whom came the Levitical priesfhood — also paid tithes on that occasion in Abraham, the whole Levitical priesthood is seen as subordinate to Melchizedek. Then the writer concludes that if the Levitical priesthood could have brought perfection to the people, there would not have been a need for the priesthood of Melchizedek. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” ( Heb 7:12 ). If Christ is our high priest today, then there has to be a change in the law, since He could not qualify as a priest under the Levitical arrangement (being of the tribe of Judah). If the law has not been done away today, then neither has the Levitical priesthood; but if Christ is our high priest, we cannot be under the law. Every prayer offered in the name of Christ is an affirmation of the end of the law.
Thus, the evidence of the New Testament forces to the conclusion that the law — all of it, including the Ten Commandments — has been done away.
But the New Testament also includes in its ethic many of the specific commandments that were originally a part of the Mosiac law. If the law has been done away in Christ, then why and on what basis are these Mosaic injunctions more binding on the Christian? Is the Christian under the law (or at least certain of its commandments) or has it really been ended?
If the New Testament would simply quote the Ten Commandments, then the solution of the problem would be easy.
One would conclude that the passages which teach that the law is done away refer to all parts except the moral law. But the New Testament only reiterates nine of the ten commandments and it also quotes commands which are outside the moral part of the law (cp. Rom 13:9; Jas 2:8 ). Thus the New Testament establishes no pattern whereby one may conclude that only the judicial and ceremonial parts of the law were ended; and the problem remains. How can the entire law be done away and parts of it be repeated in the New Testament epistles?
Romans 13:9 (ESV) For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
One solution to the problem is simply to ignore it. The article on law in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology does this. The writer states that Christians are reminded of “their duty in terms of the law … The Christian is under the evangelical obligation of love and the written law becomes his guide, a rule of gratitude.” The only aspect of the law which ended was its condemning power. Second Corinthians 3:7–11 and Hebrews 7:11–12 are ignored in the discussion.
A more usual solution is that of Calvin, which is followed by many in the Reformed tradition. Calvin taught that the abrogation of the law had reference to liberating the conscience from fear and to discontinuing the ancient Jewish ceremonies. He then distinguishes between the moral law, which he said was abrogated only in its effect of condemning men, and the ceremonial law, which was abrogated both in effect and in its use. In discussing 2 Corinthians 3 he only distinguishes the general differences of death and life in the old and new covenants. He has a very fine exposition of the Ten Commandments, and it is interesting to note that in his discussion of the fourth commandment he did not consider Sunday as a continuation of the Jewish Sabbath (as the Westminster Confession did). Thus Calvin, as many who have followed him, considered part but not all of the law as ended and the Ten Commandments as binding on the church today (although the fourth commandment concerning the Sabbath had to be interpreted nonliterally). This still does not solve the dilemma or relieve the tension between the law as a unit being done away and some commandments being retained.
The solution proposed in this essay is basically one which distinguishes between a code and the commandments contained therein. The Mosaic law was one of several codes of ethics which God has given throughout history. That particular code contained, as we have seen, 613 specific commandments. But there have been other God-given codes. The laws under which Adam’s life was governed combine to form what might be called a code for the Garden of Eden. There were at least two commandments in that code — dress the Garden and avoid eating the fruit of one tree. Noah was given commandments which included, after the Flood, the permission to eat meat ( Gen 9:3 ). God revealed many commandments, statutes, and laws to Abraham which guided his life; together these may be called the Abrahamic code of conduct. The laws through Moses were codified formally and fearfully by being handed down from Mount Sinai. The New Testament speaks of the “law of Christ” ( Gal 6:2 ) and the “law of the Spirit of life” ( Rom 8:2 ). In the law of Christ are the hundreds of commandments of the New Testament epistles, and together these form a new and distinct code of ethics.
The Mosaic law has been done away in its entirety as a code. God is no longer guiding the life of man by this particular code. In its place He has introduced the law of Christ. Many of the individual commands within that law are new, but some are not. Some of the ones which are old were also found in the Mosaic law and they are now incorporated into the law of Christ. As a part of the Mosaic law they are completely and forever done away. As part of the law of Christ they are binding on the believer today. There are also in the law of Christ commandments from pre-Mosaic codes, as, for instance, the permission to eat meat ( 1 Tim 4:3 ). But the inclusion of this one, for example, does not mean that it is necessary to go through theological contortions in order to retain a part of the Mosaic code, so that that particular permission may be retained in this New Testament era. Likewise, it is not necessary to resort to nonliteral exegesis of 2 Corinthians 3 or Hebrews 7 or the fourth commandment in order to understand that the code is ended and familiar commandments are included in the new code.
May this procedure not be likened to the various codes in a household with growing children? At different stages of maturity new codes are instituted but some of the same commandments appear often. To say that the former code is done away and all its commandments is no contradiction. It is as natural as growing up. So it is with the Mosaic law and the law of Christ.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Confessing our sins
(Oct 20) Bob Gass
‘I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me!’
(Ps 32:5) I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah ESV
When you deliberately sin, you’re rebelling against God’s rule in your life - and you’ll feel bad about it. And feeling bad is evidence that you truly are a redeemed child of God; otherwise your sin wouldn’t bother you. Picture a teenager saying to his dad, ‘I’m truly sorry, but I took your credit card and bought beer for my mates with it.’ Now, the chances are his father may never have discovered it, especially if he wasn’t a good bookkeeper. But his son’s troubled conscience brought it to the surface and he said, ‘Dad, I shouldn’t have bought the beer; I shouldn’t have lied about my age; I shouldn’t have used your credit card to do it. You trusted me and I let you down. I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again.’ That’s confession. That’s what we must do in our prayers. The Greek word translated as confession means ‘to agree with God’. When we confess our sins, we are agreeing with God concerning the sin in our lives as revealed through His Word and by the Holy Spirit. When we confess, we verbalise our sin and receive cleansing and forgiveness. Yes, confession is often painful, but it keeps our fellowship with our Heavenly Father clear, open, and close. It’s not that God stops loving us, but that we no longer feel we can approach Him with confidence. Do you have a sin to confess? ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9 NKJV).
2 Tim 3
by Bill Federer
Herbert Hoover died this day, October 20, 1964. He was America’s 31st President, guiding the country during the first part of the Great Depression. During World War II, in a joint statement signed by such individuals as the widows of Presidents Coolidge, Roosevelt, Taft, Harrison, Cleveland, Herbert Hoover stated: “Menaced by collectivist trends, we must seek revival of our strength in the spiritual foundations which are the bedrock of our republic. Democracy is the outgrowth of the religious conviction of the sacredness of every human life. On the religious side, its highest embodiment is The Bible; on the political side, the Constitution.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
There are many plain obstacles to the deepening of spiritual life, amid which I desire to name here only one; it is prayer conceived merely, or chiefly, as submission, resignation, quietism. We say too soon, “Thy will be done”; and too ready acceptance of a situation as His will often means feebleness or sloth. It may be His will that we surmount His will. It may be His higher will that we resist His lower. Prayer is an act of will much more than of sentiment, and its triumph is more than acquiescence. Let us submit when we must, but let us keep the submission in reserve rather than in action, as a ground tone rather than the stole effort. Prayer with us has largely ceased to be wrestling. But is that not the dominant scriptural idea? It is not the sole idea, but is it not the dominant? And is not our subdued note often but superinduced and unreal?
I venture to enlarge on this last head, by way of meeting some who hesitate to speak of the power of prayer to alter God’s will. I offer two points:
I. Prayer may really change the will of God, or, if not His will, His intention.
II. It may, like other human energies of godly sort, take the form of resisting the will of God. Resisting His will may be doing His will.
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Even in the darkness
of God's seeming absence,
trust rests the weight
of one's being absolutely in God.
--- M. Robert Mulholland Jr.
If you took money out of the equation,
most people won’t be interested in large crowds.
--- Damon Thompson
All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.
--- Adlai E. Stevenson
Thanks to Meir Yona
3. Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. Thus there was a star 20 resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. Thus also before the Jews' rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, 21 [Nisan,] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it. At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner 22 [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. Now those that kept watch in the temple came hereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared that the signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence." But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, 23 began on a sudden to cry aloud, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!" This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" And when Albinus [for he was then our procurator] asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, "Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!" And just as he added at the last, "Woe, woe to myself also!" there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.
4. Now if any one consider these things, he will find that God takes care of mankind, and by all ways possible foreshows to our race what is for their preservation; but that men perish by those miseries which they madly and voluntarily bring upon themselves; for the Jews, by demolishing the tower of Antonia, had made their temple four-square, while at the same time they had it written in their sacred oracles, "That then should their city be taken, as well as their holy house, when once their temple should become four-square." But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, "about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. However, it is not possible for men to avoid fate, although they see it beforehand. But these men interpreted some of these signals according to their own pleasure, and some of them they utterly despised, until their madness was demonstrated, both by the taking of their city and their own destruction.
by D.H. Stern
who is also a friend of your father.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Is God’s will my will?
This is the will of God, even your sanctification.
--- 1 Thess. 4:3.
It is not a question of whether God is willing to sanctify me; is it my will? Am I willing to let God do in me all that has been made possible by the Atonement? Am I willing to let Jesus be made sanctification to me, and to let the life of Jesus be manifested in my mortal flesh? Beware of saying—‘Oh, I am longing to be sanctified.’ You are not, stop longing and make it a matter of transaction—“Nothing in my hands I bring.” Receive Jesus Christ to be made sanctification to you in implicit faith, and the great marvel of the Atonement will be made real in you. All that Jesus made possible is made mine by the free loving gift of God on the ground of what He performed. My attitude as a saved and sanctified soul is that of profound humble holiness (there is no such thing as proud holiness), a holiness based on agonizing repentance and a sense of unspeakable shame and degradation; and also on the amazing realization that the love of God commended itself to me in that while I cared nothing about Him, He completed everything for my salvation and sanctification
(see Rom. 5:8). No wonder Paul says nothing is “able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sanctification makes me one with Jesus Christ, and in Him one with God, and it is done only through the superb Atonement of Christ. Never put the effect as the cause. The effect in me is obedience and service and prayer, and is the outcome of speechless thanks and adoration for the marvellous sanctification wrought out in me because of the Atonement.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Sometimes I go out with the small men
with dark faces and let my line
down quietly into the water, meditating
as they do for hours on end
on the nature and destiny of fish,
of how they are many and other and good
to eat, willing them by a sort of personal
magic to attach themselves to my hook.
The water is deep. Sometimes from far
down invisible messages arrive.
Often it seems it is for more than fish
that we seek; we wait for the
withheld answer to an insoluble
problem. Life is short. The sea starts
where the land ends; its surface
is all flowers, but within are the
grim inmates. The line trembles; mostly,
when we would reel in the catch, there
is nothing to see. The hook gleams, the
smooth face creases in an obscene
grin. But we fish on, and gradually
they accumulate, the bodies, in the torn
light that is about us and the air
echoes to their inaudible screaming.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
The world of philosophy, however, presents a different perception of religious life, one revolving around a conception of a God who inspires man’s love wholly on His perfection. The lover of God, in this context, transcends history and longs for an intellectual communion with God. From Maimonides’ perspective, Athens and Jerusalem would be incompatible if the tradition presented only messianism as the telos of halakhic observance. The fact that one can find statements in the tradition which place olam ha-ba above messianism was yet further proof to Maimonides that the philosophic ideal of contemplative love had an integral place in his tradition.
To Maimonides, the ideal of olam ha-ba reflects the telos of the religious life of a person who has transcended his immediate physical needs and instead delights in the pleasures which the intellect affords. Maimonides’ description of olam ha-ba in his legal works would be both unintelligible and undesirable to anyone who did not appreciate contemplative joy and disinterested love:
“In the world to come there will be no eating and no drinking, no washing and no anointing and no marriage; but only the righteous sitting with crowns on their heads enjoying the splendor of the Shekhinah.” By their remark, “their crowns on their heads,” is meant the preservation of the soul in the intellectual sphere, and the merging of the two into one as has been described by the illustrious philosophers in ways whose exposition would take too long here. By their remark, “enjoying the splendor of the Shekhinah,” is meant that those souls will reap bliss in what they comprehend of the Creator, just as the holy ḥayyot and the other ranks of angels enjoy felicity in what they understand of His existence. And so the felicity and the final goal consist in reaching to this exalted company and attaining to this high pitch. The continuation of the soul, as we have stated, is endless, like the continuation of the Creator, praised be He, who is the cause of its continuation in that it comprehends Him, as is explained in elementary philosophy. This is the great bliss with which no bliss is comparable and to which no pleasure can be likened.
The eschatological dreams of a community reflect their notions of happiness. Such dreams reflect what they consider to be the essence of human joy. Biblical descriptions of man’s longing for material benefits would appear unrelated to a conception of man whose focus is upon his intellectual faculties. The concept of olam ha-ba, the domain of pure spiritual joy, enables Maimonides to assert that the Jewish tradition believes, that in addition to the satisfaction of man’s everyday material needs, there is another satisfaction in the human joy of intellectual understanding. To Maimonides, olam ha-ba embodies the expectations of the man whose conception of joy involves more than the pleasures of physical self-interest.
The role of philosophy in transforming the individual’s worship of God from one based on self-interest to one of disinterested love is, in part, a function of its capacity to inculcate notions of joy which transcend the pleasures of the body. The activity of intellectual reasoning brings about a new man insofar as it alters man’s conception of what constitutes joy and happiness:
For we live in a material world and the only pleasure we can comprehend must be material. But the delights of the spirit are everlasting and uninterrupted, and there is no resemblance in any possible way between spiritual and bodily enjoyments. We are not sanctioned either by the Torah or by the divine philosophers to assert that the angels, the stars, and the spheres enjoy no delights. In truth they have exceeding great delight in respect of what they comprehend of the Creator, glorified be He. This to them is an everlasting felicity without a break.
They have no bodily pleasures, neither do they comprehend them, because they have no senses like ours, enabling them to have our sense experiences. And likewise will it be with us too. When after death the worthy from among us will reach that exalted stage they will experience no bodily pleasures, neither will they have any wish for them, any more than would a king of sovereign power wish to divest himself of his imperial sway and return to his boyhood’s games with a ball. At one time he would without doubt have set a higher worth upon a game with a ball than on kingly dominion, such being the case only when his years were few and he was totally ignorant of the real significance of either pursuit, just as we today rank the delights of the body above those of the soul.
Man is a complex being: he has a body which hungers for gratification and an intellect which seeks its own form of joy. These two conceptions of joy generate the different expectations which men bring to their religious life. The example of the king in the above quotation confirms what we have stated previously: The movement from a conception of religious life focusing on God’s promises of material well-being, to a religious orientation focusing on the joy of intellectual contemplation of God, is not the result of discovering that the former is based on false beliefs but rather reflects a further development in man. The king does not play with a ball because it is “false,” but because it is inappropriate to his new station. Different models of God become more appropriate to a person’s religious life, depending on his conception of happiness. The belief in divine reward and punishment, although accepted as true, may be surpassed as a motivating force in religious life by a person who is able to love God.
In an age when men believed God affected history, they sought God’s favor in order to alleviate their condition of material deprivation. The fact that the Jewish community at the time of Maimonides was subject to exile and political humiliation did not diminish their hopes that eventually God would respond to their needs. Maimonides’ rationalism expressed itself in his belief, that despite these historical conditions, he could nonetheless elevate members of the community from their preoccupation with expectations of material satisfaction to a longing for the spiritual joy of olam ha-ba. Olam ha-ba is a description not only of the future life of the disembodied intellect, but also of an individual’s evaluation of the significance of his everyday religious behavior.
The longing for olam ha-ba takes hold of an individual once he has experienced, in some way, the attraction and beauty of a non-reciprocal relationship with God. One who has not observed the law from the motive of love cannot fully grasp the significance of olam ha-ba. To desire God for His own sake, even temporarily, is a condition for understanding what Maimonides describes as the glorious joy awaiting an individual in the world to come. In traditional terms one may speak of olam ha-ba as a “reward.” Yet, were one to peel away the external meaning of “reward,” he would discover that the good which olam ha-ba promises becomes significant only to a person whose motivation for observing the Torah has transcended the categories of reward and punishment.
In many instances it may be difficult to distinguish the Halakhah of the person who obeys the Torah out of yirah from the Halakhah of one who follows Torah out of love. The observance of both may appear similar, but two distinct orientations to God are expressed. To Maimonides, yirah and the exclusive yearning for messianism place the human relationship to God within the circumference of human needs. Ahavah and the longing for olam ha-ba, however, shift the focus of man’s relationship to God. Worship becomes an act of self-transcendence, wherein man is drawn to God because of His perfection and not because of human deprivation and human crises. In worship based upon love, man enters the theocentric framework of cosmic intelligences. Man’s “significant others” are no longer other historical men, but pure intelligences whose sole interest is to know and to love God. An exclusive focus on one’s capacity to know and to love the most perfect Being can lead one to feel intellectually inadequate when comparing his own comprehension of and devotion to God with that of the pure intelligences.
If it is the theocentric cosmic reality which the religious man seeks to enter, how is he to interpret biblical concern with history and community? The individual who aspires toward this higher form of worship cannot but feel the emptiness of the biblical conception of God.
Maimonides deals with this dilemma by explaining that the biblical model of divine-human reciprocity assumes another meaning once it is integrated with the eschatological scheme emphasizing the primacy of olam ha-ba:
As regards the promises and threats alluded to in the Torah, their interpretation is that which I shall now tell you. It says to you, “If you obey these precepts, I will help you to a further obedience of them and perfection in the performance of them. And I shall remove all hindrances from you.” For it is impossible for man to do the service of God when sick or hungry or thirsty or in trouble, and this is why the Torah promises the removal of all these disabilities and gives man also the promise of health and quietude until such a time as he shall have attained perfection of knowledge and be worthy of the life of the world to come. The final aim of the Torah is not that the earth should be fertile, that people should live long, and that bodies should be healthy. It simply helps us to the performance of its precepts by holding out the promises of all these things.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. --- Psalm 139:23–24.
I will mention some [more] ways in which God answers these petitions. Charles G. Finney: Sermons From The Penny Pulpit
When people have nothing to try them, they are in great danger of deceiving themselves. Has injustice been done you—has someone refused you honest wages or refused to pay a just debt? Well, under these painful circumstances, what spirit did you manifest? Did you find the Spirit of Christ in you? Perhaps you have been misunderstood and misrepresented; well, how have you borne it? Perhaps you have been treated disrespectfully by those who are under particular obligations to you; well, how did you bear it? Did your indignation rise—did you manifest an un-Christlike spirit? Or did you find the Spirit of Christ was in you? You prayed to be searched, and in answer to your prayer, your children or employees or those related to you, who are under particular obligations to you, treated you in a very improper manner—directly the reverse of what you had a right to expect from them. Though all this was very wrong and very provoking, what has been the effect on you? What has it taught you? And what has it taught those who witnessed the demonstration? Has it brought out your state of mind? Doubtless it has, and if it was not outwardly shown, what were your feelings within? Someone, perhaps, has contradicted you! Can you bear contradiction? Do you bear it well? Were you patient under it? Did you act as Christ would have acted under the circumstances—or did you behave un-Christlike? These things never occur by accident; God designs that every one of them should demonstrate our characters—that they should try us and show what there is in us and reveal to us the springs of action in us. Now when these tests of your character and disposition have been applied, what has been the result? Did you find that you were nothing but the same old sinner yet? that instead of finding Christ in you and his temper demonstrating itself, you found the old self with its deceitful desires?
--- Charles G. Finney
By His Stripes
Peter Damian died on February 23, 1072, but not before beginning one of the strangest fads in Christian history. Damian, a Benedictine monk, advocated a life of extreme austerity. In denying worldly pleasures, he found it useful to whip himself, and he taught the practice to others. Monks began lashing themselves while reciting the Psalms. Each psalm was accompanied by 100 strokes with a leather strap to the bare back. The whole Psalter was good for an additional 1,500 strokes. It reenacted the suffering of Christ and of the martyrs, they thought, and served as an act of penance. Some monks flogged themselves to death for their own benefit and to release souls from purgatory.
Self-flagellation remained localized and limited to monasteries for two hundred years, but in the thirteenth century, it enflamed the masses. The Black Death was causing many people to believe the end of the world was near, and bands of flagellants appeared across Europe calling people to repentance. In the outbreak of 1259, great parades of thousands from all classes and of all ages marched through the streets stripped to their waists, carrying crosses and banners, singing hymns and scourging themselves.
The flagellant movement reignited repeatedly during the next two centuries, and the frenzy of 1349 exceeded all previous demonstrations. Bands of enthusiasts suddenly appeared in all areas of Europe. They marched from town to town, dressed in white, with red crosses on caps and mantles, singing hymns and carrying banners. They camped in public squares, and twice daily they bared themselves to the waist, fell to their knees and scourged themselves. Their whips with needle-pointed iron tips drew blood as they struck to the rhythmic music of hymns.
On October 20, 1349 self-flagellation was condemned by a papal bull, and rightly so. We can never pay for our sins by our own blood, however painfully shed. By his stripes we are healed. Our bodies are his temples to be guarded, not abused.
Flagellants were nevertheless seen in Rome as late as 1870, and even today there are isolated outbreaks.
He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well. All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the LORD gave him the punishment we deserved.
--- Isaiah 53:5,6.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 20
“Grow up into him in all things.” --- Ephesians 4:15.
Many Christians remain stunted and dwarfed in spiritual things, so as to present the same appearance year after year. No up-springing of advanced and refined feeling is manifest in them. They exist but do not “grow up into him in all things.” But should we rest content with being in the “green blade,” when we might advance to “the ear,” and eventually ripen into the “full corn in the ear?” Should we be satisfied to believe in Christ, and to say, “I am safe,” without wishing to know in our own experience more of the fulness which is to be found in him? It should not be so; we should, as good traders in heaven’s market, covet to be enriched in the knowledge of Jesus. It is all very well to keep other men’s vineyards, but we must not neglect our own spiritual growth and ripening. Why should it always be winter time in our hearts? We must have our seed time, it is true, but O for a spring time—yea, a summer season, which shall give promise of an early harvest. If we would ripen in grace, we must live near to Jesus—in his presence—ripened by the sunshine of his smiles. We must hold sweet communion with him. We must leave the distant view of his face and come near, as John did, and pillow our head on his breast; then shall we find ourselves advancing in holiness, in love, in faith, in hope—yea, in every precious gift. As the sun rises first on mountain-tops and gilds them with his light, and presents one of the most charming sights to the eye of the traveller; so is it one of the most delightful contemplations in the world to mark the glow of the Spirit’s light on the head of some saint, who has risen up in spiritual stature, like Saul, above his fellows, till, like a mighty Alp, snow-capped, he reflects first among the chosen, the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and bears the sheen of his effulgence high aloft for all to see, and seeing it, to glorify his Father which is in heaven.
Evening - October 20
“Keep not back.” --- Isaiah 43:6.
Although this message was sent to the south, and referred to the seed of Israel, it may profitably be a summons to ourselves. Backward we are naturally to all good things, and it is a lesson of grace to learn to go forward in the ways of God. Reader, are you unconverted, but do you desire to trust in the Lord Jesus? Then keep not back. Love invites you, the promises secure you success, the precious blood prepares the way. Let not sins or fears hinder you, but come to Jesus just as you are. Do you long to pray? Would you pour out your heart before the Lord? Keep not back. The mercy-seat is prepared for such as need mercy; a sinner’s cries will prevail with God. You are invited, nay, you are commanded to pray, come therefore with boldness to the throne of grace.
Dear friend, are you already saved? Then keep not back from union with the Lord’s people. Neglect not the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. You may be of a timid disposition, but you must strive against it, lest it lead you into disobedience. There is a sweet promise made to those who confess Christ—by no means miss it, lest you come under the condemnation of those who deny him. If you have talents keep not back from using them. Hoard not your wealth, waste not your time; let not your abilities rust or your influence be unused. Jesus kept not back, imitate him by being foremost in self-denials and self-sacrifices. Keep not back from close communion with God, from boldly appropriating covenant blessings, from advancing in the divine life, from prying into the precious mysteries of the love of Christ. Neither, beloved friend, be guilty of keeping others back by your coldness, harshness, or suspicions. For Jesus’ sake go forward yourself, and encourage others to do the like. Hell and the leaguered bands of superstition and infidelity are forward to the fight. O soldiers of the cross, keep not back.
THE SON OF GOD GOES FORTH TO WAR
Reginald Heber, 1783–1826
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
This text was written in 1812 by Reginald Heber, an important 19th century Anglican church hymn writer. Heber wrote it especially for use on St. Stephen’s Day, which occurs the first day after Christmas. On this day the liturgical churches honor the memory of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
The hymn’s first stanza portrays Christ as the leader of a great army going forth to win His kingly crown. The challenge is given: “Who follows in His train?” The response: Those who demonstrate that they can bear the cross patiently here below.
The second stanza reminds us of Stephen’s martyrdom. The scriptural account tells us that Stephen saw Jesus “standing at God’s right hand,” with Stephen praying for his murderers, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:54–60).
The third stanza refers to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to “the chosen few.” The verse then reminds us of the twelve apostles and their martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel. The final stanza is a picture in heaven of the noble martyrs throughout the ages before God’s throne—men, boys, matrons, maids—dressed in robes of white.
The Son of God goes forth to war, a kingly crown to gain: His blood-red banner streams afar: Who follows in His train? Who best can drink His cup of woe, (Christ’s suffering on the cross) triumphant over pain? Who patient bears His cross below, he follows in His train.
The martyr first, whose eagle eye could pierce beyond the grave, who saw His Master in the sky and called on Him to save—Like Him, with pardon on his tongue in midst of mortal pain, he prayed for them that did the wrong: Who follows in his train?
A glorious band, the chosen few on whom the Spirit came, twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew, and mocked the cross and flame—They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, the lion’s gory mane. They bowed their necks the death to feel: Who follows in their train?
A noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid, around the Savior’s throne rejoice, in robes of light arrayed—They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n thru peril, toil and pain: O GOD, TO US MAY GRACE BE GIVEN TO FOLLOW IN THEIR TRAIN!
For Today: Ephesians 6:10–20; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3, 4
Let this musical statement be your response of faith ---
Excerpt Fom Simply Christian
As the early Christians reflected on what God had done in Jesus, and on what God was doing in their own life and work by his Spirit, these two themes of God’s word and God’s wisdom played a vital role in their understanding.
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.”
1. The sins and corruptions remaining in the heart of man, God orders for good; and there are good effects by the direction of his
wisdom and grace, as the soul respects God.
(1.) God often brings forth a sensibleness of the necessity of dependence on him. The nurse often lets the child slip, that it may the better know who supports it, and may not be too venturous and confident of its own strength. Peter would trust in habitual grace, and God suffers him to fall, that he might trust more in assisting grace (Matt. 26:35: “Though I should die with thee, yet I will not deny thee.” God leaves sometimes the brightest souls in eclipse, to manifest that their holiness, and the preservation of it, depend upon the darting out his beams upon them. As the falls of men are the effects of their coldness and remissness in acts of faith and repentance, so the fruit of these falls is often a running to him for refuge, and a deeper sensibleness where their security lies. It makes us lower our swelling sails, and come under the lee and protection of Divine grace. When the pleasures of sin answer not the expectations of a revolted creature, he reflects upon his former state, and sticks more close to God, when before God had little of his company (Hos.2:7): “I will return to my first husband, for then it was better with me t an now.” As God makes the sins of men sometimes an occasion of their conversion, so he sometimes makes them an occasion of a further conversion. Onesimus run from Philemon, and was met with by Paul, who proved an instrument of his conversion (Philem. 10): “My son, Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” His flight from his master was the occasion of his regeneration by Paul, a prisoner. The falls of believers God orders to their further stability; he that is fallen for want of using his staff, will lean more upon it to preserve himself from the like disaster. God, by permitting the lapses of men, doth often make them despair of their own strength to subdue their enemies, and rely upon the strength of Christ, wherein God hath laid up power for us, and so becomes stronger in that strength which God hath ordained for them. We are very apt to trust in ourselves, and have confidence in our own worth and strength; and God lets loose corruptions to abate this swelling humor. This was the reason of the apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7); whether it were a temptation, or corruption, or sickness, that he might be sensible of his own inability, and where the sufficiency of grace for him was placed. He that is in danger of drowning, and hath the waves come over his head, will, with all the might he hath, lay hold upon anything near him, which is capable to save him. God lets his people sometimes sink into such a condition, that they may lay the faster hold on him who is near to all that call upon him.
(2.) God hereby raiseth higher estimations of the value and virtue of the blood of Christ. As the great reason why God permitted sin to enter into the world, was to honor himself in the Redeemer, so the continuance of sin, and the conquests it sometimes makes in renewed men, are to honor the infinite value and virtue of the Redeemer’s merit, which God, from the beginning, intended to magnify the value of it, in taking off so much successive guilt; and the virtue of it, in washing away so much daily filth. The wisdom of God hereby keeps up the credit of imputed righteousness, and manifests the immense treasure of the Redeemer’s merit to pay such daily debts. Were we perfectly sanctified, we should stand upon our own bottom, and imagine no need of the continual and repeated imputation of the righteousness of Christ for our justification: we should confide in inherent righteousness, and slight imputed. If God should take off all remainders of sin, as well as the guilt of it, we should be apt to forget that we are fallen creatures, and that we had a Redeemer; but the relics of sin in us mind us of the necessity of some higher strength to set us right: they mind us both of our own misery, and the Redeemer’s perpetual benefit. God, by this, keeps up the dignity and honor of our Saviour’s blood to the height, and therefore sometimes lets us see, to our own cost, what filth yet remains in us for the employment of that blood, which we should else but little think of, and less admire. Our gratitude is so small to God as well as man, that the first obligations are soon forgot if we stand not in need of fresh ones successively to second them; we should lose our thankful remembrance of the first virtue of Christ’s blood in washing us, if our infirmities did not mind us of fresh reiterations and applications of it. Our Saviour’s office of advocacy was erected especially for sins committed after a justified and renewed state (1 John 2:1). We should scarce remember we had an Advocate, and scarce make use of him without some sensible necessity; but our remainders of sin discover our impotency, and an impossibility for us either to expiate our sin, or conform to the law, which necessitates us to have recourse to that person whom God hath appointed to make up the breaches between God and us. So the apostle wraps up himself in the covenant of grace and his interest in Christ, after his conflict with sin (Rom. 7. ult.), “I thank God, through Jesus Christ.” Now, after such a body of death, a principle within me that sends up daily steams, yet as long as I serve God with my mind, as long as I keep the main condition of the covenant, “there is no condemnation” (Rom. 8:1): Christ takes my part, procures my acceptance, and holds the band of salvation firm in his hands. The brightness of Christ’s grace is set off by the darkness of our sin. We should not understand the sovereignty of his medicines, if there were no relics of sin for him to exercise his skill upon: the physician’s art is most experimented, and therefore most valued in relapses, as dangerous as the former disease. As the wisdom of God brought our Saviour into temptation, that he might have compassion to us, so it permits us to be overcome by temptation, that we might have due valuations of him.
(3.) God hereby often engageth the soul to a greater industry for his gory. The highest persecutors, when they have become converts have been the greatest champions for that cause they both hated and oppressed. The apostle Paul is such an instance of this, that it needs no enlargement. By how much they have failed of answering the end of their creation in glorifying God, by so much the more they summon up all their force for such an end, after their conversion; to restore as much as they can of that glory to God, which they, by their sin, had robbed him of. Their sins, by the order of Divine wisdom, prove whetstones to sharpen the edge of their spirits for God. Paul never remembered his persecuting fury, but he doubled his industry for the service of God, which before he trampled under his feet. The further we go back, the greater leap many times we take forward. Our Saviour, after his resurrection, put Peter upon the exercise of that love to him, which had so lately shrunk his head out of suffering (John 21:15–17); and no doubt, but the consideration of his base denial, together with a reflection upon a gracious pardon, engaged his ingenuous soul to stronger and fiercer flames of affection. A believer’s courage for God is more sharpened oftentimes by the shame of his fall: lie endeavors to repair the faults of his ingratitude and his disingenuity by larger and stronger steps of obedience; as a man in a fight, having been foiled by his enemy, reassumes new courage by his fall, and is many times obliged to his foil, both for his spirit and his victory. A gracious heart will, upon the very motions to sin, double its vigor, as well as by good ones: it is usually more quickened, both in its motion to God and for God, by the temptations and motions to sin which run upon it. This is another good the wisdom of God brings forth from sin. (4.) Again, humility towards God is another good Divine wisdom brings forth from the occasion of sin. By this God beats down all good opinion of ourselves. Hezekiah was more humbled by his fall into pride, than by all the distress he had been in by Sennacherib’s army (2 Chron. 32:26). Peter’s confidence before his fall, gave way to an humble modesty after it; you see his confidence (Mark 14:24). “Though all should be offended in thee, yet will not I;” and you have the mark of his modesty (John 21:17). It is not then, Lord, I will love thee to the death, I will not start from thee; but, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee:” I cannot assure myself of anything after this miscarriage; but, Lord, thou knowest there is a principle of love in me to thy name. He was ashamed, that himself who appeared such a pillar, should bend as meanly as a shrub to a temptation. The reflection upon sin lays a man as low as hell in his humiliation, as the commission of sin did in the merit. When David comes to exercise repentance for his sin, he begins it from the well-head of sin (Psalm 51:5), his original corruption, and draws down the streams of it to the last commission; perhaps he did not so seriously, humble himself for the sin of his nature all his days, so much as at that time; at least, we have not such evidences of it. And Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart; not only for the pride of his act (2 Chron. 32:26), but for the pride in the heart, which was the spring of that pride in act, in showing his treasures to the Babylonish ambassadors. God lets sin continue in the hearts of the best in this world, and sometimes gives the reins to Satan, and a man’s own corruption, to keep up a sense of the ancient sale we made of ourselves to both.
2. In regard of ourselves. Herein is the wonder of Divine wisdom, that God many times makes a sin, which meritoriously fits us for hell, a providential occasion to fit us for heaven; when it is an occasion of a more humble faith and believing humility, and an occasion of a thorough sanctification and growth in grace, which prepares us for a state of glory.
(1.) He makes use of one sin’s breaking out to discover more; and so brings us to a self-abhorrency and indignation against sin, the first step towards heaven. Perhaps David, before his gross fall, thought he had no hypocrisy in him. We often find him appealing to God for his integrity, and desiring God to try him, if any guile could be found in his heart, as if he could find none himself; but his lapse into that great wickedness makes him discern much falseness in his soul, when he desires God to renew a right spirit within him, and speaks of truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6, 10). The stirring of corruption makes all the mud at the bottom appear, which before a soul did not suspect. No man would think there were so great a cloud of smoke contained in a little stick of wood, were it not for the powerful operation of the fire, that both discovers and separates it. Job, that cursed the day of his birth, and uttered many impatient expressions against God upon the account of his own integrity; upon his recovery from his affliction, and God’s close application of himself, was wrought to a greater abhorrency of himself than ever we read he was exercised in before (Job 42:6). The hostile acts of sin increase the soul’s hatred of it; and the deeper our humiliations are for it, the stronger impressions of abhorrency are made upon us.
(2.) He often orders it, to make conscience more tender, and the soul more watchful. He that finds by his calamity his enemy to have more strength against him than he suspected, will double his guards, and quicken his diligence against him. A being overtaken by some sin, is, by the wisdom of God, disposed to make us more fearful of cherishing any occasion to inflame it, and watchful against every motion and start of it. By a fall, the soul hath more experience of the deceitfulness of the heart; and by observing its methods, is rendered better able to watch against them. It is our ignorance of the devices of Satan, and our own hearts, that makes us obnoxious to their surprises. A fall into one sin is often a prevention of more which lay in wait for us; as the fall of a small body into an ambush prevents the design of the enemy upon a greater: as God suffers heresies in the church, to try our faith, so he suffers sins to remain, and sometimes to break out, to try our watchfulness. This advantage he brings from them, to steel our resolutions against the same sins, and quicken our circumspection for the future against new surprises by a temptation. David’s sin was ever before him (Psalm 51:3), and made his conscience cry, Blood, blood! upon every occasion: he refused the water of the well of Bethlehem (2 Sam. 23:16, 17), because it was gained with the hazard of lives: he could endure nothing that had the taste of blood in it. Our fear of a thing depends much upon a trial of it: a child will not fear too near approaches to the fire till he feels the smart of it. Mortification doth not wholly suppress the motions of sin, though it doth the resolutions to commit it; but that there will be a proneness in the relics of it, to entice a man into those faults, which, upon sight of their blemishes, cost him so many tears; as great sicknesses, after the cure, are more watched, and the body humored, that a man might not fall from the craziness they have left in him, which he is apt to do if relapses are not provided against. A man becomes more careful of anything that may contribute to the resurrection of an expired disease.
(3.) God makes it an occasion of the mortification of that sin which was the matter of the fall. The liveliness of one sin, in a renewed man, many times is the occasion of the death of it. A wild beast, while kept close in a den, is secure in its life, but when it breaks out to rapine, it makes the master resolve to prevent any further mischief by the death of it. The impetuous stirring of a humor, in a disease, is sometimes critical, and a prognostic of the strength of nature against it, whereby the disease loses its strength, by its struggling, and makes room for health to take place by degrees. One sin is used by God for the destruction both of itself and others, as the flesh of a scorpion cures the biting of it. It sometimes, by wounding us, loseth its sting, and, like the bee, renders itself incapable of a second revenge. Peter, after his gross denial, never denied his Master afterwards. The sin that lay undiscovered, is, by a fall, become visible, and so more obvious to a mortifying stroke. The soul lays the faster hold on Christ and the promise, and goes out against that enemy, in the name of that Lord of Hosts, of which he was too negligent before; and, therefore, as he proves more strong, so more successful: he hath more strength, because he hath less confidence in himself, and more in God, the prime strength of his soul. As it was with Christ, so it is with us; while the devil was bruising his heel, he was bruising his head; and while the devil is bruising our heel, the God of peace and wisdom is sometimes bruising his head, both in us and for us, so that the strugglings of sin are often as the faint groans or bitings of a beast that is ready to expire. It is just with a man, sometimes, as with a running fountain that hath mud at the bottom, when it is stirred the mud tinctures and defiles it all over; yet some of that mud hath a vent with the streams which run from it, so that, when it is re-settled at the bottom, it is not so much in quantity as it was before. God, by his wisdom, weakens the sin by permitting it to stir and defile.
(4.) Sometimes Divine wisdom makes it an occasion to promote a sanctification in all parts of the soul. As the working of one illhumor in the body is an occasion of cashiering, not only that, but the rest, by a sound purge; as a man, that is a little cold, doth not think of the fire, but if he slips with one foot into an icy puddle, he hastens to the fire, whereby not only that part, but all the rest receive a warmth and strength upon that occasion; or, as if a person fall into the mire, his clothes are washed, and by that means cleansed, not only from the filth at present contracted, but from the former spots that were before unregarded. God, by his wisdom, brings secret sins to a discovery, and thereby cleanseth the soul of them.
David’s fall might be ordered as an answer to his former petition (Psalm 19:12): “Cleanse thou me from my secret sins;” and as he did earnestly pray after his fall, so no doubt but he endeavored a thorough sanctification (Psalm 51:7); “Purge me, wash me;” and that he meant not only a sanctification from that single sin, but from all, root and branch, is evident by that complaint of the flaw in his nature (ver. 5): the dross and chaff which lies in the heart is hereby discovered, and an opportunity administered of throwing it out, and searching all the corners of the heart to discover where it lay. As God sometimes takes occasion from one sin to reckon with men, in a way of justice, for others, so he sometimes takes occasion, from the commission of one sin, to bring out all the actions against the sinner, to make him, in a way of gracious wisdom, set more cordially upon the work of sanctification. A great fall sometimes hath been the occasion of a man’s conversion. The fall of mankind occasioned a more blessed restoration; and the falls of particular believers ofttimes occasion a more extensive sanctification. Thus the only wise God makes poisons in nature to become medicines in a way of grace and wisdom.
(5.) Hereby the growth in grace is furthered. It is a wonder of Divine wisdom, to subtract sometimes grace from a person, and let him fall into sin, thereby to occasion the increase of habitual grace in him, and to augment it by those ways that seemed to depress it. By making sins an occasion of a more vigorous acting, the contrary grace, the wisdom of God, makes our corruptions, in their own nature destructive, to become profitable to us. Grace often breaks out more strongly afterwards, as the sun doth with its heat, after it hath been masked and interrupted with a mist: they often, through the mighty working of the Spirit, make us more humble, and “humility fits us to receive more grace from God” (James 4:6). How doth faith, that sunk under the waves, lift up its head again, and carry the soul out with a greater liveliness! What ardors of love, what floods of repenting tears, what severity of revenge, what horrors at the remembrance of the sin, what trcmblings at the appearance of a second temptation! so that grace seems to be awakened to a new and more vigorous life (2 Cor. 7:11). The broken joint is many times stronger in the rupture than it was before. The luxuriancy of the branches of corruption is an occasion of purging, and purging is with a design to make grace more fruitful (John 15:2); “He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Thus Divine wisdom doth both sharpen and brighten us by the dust of sin, and ripen and mellow the fruits of grace by the dung of corruption. Grace grows the stronger by opposition, as the fire burns hottest and clearest when it is most surrounded by a cold air; and our natural heat reassumes a new strength by the coldness of the winter. The foil under a diamond, though an imperfection in itself, increaseth the beauty and lustre of the stone. The enmity of man was a commendation of the grace of God: it occasioned the breaking out of the grace of God upon us; and is an occasion, by the wisdom and grace of God, of the increase of grace many times in us. How should the consideration of God’s incomprehensible wisdom, in the management of evil, swallow us up in admiration who brings forth such beauty, such eminent discoveries of himself, such excellent good to the creature, out of the bowels of the greatest contrarieties, making dark shadows serve to display and beautify, to our apprehensions, the Divine glory! If evil were not in the world, men would not know what good is; they would not behold the lustre of Divine wisdom, as without night we could not understand the beauty of the day. Though God is not the author of sin, because of his holiness, yet he is the administrator of sin by his wisdom, and accomplisheth his own purposes, by the iniquities of his enemies, and the lapses and infirmities of his friends. Thus much for the Second, the government of man in his lapsed state, and the government of sin, wherein the wisdom of God doth wonderfully appear.
The Existence and Attributes of God