Matthew 11 - 12
Messengers from John the BaptistMatthew 11:1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. (In their cities? Probably the cities of the disciples)
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert; ESV
“ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” ESV
16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
17 “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; (Jesus)
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ (John the Baptist)
Woe to Unrepentant Cities20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable ( More bearable? Are there degrees of punishment? ) on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus Is Lord of the SabbathMatthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
A Man with a Withered Hand9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” — so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
God’s Chosen Servant15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
Because the King was rejected, the messianic, Davidic kingdom was (from a human viewpoint) postponed. Though He never ceases to be King and, of course, is King today as always, Christ is never designated as King of the church ( Acts 17:7 and 1 Timothy 1:17 are no exceptions, and Revelation 15:3, “King of saints,” kjv, is “King of the nations” in the critical and majority texts). Though Christ is a King today, He does not rule as King. This awaits His second coming. Then the Davidic kingdom will be realized ( Matt. 25:31; Rev. 19:15; 20 ). Then the Priest will sit on His throne, bringing to this earth the long-awaited Golden Age ( Ps. 110 ).
Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth
25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The Sign of Jonah38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Return of an Unclean Spirit43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
What I'm Reading
Our Beautiful God
By R.C. Sproul 12/01/2014
I’ve always found it interesting that the Bible often makes reference to the beautiful. In fact, if you took the time to look up every reference to “beauty” or every reference to “the beautiful” in a concordance, you would see that the word beauty in one form or another occurs frequently in the pages of sacred Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. First Chronicles 16:29 is one of the places where we read of beauty: “Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!” (NKJV). This passage conjoins the holiness and glory of God with respect to the idea of beauty. We are called to come into the presence of God and to worship what is beautiful about Him — His glory and holiness.
Other texts also talk about God’s beauty. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27:4). In Psalm 29, David calls upon us to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. In both places, the Lord (or significant aspects of His character) are called “beautiful.”
I’m afraid that the idea of the beauty of God has been all but eclipsed in our contemporary culture, both in the secular community and in the church as well. I’ve said many times that there are three dimensions of the Christian life that the Scriptures are concerned about — the good, the true, and the beautiful. Yet we tend to cut off the third from the other two. Some Christians reduce their concern for the things of God purely to the ethical realm, to a discussion of righteousness or of goodness with respect to our behavior. Others are so concerned about purity of doctrine that they’re preoccupied with truth at the expense of behavior or at the expense of the holy. Rarely, at least in many Protestant circles, do we find a focus on the beautiful.
This reflects a striking imbalance given that the Bible is concerned with goodness, truth, and beauty. God, Scripture tells us, is the ground or fountain of all goodness. All goodness finds its definition in His character. In the final analysis, God’s character is the measure of goodness. At the same time, the Scriptures speak about God as the author, source, and foundation of all truth. In the same way and in the same dimension, the Scriptures speak about the beauty of God. His Word tells us that all things beautiful find their source and foundation in the character of God Himself. So, God is ultimately the norm of the good, the norm of the true, and the norm of the beautiful.
We live in a time of crisis in the secular culture and in the church with regard to the beautiful. I hear all the time from Christian artists — musicians, sculptors, painters, architects, writers, dramatists, and others — that they feel cut off from the Christian community. They tell me that they are treated as pariahs because their vocation is considered worldly and unworthy of Christian devotion. That’s a sad commentary on our state of affairs, particularly when we look at the history of the church and we see that the Christian church has produced some of the greatest giants in music, in art, and in literature. Where else but in Christian history do you find a Milton, a Handel, a Bach, or a Shakespeare — men who have been pioneers of greatness in the arts?
If you were to go to the Louvre in Paris or to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and peruse the history of art, you would see that it’s dominated by a religious orientation, and specifically, a Christian orientation. Ever since the people of God have existed in community, art has been a significant concern. When we go to the Old Testament, for example, we see there that the first people filled with the Holy Ghost were the artisans and craftsman that God selected to prepare the objects for the tabernacle. That’s divine inspiration — these artists were inspired by God the Holy Spirit. He inspired them for their craftsmanship of the tabernacle and its furniture, for the metalworking in the tent, and for the making of the gowns and robes for Aaron — which were to be made for glory and for beauty. God was concerned not only to use artists in the building of His sanctuary in the Old Testament, but also to endow those very artists with the power of His Holy Spirit to ensure that what they were doing met with the standards of beauty He set.
At the same time, we also see in the Old Testament strong prohibitions against the misuse of art. One of the Ten Commandments even prohibits the making of graven images that become part of the practice of idolatry, and so there is a hedge put around the use of art in the Old Testament. Though there were some forms of art that received the blessing of God, there were other forms of art that did not receive the blessing of God.
One cannot come away from the pages of Scripture with a simplistic conclusion that all art is good art or that all art is bad art, that art is always lawful or that art is always unlawful. What we can come away with is the understanding that God saw art and what it communicates as being important enough to include in His tabernacle — to include the beautiful where people would meet to worship Him. Beauty is important to God because He is beautiful, and so what is beautiful must be of importance to His people as well. Christian artists should be encouraged to create beautiful art, and Christian people should be encouraged to appreciate the beautiful alongside the true and the good, for the Lord Himself is beautiful.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Quick and the Dead
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 12/01/2014
There’s a reason why after we are introduced to someone new that we most often ask, “What do you do?” The truth of the matter is that our identity is rightly tied up in our labors. What we do not only reveals, but is part of, what we are. I don’t begrudge people who want to separate their work from their being, but I hope they understand why it’s natural to keep the two together.
In our systematic theologies, we make all sorts of divisions, and that carries with it a danger. That we are able to distinguish regeneration and faith does not mean that we can separate them. That we can have a chapter on justification followed by a chapter on sanctification doesn’t mean that you have one without the other.
In like manner, while we use the language of “the person and work of Christ,” while there might be some benefit of dividing our discussion of His person from our discussion of His work, we would be wise to remember that the two are intimately tied together. Jesus does what He does because He is what He is, and He is what He is because He does what He does.
The great medieval theologian Anselm of Canterbury, in writing his classic Cur Deus Homo: Why God Became Man, made just that point. Translated, the title asks this question: “Why the God-man?” The incarnation, Anselm demonstrated, isn’t an afterthought, an interesting bit of trivia. Instead, God’s atoning work required that He should take on flesh, take on humanity, in order to suffer for our sins. Indeed, for our sins to become His, He had to be one of us. For His righteousness to become ours, He had to be one of us.
That said, Jesus also had to be God. To speak with the authority with which He spoke, to in turn judge the whole world, He had to be God. Which is precisely why the contemporary Jesus is so badly off both in terms of His person and work. That is, the unbelieving world, while happy to honor Jesus as at best a great prophet and at least a great moral teacher, still leaves Him in His humanity, precisely to leave off His judgment. The world denatures Him so that it can remake Him. Then it remakes Him in its own image. Professing to be wise, they become fools, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator.
The reason, then, that so many are reluctant to admit Christ’s deity, the reason no one likes the options liar, lunatic, or lord, is not a philosophical, disinterested skepticism about persons and natures, but because of a practical, biased need to avoid the truth of the coming judgment of God. This is why, when people speak well of Jesus, we ought not to conclude that they are halfway home. It’s not as though they are just missing a piece of the puzzle, and if we can add it they will get the picture. Indeed, they would rather burn the puzzle to ashes than add the terrifying truth of His coming judgment.
Which explains why we are doing such a disservice to our unbelieving neighbors when we seek to hide from them the truth of His judgment. We are keeping from them the one needful thing. We are hiding from them the very glory of God. When John the Baptist preached and the Pharisees came to hear his message, he asked, “Who told you to flee from the wrath to come?” In our day, many churches are filled with so-called seekers who will never be told to flee from the wrath to come, for wrath, we are told, drives people away. Win them with Jesus who is merely meek and mild, and we make them twice the children of hell as we are. It was Jesus who, when asked about those killed when the tower of Siloam fell, warned, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
It was Jesus who told us that the one who beat his breast and cried out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner” went home justified. It was Jesus who spoke more of hell than He spoke of heaven.
Jesus speaks with authority because He has authority. He has authority because He and the Father are one. In His authority, He speaks law, which law we ever fail to obey. And so He calls us to repent, to confess our failure, to cling to His work. He promises — because in His deity He is all - powerful — that nothing will ever be able to take us from His hand, that He who has begun a good work in us will carry it through to the end. Separate His deity from His person, or separate His work from His person, and His glorious gospel collapses in a heap.
Our calling, then, is to preach Christ, in season and out of season, and to be clear, honest, and forthright — and to leave the results in His sovereign hand. We are called to give over our clever strategies, our nuanced subtleties, and to speak forth boldly to the watching world that our Lord reigns, and that He is coming again to judge the quick and the dead.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By James Anderson 12/01/2014
Abortion. Euthanasia. Pornography. Same-sex marriage. Transgender rights. Embryonic research. Genetic enhancement. Christians surveying the cultural landscape in the West have a clear sense that things are headed in a destructive direction. While most believers can easily identify the symptoms of decline, few feel competent to diagnose and address the root causes. There are many complex factors behind these developments, but one invaluable tool for better understanding and engaging with our culture is the concept of worldview. The sociological quakes and moral fissures we observe in our day are largely due to what we might call “cultural plate tectonics”: shifts in underlying worldviews and the collisions between them.
What is a worldview? As the word itself suggests, a worldview is an overall view of the world. It’s not a physical view of the world, but rather a philosophical view, an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us.
A person’s worldview represents his most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe he inhabits. It reflects how he would answer all the “big questions” of human existence: fundamental questions about who and what we are, where we came from, why we’re here, where (if anywhere) we’re headed, the meaning and purpose of life, the nature of the afterlife, and what counts as a good life here and now. Few people think through these issues in any depth, and fewer still have firm answers to such questions, but a person’s worldview will at least incline him toward certain kinds of answers and away from others.
Worldviews shape and inform our experiences of the world around us. Like spectacles with colored lenses, they affect what we see and how we see it. Depending on the “color” of the lenses, some things may be seen more easily, or conversely, they may be de-emphasized or distorted—indeed, some things may not be seen at all.
Worldviews also largely determine people’s opinions on matters of ethics and politics. What a person thinks about abortion, euthanasia, same-sex relationships, environmental ethics, economic policy, public education, and so on will depend on his underlying worldview more than anything else.
As such, worldviews play a central and defining role in our lives. They shape what we believe and what we’re willing to believe, how we interpret our experiences, how we behave in response to those experiences, and how we relate to others. Our thoughts and our actions are conditioned by our worldviews.
Worldviews operate at both the individual level and the societal level. Rarely will two people have exactly the same worldview, but they may share the same basic type of worldview. Moreover, within any society, certain worldview types will be represented more prominently than others, and will therefore exert greater influence on the culture of that society. Western civilization since around the fourth century has been dominated by a Christian worldview, even though there have been individuals and groups who have challenged it. But in the last couple of centuries, for reasons ranging from the technological to the theological, the Christian worldview has lost its dominance, and competing worldviews have become far more prominent. These non-Christian worldviews include:
- Naturalism: there is no God; humans are just highly evolved animals; the universe is a closed physical system.
- Postmodernism: there are no objective truths and moral standards; “reality” is ultimately a human social construction.
- Pantheism: God is the totality of reality; thus, we are all divine by nature.
- Pluralism: the different world religions represent equally valid perspectives on the ultimate reality; there are many valid paths to salvation.
- Islam: there is only one God, and He has no son; God has revealed His will for all people through His final prophet, Muhammad, and His eternal word, the Qur’an.
- Moralistic therapeutic deism: God just wants us to be happy and nice to other people; He intervenes in our affairs only when we call on Him to help us out.
Each of these worldviews has profound implications for how people think about themselves, what behaviors they consider right or wrong, and how they orient their lives. It is therefore crucial that Christians be able to engage with unbelief at the worldview level. Christians need to understand not only what it means to have a biblical worldview, but also why they should hold fast to that worldview and apply it to all of life. They should be able to identify the major non-Christian worldviews that vie for dominance in our society, to understand where they fundamentally differ from the Christian worldview, and to make a well-reasoned case that the Christian worldview alone is true, good, and beautiful.
The challenge is greater than ever. But we shouldn’t be discouraged, because the opportunities and resources available to us are also greater now than they have ever been. In the last half-century or so there has been a remarkable renaissance in Christian philosophy and apologetics, much of which has focused on developing and defending a biblical worldview. Whatever God calls His people to do, He equips them to do (see Eph. 4:11-12; Heb. 13:20-21). The problem is not that the church is under-equipped, but that she has yet to make full use of what Christ has provided for her.Dr. James Anderson is professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a featured teacher for the Ligonier teaching series Exploring Islam. James N. Anderson Books:
Pursuing Holiness: An Interview with Jerry Bridges
By Jerry Bridges 12/01/2014
Tabletalk: How did you become a Christian, and how did the Lord call you to ministry with The Navigators?
Jerry Bridges: I grew up in a church that had an altar call at every Sunday service. I went forward at ages 9, 11, and 13, but was never born again. Finally, at age 18, alone in my bed one night, I prayed, “God whatever it takes, I want Christ to be my Savior.” Instantly I had assurance of my salvation.
While serving in the Navy during the Korean War, I met The Navigators through another Navy officer and began to grow spiritually through their discipleship program. About a year later, while doing Bible study, something in the passage I was studying caused me to ask the question, “Would I be willing to serve with The Navigators?” Shortly after that, I failed a physical exam and six months later received a medical discharge. At that time, The Navigators leadership asked me to serve as a trainee in San Diego. That was in 1953.
TT: Who are The Navigators and what is their mission? What has your work with them involved?
JB: The Navigators started in 1933 when a civilian, Dawson Trotman, began to disciple one sailor aboard a battleship stationed in Long Beach. That sailor began to disciple another one, and before long, there was quite a group of them aboard the ship. They began to visit churches in the area to share their faith, and they needed a name for their group. As sailors, they chose the name The Navigators. Today The Navigators has expanded far beyond the military ministry and has more than four thousand people from about thirty nationalities serving in more than one hundred countries. Our focus is on laypeople, training them to evangelize and disciple other people where they live and work and for college students to do so among their fellow students.
In 1956, I was asked to become a part of the home office administrative staff. I served in various administrative roles through 1994. However, in 1986, I started writing outside of office hours. My first book, The Pursuit of Holiness, was published in 1978. Much to everyone’s surprise, including my own, the book became a best seller. As a result, I began to receive invitations to speak at churches and conferences outside of The Navigators. Over the next fifteen years, I gradually transitioned from administration to being a writer and Bible teacher. Since 1997, I have done that full time in our U.S. collegiate ministry.
TT: What is the most rewarding aspect of ministering to college students?
JB: Seeing them develop the spiritual disciplines and habits that will enable them to worship, obey, and serve Christ for the remainder of their lives and to pass on what they have learned to other people. I cannot tell you how many people I have met in my travels over the years who have expressed to me gratitude for the discipling they received from The Navigators during their college days.
TT: Over the course of your ministry, what is the most common spiritual struggle that you have seen college students face, and how can the local church help college students in that struggle?
JB: I think the most common spiritual struggle has changed dramatically over the years. Today the greatest struggle is with Internet pornography. This is true of almost all male students and almost half of female students. And it’s not just the Internet: they are constantly bombarded with sexually stimulating images through TV and other media.
The involvement with Internet pornography often begins in the early teen years; therefore, both churches and parents should make dealing with this issue a top priority. This is not the place to get into the how-to’s, but there are various resources available.
TT: You point out in your book Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Hurt that many Christians find it difficult to trust God in adverse circumstances. What are two ways that we can learn to trust God, even when times are tough?
JB: Trusting God in tough times involves believing first of all in the sovereignty of God; that He is in absolute control of all the events and circumstances of our lives. Second, we must believe that He is just as loving as He is sovereign, and that He allows nothing into our lives that is not for our ultimate good. It also involves believing that He will never leave us nor forsake us in the midst of these tough times. Though these are the main points, we must also realize that God’s ways are often mysterious and inscrutable, so we are called to trust Him even in circumstances that we do not understand.
TT: If Christians are already declared righteous in Christ, why should they pursue personal holiness?
JB: The short answer is that God commands it, as He has said in 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy for I am holy.” But God wants us to want to do what we ought to do, and it is gratitude for what He has done for us through Christ in forgiving our sins and giving us Christ’s own perfect righteousness that should cause us to want to do what we ought to do.
TT: What are “instruments of grace”?
JB: The instruments of grace are the personal spiritual disciplines that God has given us for our benefit. These include time alone with God every day, regular reading and study of the Bible, Scripture memorization, and prayer. I call these the personal disciplines. There are also the corporate disciplines of worshiping together, hearing God’s Word taught, and participating in the sacraments.
TT: Many people think personal discipline is opposed to grace. Is this true? If not, why?
JB: The reason many people think personal discipline is opposed to grace is because they believe that the practice of the disciplines earns them favor with God. Personal discipline is not opposed to grace. Instead, as someone has well said, grace does not eliminate the need for personal disciplines but rather makes them effective.
TT: In your book Respectable Sins, you address several sins that Christians often overlook because we might think they are less offensive to God than other sins. Besides the ones you mentioned in your book, what are some “respectable sins” that Christians engage in?
JB: One of the most common sins that Christians engage in is to doubt the love of God in the midst of adversity. We tend to think, “If God really loved me, He would not allow this to happen to me.” I think other respectable sins fall in the category of failure to exhibit positive Christian character traits such as compassion, humility, kindness, goodness, and joy. A fairly complete listing of these character traits is found in Galatians 5:22-23 and Colossians 3:12-14.
TT: Which teacher has taught you the most about the pursuit of holiness and why?
JB: The Puritan theologian John Owen, through his books, has been my mentor and has taught me the most about the pursuit of holiness. His book Sin & Temptation: The Challenge to Personal Godliness, which is actually a combination of three treatises on sin, helped me avoid the two extremes of “try harder” and “just let Jesus live His life through me.”
TT: What are some of the most significant lessons that God has taught you over a lifetime of ministry?
JB: In the order that I learned them, the first would be that God’s Word, both His precepts and promises, is meant to be applied to specific situations in our lives.
The second is the importance of our union with Christ, both as our representative before God in His life and death, and then as the source of our spiritual life as Jesus taught us in the vine-and-branches metaphor of John 15.
The third is that the pursuit of holiness involves our most diligent efforts, but with a dependence on the Holy Spirit to bless those efforts.
The fourth is my understanding and acceptance of the doctrine of God’s sovereign election in our salvation. This is probably the most life-changing of all the lessons.
The fifth is that the gospel is not just for unbelievers and their coming to Christ; rather, all of us who are believers need the gospel every day because we are still practicing sinners.
The sixth is an increased understanding of the role of the indwelling Holy Spirit to apply the work of Christ to us and enable us to grow in the Christian life.
Jerry Bridges Books | Go to Books Page
Serving the God of Holy-Love
By David Wells 12/01/2014
Serving is not, of course, uniquely Christian. Indeed, the language of service has popped up everywhere in our society. To access the Internet, for example, we must have a network service provider. In business, there is a service sector. We get bills for professional services rendered. In our stores, there is customer service. When the gas gets low in our cars, we head for a service station. In our nation, we have the armed services. Wealthy households pay for domestic service. The rest of us wonder if we can afford lawn service.
So, does any of this help us to understand Christian service? The short answer is “no.”
Christian service is unique for three reasons. First, it is unique in its source. That source is our redemption in Christ. Second, it is unique in its objective, which is to model, as far as is possible, Christ’s kind of servanthood. Third, it is unique in its character, for it is motivated by God’s holy-love. Although these are each important, it is on the third that I must focus here.
First, then, I need to explain what I have in mind by the term holy-love. Second, I will explore its connection to our service.
Light breaks down into its rainbow colors when it passes through a prism. In a similar way, God’s love and His holiness are also broken out into different aspects in Scripture. Within His love, for example, we can distinguish mercy, forbearance, kindness, and compassion. And within His holiness, we can see righteousness, faithfulness, justice, judgment, and wrath. God’s holy-love is shorthand for His entire character.
What this hyphenated language does is remind us that God’s character is whole. The God who “is love” (1 John 4:8) is always, everywhere, and at the same time, the God who is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) and the One who is “light” (1 John 1:5). When we meet God, we meet Him in the wholeness of His character. His judgment, for example, is always preceded by His patience. It is always shadowed by His mercy. His love, in its bond with what is true and right, always accompanies, is always a part of, His holiness.
We are tempted to want one side of His character without the other. We want His love without His wrath, His compassion without His judgment, His mercy without His righteousness. Indeed, the liberalism that has now brought down the mainline denominations did this. It insisted that Christ’s death was only about God’s love and never about His wrath. That meant that Christ’s death was only an example and never an atonement. The reality, of course, was entirely different. God’s love provided in Christ’s death what God’s holiness required. Thus, Christ’s love took Him to the place where He stood in our place of judgment. His death was an atonement, not just an example. We never know God’s love except in its union with His holiness.
How This Works Out
Christian service is about how our redemption in Christ comes into flower in this world. It is what puts hands and feet and lips to God’s holy-love. Once we had as our life’s goal only ourselves. Our self-interest defined our worldview. Now this has changed. Now we are living a new kind of existence (2 Cor. 5:17). It is not one that is self-focused but one that is God-centered, not one that is self-pleasing but one that is open to others. And it is God’s holy-love that motivates this new direction even as it is Christ’s death that makes it possible.
We take the gospel to others because, Paul says, “the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). But that is not our sole motivation. A little earlier he had said, “knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11). In other words, it is God’s holy-love that motivates us. It is love that feels the painful breakdown in life that sin has brought. It is holiness that understands how wrong this is. It is love that draws us to the side of another. It is holiness that yearns for the day when the world will be cleansed of all that is dark. And the gospel connects with both of these things. It is a message about deliverance from God’s coming judgment, and it is a message about His redemptive love in human life now. This love touches our sin as grace. Love and holiness thus walk hand-in-hand.
There are a thousand ways in which we can serve Christ. Some serve in places of high visibility and others in places of obscurity. It matters not. What matters is that in our service to Christ, another world is seen to be breaking into our everyday life. From this other world come shafts of light, of love in its union with what is holy, love as an expression of what is holy. In this sense, everyone who belongs to Christ is an outpost of eternity in this world. God calls His people so to live, so to serve, that they are themselves the evidence that the age to come is already dawning. That evidence is the presence of holy-love.
David Wells Books:
- 1 Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision
- 2 God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams
- 3 Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World
- 4 No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
- 5 Minister's Service Book: For Pulpit and Parish
- 6 God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World
- 7 The Courage to Be Protestant: Reformation Faith in Today's World
- 8 Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
- 9 The Princeton Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 10 Southern Reformed Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 11 Dutch Reformed Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 12 The Evangelicals: What they believe, who they are, where they are changing
- 13 Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural
- 14 Revolution in Rome
- 15 What Is the Trinity? (Basics of the Faith)
- 16 Christian Faith and Practice in the Modern World: Theology from an Evangelical Point of View
- 17 The Person of Christ: A Biblical and Historical Analysis of the Incarnation (Foundations for faith)
- 18 GOD THE EVANGELIST how the Holy Spirit works to bring men and women to faith
- 19 The Search for Salvation:
- 20 Gospel in the Modern World: A Tribute to John Stott
- 21 Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural by David F. Wells (2012-04-12)
- 22 Prophetic Theology of George Tyrrell (Studies in Religion)
By Travis Allen 12/01/2014
When Methodist missionary J. Waskom Pickett published Christian Mass Movements in India in 1933, it would’ve been impossible to predict its impact on American evangelicalism. His observations about rates of conversion and church growth among Indian castes may have seemed innocuous at the time, but his interest in outcomes betrayed assumptions rooted in pragmatism.
Pickett’s book resonated strongly with young Donald McGavran, who carried the baton forward, lighting his “candle at Pickett’s fire.” Using Pickett’s observations, McGavran developed the “homogeneous growth unit principle,” that people prefer “to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers.” Keeping people as comfortable as possible was the key to higher conversion and growth rates. That’s pragmatism, unvarnished and unapologetic—practical outcomes, measured value, and determined conduct.
McGavran returned from the mission field to plant pragmatic growth strategies in the fertile, Arminian soil of American evangelicalism. It was like pouring Miracle-Gro on weeds. Churches that incorporated McGavran’s seekerfriendly church-growth strategies were booming. The come-as-you-are gospel was more appealing—and therefore more numerically successful—than the gospel of self-sacrifice.
Though today there’s widespread disillusionment with the fields of weeds, many continue to engage in pragmatism. It’s distorting the gospel as it’s contextualized to other cultures and subcultures. And it’s turning the Sunday worship service into a staged event, with all the requisite accoutrements—rock band, “attractional” preaching, and support groups.
Pragmatism is so deeply rooted in evangelical soil that many pastors enter ministry embracing its assumptions. In fact, it’s so native to evangelical thinking that some pastors fail to see the incongruity in teaching the doctrines of grace while practicing Arminian-style evangelism and church-growth strategies.
It’s time to weed the garden. Let’s eradicate every noxious, thorny strategy rooted in pragmatism. Not only does pragmatism undermine the consistency of our theology and practice, but it’s choking out the good fruit of a principle-driven, convictional ministry grounded in God’s Word. So, here are four reasons to don the gardening gloves and grab the trowel:
First, pragmatism clouds the church’s vision. Pragmatism requires us to examine practical results, that is, to walk by sight, not by faith. Yet our judgment is limited and fallible at best; if we are the arbiter of what works, we reinforce prideful self-reliance, which is blindness. God calls us to live by faith. We are to fear Him, trust His Word, and leave the results—and our judgment about what works—to Him. Walking by faith clears the church’s vision.
Second, pragmatism diminishes the church’s glory. Pragmatism fosters man-centeredness, glorying in man’s ability, ingenuity, and innovation—which is no glory at all. The church is an assembly of sinners, redeemed by faith, who glory in the God of sovereign grace. William Gurnall wrote,
God is more jealous of having the glory of his grace ravished by the pride and self-glorying of the creature, than ever any prince was of having his queen deflowered … to secure it from any such horrid abuse, he hath chosen faith … whose very nature, being a self-emptying grace, renders it incapable of entering into any such design against the glory of God’s grace.
God is the church’s glory, not man. His power is manifest when the church trusts His Word to accomplish His will.
Third, pragmatism supplants the church’s true authority. Pragmatism puts man—his judgments, innovations, and strategies—in the seat of authority. But the church belongs to Christ (Matt. 16:18). As head of the church, what He says is exclusively authoritative (Eph. 4:15; 5:23).
Fourth, pragmatism diverts the church’s purpose. Like waterless clouds, pragmatism finally fails to deliver on its promises. Christ’s Great Commission is to make disciples, which involves baptizing (evangelism) and teaching (edification). We’re to do that without anxiously counting numbers. How many disciples depends on God’s sovereign election, not our methods.
Christ designed the church to be “the pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) by proclaiming the gospel to the lost and teaching the redeemed to practice the truth. That’s Ephesians 4:11-16: Apostles and prophets laid the church’s foundation with the truth; evangelists plant new believers in the truth; pastors and teachers anchor saints by teaching and equipping them according to the truth.
So, pastors should spend their time and energy on studying and thinking deeply about truth. Feeding Christ’s sheep should be their consuming preoccupation (John 21:15-17). They are shepherds, not entrepreneurs. They guide the flock by the “pattern of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) and entrust those words to faithful teachers who will teach the next generation (2:2). The church desperately needs men who will “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that [they] may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).
Pragmatism is poison to the church. Church ministry is about trusting the sovereign will of God and being faithful to plant and water the good seed of the gospel (1 Cor. 3:6-8). Growth, increase, fruit—that’s entirely up to Him.
May the Best Man Win
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 1/01/2015
It begins, I suspect, with a far too small view of the fall. There is plenty we lament about that dark day in history’s most beautiful spot. We know that sin brought division to Adam and Eve. The two were designed to be one flesh, but when God challenged Adam for his sin, Adam threw his bride under the bus: “It was the woman.” We know the fall brought death into the world and the expulsion of our parents from a garden paradise. We know, of course, that it created enmity and estrangement between man and God.
Perhaps we miss the scope of the destruction because we want to subsume it all under God’s judgment against man. That is, the pain in the child-bearing, the presence of sickness and death, the thorns and thistles that infest the ground are not mere angry thunderbolts that God throws at us out of His anger. Instead, they are the natural consequences of the decidedly unnatural choice of the stewards of God’s creation. The earth groans not just because Adam and Eve took an illicit bite of fruit, but because they failed in their calling—to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue, to rule over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and every creeping thing that creeps upon the ground. The first Adam, in disobeying His Father, did more than earn His disfavor. He plunged the world into a vortex of death and destruction.
But God. Grace began in the garden. There, our Father graciously made animal skins as coverings for Adam and Eve. Better still, in the midst of pronouncing judgment, He called them to continue in their calling of exercising dominion. He promised to call out a people from among the mass of fallen humanity, and He promised that the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent. This is the proto-gospel, the gospel in its basic form. There is no clear exposition of substitutionary atonement. There is no clear prediction of an incarnation. There is no specific reference to a resurrection. But there is the promise that Jesus wins. That is the gospel—Jesus wins.
From Genesis 3 to the end of the Old Testament, God is about the business of preparing the way for the coming hero. He graciously provides restraints against the downward spiral our sin has brought upon us. First, He establishes His worship. He rescues Noah and his family while wiping out the rest of humanity. He calls Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. He promises Abraham that he will be the father of nations, and in turn that all the nations of the world will be blessed through him. God continues to reveal more about Himself, about His law, about His covering of sin. He calls His people out of Egypt, establishing Israel as His bride. He blesses her with judges, and later with King David. He sends His prophets, who bear His Word.
Even as God continues to reveal more and more, even as He beats back some of the destruction of sin, every hero He provides turns out to have feet of clay. Sin, time and again, intrudes into the narrative, reminding us that the Seed of the woman is still somewhere in the future. God’s people sink deeper and deeper into their unbelief. The nations of the world grow more powerful, more brazen. And then, four hundred years of silence.
But God. The incarnation is the very picture of wonder, as we consider God dwelling among us, born of a woman, lying in a manger. His perfect life, His atoning death, the resurrection that vindicated Him, and our union with Him are not just good news but great news. But the incarnation is part of a bigger picture—Jesus wins. Jesus, the final Adam, has come not only to undo what the first Adam did, but to do what the first Adam failed to do. He is bringing all things under subjection. He, the firstborn of the new creation, is overseeing the birth of the new heavens and the new earth, even as the old groans in the travail of labor. He has received all authority in heaven and on earth, and He is using that authority to see to it that every principality and power will kiss Him, that every knee will bow and every tongue confess Him as Lord.
The gospel is that Jesus wins. He wins our hearts. He wins our souls. He wins our bodies. He wins His bride. He wins victory. He wins newness of life. He wins over sin, over the devil, over everything that exalts itself against Him. He wins over entropy. He wins over disease. He wins over strife. He wins over discord. He wins over death.
In the end, what He wins is the beginning, only better. Because of Him, we will walk with our Father in the cool of the evening, through streets of gold in a garden-city, the New Jerusalem, Eden glorified. In the end, the best man does indeed win. For He is the groom, and we His bride. And we will dance.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 108With God We Shall Do Valiantly
108 A Song. A Psalm Of David.
108:1 My heart is steadfast, O God!
I will sing and make melody with all my being!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
3 I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
6 That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer me!
Chapter 2 | The Ten Primitive Persecutions
The Fifth Persecution, Commencing with Severus, A.D. 192Severus, having been recovered from a severe fit of sickness by a Christian, became a great favorer of the Christians in general; but the prejudice and fury of the ignorant multitude prevailing, obsolete laws were put in execution against the Christians. The progress of Christianity alarmed the pagans, and they revived the stale calumny of placing accidental misfortunes to the account of its professors, A.D. 192. But, though persecuting malice raged, yet the Gospel shone with resplendent brightness; and, firm as an impregnable rock, withstood the attacks of its boisterous enemies with success. Tertullian, who lived in this age, informs us that if the Christians had collectively withdrawn themselves from the Roman territories, the empire would have been greatly depopulated.
Victor, bishop of Rome, suffered martyrdom in the first year of the third century, A.D. 201. Leonidus, the father of the celebrated Origen, was beheaded for being a Christian. Many of Origen's hearers likewise suffered martyrdom; particularly two brothers, named Plutarchus and Serenus; another Serenus, Heron, and Heraclides, were beheaded. Rhais had boiled pitch poured upon her head, and was then burnt, as was Marcella her mother. Potainiena, the sister of Rhais, was executed in the same manner as Rhais had been; but Basilides, an officer belonging to the army, and ordered to attend her execution, became her convert.
Basilides being, as an officer, required to take a certain oath, refused, saying, that he could not swear by the Roman idols, as he was a Christian. Struck with surpsie, the people could not, at first, believe what they heard; but he had no sooner confirmed the same, than he was dragged before the judge, committed to prison, and speedily afterward beheaded.
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, was born in Greece, and received both a polite and a Christian education. It is generally supposed that the account of the persecutions at Lyons was written by himself. He succeeded the martyr Pothinus as bishop of Lyons, and ruled his diocese with great propriety; he was a zealous opposer of heresies in general, and, about A.D. 187, he wrote a celebrated tract against heresy. Victor, the bishop of Rome, wanting to impose the keeping of Easter there, in preference to other places, it occasioned some disorders among the Christians. In particular, Irenaeus wrote him a synodical epistle, in the name of the Gallic churches. This zeal, in favor of Christianity, pointed him out as an object of resentment to the emperor; and in A.D. 202, he was beheaded.
The persecutions now extending to Africa, many were martyred in that quarter of the globe; the most particular of whom we shall mention.
Perpetua, a married lady, of about twenty-two years. Those who suffered with her were, Felicitas, a married lady, big with child at the time of her being apprehended, and Revocatus, catechumen of Carthage, and a slave. The names of the other prisoners, destined to suffer upon this occasion, were Saturninus, Secundulus, and Satur. On the day appointed for their execution, they were led to the amphitheater. Satur, Saturninus, and Revocatus were ordered to run the gauntlet between the hunters, or such as had the care of the wild beasts. The hunters being drawn up in two ranks, they ran between, and were severely lashed as they passed. Felicitas and Perpetua were stripped, in order to be thrown to a mad bull, which made his first attack upon Perpetua, and stunned her; he then darted at Felicitas, and gored her dreadfully; but not killing them, the executioner did that office with a sword. Revocatus and Satur were destroyed by wild beasts; Saturninus was beheaded; and Secundulus died in prison. These executions were in the 205, on the eighth day of March.
Speratus and twelve others were likewise beheaded; as was Andocles in France. Asclepiades, bishop of Antioch, suffered many tortures, but his life was spared.
Cecilia, a young lady of good family in Rome, was married to a gentleman named Valerian. She converted her husband and brother, who were beheaded; and the maximus, or officer, who led them to execution, becoming their convert, suffered the same fate. The lady was placed naked in a scalding bath, and having continued there a considerable time, her head was struck off with a sword, A.D. 222.
Calistus, bishop of Rome, was martyred, A.D. 224; but the manner of his death is not recorded; and Urban, bishop of Rome, met the same fate A.D. 232.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Why does Luke 11:20 read “The Finger of God” instead of “Spirit of God”?
By Biblical Hermeneutics (Beta)
The "finger of God" is mentioned in two passages in the Hebrew Bible. Once when the magicians of Pharaoh conceded defeat before Moses (Ex 8:19) and secondly when the two tablets were inscribed with the Ten Commandments (Ex 31:18).
In the context at hand here in Matt 12:27-28 and Luke 11:19-20, where we see Jesus casting out the demons, the confrontation hails back to the former episode in Exodus, when magicians in the court of Pharaoh were stymied by "the finger of God."
Thus, like Moses, Jesus had stymied the power of Satan, whom Jesus likens in this context to a strong man that is bound and plundered (Matt 12:29-30 and Luke 11:21-23). The strong man is stymied by "the finger of God." Please notice that Jesus makes the connection in the immediate context at hand.
According to Isaiah, the "Holy Spirit" of Yahweh was this power of God, which enabled Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The words are קָדְשֹׁו רוּחַ, which literally are translated as "his Holy Spirit" in Isaiah 63:10 and Isaiah 63:11. It was therefore "the Spirit of Yahweh" (Isaiah 63:14) who empowered Moses according to these three respective passages in Isaiah.
As we see in the Exodus account, the "mighty hand and outstretched arm" now come into focus in these passages from Isaiah. It was not the finger of God, but the "mighty hand and outstretched arm" of God that delivered them from Egypt. The progression of power starts with the finger, the hand, and then the arm. The visible theocratic Kingdom of God was subsequently established through the "mighty hand and outstretched arm" of God.
Jesus thus said to the Pharisees that "the Kingdom of God was nigh." He implied therefore to his listeners who were familiar with the Hebrew Bible that the "mighty hand and outstretched arm" of God was next, since the "finger of God" was now presently evident to them. In other words, when Jesus had mentioned that the Kingdom of God was at hand, he signaled the immanency of the return of the Kingdom of God to earth (just as the Exodus in Egypt resulted in the visible theocratic Kingdom at the giving of the Ten Commandments on Sinai). Please note that the Ten Commandments (Old Covenant) was given 50 days (Shavuot) after the Exodus from Egypt in the same way that the New Covenant was given 50 days (Pentecost) after the resurrection of Jesus the Nazarene.
Further, in Ezekiel 20:33-44, we see the predictive prophecy at the time that Ezekiel wrote, that the "mighty hand and outstretched arm" will again save the faithful remnant of Jews but through God's covenant, which was the New Covenant that was in view (cf. Ezek 20:37 with Ezek 11:19-20; Ezek 34:25; and Ezek 36:24-28). Therefore Jesus was heralding to his listeners the immanency of this New Covenant-based Kingdom.
The finger of God therefore prefigures "the mighty hand and outstretched arm" of God, who delivers his people through "his Holy Spirit" (קָדְשֹׁו רוּחַ). The Holy Spirit therefore is the power that binds Satan.
Jesus is the Moses who heralds the New Covenant-based Kingdom of God, which arrived at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit.
The Continual Burnt Offering (2 Corinthians 3:18)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
October 62 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ESV
The secret of Christian holiness is heart-occupation with Christ Himself. As we gaze upon Him we become like Him. Do you want to be holy? Spend much time in His presence. Let the loveliness of the risen Lord so fill the vision of your soul that all else is shut out. Then the things of the flesh will shrivel up and disappear and the things of the Spirit will become supreme in your life. We do not become holy by looking into our own hearts. There we only find corruption. Instead we must look away from ourselves and “unto Jesus,” contemplating His holiness, purity, love, compassion, and devotion to the Father’s will. Then we shall be transformed, imperceptibly to ourselves perhaps but none the less surely into His blessed image. There is no other way whereby we may become practically holy, and be delivered from the power of the flesh and the principles of the world.
Fix your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
By John Walvoord (1990)
The Sixth Trumpet and Second Woe
Revelation 9:13–21. As John observed the scene, he recorded what he saw and heard: “The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind” (vv. 13–15 ).
John, who was witnessing this event from the viewpoint of heaven, referred to the golden altar with four horns. This altar is the altar of incense, and its introduction refers to the prayers of saints (cf. 8:3–4 ). The golden altar was the altar of incense within the temple or the tabernacle, in contrast to the brass altar, which was outside and was used for bloody sacrifices. The golden altar was used for burning incense and worshipping God.
The voice coming from the horns of the altar, probably the voice of an angel, addressed the sixth angel: “‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number” ( 9:14–16 ). The four angels mentioned here must refer to demons or fallen angels, as holy angels are never bound. They are said to have been kept ready for the very hour, day, month, and year, which means that they were kept for the very day and time when this was going to take place.
The release of the four demons made possible a chain of events that would kill a third of mankind. If the fourth seal ( 6:8 ) was able to kill a fourth of the world’s population, this judgment would kill a third of the remainder, which would leave the world’s population at fifty percent or less, depending on how many died in other judgments that are mentioned. The fact that this great tribulation is defined as a time of unprecedented trouble certainly is supported by the facts that are given here.
An additional fact is given that the number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. John stated, “I heard their number” ( 9:16 ). Amassing an army of two hundred million is usually considered an impossibility. Yet if an army this size were to be put in the field, its origin in Asia and such countries as China and India would certainly make possible this number of people. The large number has raised the question of whether such an army could be assembled and supplied. The predecessor to this book was written in 1990. Today in 2021 we know that China has a 200 million army. It would be an overwhelming source of military power. It is interesting that John said he heard the number because, obviously, he could not count that many in any vision that would be given to him. As in other cases of numbers in the book of Revelation, the numbers should be taken literally even though the literal number sometimes has a spiritual meaning as well.
That the army would come from the East is indicated by the fact that the four angels were in the Euphrates River, the eastern border of the Holy Land. This is confirmed by later references in 16:12 when the River Euphrates is dried up, permitting the passage of the armies from the East. Russia has helped build a series of dams along the Euphrates River that makes possible drying up the river.
The army from the East is also mentioned in Daniel 11:44 as having part in the great final war before the second coming.
Having introduced the main significance of the great army, John gave further details concerning their character. “The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury” ( Rev. 9:17–19 ).
The description of the horses does not resemble what is true of a horse, and some have suggested that they represent a form of modern warfare, such as tanks, which would be the source of fire power, smoke, and sulfur. There is no explanation of the horses apart from what is given here. Some believe that the army is an army of demons — a supernatural force rather than a purely natural army. The devastating effect of such a large force, whether human or demonic, is in harmony with the result.
John went on to say, “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood — idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts” (vv. 20–21 ). Though they had observed God’s terrible judgment, which resulted in a third of the human race being put to death, they still would not repent of their evil deeds. The book of Revelation, on the one hand, displays the mighty judgments of God but also the utter depravity of the human heart untouched by the grace of God. Though the wicked had the worship of idols as their religion, it did not redeem them or change them, and they continued in their life of sin.
Parenthetic Revelation II: Angelic Announcement and the Two Witnesses
Revelation 10:1–11. Having carried the chain of events of the great tribulation through the sixth trumpet, John, before the seventh trumpet, introduced a parenthetical section that does not advance the series of events in the great tribulation.
John wrote, “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write but I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down’” (vv. 1–4 ).
The mighty angel is described in a way that is almost similar to the glory of God, and for this and other reasons, a number of interpreters believe that this is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appearing as an angel. Throughout the Old Testament, Christ did appear as the Angel of Jehovah.
A number of reasons, however, militate against the concept that this is Christ Himself and lead to the conclusion that this is an angel who had been given great power by God.
The angel is introduced as “another” angel (Gr., allon), which identified the angel as of the same kind as the previous angels (v. 1 ). Though not the sixth angel mentioned in 9:13, and not the angel that sounds the seventh trumpet ( 11:15 ), the angel seems to come short of the attributes of God. As “the mighty angel,” he is similar to the angel mentioned in 5:2.
The angel here is also said to come down from heaven, and there is no Scripture that indicates that Christ would return to the earth during the great tribulation prior to His second coming. Other angels are granted great power, such as Michael, who heads all the holy angels. The description of the angel, however, that he is “robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head” is very graphic. His legs are compared to “fiery pillars,” and his face is compared to the brilliance of the sun. He is pictured as planting his feet on the ocean, “his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,” which is the opposite order, for usually the earth is mentioned before the sea ( 5:13; 7:1-3; 12:12; 14:7 ). Obviously, standing on the sea requires the supernatural stance that standing on the land might not require.
The most important fact about him is that he has a scroll in his hand (Gr., biblaridon). Accordingly, it should not be confused with the scroll mentioned in 5:1 in heaven (Gr., biblion). No information is given concerning what the scroll contains, but it probably represents the Word of God. In addition to all the other elements that make this angel an unusual person, John declared, “He gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion” ( 10:3 ). When this happened, John recorded that seven thunders spoke up (v. 4 ). Apparently, the thunders uttered something that John could understand, and he was about to write it down when he was forbidden to do so (v. 4 ).
This mighty angel now makes the important announcement that “there will be no more delay” (v. 6 ). In the history of the saints in all ages God has been called on to fulfill His Word. The prospect of a great time of trouble preceding the second coming of Christ is found frequently in both the Old and New Testaments. Now its further fulfillment is predicted to follow immediately.
Because six trumpets have already sounded, John was informed that when the seventh trumpet sounds, it will introduce “the mystery of God” (v. 7 ), apparently a reference to details about the second coming of Christ not previously revealed. The prophecy to be fulfilled will be the full revelation of the glory of God, which will fulfill what the prophets had predicted.
Having brought to conclusion the first part of the announcement that there will be no delay, John was now informed concerning the second important event of this chapter. He wrote, “Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: ‘Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings’” (vv. 8–11 ).
This command to John to eat the book has a parallel in Ezekiel ( Ezek. 2:9–3:4 ) and also in Jeremiah ( Jer. 15:16–18 ). No comment is made in the Scripture concerning this act of eating the scroll, but it would seem most probable that this represents the Word of God. Heeding the scroll means to partake of its promises and contents as well as its predictions of judgment and live in keeping with its pronouncements.
The experience, which John has, that the Word is sweet indicates the many wonderful promises of the Word of God, its marvelous grace, and its revelation of the love of God. The psalmist spoke in a similar way of the sweetness of truth of the Lord ( Ps. 19:9–10 ).
But the Word of God also has its bitter side. There are chapters that deal with divine judgment, and believers sometimes experience great difficulty, suffering, and even martyrdom. John himself was experiencing suffering as he was in exile here on the isle away from Christian friends and a place of ministry and without the normal comforts of life. The revelation that was being given to John was also bitter, and it indicated God’s dealing His wrath on the wicked world.
The symbolism of inviting John to eat the scroll, however, extends to others who need the truth of the Word of God. Just as John partook of it, so those who face reception of the Word of God should accept it as from the Lord. Though the bitterness may appear at times in life and in this world, the ultimate glory of God will be the portion of all those who put their trust in Christ. John was also reassured that his stay on the Isle of Patmos was not permanent, and that he was destined to speak to many people (v. 11 ).
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
What to do while you’re waiting
(Oct 6) Bob Gass
‘I waited patiently for the LORD; he…heard my cry.’
(Ps 40:1) 1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. ESV
Anything that’s built well is put together slowly and carefully. Impatience is a sign of immaturity; children can’t wait for anything. Try to understand this: your impatience won’t move God faster. He works according to His own timetable. Paul writes, ‘We know that all things work…according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28 KJV). Just because the door hasn’t yet opened doesn’t mean that God has changed His mind. The timing may not be right for Him to get maximum glory, and you to get maximum benefit. So, what should you do while you’re waiting? Two things: 1) Pray for God’s will. And don’t permit things to come into your life that are contrary to it, especially hurry and worry. Know how to allocate your time, your energy, and your money, including whom you should and shouldn’t spend time with. God says, ‘I make known the end from the beginning’ (Isaiah 46:10 NIV 2011 Edition). Before God starts anything, He has a clear picture of the end goal, and He ordains the steps that lead you to it. 2) While you’re waiting - rejoice. ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour’ (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIVUK 2011 Edition). Start thanking God today for what He’s already done, and for what He’s going to do in the future on your behalf. Because He will - He absolutely will come through for you.
1 Thess 5
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
On October 6, 1862, just three weeks after the single bloodiest day in the Civil War where the North and the South lost 10,000 men each, President Lincoln met with Eliza Gurney and three other Quakers. He said: “We are indeed going through… a fiery trial… Being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father… I have sought His aid; but if… my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it.” Lincoln concluded: “We cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
The Soul of Prayer
Our communion with God in Christ rose, and it abides, in a crisis which shook not the earth only, but also heaven, in a tragedy and victory more vast, awful, and pregnant than the greatest war in history could be. Therefore the prayer which gives us an ever-deeper interest and surer insight into that eternal moral crisis of the Cross gives us also (though it might take generations) a footing that commands all the losses or victories of earth, and a power that rules both spirit and conscience in the clash and crash of worlds. As there is devoted thought which ploughs its way into the command of Nature, there is thought, still more devoted, that prays itself into that moral interior of the Cross, where the kingdom of God is founded once for all on the last principle and power of the universe, and set up, not indeed amid the wreck of civilization, but by its new birth and a baptism so as by fire. Prayer of the right kind, with heart and soul and strength and mind, unites any society in which it prevails with those last powers of moral and social regeneration that settle history and that reside in the creative grace of the Cross, which is God’s true omnipotence in the world. “O God, who showest Thine almighty power most chiefly in having mercy and forgiving.” Such speech as this may to some appear tall and rhetorical; but it would have so seemed to no father of the church, ancient or modern, taking apostolic measure of the place and moment of Christ in society, history, or the universe.
If war is in any sense God’s judgment on sin, and if sin was destroyed by the judgment in Christ and on Him, let us pray with a new depth and significance to-day, “O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace. Send us the peace that honours in act and deed that righteous and final judgment in Thy Cross of all historic things, and that makes therein for Thy Kingdom on earth as in heaven. Give peace in our time, O Lord, but, peace or war, Take the crown of this poor world.”
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross;
he waited until one of them turned to him.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
--- Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Reader's Edition)
Every man must decide whether he will walk
in the light of creative altruism
or in the darkness
of destructive selfishness.
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.
You may go through difficulty, hardship, or trial—but as long as you are anchored to Him, you will have hope.
--- Charles Stanley
In Touch With God
Thanks to Meir Yona
4. Now as the Romans began to raise their banks on the twelfth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] so had they much ado to finish them by the twenty-ninth day of the same month, after they had labored hard for seventeen days continually. For there were now four great banks raised, one of which was at the tower Antonia; this was raised by the fifth legion, over against the middle of that pool which was called Struthius. Another was cast up by the twelfth legion, at the distance of about twenty cubits from the other. But the labors of the tenth legion, which lay a great way off these, were on the north quarter, and at the pool called Amygdalon; as was that of the fifteenth legion about thirty cubits from it, and at the high priest's monument. And now, when the engines were brought, John had from within undermined the space that was over against the tower of Antonia, as far as the banks themselves, and had supported the ground over the mine with beams laid across one another, whereby the Roman works stood upon an uncertain foundation. Then did he order such materials to be brought in as were daubed over with pitch and bitumen, and set them on fire; and as the cross beams that supported the banks were burning, the ditch yielded on the sudden, and the banks were shaken down, and fell into the ditch with a prodigious noise. Now at the first there arose a very thick smoke and dust, as the fire was choked with the fall of the bank; but as the suffocated materials were now gradually consumed, a plain flame brake out; on which sudden appearance of the flame a consternation fell upon the Romans, and the shrewdness of the contrivance discouraged them; and indeed this accident coming upon them at a time when they thought they had already gained their point, cooled their hopes for the time to come. They also thought it would be to no purpose to take the pains to extinguish the fire, since if it were extinguished, the banks were swallowed up already [and become useless to them].
5. Two days after this, Simon and his party made an attempt to destroy the other banks; for the Romans had brought their engines to bear there, and began already to make the wall shake. And here one Tephtheus, of Garsis, a city of Galilee, and Megassarus, one who was derived from some of queen Mariamne's servants, and with them one from Adiabene, he was the son of Nabateus, and called by the name of Chagiras, from the ill fortune he had, the word signifying "a lame man," snatched some torches, and ran suddenly upon the engines. Nor were there during this war any men that ever sallied out of the city who were their superiors, either in their boldness, or in the terror they struck into their enemies. For they ran out upon the Romans, not as if they were enemies, but friends, without fear or delay; nor did they leave their enemies till they had rushed violently through the midst of them, and set their machines on fire. And though they had darts thrown at them on every side, and were on every side assaulted with their enemies' swords, yet did they not withdraw themselves out of the dangers they were in, till the fire had caught hold of the instruments; but when the flame went up, the Romans came running from their camp to save their engines. Then did the Jews hinder their succors from the wall, and fought with those that endeavored to quench the fire, without any regard to the danger their bodies were in. So the Romans pulled the engines out of the fire, while the hurdles that covered them were on fire; but the Jews caught hold of the battering rams through the flame itself, and held them fast, although the iron upon them was become red hot; and now the fire spread itself from the engines to the banks, and prevented those that came to defend them; and all this while the Romans were encompassed round about with the flame; and, despairing of saving their works from it, they retired to their camp. Then did the Jews become still more and more in number by the coming of those that were within the city to their assistance; and as they were very bold upon the good success they had had, their violent assaults were almost irresistible; nay, they proceeded as far as the fortifications of the enemies' camp, and fought with their guards. Now there stood a body of soldiers in array before that camp, which succeeded one another by turns in their armor; and as to those, the law of the Romans was terrible, that he who left his post there, let the occasion be whatsoever it might be, he was to die for it; so that body of soldiers, preferring rather to die in fighting courageously, than as a punishment for their cowardice, stood firm; and at the necessity these men were in of standing to it, many of the others that had run away, out of shame, turned back again; and when they had set the engines against the wall, they put the multitude from coming more of them out of the city, [which they could the more easily do] because they had made no provision for preserving or guarding their bodies at this time; for the Jews fought now hand to hand with all that came in their way, and, without any caution, fell against the points of their enemies' spears, and attacked them bodies against bodies; for they were now too hard for the Romans, not so much by their other warlike actions, as by these courageous assaults they made upon them; and the Romans gave way more to their boldness than they did to the sense of the harm they had received from them.
6. And now Titus was come from the tower of Antonia, whither he was gone to look out for a place for raising other banks, and reproached the soldiers greatly for permitting their own walls to be in danger, when they had taken the wails of their enemies, and sustained the fortune of men besieged, while the Jews were allowed to sally out against them, though they were already in a sort of prison. He then went round about the enemy with some chosen troops, and fell upon their flank himself; so the Jews, who had been before assaulted in their faces, wheeled about to Titus, and continued the fight. The armies also were now mixed one among another, and the dust that was raised so far hindered them from seeing one another, and the noise that was made so far hindered them from hearing one another, that neither side could discern an enemy from a friend. However, the Jews did not flinch, though not so much from their real strength, as from their despair of deliverance. The Romans also would not yield, by reason of the regard they had to glory, and to their reputation in war, and because Caesar himself went into the danger before them; insomuch that I cannot but think the Romans would in the conclusion have now taken even the whole multitude of the Jews, so very angry were they at them, had these not prevented the upshot of the battle, and retired into the city. However, seeing the banks of the Romans were demolished, these Romans were very much cast down upon the loss of what had cost them so long pains, and this in one hour's time. And many indeed despaired of taking the city with their usual engines of war only.
by D.H. Stern
18 Like a madman shooting deadly arrows and firebrands
19 is one who deceives another,
then says, “It was just a joke.”
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The bent of regeneration
When it pleased God, … to reveal His son in me.
--- Gal. 1:15, 16.
If Jesus Christ is to regenerate me, what is the problem He is up against? I have a heredity I had no say in; I am not holy, nor likely to be; and if all Jesus Christ can do is to tell me I must be holy, His teaching plants despair. But if Jesus Christ is a Regenerator, One Who can put into me His own heredity of holiness, then I begin to see what He is driving at when He says that I have to be holy. Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the hereditary disposition that was in Himself, and all the standards He gives are based on that disposition: His teaching is for the life He puts in. The moral transaction on my part is agreement with God’s verdict on sin in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
The New Testament teaching about regeneration is that when a man is struck by a sense of need, God will put the Holy Spirit into his spirit, and his personal spirit will be energized by the Spirit of the Son of God—“until Christ be formed in you.” The moral miracle of Redemption is that God can put into me a new disposition whereby I can live a totally new life. When I reach the frontier of need and know my limitations, Jesus says—‘Blessed are you.’ But I have to get there. God cannot put into me, a responsible moral being, the disposition that was in Jesus Christ unless I am conscious I need it.
Just as the disposition of sin entered into the human race by one man, so the Holy Spirit entered the human race by another Man; and Redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin and through Jesus Christ can receive an unsullied heredity, viz., the Holy Spirit.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Nightingales crackled in the frost
At Burgos. The day dawned fiercely
On the parched land, on the fields to the east
Of the city, bitter with sage
And thistle. Lonely bells called
From the villages; no one answered
Them but the sad priests, fingering
Their beads, praying for the lost people
Of the soil. Everywhere were the slow
Donkeys, carrying silent men
To the mesa to reap their bundles
Of dried grass. In the air an eagle
Circled, shadowless as the God
Who made that country and drinks its blood.
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
Maimonides: Torah and Philosophic Quest
INTRODUCTION / MULTIPLE RESPONSES TO THE CONFLICT OF PHILOSOPHY AND HALAKHAH
Maimonides considered the revelation of the Torah at Sinai to be the central shaping event of Jewish experience. Any work dealing with his philosophy must present the general attitudes and values to which he, a traditional Jew, was exposed in consequence of this assumption.
The Torah provided the Jewish community with a historical memory of a living God who selected them from among the nations to be His people, through whom He would be sanctified in history: “And I will be hallowed among the children of Israel” (Lev. 22:32). This historical memory of divine election shaped Jewish reality by providing a set of normative frameworks organizing every facet of daily living. The community’s food, social relationships, family structures, and festivals were organized according to the shaping directives of the Torah and their expanded exposition in the Talmud. The obligations of the community were clearly indicated.
The essential question in Judaism was not the nature of the good, for “It has been told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord does require of you” (Mic. 6:8). The major concern was not theoretical virtue, but the human capacity to embody the will of God in action: Can I allow my instincts or the social pressures of the environment to deter me from the promise my community made to God to serve Him in all ways? The cognitive process was applied to a search through the norms of the Bible for new insights and interpretations that could serve situations requiring novel forms of action. The focus was always upon action, not upon theoretical truth. Belief in God was inseparably linked with a mode of behavior because by accepting the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven one was led to accept the yoke of the divine command. To do the will of God with all one’s heart and soul was considered the highest achievement of man.
The Torah provided a conceptual framework for the understanding of nature and history. In itself, nature was not an object of pure inquiry except as a revelation of God’s omnipotence. Nature revealed the power of God in shaping man’s destiny. One looked to nature to confirm God’s power in history and to inspire observance of God’s Torah.
The Torah also provided Jews with the main political categories for understanding their condition in history. Their history was not defined by empirical, secular, political realities but by God alone. When they became His people and committed themselves to Him, their history was thereafter determined exclusively by their obedience or disobedience to His will. “Because of our sins have we been exiled from our land” was one of the important catchwords for understanding this historical condition. Not the secular powers of history, but divine punishment caused their exile. No secular power had control over their destiny. They were God’s people and God alone was responsible for their fate.
Their historical memory of the eternal validity of the covenant enabled Jews to live with hope and with the inner conviction that their exile was only temporary. Ultimately they would return to their homeland if God so willed. Messianism was not grounded in man’s faith in his own ability to shape and build a historical reality free from war and violence, but in the expressed conviction of Jews that God had a stake in Israel’s historical destiny. Jews knew with certainty that God was not impotent in history, that secular power could not frustrate God in His designs. Each day they recalled the exodus from Egypt which reinforced their memory of God’s supremacy over the secular powers of history.
The only action necessary before their condition in history could be changed was teshuvah, the turning to God and Torah. The Torah was the key “to life and the good.” Would the community choose life and the good, or death and evil? In Jewish experience redemption was a historical event that would show itself in the changed historical condition of the people. The quest was not for individual salvation but for salvation of the entire community. Since God spoke to a whole people at Sinai, redemption would manifest itself in the altered condition of the community.
God was revealed through the life-history of the community: “I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 20:2). The individual within the Jewish community recognized the primary role of community in shaping his spiritual self-consciousness. To separate from the community was to cut oneself off from the God of history. The divine will, history, community, action were therefore dominant and interconnected organizing principles of the daily life.
This brief introduction to Jewish self-understanding gives a proper perspective for understanding Maimonides. Maimonides lived by the Torah, wrote major works on Torah, and throughout his life endeavored to elucidate the talmudic world view. He wrote legal responsa answering the daily questions of a community committed to the obedience of God’s will as reflected in the Torah. He devoted the major part of his intellectual life to expanding and clarifying this normative process. He did not question the imperative quality of the law, and he did not lose his inner certainty that ultimately the community would be redeemed by the lord of history. Maimonides was an observant Jew who participated in the great yearning of his people for messianic redemption.
This is admitted by all who write on Maimonides, but it is not always recognized as a necessary basis for the correct approach to his philosophical works. What significance are we to give to this historical, spiritual self-understanding of the tradition, to Maimonides’ total devotion to the Torah, and to his intellectual concern for the law? To what degree did the way Maimonides lived influence the way he thought?
Does the imperative quality of Jewish theology seeing God in terms of will, become totally altered when Maimonides enters into the Greek philosophic understanding of God mediated by Islamic philosophers? In accepting the Aristotelian conception of nature, does Maimonides abandon the prophetic concern for history? Does the nature of Athens eliminate the possibility of the Sinai of Jerusalem? Does the importance Maimonides assigns to the laws of nature cause him to take up spiritual residence in Athens? Does God’s wisdom, as revealed in nature, negate the possibility of His will being manifested in history?
Does the emphasis upon justice and kindness, upon imitation of God in terms of moral action, radically shift as Maimonides embraces the contemplative, spiritual ideal of Aristotle? Does philosophy with its demand for contemplative excellence weaken the prophetic demand for moral excellence? Does immortality grounded in intellectual perfection, negate the primacy of the moral? Is the primacy of community lost by the emphasis upon individual self-sufficiency achieved through intellectual perfection? Does Maimonides’ yearning for immortality cause him to abandon the significance of messianism? Which city does Maimonides inhabit—Athens or Jerusalem?
Perhaps he inhabits neither city—not if they are understood as two polarized frameworks of theoretical and practical virtue. A new, yet old, Jerusalem may emerge once Athens enters into history. The concept of nature and the contemplative ideal inspired by a God who is revealed through the ordered laws of nature may grow in Jerusalem without destroying the city’s unique quality. Athens may provide a wider understanding of what the Sinai-moment implicitly demanded. Once the outgrowths of Athens have taken root in the soil of Jerusalem both cities may not need to remain opposing spiritual poles. A new, spiritual synthesis with different categories may emerge. Man may remain fully within the way of Jerusalem and yet deeply appreciate and appropriate the way of Athens.
To judge whether Maimonides developed such a synthesis, we must first examine the options available to anyone who exposes his particular way of life, or tradition-based knowledge, to a spiritual world view possessing different conceptions of truth. By examining the possible responses to such a crisis of value, we can better appreciate the task Maimonides set for himself. Unless we understand the value-transmutations that may occur in such a crisis, and unless we appreciate that a spiritual vision in its openness to the world may grow and expand, I believe we cannot grasp the spirit of Maimonides’ philosophy.
What inspires Maimonides’ philosophic writings is concern for maintaining and enriching a particular way of life that became threatened by the Greek spiritual outlook. Maimonides’ philosophic audience is always the faithful Jew who is perplexed by the clash of philosophy and tradition. If one demands of the philosopher that he come to his quest for truth with no particular loyalties, that he philosophize without being rooted in any particular culture, that he address no particular audience, then one cannot attribute any philosophical value to Maimonides’ work. Maimonides’ philosophy is significant only if one accepts the fact that philosophy can be practiced within a tradition. By recognizing the legitimacy of philosophy within tradition, we can then examine that options are available to someone who, while living within that tradition, is exposed to different world views.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. --- Ecclesiastes 11:4.
The language in which this proverb is couched is taken from the harvest field and is therefore peculiarly applicable at this season. (Wings of the Morning, The (Kregel Classic Sermons)) That does not mean, of course, that the way to succeed in farming is entirely to disregard the weather. But it means that if farmers will not work except when all the conditions for their work are perfect, if they are always doubting and fearing and forecasting rain, worrying and fretting instead of making the best of things, then probably they will neither sow nor reap and are little likely to make successful farmers. Just as a person may fail through too much zeal, so may a person fail through too much prudence.
In the first place, I like to apply our text to the important matter of our bodily health. If people are always thinking of their health, the chances are they will have a sorry harvest. That we must be reasonably careful of our bodies we all know; it is one of the plainest of our Christian duties. By the coming of the Son of God in our flesh and by making the body the temple of the Spirit, by the great doctrine of the resurrection, when what is sown in weakness will be raised in glory, the Gospel of Christ has glorified the body in a way that even the Greeks had never dreamed of. But I am not speaking of reasonable care; I am speaking of morbid and worrying anxiety. Why, you can hardly drink a glass of milk today but some newspaper will warn you that you may be poisoned. And what I want you to feel is that that alarmist attitude, which will scarce allow you to breathe in this glad world, is the kind of thing that is denounced by Solomon in the memorable proverb of this verse. Lean on the Keeper of Israel and go forward.
--- George H. Morrison
The “father of the English Bible” was apparently born in a hamlet near the Welsh border about 1490. He arrived at Oxford with a gift for languages and began studying the writings of the greatest linguist in the world, Erasmus. He pored over Erasmus’s Greek New Testament and other writings, and he soon began lecturing from them. The Bible was still virtually unavailable in English, and an idea formed in William Tyndale’s mind.
He began proclaiming the value of pure Scripture and of the need to translate it. He was threatened and opposed. “We are better to be without God’s laws than the pope’s,” one man said, voice rising. Tyndale’s reply is among the most famous in church history: If God spares me, ere many years I will cause a boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you do.
He approached the Bishop of London for help in rendering the Bible into English, but was rebuffed. Tyndale nevertheless began working on his project. Finding his life in danger, he fled to the Continent. There he continued translating, smuggling copies of Matthew and Mark back into London. Spies combed Europe for him, and Tyndale played a cloak and dagger game, hiding and running, translating and smuggling. By 1525 complete copies of the New Testament were being secretly read in England.
On May 21, 1535 Tyndale was betrayed and seized. He languished in a miserable prison cell. His witness there converted the jailer and his family. On October 6, 1536 he was tied to the stake outside of Brussels, strangled, and burned. He was 42.
Tyndale’s final words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” That prayer had already been answered, for King Henry VIII had approved of a new English Bible by Miles Coverdale, Tyndale’s friend. Henry never realized that Coverdale’s Bible was nearly 70 percent Tyndale’s work. In 1604 James I approved a new translation of the Bible into English, and Tyndale’s work became the basis of 90 percent of the King James Version.
The Scriptures say, “Humans wither like grass, and their glory fades like wild flowers. Grass dries up, and flowers fall to the ground. But what the Lord has said will stand forever.” Our good news to you is what the Lord has said.
--- 1 Peter 1:24,25.
24 Israel is addressed. Your Redeemer picks up the theme of previous chapters (43:1, 14; 44:6, 22, 23). Exilic Israel found it difficult to see redemption or salvation in the conquering Persian advance on Babylon. They apparently expected God to make Israel the new ruler of the empire. But Yahweh insists on doing it his way. The Persian conquest is his doing and will provide redemption for his people, Israel. The reminder that Yahweh is the creator of all (this) puts Israel’s claims in perspective. God is also responsible for the world beyond Israel.
25–26 The chorus continues the description of Yahweh, but now in the third person (his servant). During Babylon’s last years Nabunaid had rescued idols from temples across the empire which were threatened by the Persian advance. He brought them to Babylon for safekeeping. (History of the Persian Empire). The result was a plethora of priests, prophets, and diviners in Babylon representing a variety of gods. They all issued forecasts about the city’s future. Yahweh proclaims that none of these will be allowed to turn him from his course of action. Israel, as Yahweh’s servant and messenger, had been commissioned to bring good news to Jerusalem (40:1–9). He guarantees that word and that counsel which promised the restoration of Jerusalem.
27 Yahweh’s control of the waters is a recurrent motif in the Vision. Usually it speaks of water in the desert. But here it refers to the control of the mystic deep like that which made created order possible (Gen 1:6) or which, when released, produced the Flood (Gen 7:11). More specifically, it may represent the moat protecting Babylon which connected the Euphrates in the north and in the south (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: (4 Volumes)), and which several invaders, but apparently not Cyrus, cut off and drained to gain access to the city. In that case this second of three decrees from Yahweh refers to the fall of Babylon.
28 The announcement’s climax mentions Cyrus, the Persian emperor who is entering Babylon. By this time every prophet in the city claimed responsibility for his success. But Yahweh yields nothing in the claim that Cyrus belongs to him. He is Yahweh’s shepherd. The term is frequently used for a king or ruler (compare 40:11; Zech 10:2–3; 11:3–9, 16–17; 12:7). The emphasis here is on the pronoun my. Cyrus is Yahweh’s protegé who will fulfill his pleasure. The words are important: ישׁלם “fulfill” is the verb from which “peace” comes. חפץ “pleasure” is used to express Yahweh’s will (compare 46:10; 48:14; 53:10; 55:11; 56:4). Jerusalem is the focus of Yahweh’s strategy. The call of Cyrus and the fall of Babylon prepare for the restoration of Yahweh’s city.
45:1 Cyrus is presented as Yahweh’s anointed, his messiah. This must have been a shock to Israel, but nothing else could have summarized his intention. The title normally applied to Israel’s high priest (Lev 4 and 6) or to Israel’s king (1 Sam 24, 26; 2 Sam 1; and repeated uses in the historical books and Psalms). It would become Judaism’s term for its expected deliverer, the Messiah. It describes one who is anointed with oil as a sign of being set apart for a special task. David was chosen to subdue nations within the territory assigned to Israel and thus to establish Yahweh’s sovereignty over Canaan. Now that task is being assigned to Cyrus. As the Assyrian was summoned to destroy (10:5–6), so now the Persian is called to perform the military and political tasks necessary to rebuild Jerusalem.
Traditionally, the ruler of Babylon took the hand of Bel in the New Year’s festival. Assyrian rulers coveted this affirmation of their authority. Here Yahweh claims that he has seized Cyrus by the hand (42:6) and strenghtened his hold on his realm. He had provided the might necessary for his conquest of Media, of Lydia, and now of Babylon and had weakened the authority of his adversaries so that they opened doors for him as in Armenia.
Remarkably this description fits Cyrus’s career. He had profited from many circumstances other than his military strength. He had gained the following of all the Persian tribes with singular ease. He gained an ally in Babylon against Media. Two successive Median armies that were sent against him decided to join forces with him instead. His generosity toward the conquered worked in his favor. He marched without opposition into Armenia and won a surprise victory over the Lydians when their horses were frightened by the smell of Persian camels. And now Babylon, the world’s most heavily fortified city, opens its gates to him without a fight (Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire, 34–51). Truly doors and gates had been opened for Cyrus. Yahweh claims credit for it. (Note that in similar ways Yahweh will claim credit for the rise of Darius and Artaxerxes in chaps. 49, 52, and 60.)
3 Dark treasures apparently refers to those kept in secret vaults. Yahweh assumes no altruistic motives in Cyrus and promises monetary reward and plunder for services rendered (as in 43:3). But these will not come from Jerusalem or from the Jews who have none left to give (compare v 13c).
3b–8 This remarkable speech builds on three themes: Yahweh’s self-introduction as the only God there is, his identification as God of Israel for whom he is calling Cyrus, and the theme of “knowing” (ידע) him. The theological emphasis continues to be that Yahweh is one in creating the world, ruling over history, and redeeming Israel.
6 From the rising sun and from its setting place demonstrates the territorial scope of world empire which sets the stage for Yahweh’s new activity. Israel is called to function as witness and messenger on that stage. Although she might have been more comfortable in the confines of Canaan, never again would she be allowed that luxury.
7 Light/darkness; peace/violence. Persian religion dealt in opposites of light and darkness. Yahweh claims not to be those conditions, but to create both, and thus to overcome the inherent dualism in his sovereign rule over them.
8 Right/legitimacy: Yahweh’s use of the Persian is regularly described in this part of the Vision with these words. They proclaim the legitimacy of Yahweh’s choice in terms of his sovereign right as Lord to choose how he will fulfill his promises to Israel. Some in Israel thought Yahweh should use Israelite armies and an Israelite king.
9–10 The “woes” addressed to Israel are an uncomfortable reminder of the “former days” pictured in chaps. 5 and 10. In the new age of redemption and blessing Israel is still blind and rebellious to the will of God. The unthinkable is happening. Clay protests the potter’s intentions. Someone protests the parents’ conception of a child.
11-13 Yahweh rejects Israel’s protests. The Creator of the world will legitimately do what he thinks is right to rebuild his city and free his exiles, no matter what they think of his plan. It is ironic, but typical, that Cyrus obeys without question, while Israel rebels.
by Google and Israel’s National Museum
The Dead Sea Scrolls have made their way online some 2,000 years after they were written through a partnership between Google and Israel’s national museum.
The important documents are available in searchable, high-resolution images, accompanied by informative videos, background information, and historical data. So far five of the scrolls have been digitized, including the biblical Book of Isaiah, the Temple Scroll, and three others.
Managing Director of Google’s R&D Center in Israel, Professor Yossi Matias said they plan to add additional Dead Sea Scroll documents to the site in the future. The AP says nearly all the scrolls will be online by 2016. (PC Magazine)
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - October 6
“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” --- John 4:14.
He who is a believer in Jesus finds enough in his Lord to satisfy him now, and to content him for evermore. The believer is not the man whose days are weary for want of comfort, and whose nights are long from absence of heart-cheering thought, for he finds in religion such a spring of joy, such a fountain of consolation, that he is content and happy. Put him in a dungeon and he will find good company; place him in a barren wilderness, he will eat the bread of heaven; drive him away from friendship, he will meet the “friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Blast all his gourds, and he will find shadow beneath the Rock of Ages; sap the foundation of his earthly hopes, but his heart will still be fixed, trusting in the Lord. The heart is as insatiable as the grave till Jesus enters it, and then it is a cup full to overflowing. There is such a fulness in Christ that he alone is the believer’s all. The true saint is so completely satisfied with the all-sufficiency of Jesus that he thirsts no more—except it be for deeper draughts of the living fountain. In that sweet manner, believer, shalt thou thirst; it shall not be a thirst of pain, but of loving desire; thou wilt find it a sweet thing to be panting after a fuller enjoyment of Jesus’ love. One in days of yore said, “I have been sinking my bucket down into the well full often, but now my thirst after Jesus has become so insatiable, that I long to put the well itself to my lips, and drink right on.” Is this the feeling of thine heart now, believer? Dost thou feel that all thy desires are satisfied in Jesus, and that thou hast no want now, but to know more of him, and to have closer fellowship with him? Then come continually to the fountain, and take of the water of life freely. Jesus will never think you take too much, but will ever welcome you, saying, “Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.”
Evening - October 6
“He had married an Ethiopian woman.” --- Numbers 12:1.
Strange choice of Moses, but how much more strange the choice of him who is a prophet like unto Moses, and greater than he! Our Lord, who is fair as the lily, has entered into marriage union with one who confesses herself to be black, because the sun has looked upon her. It is the wonder of angels that the love of Jesus should be set upon poor, lost, guilty men. Each believer must, when filled with a sense of Jesus’ love, be also overwhelmed with astonishment that such love should be lavished on an object so utterly unworthy of it. Knowing as we do our secret guiltiness, unfaithfulness, and black-heartedness, we are dissolved in grateful admiration of the matchless freeness and sovereignty of grace. Jesus must have found the cause of his love in his own heart, he could not have found it in us, for it is not there. Even since our conversion we have been black, though grace has made us comely. Holy Rutherford said of himself what we must each subscribe to—“His relation to me is, that I am sick, and he is the Physician of whom I stand in need. Alas! how often I play fast and loose with Christ! He bindeth, I loose; he buildeth, I cast down; I quarrel with Christ, and he agreeth with me twenty times a day!” Most tender and faithful Husband of our souls, pursue thy gracious work of conforming us to thine image, till thou shalt present even us poor Ethiopians unto thyself, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Moses met with opposition because of his marriage, and both himself and his spouse were the subjects of an evil eye. Can we wonder if this vain world opposes Jesus and his spouse, and especially when great sinners are converted? for this is ever the Pharisee’s ground of objection, “This man receiveth sinners.” Still is the old cause of quarrel revived, “Because he had married an Ethiopian woman.”
MAKE ME A BLESSING
Ira B. Wilson, 1880–1950
Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed. (Proverbs 11:11)
Nothing is lost that is done for the Lord,
Let it be ever so small;
The smile of the Savior approves of the deed
As though it were greatest of all.
We are of little value to our Lord if we do not produce fruit for Him. In fact, the command of Scripture is to bear “much fruit.” Regardless of the task to which God calls us, whether it be great or small, it will receive His promised blessing when we do it faithfully and with sincere motives. The Scriptures also teach that our deeds of compassion and mercy must be done with cheerfulness, never simply out of duty (Romans 12:8). St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is not fitting when one is in God’s service to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” Representing Christ and serving others must become a normal, happy lifestyle as we “carry the sunshine where darkness is rife.”
The text of this hymn was written in 1909 by Ira Wilson, a musician associated for many years with the Lorenz Publishing Company, serving as editor of the popular periodicals for church choirs, The Choir Leader and The Choir Herald. The music for the hymn was added 15 years later by George Schuler, who served for more than 40 years in the music department of the Moody Bible Institute. Throughout his lifetime Mr. Schuler contributed much fine music for both vocal and keyboard use. “Make Me a Blessing” was first introduced in 1924 at a Sunday school convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where Schuler had 1,000 copies of the song printed for the occasion. It was received with much enthusiasm, and these words have since been widely used to challenge believers to make their lives useful to God.
Out in the highways and byways of life many are weary and sad; carry the sunshine where darkness is rife, making the sorrowing glad.
Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love. Tell of His pow’r to forgive; others will trust Him if only you prove true every moment you live.
Give as ’twas given to you in your need. Love as the Master loved you; be to the helpless a helper indeed; unto your mission be true.
Chorus: Make me a blessing, make me a blessing! Out of my life may Jesus shine. Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray. Make me a blessing to someone today.
For Today: Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 5:13-16; Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:21
Simply breathe this musical prayer as you go forth to represent Christ.
DISCOURSE VIII - ON GOD’S KNOWLEDGE
II. . The second thing, What God knows; how far his understanding reaches.
1. God knows himself, and only knows himself. This is the first and original knowledge, wherein he excels all creatures. No man doth exactly know himself; much less doth he understand the full nature of a spirit; much less still the nature and perfections of God; for what proportion can there be between a finite faculty and an infinite object? Herein consists the infiniteness of Gods knowledge, that he knows his own essence, that he knows that which is unknowable to any else. It doth not so much consist in knowing the creatures, which he hath made, as in knowing himself, who was never made. It is not so much infinite, because he knows all things which are in the world, or that shall be; or things that he can make, because the number of them is finite; but because he hath a perfect and comprehensive knowledge of his own infinite perfections. Though it be said that angels “see his face” (Matt. 18:10), that sight notes rather their immediate attendance, than their exact knowledge; they see some signs of his presence and majesty, more illustrious and express than ever appeared to man in this life; but the essence of God is invisible to them, hid from them in the secret place of eternity; none knows God but himself (1 Cor. 2:11): “What man knows the things of a man save the spirit of a man? so the things of God knows no man but the Spirit of God; the Spirit of God searches the deep things of God;” searcheth, that is, exactly knows, thoroughly understands, as those who have their eyes in every chink and crevice, to see what lies hid there; the word search notes not an inquiry, but an exact knowledge, such as men have of things upon a diligent scrutiny as when God is said to search the heart and the reins, it doth not signify a precedent ignorance, but an exact knowledge of the most intimate corners of the hearts of men. As the conceptions of men are unknown to any but themselves, so the depths of the divine essence, perfections, and decrees, are unknown to any but to God himself; he only knows what he is, and what he knows, what he can do, and what he hath decreed to do. For first, if God did not know himself, he would not be perfect. It is the perfection of a creature to know itself, much more a perfection belonging to God. If God did not comprehend himself, he would want an infinite perfection, and so would cease to be God, in being defective in that which intellectual creatures in some measure possess. As God is the most perfect being, so he must have the most perfect understanding: if he did not understand himself, he would be under the greatest ignorance, because he would he ignorant of the most excellent object. Ignorance is the imperfection of the understanding; and ignorance of one’s self is a greater imperfection than ignorance of things without. If God should know all things without himself, and not know himself, he would not have the most perfect knowledge, because he would not have the knowledge of the best of objects. Secondly, Without the knowledge of himself, he could not be blessed. Nothing can have any complacency in itself, without knowledge of itself. Nothing can in a rational manner enjoy itself, without understanding itself.
The blessedness of God consists not in the knowledge of anything without him, but in the knowledge of himself and his own excellency, as the principle of all things; if, therefore, he did not perfectly know himself and his own happiness, he could not enjoy a happiness; for to be, and not to know to be, is as if a thing were not. “He is God, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5.), and therefore forever had a knowledge of himself. Thirdly, Without the knowledge of himself, he could create nothing. For he would be ignorant of his own power, and his own ability; and he that doth not know how far his power extends, could not act: if he did not know himself, he could know nothing; and he that knows nothing, can do nothing; he could not know an effect to be possible to him, unless he knew his own power as a cause. Fourthly, Without the knowledge of himself, he could govern nothing. He could not, without the knowledge of his own holiness and righteousness, prescribe laws to men, nor without a knowledge of his own nature order himself a manner of worship suitable to it. All worship must be congruous to the dignity and nature of the object worshipped: he must therefore know his own authority, whereby worship was to be enacted; his own excellency, to which worship was to be suited; his own glory, to which worship was to be directed. If he did not know himself, he did not know what to punish, because he would not know what was contrary to himself: not knowing himself, he would not know what was a contempt of him, and what an adoration of him; what was worthy of God, and what was unworthy of him. In fine, he could not know other things, unless he knew himself; unless he knew his own power, he could not know how he created things; unless he knew his own wisdom, he could not know the beauty of his works; unless he knew his own glory, he could not know the end of his works; unless he knew his own holiness, he could not know what was evil; and unless he knew his own justice, he could not know how to punish the crimes of his offending creatures. And, therefore,
(1.) God knows himself, because his knowledge, with his will, is the cause of all other things that can fall under his cognizance he knows himself first, before he can know any other thing; that is, first according to our conceptions; for, indeed God knows himself and all other things at once; he is the first truth, and therefore is the first object of his own understanding. There is nothing more excellent than himself, and therefore nothing more known to him than himself. As he is all knowledge, so he hath in himself the most excellent object of knowledge. To understand, is properly to know one’s self. No object is so intelligible to God as God is to himself, nor so intimately and immediately joined with his understanding as himself; for his understanding is his essence, himself.
(2.) He knows himself by his own essence. He knows not himself and his own power by the effect, because he knows himself from eternity, before there was a world, or any, effect of his power extant. It is not a knowledge by the cause, for God hath no cause; nor a knowledge of himself by any species, or anything from without: if it were anything from without himself, that must be created or untreated; if uncreated it would be God; and so we must either own many Gods, or own, it to be his essence, and so not distinct from himself: if created, then his knowledge of himself would depend upon a creature: he could not, then, know himself from eternity, but in time, because nothing can be created from eternity, but in time. God knows not himself by any faculty, for there is no composition in God; he is not made up of parts, but is a simple being; some, therefore, have called God, not intellectus, understanding, because that savors of a faculty, but intellectio, intellection: God is all act in the knowledge of himself and his knowledge of other things.
(3.) God, therefore, knows himself perfectly, comprehensively. Nothing in his own nature is concealed from him; he reflects apon everything that he is. There is a positive comprehension, so God doth not comprehend himself; for what is comprehended hath bounds, and what is comprehended by itself is finite to itself; and there is a negative comprehension—God so comprehends himself; nothing in his own nature is obscure to him, unknown by him; for there is as great a perfection in the understanding of God to know, as there is in the divine nature to be known. The understanding of God, and the nature of God, are both infinite, and so equal to one another: his understanding is equal to himself; he knows himself so well, that nothing can be known by him more perfectly than himself is known to himself. He knows himself in the highest manner, because nothing is so proportioned to the understanding of God as himself. He knows his own essence, goodness, power; all his perfections, decrees, intentions, acts, the infinite capacity of his own understanding, so that nothing of himself is in the dark to himself: and, in this respect, some use this expression, that the infiniteness of God is in a manner finite to himself, because it is comprehended by himself. Thus God transcends all creatures; thus his understanding is truly infinite, because nothing but himself is an infinite object for it: what angels may understand of themselves perfectly I know not, but no creature in the world understands himself. Man understands not fully the excellency and parts of his own nature; upon God’s knowledge of himself depends the comfort of his people, and the terror of the wicked: this is also a clear argument for, his knowledge of all other things without himself; he that knows himself, must needs know all other things less than himself, and which were made by himself; when the knowledge of his own immensity and infiniteness is not an object too difficult for him, the knowledge of a finite and limited creature, in all his actions, thoughts, circumstances, cannot be too hard for him: since he knows himself, who is infinite, he cannot but know whatsoever is finite. This is the foundation of all his other knowledge; the knowledge of everything present, past, and to come, is far less than the knowledge of himself. He is more incomprehensible in his own nature, than all things created, or that can be created, put together can be. If he, then, have a perfect comprehensive knowledge of his own nature, any knowledge of all other things is less than the knowledge of himself; this ought to be well considered by us, as the fountain whence all his other knowledge flows.
2. Therefore God knows all other things, whether they be possible, past, present, or future; whether they be things that he can do, but will never do, or whether they be things that he hath done, but are not now; things that are now in being, or things that are not now existing, that lie in the womb of their proper and immediate causes. If his understanding be infinite, he then knows all things whatsoever that can be known, else his understanding would have bounds, and what hath limits is not infinite, but finite. If he be ignorant of any one thing that is knowable, that is a bound to him, it comes with an exception, a but, God knows all things but this; a bar is then set to his knowledge. If there were anything, any particular circumstance in the whole creation or non-creation, and possible to be known by him, and yet were unknown to him, he could not be said to be omniscient; as he would not be Almighty if any one thing, that implied not a repugnancy to his nature, did transcend his power.
First, All things possible. No question but God knows what he could create, as well as what he hath created; what he would not create, as well as what he resolved to create; he knew what he would not do before he willed to do it; this is the next thing which declares the infiniteness of his understanding; for, as his power is infinite, and can create innumerable worlds and creatures, so is his knowedge infinite, in knowing innumerable things possible to his power. Possibles are infinite; that is, there is no end of what God can do, and therefore no end of what God doth know; otherwise his power would be more infinite than his knowledge: if he knew only what is created, there would be an end of his understanding, because all creatures may be numbered, but possible things cannot be reckoned up by any creature. There is the same reason of this in eternity; when never so many numbers of years are run out, there is still more to come, there still wants an end; and when millions of worlds are created, there is no more an end of God’s power than of eternity. Thus there is no end of his understanding; that is, his knowledge is not terminated by anything. This the Scripture gives us some account of: God knows things that are not, “for he calls things that are not as if they were” (Rom. 4:17); he calls things that are not, as if they were in being; what he calls is not unknown to him: if he knows things that are not, he knows things that may never be; as he knows things that shall be, because he wills them, so he knows things that might be, because he is able to effect them: he knew that the inhabitants of Keilah would betray David to Saul if he remained in that place (1 Sam. 23:11); he knew what they would do upon that occasion, though it was never done; as he knew what was in their power and in their wills, so he must needs know what is within the compass of his own power; as he can permit more than he doth permit so he knows what he can permit, and what, upon that permission, would be done by his creatures; so God knew the possibility of the Tyrians’ repentance, if they had had the same means, heard the same truths, and beheld the same miracles which were offered to the ears, and presented to the eyes of the Jews (Matt. 11:21). This must needs be so, because,
1. Man knows things that are possible to him, though he will never effect them. A carpenter knows a house in the model he hath of it in his head, though he never build a house according to that model. A watch-maker hath the frame of a watch in his mind, which he will never work with his instruments; man knows what he could do, though he never intends to do it. As the understanding of man hath a virtue, that where it sees one man it may imagine thousands of men of the same shape, stature, form, parts; yea, taller, more vigorous, sprightly, intelligent, than the man he sees; because it is possible such a number may be. Shall not the understanding of God much more know what he is able to effect, since the understanding of man can know what he is never able to produce, yet may be produced by God, viz. that he who produced this man which I see, can produce a thousand exactly like him? If the Divine understanding did not know infinite things, but were confined to a certain number, it may be demanded whether God can understand anything farther than that number, or whether he cannot? If he can, then he doth actually understand all those things which he hath a power to understand; otherwise there would be an increase of God’s knowledge, if it were actually now, and not before, and so he would be more perfect than he was before; if he cannot understand them, then he cannot understand what a human mind can understand; for our understandings can multiply numbers in in infinitum; and there is no number so great, but a man can still add to it: we must suppose the divine understanding more excellent in knowledge. God knows all that a man can imagine, though it never were, nor never shall be; he must needs know whatsoever is in the power of man to imagine or think, because God concurs to the support of the faculty in that imagination; and though it may be replied, an atheist may imagine that there is no God, a man may imagine that God can lie, or that he can be destroyed; doth God know therefore that he is not? or that he can lie, or cease to be? No, he knows he cannot; his knowledge extends to things possible, not to things impossible to himself; he knows it as imaginable by man, not as possible in itself; because it is utterly impossible, and repugnant to the nature of God, since he eminently contains in hmself all things possible, past, present, and to come; he cannot know himself without knowing them.
2. God knowing his own power, knows whatsoever is in his power to effect. If he knows not all things possible, he could not know the extent of his own power, and so would not know himself, as a cause sufficient for more things than he hath created. How can he comprehend himself, who comprehends not all effluxes of things possible that may come from him, and be wrought by him? How can he know himself as a cause, if he know not the objects and works which he is able to produce? Since the power of God extends to numberless things, his knowledge also extends to numberless objects; as if a unit is, could see the numbers it could produce, it would see infinite numbers: for a unit, as it were, all number.
God knowing the fruitfulness of his own virtue, knows a numberless multitude of things which he can do, more than have been done, or shall be done by him; he therefore knows innumerable worlds, innumerable angels, with higher perfections, than any of them which he hath created have: so that if the world should last many millions of years, God knows that he can every day create another world more capacious than this; and having created an inconceivable number, he knows he could still create more: so that he beholds infinite worlds, infinite numbers of men, and other creatures in himself, infinite kinds of things, infinite species, and individuals under those kinds, even as many as he can create, if his will did order and determine it; for not being ignorant of his own power, he cannot be ignorant of the effects wherein it may display and discover itself. A comprehensive knowledge of his own power doth necessarily include the objects of that power; so he knows whatsoever he could effect, and whatsoever he could permit, if he pleased to do it. If God could not understand more than he hath created, he could not create more than he hath created: for it cannot be conceived how he can create anything that he is ignorant of; what he doth not know, he cannot do: he must know also the extent of his own goodness, and how far anything is capable to partake of it: so much therefore, as any detract from the knowledge of God, they detract from his, power.
3. It is further evident that God knows all possible things, because he knew those things which he has created, before they were created, when they were yet in a possibility. If God knew things before they were created, he knew them when they were in a possibility, and not in actual reality. It is absurd to imagine that his understanding did lackey after the creatures, and draw knowledge from them after they were created. It is absurd to think that God did create, before he knew what he could or would create. If he knew those things he did create when they were possible, he must know all things which he can create, and therefore all things that are possible. To conclude this, we must consider that this knowledge is of another kind than his knowledge of things that are or shall be. He sees possible things as possible, not as things that ever are or shall be. If he saw them as existing or future, and they shall never be, this knowledge would be false, there would be a deceit in it, which cannot be. He knows. those things not in themselves, because they are not, nor in their causes, because they shall never be: he knows them in his own power, not in his will: he understands them as able to produce them, not as willing to effect them. Things possible he knows only in his power; things future he knows both in his power and his will, as he is both able and determined in his own good pleasure to give being to them. Those that shall never come to pass, he knows only in himself as a sufficient cause; those things that shall come into being, he knows in himself as the efficient cause, and also in their immediate second causes. This should teach us to spend our thoughts in the admiration of the excellency of God, and the divine knowledge; his understanding is infinite.
Secondly, God knows all things past. This is an argument used by God himself to elevate his excellency above all the commonly adored idols (Isa. 41:22): “Let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them.” He knows them as if they were now present, and not past for indeed in his eternity there is nothing past or future to his knowledge. This is called remembrance, in Scripture, as when God remembered Rachel’s prayer for a child (Gen. 30:22), and he is said to put tears into his bottle, and write them in his book of accompts, which signifies the exact and unerring knowledge in God of the minute circumstances past in the world; and this knowledge is called a book of remembrance (Mal. 3:16), signifying the perpetual presence of things past, before him.
There are two elegant expressions, signifying the certainty and perpetuity of God’s knowledge of sins past (Job 14:17), “My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity;” a metaphor, taken from men that put up in a bag the money they would charily keep, tie the bag, sew up the holes, and bind it hard, that nothing may fall out; or a vessel, wherein they reserve liquors, and daub it with pitch and glutinous stuff, that nothing may leak out, but be safely kept till the time of use; or else, as some think, from the bags attornies carry with them, full of writings, when they are to manage a cause against a person. Thus we find God often in Scripture calling to men’s minds their past actions, upbraiding them with their ingratitude, wherein he testifies his remembrance of his own past benefits and their crimes. His knowledge in this regard hath something of infinity in it, since though the sins of all men that have been in the world are finite in regard of number, yet when the sins of one man in thoughts, words, and deeds, are numberless in his own account, and perhaps in the count of any creature, the sins of all the vast numbers of men that have been, or shall be, are much more numberless, it cannot be less than infinite knowledge that can make a collection of them, and take a survey of them all at once. If past things had not been known by God, how could Moses have been acquainted with the original of things? How could he have declared the former transactions, wherein all histories are silent but the Scripture? How could he know the cause of man’s present misery so many ages after, wherewith all philosophy was unacquainted? How could he have writ the order of the creation, the particulars of the sin of Adam, the circumstances of Cain’s murder, the private speech of Lamech to his wives, if God had not revealed them? And how could a revelation be made, if things past were forgotten by him? Do we not remember many things done among men, as well as by ourselves, and reserve the forms of divers things in our minds, which rise as occasions are presented to draw them forth? And shall not God much more, who hath no cloud of darkness upon his understanding? A man that makes a curious picture, hath the form of it in his mind before he made it; and if the fire burn it, the form of it in his mind is not destroyed by the fire, but retained in it. God’s memory is no less perfect than his understanding. If he did not know things past, he could not be a righteous Governor, or exercise any judicial act in a righteous manner; he could not dispense rewards and punishments, according to his promises and threatenings, if things that were past could be forgotten by him; he could not require that which is past (Eccles. 3:15), if he did not remember that which is past. And though God be said to forget in Scripture, and not to know his people, and his people pray to him to remember them, as if he had forgotten them (Psalm 119:49), this is improperly ascribed to God. As God is said to repent, when he changes things according to his counsel beyond the expectation of men, so he is said to forget, when he defers the making good his promise to the godly, or his threatenings to the wicked; this is not a defect of memory belonging to his mind, but an act of his will. When he is said to remember his covenant, it is to will grace according to his covenant; when he is said to forget his covenant, it is to intercept the influences of it, whereby to punish the sin of his people; and when he is said not to know his people, it is not an absolute forgetfulness of them, but withdrawing from them the testimonies of his kindness, and clouding the signs of his favor; so God in pardon is said to forget sin, not that he ceaseth to know it, but ceaseth to punish it. It is not to be meant of a simple forgetfulness, or a lapse of his memory, but of a judicial forgetfulness; so when his people in Scripture pray, Lord, remember thy word unto thy servant, no more is to be understood but, Lord, fulfil thy word and promise to thy servant.
Thirdly, He knows things present (Heb. 4:13): “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do;” this is grounded upon the knowledge of himself; it is not so difficult to know all creatures exactly, as to know himself, because they are finite, but himself is infinite; he knows his own power, and therefore everything through which his omnipotence is diffused, all the acts and objects of it; not the least thing that is the birth of his power, can be concealed from him; he knows his own goodness, and therefore every object upon which the warm beams of his goodness strike; he therefore knows distinctly the properties of every creature, because every property in them is a ray of his goodness; he is not only the efficient, but the exemplary cause; therefore as he knows all that his power hath wrought, as he is the efficient, so he knows them in himself as the pattern; as a carpenter can give an account of every part and passage in a house he hath built, by consulting the model in his own mind, whereby he built it. “He looked upon all things after he had made them, and pronounced them good” (Gen. 1:3), full of a natural goodness he had endowed them with: he did not ignorantly pronounce them so, and call them good, whether he knew them or not; and therefore he knows them in particular, as he knew them all in their first presence. Is there any, reason he should be ignorant of everything now present in the world, or that anything that derives an existence from him as a free cause, should be concealed from him? If he did not know things present in their particularities, many things would be known by man, yea, by beasts, which the infinite God were ignorant of; and if he did not know all things present, but only some, it is possible for the most blessed God to be deceived and be miserable: ignorance is a calamity to the understanding: he could not prescribe laws to his creatures, unless he knew their natures to which those laws were to be suited: no, not natural ordinances to the sun, moon, and heavenly bodies, and inanimate creatures, unless he knew the vigor and virtue in them, to execute those ordinances; for to prescribe laws above the nature of things, is inconsistent with the wisdom of government; he must know how far they were able to obey; whether the laws were suited to their ability: and for his rational creatures, whether the punishments annexed to the law were proper, and suited to the transgression of the creature.
The Existence and Attributes of God
Matthew 11:12 (NASB95) 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.
This often-misunderstood verse has led to some confusion but without cause. When studied in its context—as all Scripture must be—we see an amazing challenge given by our Lord, and it is this: the depth of our hunger and thirst for righteousness determines our Christian advancement. The kingdom of heaven takes its ground via violent warfare in the spiritual realm. Those who lay hold of it are those who will not let go of this reality.
Let me remind you that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Can it be said of you that you are aggressively advancing in the Christian war against the pervasive and deceptive darkness overtaking our world? If not, I challenge you to war in the Spirit.
Battle on your knees—beseech the Lord of hosts to turn back the tide of evil. Willfully and uncompromisingly stand for righteousness, thus fulfilling the mission of our God. This is how we overtake strongholds held captive by our adversary, the devil.
Dear saint, in your struggle against the forces of darkness, you can take heart—the Bible declares that Jesus Christ has already won the ultimate battle over sin and death. Yet we are called to fight on. We must persevere with a single-minded commitment because our Commander-in-Chief has commissioned us to do so. And we must fight to win!
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A Word To The Weary
Our Friend: Meek And Lowly
Depressed Or Impressed
Happy No-Labor Day
Jesus speaks of John the Baptist
Come to Me
Jesus: Lord of the Sabbath
Jesus: the Fulfillment of Isaiah's Prophecies
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
A Tree and Its Fruit
The Sign of Jonah/Jesus and His Family
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Come To Me
The Man With The Withered Hand
The Unpardonable Sin