Ezekiel 43 - 45
The Glory of the LORD Fills the TempleEzekiel 43:1 Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. 2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. 3 And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. 4 As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, 5 the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, 7 and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, 8 by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. 9 Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.
10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. 11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. 12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.
The Altar13 “These are the measurements of the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth): its base shall be one cubit high and one cubit broad, with a rim of one span around its edge. And this shall be the height of the altar: 14 from the base on the ground to the lower ledge, two cubits, with a breadth of one cubit; and from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge, four cubits, with a breadth of one cubit; 15 and the altar hearth, four cubits; and from the altar hearth projecting upward, four horns. 16 The altar hearth shall be square, twelve cubits long by twelve broad. 17 The ledge also shall be square, fourteen cubits long by fourteen broad, with a rim around it half a cubit broad, and its base one cubit all around. The steps of the altar shall face east.”
18 And he said to me, “Son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: These are the ordinances for the altar: On the day when it is erected for offering burnt offerings upon it and for throwing blood against it, 19 you shall give to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who draw near to me to minister to me, declares the Lord GOD, a bull from the herd for a sin offering. 20 And you shall take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the ledge and upon the rim all around. Thus you shall purify the altar and make atonement for it. 21 You shall also take the bull of the sin offering, and it shall be burned in the appointed place belonging to the temple, outside the sacred area. 22 And on the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish for a sin offering; and the altar shall be purified, as it was purified with the bull. 23 When you have finished purifying it, you shall offer a bull from the herd without blemish and a ram from the flock without blemish. 24 You shall present them before the LORD, and the priests shall sprinkle salt on them and offer them up as a burnt offering to the LORD. 25 For seven days you shall provide daily a male goat for a sin offering; also, a bull from the herd and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided. 26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it. 27 And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord GOD.”
The Gate for the PrinceEzekiel 44:1 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut. 2 And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut. 3 Only the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the LORD. He shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and shall go out by the same way.”
4 Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple, and I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple of the LORD. And I fell on my face. 5 And the LORD said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes, and hear with your ears all that I shall tell you concerning all the statutes of the temple of the LORD and all its laws. And mark well the entrance to the temple and all the exits from the sanctuary. 6 And say to the rebellious house, to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: O house of Israel, enough of all your abominations, 7 in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations. 8 And you have not kept charge of my holy things, but you have set others to keep my charge for you in my sanctuary.
9 “Thus says the Lord GOD: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary. 10 But the Levites who went far from me, going astray from me after their idols when Israel went astray, shall bear their punishment. 11 They shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the temple and ministering in the temple. They shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before the people, to minister to them. 12 Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn concerning them, declares the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their punishment. 13 They shall not come near to me, to serve me as priest, nor come near any of my holy things and the things that are most holy, but they shall bear their shame and the abominations that they have committed. 14 Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the temple, to do all its service and all that is to be done in it.
Rules for Levitical Priests15 “But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord GOD. 16 They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge. 17 When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments. They shall have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court, and within. 18 They shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat. 19 And when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments. 20 They shall not shave their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall surely trim the hair of their heads. 21 No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court. 22 They shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman, but only virgins of the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest. 23 They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. 24 In a dispute, they shall act as judges, and they shall judge it according to my judgments. They shall keep my laws and my statutes in all my appointed feasts, and they shall keep my Sabbaths holy. 25 They shall not defile themselves by going near to a dead person. However, for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister they may defile themselves. 26 After he has become clean, they shall count seven days for him. 27 And on the day that he goes into the Holy Place, into the inner court, to minister in the Holy Place, he shall offer his sin offering, declares the Lord GOD.
28 “This shall be their inheritance: I am their inheritance: and you shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession. 29 They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. 30 And the first of all the firstfruits of all kinds, and every offering of all kinds from all your offerings, shall belong to the priests. You shall also give to the priests the first of your dough, that a blessing may rest on your house. 31 The priests shall not eat of anything, whether bird or beast, that has died of itself or is torn by wild animals.
The Holy DistrictEzekiel 45:1 “When you allot the land as an inheritance, you shall set apart for the LORD a portion of the land as a holy district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits broad. It shall be holy throughout its whole extent. 2 Of this a square plot of 500 by 500 cubits shall be for the sanctuary, with fifty cubits for an open space around it. 3 And from this measured district you shall measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 broad, in which shall be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. 4 It shall be the holy portion of the land. It shall be for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and approach the LORD to minister to him, and it shall be a place for their houses and a holy place for the sanctuary. 5 Another section, 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits broad, shall be for the Levites who minister at the temple, as their possession for cities to live in.
6 “Alongside the portion set apart as the holy district you shall assign for the property of the city an area 5,000 cubits broad and 25,000 cubits long. It shall belong to the whole house of Israel.
The Portion for the Prince7 “And to the prince shall belong the land on both sides of the holy district and the property of the city, alongside the holy district and the property of the city, on the west and on the east, corresponding in length to one of the tribal portions, and extending from the western to the eastern boundary 8 of the land. It is to be his property in Israel. And my princes shall no more oppress my people, but they shall let the house of Israel have the land according to their tribes.
9 “Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord GOD.
10 “You shall have just balances, a just ephah, and a just bath. 11 The ephah and the bath shall be of the same measure, the bath containing one tenth of a homer, and the ephah one tenth of a homer; the homer shall be the standard measure. 12 The shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina.
13 “This is the offering that you shall make: one sixth of an ephah from each homer of wheat, and one sixth of an ephah from each homer of barley, 14 and as the fixed portion of oil, measured in baths, one tenth of a bath from each cor (the cor, like the homer, contains ten baths). 15 And one sheep from every flock of two hundred, from the watering places of Israel for grain offering, burnt offering, and peace offerings, to make atonement for them, declares the Lord GOD. 16 All the people of the land shall be obliged to give this offering to the prince in Israel. 17 It shall be the prince’s duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.
18 “Thus says the Lord GOD: In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a bull from the herd without blemish, and purify the sanctuary. 19 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and the posts of the gate of the inner court. 20 You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple.
21 “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the Feast of the Passover, and for seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22 On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a young bull for a sin offering. 23 And on the seven days of the festival he shall provide as a burnt offering to the LORD seven young bulls and seven rams without blemish, on each of the seven days; and a male goat daily for a sin offering. 24 And he shall provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull, an ephah for each ram, and a hin of oil to each ephah. 25 In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month and for the seven days of the feast, he shall make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, and grain offerings, and for the oil.
What I'm Reading
Listening and the Pastor
By Matthew Miller 1/01/2013
Pastors sense deeply the frustration of trying to get our message through to our people. Almost daily, our mailboxes are filled with flyers offering seminars on how we can tailor our sermons and use social media more effectively to “break through the clutter” of our communication age. Given that we have been called to be heralds and stewards of a divine message, we cannot be blamed for wanting to make sure we are being heard.
But in this jostling for the attention of the flock, we are prone to miss the importance of listening — listening not only to the Lord (which others in this issue have addressed), but listening also to our people, as well as to the advice of fellow pastors and elders. Yet it is the Lord Himself who tells us in His Word, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). “Every person” includes preachers, too.
We must, like Paul and the author of Hebrews, have our fingers on the pulse of our people in order to gauge how best to feed them from the pulpit. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:2, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it” (see also Heb. 5:12). When I began my preaching ministry, one of my ninety-year old members gently chastened me after he heard a sermon in which I overshot the congregation. He said: “Can I give you a piece of advice from an old man? You need to keep the cookie jar within reach of the children’s hands.” It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I let his kind criticism penetrate my natural defenses, and I have been grateful for his feedback ever since. If we want to feed our people for real spiritual growth, we must know where they are at each stage along the way. “Know well the condition of your flocks” (Prov. 27:23). That takes some listening.
We must also listen carefully to our members individually to discern where they really are with Christ. Paul says to the Galatians, “My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (4:19). It is easy for pastors mistakenly to suppose that our supporters are spiritually healthy and our detractors are not. But there are always many who love the pastor who are far from Christ, and many who have complaints against the pastor that are well-grounded. We must listen more deeply, and ask ourselves whether we hear Christ being formed in our people — in their passing requests for prayer, in their words spoken from the hospital bed, in the way they voice their angst about the state of the country, do we hear the grammar of union with Christ in His death and resurrection? Do we hear the doctrine of sanctification personally embraced? Do we hear a present enjoyment of the kingdom of God coupled with a pining for its future consummation? Or do we hear instead hopes and sighs pulsing with the beat of moralistic therapeutic deism? They may lead ministries in our churches with enthusiasm and competence, but are they still terrified of dying? These are the things we must listen for not only in their words, but even in their tones.
Lastly, we must listen to fellow elders and other pastors, as much for our personal well-being as for the sake of our ministries. Being ordained does not elevate us above the warning in Proverbs 21:2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.” We all know men who lost their ministry positions not because of any great moral failure or glaring incompetence, but rather on account of stubbornness or discouragement that went unchecked with debilitating consequences. In such cases, it is not uncommon to learn that these men were relationally isolated, lacking the kinds of iron-sharpening-iron relationships with elders and other pastors that could have delivered a ministry saving rebuke or a soul-nourishing word of encouragement (Prov. 27:17; 27:6; 12:25).
Years ago, J. Oswald Sanders observed in his classic Spiritual Leadership: “You can measure leaders by the number and quality of their friends.” Augustine was a man who prized friendship (reflections on friendship abound in The Confessions and in his sermons). John Calvin’s friendship with Pierre Viret (1511– 1571), as revealed in their many letters, shows Calvin’s longing for and great dependence on friendship. In our church’s recent search for a new director of music, my first question to the candidates was: “Tell me about your closest friends. Can you share any times when their counsel led you to change course?”
Pastors need friendships with co-laborers. Every Timothy needs a Paul, and every Paul needs a Titus (2 Cor. 2:13; 8:23). If you find yourself without such friendships, you would do well to begin making this a matter of prayer. Sometimes the heart needs time to be prepared for friendship, so that our ears would then be open to what a godly friend might say.
Yes, we must hear and heed the Lord first and above all. But, according to His Word, we must also listen to those under and alongside us. The quality of our lives and ministries depends on it.
By John Walvoord (1990)
Jesus’ Pronouncement at the Occasion of the Passover and His Washing the Disciples’ Feet
John 13:1–20. On the fateful night before His crucifixion, Jesus had gathered with His disciples to observe the Passover feast. Jesus Himself was looking beyond the immediate events of His death, resurrection, and later ascension into heaven to the present age between Pentecost and the rapture when God’s previously undisclosed plan to call a people from the church would be fulfilled. This discourse of John 13–17 is called the Upper Room Discourse, but only the first two chapters are actually delivered in the Upper Room. As the observance of the Passover supper was underway, Jesus, knowing that Judas Iscariot had agreed to betray Him and that He had come from God and was returning to God (vv. 2–3 ), took a basin of water and a towel and began to wipe the disciples’ feet. Though not prophecy in itself, it anticipated the ministry of the disciples after Jesus was gone.
There was an uneasy silence in the room as He went from one to another as they reclined, with their heads toward the table and their feet away from the table, on a couch that was only a short distance from the ground. It was customary when being invited to dinner to have a slave wash guests’ feet after their contact with the dirty streets. None of the disciples wanted to volunteer for this because it would be admitting that they were not the greatest, and now they were being rebuked by the fact that Jesus took this lowly work.
When He came to Peter, Peter said, “You shall never wash my feet” (v. 8 ). Jesus replied to Peter, however, “Unless I wash you, you have no part of me” (v. 8 ). Peter then replied, “Not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (v. 9 ). The reply of Jesus distinguished between a person having a bath where his whole body is washed and a person having only his feet washed. Jesus told Peter, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you” (v. 10 ). Jesus, of course, was referring to Judas Iscariot (v. 11 ).
Upon completing the task, Jesus asked them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” (v. 12 ). Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (vv. 14–15 ).
Jesus then predicted, “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He” (vv. 18–19 ). In this interchange with His disciples, Jesus predicted again that Judas Iscariot was going to betray Him to the chief priests.
Jesus Predicts His Betrayal by Judas Iscariot, His Denial by Peter, and His Departure
John 13:21–38; cf. Matthew 26:21–25, 30–35; Mark 14:18–21, 26–31; Luke 22:21– 23, 31–34. After referring to the importance of accepting Him, Jesus said plainly, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me” ( John 13:21 ). The disciples did not know what to do about this statement (v. 22 ). But John the beloved disciple, who apparently was next to Christ at the table, asked Jesus, “Lord, who is it?” (v. 25 ). Jesus answered, “‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him” (vv. 26–27 ).
Apparently, only John the apostle knew of the identification of Judas Iscariot as the one who would betray Jesus. Judas himself, after he had taken the bread, went out (v. 30 ).
Jesus then announced to His disciples, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once” (vv. 31–32 ).
Jesus then announced prophetically that He was not going to be with them much longer. He said, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I will tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come” (v. 33 ).
In the light of His separation from His disciples, Jesus gave them a new commandment, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (vv. 34–35 ).
The disciples did not concern themselves with the command of loving one another. As a matter of fact they had been contending among themselves as to who would be the greatest ( Luke 22:24 ). But they were very much interested in the fact that Jesus was leaving them. Simon Peter asked Jesus the question, “Lord, where are you going?” (v. 36 ). Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (v. 36 ). Peter persisted, however, and asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (v. 37 ). Jesus answered Peter, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (v. 38 ). No doubt, Peter was sincere in his profession of loyalty to Jesus Christ, but he did not know how weak he was. The prophecy of Jesus that Peter would deny the Lord three times before the cock crowed was to be literally fulfilled the following morning.
Jesus’ Revelation of God’s Provision for His Troubled Disciples
John 14:1–31. The disciples were deeply troubled. They had heard Jesus announce that one was going to betray Him. They had heard Him tell Peter that he was going to deny Him three times. Most of all, they were concerned about the fact that Jesus said He was going to leave them and they could not follow then ( 13:36 ). At this point in their last night together, Jesus prophetically outlined God’s provisions for them as troubled disciples in a troubled world.
Jesus, first of all, exhorted them to not be troubled, but He said that instead they should “trust in God; trust also in me” ( 14:1 ). This command can be literally translated, “Keep on trusting in God; keep on trusting in me.” The secret of the untroubled heart in a troubled world is complete trust in God. In exhorting them to do this, He was giving the whole answer. Recognizing, however, that all of us, including the disciples, are weak, the rest of the chapter outlines the support basis for this trust in God.
In the light of His departure, Jesus promised them that He would return: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (vv. 2–3 ).
This was an entirely new revelation to be contrasted to Christ’s earlier revelation concerning His second coming to judge the world. This was a coming with an entirely different context, and its purpose was to take them out of the world and take them to the Father’s house, which clearly refers to heaven, where Jesus has gone before to prepare a place for those who believe in Him. This is the first reference in the New Testament to what Paul later referred to as the rapture of the church ( 1 Cor. 15:51–58; 1 Thess. 4:13–18 ).
The disciples were both emotionally and theologically unprepared to receive this truth, which John recorded many years later in this gospel. They did comprehend, however, that He was going to leave them. This was a devastating truth to them because they had been with Christ for three and a half years and had left their homes and their occupations in order to be His disciples. They simply did not understand what Jesus meant when He said He was going to leave them. Scripture records that Jesus had closed His remarks by saying, “You know the way to the place where I am going” ( John 14:4 ).
Predicted Events Relating To The Church
1. Rise of liberalism and rejection of fundamental biblical doctrines permeate the professing church.
2. Communism and atheism rise as major opponents of Christianity.
3. The ecumenical movement promoting a world church organized in 1948.
4. Increased moral chaos results from departure from biblical doctrines.
5. Evidence of spiritism, the occult, and Satan worship increases.
6. The church is raptured.
7. The Holy Spirit lifts the restraint of sin.
8. Super church movement gains power and forms a world church.
9. World church works with the Antichrist to secure world domination.
10. Super church is destroyed by the ten kings supporting the Antichrist to pave the way for worship of the world ruler as God.
11. Those who have come to believe in Christ as Savior since the rapture suffer persecution because they refuse to worship the world ruler.
12. Second coming of Christ occurs, and remaining Christians in the world are rescued and enter the millennial kingdom.
13. After the millennium the church is placed in the New Jerusalem in the new earth.
Thomas, as he contemplated this sentence, did not know where Jesus was going, and probably the other disciples had the same problem. Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (v. 5 ) This was a logical statement because if one does not know his destination, he does not know where he is going. This is a profound truth that affects all of our lives. Knowing our ultimate destination is a part of God’s program of reassuring troubled disciples. On the other hand, Jesus was referring to heaven, and certainly Thomas and the other disciples should have known that this was their ultimate destination.
Jesus’ answer to Thomas was both profound and simple: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (v. 6 ). There are few statements in any language or any book that can rival this for profound truth.
Jesus is the way or the road to heaven; this truth is not accepted by the world but is the mainstay of Christians who put their trust in God.
Jesus also said, “I am the truth.” All things are true because of God’s laws and revelation, and Jesus is the source of this order in the universe. All truth is true only as it is related in some way to Jesus Christ as the truth.
Jesus also declared, “I am the life” (v. 6 ). Again, the profound truth that only in Jesus are eternal life and blessing in the life to come possible. All the philosophies of the world and the schemes of men have never been able to substitute anything for God’s plan of Jesus as the way to heaven as the ultimate test of truth and the ultimate bestower of eternal life.
In addition to having Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, the disciples also had a heavenly Father. Jesus said, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (v. 7 ). This time Philip spoke up: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (v. 8 ).
Jesus’ reply to Philip is at the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (vv. 9–11 ).
As God the Father has not been visible to man, the only way the Father can be known is through His revelation in Jesus Christ. Jesus has the same attributes as God the Father; as any true son, He was the replica, in effect, of His Father, though existing from eternity past, even as the Father has existed.
Jesus brought this thought of the Father to its climax when He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (v. 12 ).
The startling statement that the disciples of Jesus could do greater works than Jesus Himself gave the disciples pause. The secret, of course, is the fact that Jesus said not that they would be greater than Jesus or do greater things in themselves than Jesus; but in partnership with Jesus at the right hand of God the Father and their ministry on earth, they would be able to accomplish more in that relationship than Jesus Christ could have had He remained on earth as an individual. The disciples could achieve multiplication of their numbers and reach out to more in the world as many individuals than even Jesus on earth would have been able to reach. Even the experience of leading one soul to Christ is in a sense a greater miracle than the creation of the entire world. The creation of the world did not cost God anything as He could speak and it would be done. But the salvation of a soul involved the death of His Son on the cross. The prediction that more would be accomplished in the world is seen in the millions of people who have put their trust in Jesus through the centuries through the work of many individual disciples.
In keeping with this promise to be partners with Him at the Father’s right hand, Jesus urged them to pray, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (vv. 13–14 ). This, again, is a saying that confounds the wisdom of the world. The plan is that prayer in the name of Jesus by a disciple will ultimately be prayer in the will of God. Like a check requiring two signatures, any request signed by a believer, if it is signed also by Jesus Christ and is in His name, will justify the hope of the prayer being answered.
Another important facet in God’s provision for troubled disciples was the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (vv. 16–17 ).
This prophecy anticipated the dispensational change on the day of Pentecost. In the Old Testament, only a few were indwelt permanently and always with a view to special service for God. Beginning at Pentecost, every believer would and will be indwelt by the Spirit and have the same resource in the time of trouble. Even though Christ was going to leave them, He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18 ). The amazing truth in this chapter is that not only will the Holy Spirit indwell every believer but also Jesus Christ will indwell every believer, a truth that was never mentioned in the Old Testament and was not realized by any saints prior to the day of Pentecost. Though the world will not be able to see Jesus, they will be able to realize that He is in heaven and, in effect, they will see Him (v. 19 ). Also, because Jesus Christ lives, they will also live (v. 19 ).
In addition to the great truth that Christ Himself was going to indwell believers, an additional dispensational truth characteristic of the present age from Pentecost was predicted in verse 20: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” The expression I am in you refers to Christ indwelling, but you are in me presents a truth foreign to the Old Testament but realized by Christians baptized into Christ. The gracious provision of God is not only that God is in us but also that we are vitally related to Jesus Christ and share the same eternal life. It is not too much to say that verse 20 is one of the great revelations of the New Testament and characterizes the present age as a distinct dispensation.
Once again, Jesus referred to the need to obey His commands and to love Him. He promised, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (v. 21 ). The disciples did not show too much interest in the fact of the love of Christ or being loved by the Father, but Judas (not Iscariot) asked the question. “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (v. 22 ). Jesus replied that a new relationship existed between Jesus and the disciples as well as the Father and the disciples. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (v. 23). Here was an additional fact: Not only Jesus and the Holy Spirit would indwell a believer but God the Father would also make their body His home. Those who do not love Jesus and obey Him know nothing of this marvelous truth (v. 24 ).
Something of the tremendous future ministry of the Holy Spirit to the disciples was indicated in Jesus’ pronouncement: “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (vv. 25–26 ). This was to be realized, particularly by the disciples and the apostle John who was writing the gospel of John many years after the events that are described, but it is also true that the Holy Spirit reminds all believers of the truth of God while we are listening to His teaching.
The final work of God on behalf of the troubled disciples was His marvelous peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (v. 27 ). This remarkable statement came from Jesus who knew that in the next twenty-four hours He would die the awful death of crucifixion and His body would be in the tomb. What did Jesus mean by “my peace”? The peace that Christ was referring to goes beyond the prophecy of death and resurrection of Christ and beyond ascension to the ultimate disposal and judgment of all things.
Jesus knew that in the end God would triumph and that His death on the cross would be rewarded by the heritage of millions of souls being saved. He also knew that though the disciples were troubled, their troubles were temporary and their ultimate peace was to be realized. The peace that Christ gives is more than a psychological peace, more than an act of human will, and one of the marvelous things that comes when a disciple of Jesus who puts his faith in God realizes the tremendous assets and provisions God has made for him as a Christian. Because of this, it is possible to be at peace even though a disciple may live in a troubled world.
Jesus again referred to His departure and said that He was predicting it in advance and that they would know it was of God for Him to go to the Father and to come back (vv. 28–29 ). He told them that after He departed, “the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (vv. 30–31 ). His reference to the “prince of this world” is a reference to Satan, and He was referring, of course, to the continued activity of Satan during the period that Jesus was going back to the Father. The ultimate triumph over Satan, however, was assured. At this point in their evening together, they left the Upper Room and proceeded toward the garden of Gethsemane.
By Justin Taylor 1/01/2013
Even though Charles Spurgeon lived about two hundred years after John Bunyan, I think Spurgeon regarded Bunyan as a friend. He said the book he valued most, next to the Bible, was The The Pilgrim's Progress: Both Parts and with Original Illustrations. “I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire.”
Perhaps one of the reasons Spurgeon resonated with this classic was its realistic portrayal of depression, doubt, and despair. Spurgeon and Bunyan, like their Savior, were men of sorrow, acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). When Bunyan went to prison for preaching the gospel, his heart was almost broken “to pieces” for his young blind daughter, “who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides.” Spurgeon’s depression could be so debilitating that he could “weep by the hour like a child”—and not know why he was weeping. To fight this “causeless depression,” he said, was like fighting mist. It was a “shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness.” It felt, at times, like prison: “The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” Spurgeon felt what C. S. Lewis describes after losing his wife, in one of the most honest and painful passages I have ever read. Lewis said that when all is well and life is happy, God seems present and welcoming with open arms.
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited?… Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in our time of trouble?
Some will find that sense of bewildering despair hard to comprehend, perhaps even a bit exaggerated. But for those who have been there, it is all too real.
For those who have felt trapped in Doubting-Castle, guarded by Giant Despair, take heart that the best of Christians have stayed there too. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). And for those who have never darkened its harrowing doors, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (v. 12).
What is most instructive in Bunyan’s allegory is how Christian and Hopeful finally find the way of escape. Christian says:
“What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting- Castle.” “Then,” said Hopeful, “that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it.” Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and hopeful immediately came out.
What was the key? It was called “Promise.” God has given us “his precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:4).
How do we know these promises will come true? Because “all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ Jesus]” (2 Cor. 1:20).
How do we take hold of these promises? By faith, in hope. God tells us, “call upon me in the day of trouble,” with the result that “I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Ps. 50:15). As we believe His promises by faith, He gets all of the credit and the glory (Rom. 4:20).
And did you notice where Bunyan says that the key was all along? In Christian’s “chest pocket.” I think Bunyan here is pointing us to Psalm 119:11: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” We all know that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), But this “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17), cannot do its piercing, sanctifying, healing work if it remains simply on display in our homes rather than dwelling at home in our hearts. If we take God’s Word with us, if we meditate on it day and night, we will always have our weapon in battle no matter where we are.
So, dear Christian, take God’s Word — especially His promises — into your heart today, by faith and in hope. And the next time you find yourself in Doubting-Castle, and hear the terrifying rumblings of Giant Despair at the double-bolted door, remember that you have had the key of escape all along. If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.
Justin Taylor Books:
Christ and the Academy: An Interview with D.A. Carson
By D.A. Carson 1/01/2013
Tabletalk: When did God call you to ministry and what were the circumstances that surrounded your call?
D.A. Carson: I was well into a degree in chemistry at McGill University, with well-formed plans to pursue a PhD in organic synthesis, when the Lord began to tug me in another direction. God used several independent influences. The first was the pastor of the church I was attending in Montreal. He told me one summer that he wanted me to serve as his apprentice. I told him that he probably had me confused with someone else. After all, there were several in our college-and-careers group who were contemplating pastoral ministry, but I wasn’t one of them. He assured me that he had not made a mistake — I was the one he wanted. We had a substantial argument, and I “won.” I did not serve as his apprentice. But that was the first step in jogging me to consider a change of direction — and all the pastor was doing, of course, was obeying 2 Timothy 2:2.
(2 Ti 2:1–7) 2 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. ESV
When I worked in a lab in Canada’s federal government (plugging away at a problem connected with air pollution), I discovered that some of my colleagues hated their work and longed for retirement, while others idolized their chemistry and dreamed of the big breakthrough that would win a Nobel Prize. I wasn’t in either camp. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing, but chemistry was not God. I was, after all, a Christian. At the time, I was devoting my weekends to helping another young man plant a church in the Ottawa Valley. That, too, began to tug at my heart. That autumn, I heard a missionary preach on Ezekiel 22, where God says, “I sought for a man to stand in the gap before me, but I found none.” The Spirit of God used that sermon to make every fiber of my being want to cry out, “Here am I! Send me!” So I never pursued graduate chemistry, and in due course, after more fledgling experiences in ministry, I went off to gain an MDiv in a small seminary in Toronto. That was the autumn of 1967.
TT: Given the large quantity and high quality of work you are able to produce, what does your average workday and workweek look like?
DC: My schedule varies so much from day to day and from week to week that it is difficult to give you a realistic picture. Many weeks during the academic term, my working hours are heavily tied to responsibilities at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). One year in three, however, I have no regular lectures at TEDS—though I do maintain my PhD students. In essence, I wear four hats: TEDS responsibilities, preaching and lecturing here and there, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) responsibilities, and writing. Some of these overlap. For example, some of the writing is tied to lecturing, while some of the speaking is tied to TGC. But each of these domains imposes its own urgencies at different times: writing produces its deadlines, syllabi just have to be created by assigned dates, TGC conferences and other meetings have fixed spots in the calendar, and so forth. Three secrets of productivity, however, are worth mentioning: (1) Learn to fill in the little empty periods that clutter each day. (2) Don’t fritter. When you work, work hard; when you are not working, quit entirely. (3) Discover how different aspects of your work can leverage other aspects of your work. For example, choosing your reading to feed into things that you’ll be preparing over the next six or nine months adds to godly efficiency.
TT: What is the best way for parents to prepare their children for the attacks on their faith they may face in college?
DC: There is no formulaic answer and no guarantee. For a start, our children themselves are extraordinarily diverse. Many will be tempted by postmodern assumptions. Others will feel far greater threats from biologists, cosmologists, or psychologists who operate under the assumptions of raw atheism or, worse, functional atheism. All I can do is enumerate some values and practices in the home that seem to me to be wise, biblically faithful, and useful in mitigating the dangers. These are exemplary, not exhaustive.
First, the home should encourage vigorous Christian understanding. The most dangerous seedbed for intellectual rebellion is a home where faith is sentimental and even anti-intellectual, and where opponents are painted as ignorant knaves, because eventually our children discover that there are some really nice people who are atheists and agnostics, and they can present arguments in sophisticated, gentle, and persuasive fashion.
Similarly, the local church with young people who are heading off to college should be doing what it can to prepare them — first with a solid grasp of Christian essentials, and second with the rudiments of responsible apologetics.
At the same time, both the home and the church should be living out a Christian faith that is more than intellectually rigorous. It should be striving for biblically - faithful authenticity across the board: genuine love for God and neighbor, living with eternity in view, quickness to confess sin and seek reconciliation, a concern for the lost and the broken, faithfulness in praise and intercessory prayer, a transparent delight in holiness, and a contagious joy in God. Even if our children are sucked into intellectual nihilism for a while, over the long haul it is important that they remember what biblically - faithful Christianity looks like in the home and in the church.
Fourth, wisdom in shaping our kids demands more structure when they are young; more discussion, carefully monitored controls, and a safety net as they grow older; and a willingness, in most instances, to wait to be asked for advice when they have genuinely left the nest and are no longer dependent on our roof or our wallets.
Finally, pray for them. Pray for them especially diligently when you recognize, as you repeatedly will, that unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor do so in vain.
TT: Skepticism toward Christianity in academia has led to anti-intellectualism among certain evangelicals. How should evangelicals approach scholarship?
DC: A long essay on this topic would only begin to explore the subject. I concur that some anti-intellectualism is nothing but a thoughtless reaction to the skepticism toward Christianity found in many academic circles. But some of it is the pride of those who can do things with their hands but who do not or cannot make much of intellectual pursuits. Intellectual arrogance is still arrogance; blue-collar arrogance is still arrogance. The right response, for the Christian, begins with repentance and contrition, and a generous recognition that God gives different gifts to human beings in general and to the church in particular. Where the anti-intellectualism is a defensive posture against skepticism in academia, surely the right Christian response is the example of the Apostle Paul, who was determined to bring every thought into submission to Christ. That means we ought to be encouraging our best and brightest to demonstrate love for God with their minds and hearts, taking on the strongholds of intellectual lostness with exactly the same kind of missionary zeal that we want to take on the strongholds of, say, Islam and Buddhism. Moreover, the need is not just evangelistic and apologetic. Much of this work should be motivated by a passionate desire to offer God our best in every domain of life, whether we are grinding valves on a motorcycle engine or wrestling with the magisterial voices of the Western philosophical tradition. The Kuyperian vision of not one square inch where Jesus does not say, “This is mine!” is not a restrictively geographical sweep.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
The Coming of the Kingdom part 23
By Dr. Andrew Woods 03/02/2014
Today's evangelical world believes that the church is experiencing the Messianic kingdom. To address this type of confusion, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. In this series, the biblical teaching on the kingdom has been surveyed from Genesis to Revelation. We have noted thus far that what the Old Testament predicts concerning an earthly kingdom was offered to Israel during Christ's First Advent. Yet, the nation rejected this kingdom offer leading to the kingdom's postponement. In the interim, the kingdom is future as God now pursues an interim program that includes the church.
In addition, we began scrutinizing a series of texts that "kingdom now" theologians routinely employ in order to argue that the kingdom is a present reality in order to show that none of these passages, when rightly understood, teach a present, spiritual form of the kingdom. We began with the use of alleged "kingdom now" texts in the life of Christ, such as "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" ( Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:5-7), "seek first His kingdom" ( Matt. 6:33 ), "until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence" ( Matt. 11:12 ), "the kingdom of God has come upon you" ( Matt. 12:28 ), and "the kingdom of God is in your midst" ( Luke 17:21 ).
Born Again To Enter The Kingdom
Sometimes John 3:3-5 is used to support the notion of a present, spiritual messianic kingdom. These verses say,
"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"
Although the word "kingdom" is used twice in these verses, it is important to note that the term does not speak to the issue of the time of the kingdom's establishment. Rather, it is only used of a revelation of how one must enter the kingdom once it is ultimately established. In other words, when the kingdom comes, entrance into it will only be granted to those who have been born spiritually. Beyond this very little is said. Thus, of this verse and others like it, Sullivan notes,
"Because in these verses the Kingdom is not dealt with extensively, it is impossible to use such references to reach a meaningful understanding of the basileia." 
As has been mentioned earlier in this series, when the word "kingdom" is left undefined as it is here, its meaning must be developed from the Old Testament. This is especially true of John 3:3-5. In this context ( John 3:9-10 ), Jesus expresses incredulity that Nicodemus, Israel's teacher, did not comprehend the new birth as an essential prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom. "Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can these things be?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?'" Such incredulity relates to the fact that Nicodemus as Israel's teacher should have been well aware of Ezekiel 36:24-27, which clearly explains the necessity of the new birth before entrance into the kingdom is permitted. These verses say,
"For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."
These verses not only reveal the necessity of the spiritual birth prior to entrance into the kingdom, they also explain the specific time in history when the kingdom will be established. They occur in the section of the Book of Ezekiel directly depicting Israel's end time program ( Ezek. 33–48 ). The overall context of this section is eschatological since these chapters relate to Ezekiel's recommissioning to preach the nation's restoration ( Ezek. 33 ), the millennial David ( Ezek. 34 ), Edom's future destruction ( Ezek. 35 ), Israel's future political and spiritual restoration and reunification ( Ezek. 36–37 ), the Gog and Magog battle leading to the nation's restoration ( Ezek. 38–39 ), the millennial temple ( Ezek. 40–46 ), the millennial river ( Ezek. 47:1-12 ), the millennial land inheritance of Israel's tribes ( Ezek. 47:13–48:29 ), and the ultimate restoration of Jerusalem ( Ezek. 48:30-35 ). In other words, Ezekiel 36:24-27 is found in a context predicting the return of Israel to her own land ( Ezek. 36:24 ), the future Tribulation period, and beyond. Thus, the very kingdom, entrance into which spiritual birth is a mandatory prerequisite, is a completely future reality since its very establishment is intimately connected with end time events. By leaving the word "kingdom" undefined in John 3:3-5, Jesus presupposes this rich Old Testament background drawn from the prophet Ezekiel as related to the kingdom's future arrival.
In sum, in John 3:3-5, Jesus merely rehearses a well-known fact from Ezekiel, the necessity of spiritual birth prior to entrance into the kingdom. By making such a scant statement and by not defining the kingdom, we must go to the source, the prophet Ezekiel, in order to gain insight as to when the kingdom will arrive. As explained earlier, the context of the new birth is found within a larger context that points exclusively to the future for the kingdom's arrival.
Not Taste Death Until The Arrival Of The Kingdom
Matthew 16:27-28, represent more verses utilized by "kingdom now" theologians. They say,
"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
In verse 27, Jesus notes both the angelic manifestation as well as the final judgment associated with the coming of His kingdom. Because in verse 28 He indicates that there are some listening to Him who would not die until the coming of this kingdom, many assume that Christ established His kingdom in spiritual form at His First Advent.
However, this interpretation ignores the context of Christ's statement, which is found in the very next verses of the following chapter. Matthew 17:1-13 describes Christ's Transfiguration, where Christ appeared in His glorified state. Since this glorified manifestation of Himself was a temporary appearance during His First Advent, His Transfiguration was a foretaste or a token of what the Son of Man coming in His glory and the splendor of His kingdom, as depicted in Matthew 16:28, would be like. Thus, contextually, in Matthew 16:28, Christ predicted that the Transfiguration would take place before some of His immediate audience had died. Christ's prediction in this regard was literally fulfilled six days later since the Transfiguration took place as recorded in the very next chapter. Unfortunately, the chapter division causes many to bifurcate Christ's prediction at the end of Matthew 16 from the events at the beginning of Matthew 17. However, it must be remembered that chapter divisions are artificial. They are not part of the inspired text, but rather were added much later in a well-intentioned but sometimes ineffective way of organizing and outlining the biblical text. Craven explains the full context of Matthew 16:28:
The declaration of Jesus, "There be some standing here," etc., Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27. This, according to the opinion of Chrysostom and others (see Lange Comm. on Matt. 16:28 ), may find its fulfillment in the immediately following Transfiguration. In this event the Basileia was not merely symbolized, but in all its glory was for a moment set up on earth (comp. 2 Pet. 1:16–18 ). 
That Matthew 16:28 was fulfilled in the Transfiguration of Matthew 17:1-13 receives further support from the grammar of the passage. McClain explains,
"the conjunction with which chapter 17 begins clearly establishes the unbroken continuity of thought between 16:28 and 17:1, as also in the accounts of Mark and Luke where no chapter division occurs." 
Ice also demonstrates the continuity of thought between the two chapters:
All three accounts of the prophesied event speak of seeing and the kingdom. Matthew says they will see "the Son of Man coming in His kingdom," emphasizing the person of the Son of Man coming. Mark says, "they see the kingdom of God" and he adds that it will come "with power." Luke simply says that "they see the kingdom of God." The transfiguration fits all aspects of the various emphases found in each of the three precise predictions. Matthew's stress upon the actual, physical presence of the Son of Man is clearly met in the transfiguration because Jesus was personally and visibly present... Mark's emphasis upon a display of the kingdom with "power" was certainly fulfilled by the transfiguration. No one could doubt that the transfiguration certainly fit the definition of a "power encounter" for the disciples. That Jesus appears dressed in the Shekinah glory of God upon the Mount ( Mk. 9:3 ) is further evidence to the disciples that He was God and acted with His power. Luke's simple statement about some who will "see the kingdom of God" is vindicated also by his account ( 17:28-36 ). Twice Luke records our Lord describing the transfiguration with the term "glory" ( 17:31, 32 ). Continue Reading (Part 24 on Sept 14 web page)
ENDNOTES Clayton Sullivan, Rethinking Realized Eschatology (Macon, GA: Mercer, 1988), 127.
 E.R. Craven, "Excursus on the Basileia," in Revelation of John, ed. J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 96.
 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 336.
 Thomas Ice, "Preterist "Time Texts"," in The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack, ed. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest, 2003), 88.
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Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
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The Gospel-Driven Life: An Interview with Michael Horton
By Michael Horton 2/01/2013
Tabletalk: Please tell us how you became a Christian.
Michael Horton: My parents were faithful Baptist believers, although my mom was really the spiritual leader in the home when it came to daily devotions together and encouraging me to pursue the faith for myself. I’m grateful to them and to those churches that fostered Bible memorization and taught me some of the basics of the gospel, even though it was more Arminian by default. When I began wrestling with the doctrines of grace, my mom was my main conversation (or argument) partner, and eventually both of my parents embraced the Reformed faith. My dad’s faith was reignited, too, and he became my greatest encourager.
TT: Please tell us a little bit about White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation, and how they seek to serve the church today.
MH: During my college years at Biola, a group of us sponsored a conference with J.I. Packer, W. Robert Godfrey, and Rod Rosenbladt. I had already become friends with Kim Riddlebarger. At the conference, a wealthy brother in Christ offered to give us a major gift to start something, so we decided to start a local “theology talk show.” It was live, and we also had call-ins. Based on that success in Los Angeles, we took the program nationwide. Then, we also started a bulletin that became Modern Reformation magazine. Ken Jones joined the crew a few years later.
It’s hard for us to believe now, but Kim, Rod, Ken, and I have been doing the White Horse Inn now for nearly twenty-five years, and Modern Reformation is two decades old. So, we’re profoundly grateful for what we’ve seen the Lord do with a few loaves and fishes over the years.
We’re very much inspired by the work of Ligonier, and our goal is to help Christians know what they believe and why. We’re not a church, but we hope that by having deeper conversations about the great truths of Scripture, we can spark similar conversations around the world. By God’s grace, that’s exactly what we’re seeing—in 120 countries.
TT: Some argue that your emphasis on the law/gospel distinction borders on Lutheranism. What is your view, and how do you respond to your critics?
MH: Great question. Lutherans and Calvinists disagree about some important issues. However, there’s a tendency today to obscure those areas of shoulder-to-shoulder agreement. This is one of those areas. The law/gospel distinction is deep in our Reformed tradition: in John Calvin, the Second Helvetic Confession, our formative theologians of the post-Reformation era, the Puritans, and all the way to the present. At the same time, Lutherans and Calvinists also embrace the “third use of the law” (namely, to direct Christian obedience).
I’m very encouraged to see a new generation of Reformed Christians exploring the wealth of our historical theology, and they are seeing this distinction all over the place in our tradition.
TT: What is the basic thesis of your recent trilogy of books (Christless Christianity, The Gospel-Driven Life, and The Gospel Commission)?
MH: Christless Christianity addresses the church’s message today in the light of the God-centered and Christ-exalting teaching of Scripture. The Gospel-Driven Life argues that while Scripture certainly guides our lives, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation: for sanctification as well as justification.
As we move off point in our message, the result is mission creep. That’s the concern in The Gospel Commission, as I unpack the vision, mission, and strategy of the church from Christ’s mandate. So the first book takes off the bandage to examine the wound, the second proposes a cure, and the third explores what it means not only to get the gospel right but to get it out.
TT: What are some attitudes and actions that show we may have forgotten our ongoing need for the gospel?
MH: It’s easy to trivialize the gospel, turning it into a slogan. Then we take it for granted, as something we needed to hear to “get saved,” but now we can “move on” to more ostensibly important topics like how to save our marriages and families or engage in the culture wars. Before long, the result is what sociologist Christian Smith calls moralistic therapeutic deism. There is a thinning out of the Christian message. We exhibit this tendency in many ways, but we have to realize that Pelagianism—“self-help salvation”—is the default setting of our fallen hearts. We live in a narcissistic culture, and it’s easy to turn God into a supporting actor in our life movie rather than be swept into His story of redemption.
TT: How is the West’s move to a post-Christian society harmful and helpful to the church?
MH: It helps to be shaken a little bit from the smug confidence that we live in a Christian culture and a Christian nation. The church has always been more faithful when it has had to go back to its own resources, as a marginalized group, and recover its own voice—hearing God’s voice again in the Scriptures—without all of the cultural trappings. When were we ever really a “Christian society”?
On the other hand, the explicit relativism and nihilism of our culture today is a tremendous influence on Christians as well as society at large. God is big enough and the gospel is powerful enough, through the mighty working of the Spirit, to ensure the success of God’s mission. When we recover our confidence in the power of God’s Word and Spirit, the condition of the cultures in which God has placed us will seem far weaker and less of a threat by comparison. Christ is Lord, whether the nations acknowledge Him or not, and He is still building His church.
TT: What books are you working on currently? What books do you hope to work on in the near future?
MH: I just finished Pilgrim Theology. It’s a more accessible (and much shorter) alternative to my recent systematic theology, The Christian Faith. I’ve also been working on comments for Joshua in a new ESV study Bible and am about to start writing a book on Calvin’s piety.
TT: What is the theology and mission of Westminster Seminary in California, where you serve as a professor of theology?
MH: Our motto is “For Christ, His Gospel, and His Church.” Committed to the inerrant Scriptures, Westminster Theological Seminary in California has the highest standards for learning the biblical languages, systematic and historical theology, church history, and practical theology. I especially appreciate the fact that we’re all on the same page, moving in the same direction, rooted deeply in the Reformed confessions and passionate about reaching the world with the gospel.
All professors are expected to be active in their churches as associate ministers, and that emphasis on seminary education as a cooperative venture with churches is key to everything we do. I also draw constant encouragement from the vibrant, zealous, and thoughtful student body each year.
Michael Horton Books | Go to Books Page
Glorious Liberty (Prayer)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
God bless our country, and the sister country across the flood, and all lands where Thy name is known and reverenced, and heathen lands where it is unknown. God bless the outposts, the first heralds of mercy, and everywhere may the Lord's kingdom come and His name be glorified. Glory be unto the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost ; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 102Do Not Hide Your Face from Me
102 A Prayer Of One Afflicted, When He Is Faint And Pours Out His Complaint Before The Lord.
23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.
God’s Unspeakable Gift (Prayer)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
OLORD, many of us feel like the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. Come by this way and make the lame ones perfectly sound. O Lord, Thou canst do by Thy servants to-day what Thou didst by them in the olden time. Work miracles of mercy even upon outer court worshippers who are too lame to get into the holy place.
But there are many who feel like that man when he was restored. We would follow our Restorer, the Prince of Life, into the temple, leaping and walking and praising God. He has gone into the temple in the highest sense, up to the throne of God. He climbs, and we would follow, up the steps of the temple one by one, made meet. We would come nearer and nearer to the throne of God.
O Lord, Thou hast done such great things for us that we feel the drawings of Thy love. "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying : Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Draw us nearer, Lord, draw us into the inner Sanctuary ; draw us within the place which once was hidden by the veil which Christ has rent ; bring us right up to the throne of grace, and there beholding the glory of God above the Mercy Seat may we have communion with the Most High. Heal all our diseases and forgive us all our trespasses.
Still, Lord, though healed of a former lameness so that now we have strength, we need a further touch from Thee ; we are so apt to get dull and stupid ; come and help us. Lord Jesus. A vision of Thy face will brighten us ; but to feel Thy Spirit touching us will make us vigorous. Oh! for the leaping and the walking of the man born lame. May we to-day dance with holy joy like David before the Ark of God. May a holy exhilaration take possession of every part of us ; may we be glad in the Lord ; may our mouth be filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing, "for the Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad."
To-day help Thy people to put on Christ. May we live as those who are alive from the dead, for He is the quickening Spirit ; and may we feel Him to be so. Is any part of us still dead. Lord quicken it. May the life which has taken possession of our heart take possession of our head ; may the brain be active in holy thought ; may our entire being, indeed, respond to the life of Christ, and may we live in newness of life.
We would fain fall down on our faces and worship the Son of God to-day. It is such a wonder that He should have loved us ; and He has done such wonderful things for us and in us that we may still call Him God's unspeakable gift. He is unspeakably precious to our souls. Thou knowest all things, Lord ; Thou knowest that we love Thee. May that love bubble up to-day like a boiling cauldron, may our hearts overflow; and if we cannot speak what we feel, may that holy silence be eloquent with the praise of God.
Lord, send Thy life throughout the entire Church. Lord, visit Thy Church, restore sound doctrine, restore holy and earnest living. Take away from professors their apparent love for frivolities, their attempts to meet the world on its own ground, and give back the old love to the doctrines of the cross, the doctrines of the Christ of God; and once more may free grace and dying love be the music that shall refresh the Church, and make her heart exceeding glad.
Just now when the earth is waking up to life, Lord, wake up dead hearts ; and if there are seeds of grace lying dormant in any soul may they begin to bud, may the bulb down at the heart send forth its golden cup and drink in of the light, the life of God. Oh! save to-day. "Thy King in the midst of Thee is mighty : He will save." Our very heart is speaking now much more loudly and sweetly than our lips can speak. Lord save sinners ; great High Priest have compassion on the ignorant and such as are out of the way. Great Shepherd of the sheep gather the lambs within Thine arm ; find out the lost sheep ; throw them on Thy shoulders and bring them home ejoicing.
We ask that everywhere there may be great numbers added to the Church. Thou who didst bring in five thousand so soon, bring in five thousand in many and many a place. We read the statistics of Thy Church with great sorrow; how small an increase ! Lord multiply us with men as with a flock ; increase the people, and increase the joy. Make us to joy before Thee as the joy of harvest.
Lord, we pray for our country with all our heart ; and as Thou biddest us we pray for those in authority, for the Sovereign as supreme, for the Court of Parliament, for all magistrates and rulers. We pray also for the poorest and the down-trodden. The Lord look upon the poor of this world, and make them rich in faith, and comfort them in heart by the Holy Ghost. The Lord save the nation. Let Thy light and Thy truth go forth to the most distant parts of the earth ; " let the people praise Thee ; O God let all the people praise Thee." Give us the times of refreshing. May we have a visit from Christ by the power of His Spirit ; and until He come may there be a blessed halcyon time of peace and salvation.
"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven." And do Thou come Thyself, great King. May our eyes, if it please Thee, behold Thee on earth ; but if not, if we fall asleep ere that blessed array, we can say, "I know that my Redeemer liveth ; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."
Bless every Sunday-school teacher, every tract distributor, every open-air preacher. Bless, we pray Thee, all Bible-women and nurses, deacons and missionaries of the City Mission, Bible readers and all others who in any way seek to bring men to Christ. O God the Holy Ghost, work mightily, we pray Thee ; flood the world with a baptism of Thy power, and "let the whole earth be filled with a knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." We ask all in that dear name which made the lame man whole, which is sweet to God in heaven and dear to us below ; and unto Father, Son and Holy Ghost be glory, world without end. Amen.
Dealing with Lust
By Joseph Pipa Jr. 2/01/2013
They are as close as our skin, the troika of lusts described by the Apostle John: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16). These inordinate and forbidden longings of the sinner are the fountain of sin, as James points out when teaching that God does not tempt us to sin: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14–15 NASB).
The natural man is in bondage to his lusts (Rom. 3:10–18), but at our conversion, because of our union with Christ, we are delivered from the dominion of lusts: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (6:12–14).
God, however, in His inscrutable wisdom, determined to leave within His converted sons and daughters a remnant of sin; and that remnant resides in the lusts. Hence, the same Apostle who announced that we are dead to the dominion of sin chronicled his struggles: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (7:18–19).
We all are well aware of the struggle with the besetting sins of our lusts. They come clothed in lots of different garbs, including materialism, power, and pride. But here I will focus on the problem of sexual lust. We all recognize that sexual failure is an epidemic in today’s church. Hardly a week passes that we do not learn of another church leader who has been exposed in adultery, fornication, homosexuality, or pornography.
Sexual temptations are everywhere; we are bombarded by sexual temptation via clothing (or lack thereof), television, billboards, songs, suggestive language, and solicitations on Facebook. Take, for example, pornography. No longer does a person have to walk into a store and purchase pornographic material—it is as close as the privacy of your computer screen, and it is powerfully addictive.
But do we have to succumb? The answer, as noted above, is no. We are not under the dominion of sin. However, we need to take daily precautions. Foundationally, our families and churches need to foster a culture of chastity, emphasizing sexual purity in thought, dress, language, and behavior. Such a culture begins with parents in the home and office-bearers (pastors and church officers and their wives) in the congregation.
We must carefully use the means of grace—public worship, preaching, prayer, sacraments, fasting, and private and family worship. Above all, we must cling to Christ.
We also need to develop habits that will help guard the heart. In the booklet Impure Lust (Pocket Puritan Series) (The Pocket Puritan Series) by John Flavel (May 31,2008), John Flavel gave seven directions for dealing with lust:
1. Beg of God a clean heart, renewed and sanctified by saving grace. We must always begin with the heart, for it is the fountain of all else (Matt. 15:19), and God promises to answer our prayers as we pray according to His will (John 14:13–14). We must seek the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Walk in the fear of God all the day long, and in the sense of his omniscient eye that is ever upon you. How often our behavior is dictated by who is watching. We forget that He sees all.
3. Avoid lewd company, and the society of unclean persons; they are panderers for lust. Evil company corrupts good manners. Remember that this direction not only includes our personal contacts but those we encounter through movies, music, books, magazines, and computers.
4. Exercise yourself in your calling diligently; it will be an excellent means of preventing this sin. You have heard the adage, “Idleness is the Devil’s workshop.”
5. Put a restraint upon your appetite: feed not to excess. This direction does not mean that we may not enjoy God’s good gifts of food and drink, and the pleasure of feasting with friends, but it is a sober reminder that if we pander to our physical appetites in one area, we will be more prone to fall in other areas.
6. Choose a spouse and delight in the one you have chosen. One of the liberating insights of the Reformation is that within marriage, sex is for pleasure and is a God-given protection against unlawful lusts.
7. Take heed of running on in a course of sin, especially superstition and idolatry: in which cases, and as a punishment of which evils God often gives up men to these vile affections (Rom. 1:25–26). Sin inevitably breeds sin.
In these ways, the church may guard her people. Practice and teach these things.
- Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father
- Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father
- Is the Lord's Day for You?
- How Can I Do All Things for God's Glory? (Cultivating Biblical Godliness Series)
- The Lord's Day: How Did You Spend Last Sunday? by Jr. Joseph A. Pipa (20-Mar-2001) Paperback
- CONFESSING OUR HOPE Essays in Honor of Morton Howison Smith on His Eightieth Birthday
- The Root and the Branch: a Penetrating Look at the Person and Work of Jesus Christ
- Sanctification: Growing in Grace (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Theology Conference Papers)
The Continual Burnt Offering (Romans 3:21)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
September 13Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— ESV
“But now”—exclaims the apostle. It marks a decided change of subject. Now that man has been fully shown up, God will be revealed. Now upon the proven unrighteousness of all mankind “the righteousness of God…is revealed.” Of old He had declared, “I will bring My righteousness near” (Isaiah 46:13). This is in no sense a wrought-out, legal righteousness, such as man was unable to produce for God. It is a righteousness “apart from the law,” that is, altogether apart from any principle of human obedience to a divinely ordained code of morals. It is a righteousness of God for unrighteous men, and is in no way dependent upon human merit or attainment.
Isaiah 46:13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.”
Father, Thy sov’reign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee;
The work that Thine own Son hath wrought
Has brought us back in peace and free.
And now as sons before Thy face,
With joyful steps the path we tread
Which leads us on to that blest place
Prepared for us by Christ our Head.
--- J. N. D.
Reading God's Word
By Richard S. Adams 08-282021
Have you ever been sitting with friends or family and watched as one person continues to check their phone? Doesn't it make you feel they would rather be somewhere else?
We've all been talking with someone when suddenly they get a call on their smart phone and abruptly our conversation either ends or is put on pause. There appear to be no social manners when it comes to smart phones, but isn't that typical of our times? People don't read, they skim. People are distracted, they partially hear what you say which leads to many misunderstandings. Who is the author of confusion? When was the last time you really knew someone was really listening to you?
You can be talking with someone on the phone and when they get another call, they put you on hold. It doesn't matter that they called you. When they finally get back to you, if they remember you, they say I have another call, as if you did not know it. Then they say I need to take that call. What really bothers me is when I catch myself doing it. I do not want to be a part of this disrespect for others, but I have been guilty of saying, "Lily is calling, I have to go."
Who hasn't heard the person, male or female, in the grocery store who talks loud enough for everyone to be a party to their conversation? Are they trying to be rude? I don't think so. I think they are simply unaware of anyone else.
When I am on the phone with Lily, she is my priority. I rarely say I have to take this other call. I say rarely because she tells me never say never.
There is an interesting story in the Gospel of John that is so different from today. Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to a dinner being held in his honor at the house of Simon the Leper. Lazarus, Martha, Mary and others were there. I assume that Lazarus, Martha and Mary were good friends of Simon the Leper since Martha was serving. Maybe Simon's house was bigger or just better suited to entertaining.
When we expect company Lily tries hard to make everything just right, so it is easy for me to imagine Martha hurriedly trying to get everything ready. She wanted her sister to help her, but Mary was seated at the feet of Jesus. Mary was not checking her smart phone as she sat with Jesus. Instead, she was listening so intently to what Jesus was saying that she paid no attention to the pleas of her sister. Despite Martha asking for help, Mary had chosen to listen to Jesus. When Martha complained to Jesus that she needed Mary's help Jesus said,
Luke 10:42 (ESV) 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary had chosen to listen to Jesus rather than help her sister. I'm sure she knew her sister was stressing trying to get things ready for all the guests, but Mary was seated before Jesus. The apostle John tells the reader that this was the Mary who anointed the head of Jesus with expensive perfume. (John 12:1-12) I can't help but believe there was a connection between her listening to Jesus and later anointing Him with perfume for His burial.
I am of the opinion that listening to Jesus, reading God's Word, is the most important form of worship we can offer. I do not write that only because of this story of Mary of Bethany, but also because it is so difficult for many people to sit at the feet of Jesus, in other words, to read their Bibles. The darkness in this world does not want anyone to read God's Word. If we plan to read our Bibles then expect a flood of distractions. Why? Because the Bible tells us the unfolding of God's Word is light.
Psalm 119:130 (ESV) The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
In my mind I see a scroll being opened in the dark and like a candle being lit in a dark room the darkness shrinks back.
I will not list all the excuses people think are reasons why they cannot read their Bibles. We've all heard them. People make time to watch their favorite television program(s), YouTube Channel(s), play their favorite video game(s) … or they say the Bible is too difficult. Too difficult means they do not want to expend the energy and time to learn God's Word.
What did Jesus say about this?
Luke 11:9–13 (ESV) 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Yes, this passage is about the Holy Spirit and prayer. Before sitting down to read God's Word we should always pray and ask for God's help. God's help means the Holy Spirit. God wants you to read His Word. God wants you to understand His Word. God wants you to love Him and when we sit before Jesus and learn His Word we will love Jesus. To know Him, not just about Him, but to really know Him is to love Him.
The Bible also tells us that things will not always be the way they are today. Just because there is a wealth of information about the Bible today does not mean it will always be.
Amos 8:11 (ESV) “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land — not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.
Isaiah 55:6 (ESV) 6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
(Sept 13) Bob Gass
(1 Pe 3:7) 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ESV
You must get to know your wife and respect her needs. When God made woman, He made her to be a receiver and responder. He made her a little softer, a little warmer, a little more emotional in order to respond to you. A woman responds to a man in such a way that the very thing he wants, he will receive by giving instead of demanding. When your wife feels truly loved and secure you won’t have to worry about her fulfilling her responsibility in the home. You won’t have to wonder if you’ll have an active, intimate, physical relationship. She’ll be right there responding to your needs. But that means you must put your wife and family first. Sometimes that means saying, ‘Sorry, guys, I can’t go out with you tonight because I’m taking my wife on a date.’ When you’re that kind of husband, you’ll get the kind of response you want without demanding it. But be prepared; there may be issues festering under the surface that need to be dealt with before you can move forward as a couple. If so, be humble enough to say, ‘I’m sorry I’ve failed you. I haven’t loved you the way I was supposed to and I know it has affected our relationship. I haven’t given you the time and attention you need. But starting today I’m going to change. With God’s help, I’m going to try to love you the way you deserve to be loved.’ Now, sir, your wife may faint when she first hears it, but if you follow through, you can have the marriage you always dreamed of.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Sent to negotiate the release of an American doctor, the enemy detained him all night on a ship. It was September 13, 1814. He watched the British fleet mercilessly bombarded Fort McHenry from a distance, as Chesapeake Bay had been blocked by sunken ships. This was just two weeks after the British burned the Capitol. The next Morning, “through the dawn’s early light,” this young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, saw the American flag still flying. Elated, he penned the Star-Spangled Banner, which states in its fourth verse: “May the Heav’n-rescued land Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
“No circumstances can make it necessary for a man
to burst in sunder all the ties of humanity.
It can never be necessary for a rational being
to sink himself below a brute.”
--- from Thoughts upon Slavery in the Works of John Wesley
Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
God is so great that he works out a plan, a plan to work everything out for your good if you belong to him, and his glory, which takes into consideration your choices, and still works his plan out infallibly.
--- Timothy Keller
When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord's choicest wines.
--- Samuel Rutherford
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. Whereupon the zealots, out of the dread they were in of his attacking them, and being willing to prevent one that was growing up to oppose them, went out against him with their weapons. Simon met them, and joining battle with them, slew a considerable number of them, and drove the rest before him into the city, but durst not trust so much upon his forces as to make an assault upon the walls; but he resolved first to subdue Idumea, and as he had now twenty thousand armed men, he marched to the borders of their country. Hereupon the rulers of the Idumeans got together on the sudden the most warlike part of their people, about twenty-five thousand in number, and permitted the rest to be a guard to their own country, by reason of the incursions that were made by the Sicarii that were at Masada. Thus they received Simon at their borders, where they fought him, and continued the battle all that day; and the dispute lay whether they had conquered him, or been conquered by him. So he went back to Nain, as did the Idumeans return home. Nor was it long ere Simon came violently again upon their country; when he pitched his camp at a certain village called Thecoe, and sent Eleazar, one of his companions, to those that kept garrison at Herodium, and in order to persuade them to surrender that fortress to him. The garrison received this man readily, while they knew nothing of what he came about; but as soon as he talked of the surrender of the place, they fell upon him with their drawn swords, till he found that he had no place for flight, when he threw himself down from the wall into the valley beneath; so he died immediately: but the Idumeans, who were already much afraid of Simon's power, thought fit to take a view of the enemy's army before they hazarded a battle with them.
6. Now there was one of their commanders named Jacob, who offered to serve them readily upon that occasion, but had it in his mind to betray them. He went therefore from the village Alurus, wherein the army of the Idumeans were gotten together, and came to Simon, and at the very first he agreed to betray his country to him, and took assurances upon oath from him that he should always have him in esteem, and then promised him that he would assist him in subduing all Idumea under him; upon which account he was feasted after an obliging manner by Simon, and elevated by his mighty promises; and when he was returned to his own men, he at first belied the army of Simon, and said it was manifold more in number than what it was; after which, he dexterously persuaded the commanders, and by degrees the whole multitude, to receive Simon, and to surrender the whole government up to him without fighting. And as he was doing this, he invited Simon by his messengers, and promised him to disperse the Idumeans, which he performed also; for as soon as their army was nigh them, he first of all got upon his horse, and fled, together with those whom he had corrupted; hereupon a terror fell upon the whole multitude; and before it came to a close fight, they broke their ranks, and every one retired to his own home.
7. Thus did Simon unexpectedly march into Idumea, without bloodshed, and made a sudden attack upon the city Hebron, and took it; wherein he got possession of a great deal of prey, and plundered it of a vast quantity of fruit. Now the people of the country say that it is an ancienter city, not only than any in that country, but than Memphis in Egypt, and accordingly its age is reckoned at two thousand and three hundred years. They also relate that it had been the habitation of Abram, the progenitor of the Jews, after he had removed out of Mesopotamia; and they say that his posterity descended from thence into Egypt, whose monuments are to this very time showed in that small city; the fabric of which monuments are of the most excellent marble, and wrought after the most elegant manner. There is also there showed, at the distance of six furlongs from the city, a very large turpentine tree 17 and the report goes, that this tree has continued ever since the creation of the world. Thence did Simon make his progress over all Idumea, and did not only ravage the cities and villages, but lay waste the whole country; for, besides those that were completely armed, he had forty thousand men that followed him, insomuch that he had not provisions enough to suffice such a multitude. Now, besides this want of provisions that he was in, he was of a barbarous disposition, and bore great anger at this nation, by which means it came to pass that Idumea was greatly depopulated; and as one may see all the woods behind despoiled of their leaves by locusts, after they have been there, so was there nothing left behind Simon's army but a desert. Some places they burnt down, some they utterly demolished, and whatsoever grew in the country, they either trod it down or fed upon it, and by their marches they made the ground that was cultivated harder and more untractable than that which was barren. In short, there was no sign remaining of those places that had been laid waste, that ever they had had a being.
8. This success of Simon excited the zealots afresh; and though they were afraid to fight him openly in a fair battle, yet did they lay ambushes in the passes, and seized upon his wife, with a considerable number of her attendants; whereupon they came back to the city rejoicing, as if they had taken Simon himself captive, and were in present expectation that he would lay down his arms, and make supplication to them for his wife; but instead of indulging any merciful affection, he grew very angry at them for seizing his beloved wife; so he came to the wall of Jerusalem, and, like wild beasts when they are wounded, and cannot overtake those that wounded them, he vented his spleen upon all persons that he met with. Accordingly, he caught all those that were come out of the city gates, either to gather herbs or sticks, who were unarmed and in years; he then tormented them and destroyed them, out of the immense rage he was in, and was almost ready to taste the very flesh of their dead bodies. He also cut off the hands of a great many, and sent them into the city to astonish his enemies, and in order to make the people fall into a sedition, and desert those that had been the authors of his wife's seizure. He also enjoined them to tell the people that Simon swore by the God of the universe, who sees all things, that unless they will restore him his wife, he will break down their wall, and inflict the like punishment upon all the citizens, without sparing any age, and without making any distinction between the guilty and the innocent. These threatenings so greatly affrighted, not the people only, but the zealots themselves also, that they sent his wife back to him; when he became a little milder, and left off his perpetual blood-shedding.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
Showing partiality in judgment is not good.
24 He who tells the guilty, “You are innocent,”
will be cursed by peoples, reviled by nations;
25 but with those who condemn him, things will go well,
and a good blessing will come upon them.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.
--- John 17:4.
There are times in spiritual life when there is confusion, and it is no way out to say that there ought not to be confusion. It is not a question of right and wrong, but a question of God taking you by a way which in the meantime you do not understand, and it is only by going through the confusion that you will get at what God wants.
The Shrouding of His Friendship.
Luke 11:5–8 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. NRSV. 1989..
Jesus gave the illustration of the man who looked as if he did not care for his friend, and He said that that is how the Heavenly Father will appear to you at times. You will think He is an unkind friend, but remember He is not; the time will come when everything will be explained. There is a cloud on the friendship of the heart, and often even love itself has to wait in pain and tears for the blessing of fuller communion. When God looks completely shrouded, will you hang on in confidence in Him?
The Shadow on His Fatherhood.
Luke 11:11–13 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” NRSV 1989
Jesus says there are times when your Father will appear as if He were an unnatural father, as if He were callous and indifferent, but remember He is not; I have told you —“Everyone that asketh receiveth.” If there is a shadow on the face of the Father just now, hang onto it that He will ultimately give His clear revealing and justify Himself in all that He permitted.
The Strangeness of His Faithfulness.
(Lk 18:1–8) 18 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” ESV
Will He find the faith which banks on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand off in faith believing that what Jesus said is true, though in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing. He has bigger issues at stake than the particular things you ask.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Funeral (The Bread of Truth)
They stand about conversing
In dark clumps, less beautiful than trees.
What have they come here to mourn?
There was a death, yes; but death's brother.
Sin, is of more importance.
Shabbily the teeth gleam,
Sharpening themselves on reputations
That were firm once. On the cheap coffin
The earth falls more cleanly than tears.
What are these red faces for ?
This incidence of pious catarrh
At the grave's edge? He has returned.
Where he belongs; this is acknowledged
By all but the lonely few
Making amends for the heart's coldness
He had from them, grudging a little
The simpler splendour of the wreath
Of words the church lays on him.
A child asks her mother, “Mommy, where did I come from?” And the mother understands that it’s time for the sex talk. “Well, when the sperm from a man fertilizes the egg from a woman …”
“Oh, Mommy, I know that already. We learned about sex a long time ago in school. I meant ‘Where did I come from?’ Debbie comes from Massachusetts!”
“Where do we come from?” can mean many different things. The phrase “Throw a stick into the air—it falls to where it came from” assumes that where we come from determines where we will end up. This maxim reflects the age-old prejudice that results in racism, chauvinism, misogyny—that a person’s ancestry, place of residence, or cultural background will ultimately affect, or even determine, her character. Sometimes, one affects the other. Other times, one has no bearing on the other at all.
Deuteronomy 23:4–5, 7 specifically records:
No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord; none of their descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall ever be admitted into the congregation of the Lord, because they did not meet you with food and water on your journey after you left Egypt.… You shall never concern yourself with their welfare or benefit as long as you live.
This despite the fact that Ruth the Moabite became one of the great heroes of the Bible, the exemplar of a righteous proselyte. How is this possible? How could the prohibition of Deuteronomy be ignored?
The Rabbis of the Talmud and the Midrash explained away the contradiction through various homiletic means. (The prohibition refers to a Moabite, that is, a male, and not to a Moabitess, a female.) In the end, they understood that the story of Ruth was a beautiful and meaningful one, and that Ruth’s past was less significant than her future. Ruth married Boaz, and their son was Obed, father of Jesse, father of David, king of Israel.
Some people, like an arrow, follow the path that has been set out for them. Others create their own unique course through life. “Throw a stick into the air—it falls where it came from” is an incomplete view of life because we shouldn’t judge people by their past. Rather, we should stick around long enough to see their future.
Does a thrown stick ever fall back to the spot from which it came? Not unless that stick was brought back by a dog who was told “Go fetch!” What the proverb must refer to is a piece of wood that was thrown straight up into the air. Long before Isaac Newton, people understood that “what goes up must come down.” And it comes down, unless gale-force winds blow it somewhere else, to the spot from which it was thrown.
A well-known proverb says that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The apple, like the stick, is controlled by gravity and is pulled down to earth. The meaning of the adage is that the child (= the apple) behaves in ways markedly similar to those of the parent (= the tree). The Midrash wanted to make a similar point about the Moabite women: They were pulled by a force of nature (= heredity?) to behave like their ancestor, the daughter of Lot.
But no one says that a stick can be thrown only straight up. It is possible to throw it in a particular direction and, depending upon how hard it is thrown, the stick can travel quite a bit of distance. And it doesn’t come back on its own (unless that stick happens to be a boomerang!).
People often debate the relative merits of various sporting games. One of the arguments made against basketball is that the ordinary fan has a hard time relating to the players because they are “giants.” Baseball players are superb athletes, but generally they are of average height and weight; basketball players, on the other hand, have in recent decades tended to be men approaching or surpassing seven feet tall and 250 pounds. If the point of the game is to put a ball through a hoop that is ten feet off the ground, then the taller the player, the greater the advantage.
Then along came “Spud.” Anthony Jerome Webb, known to all by his nickname Spud, played guard for the Atlanta Hawks and the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association. In the 1994–95 season, he led the entire league with the best free-throw percentage. He gained national attention in 1986 when he won the NBA slam dunk competition. (A slam dunk is a shot made by a player who, instead of throwing the ball toward the basket, jumps up and stuffs it through the basket with great force and dramatic style.) What is so remarkable about Spud Webb is that he is only 5′7″ tall and weighs only 133 pounds.
Heredity plays a huge role in determining how tall a person will grow. And height is a major consideration that general managers and coaches think about when deciding who will make their team. But players like Spud Webb are reminders that a (relatively) small man can compete against, and even beat, much bigger men. Ancestry may be important, but it is not the final word. Tendencies may be present, but the individual, with hard work, can rise to almost any height.
Spud Webb comes down the court. He dribbles, looks right, fakes left, he spins. He throws himself into the air, toward the basket. Up, up, higher and higher. He raises the ball above his head. He slams it through the hoop. The backboard rocks. Tiny Spud Webb has scored again!
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
--- Zechariah 13:7
Did the sheep fly when the shepherd was struck? (Works of John Flavel (6 Vol. Set)) How sad a thing it is to be left to our own carnal fears in a day of temptation. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare” (Prov. 29:25). In that snare these good souls were taken and for a time held fast.
Isn’t it a shame to Christians to see themselves outdone by a heathen? The emperor Vespasian had commanded Fluidius Priscus not to come to the senate or, if he did, to speak nothing but what he would have him. The senator returned this brave and noble answer, that as he was a senator it was fit he should be at the senate and if, being there, he were required to give his advice, he would speak freely that which his conscience commanded him. The emperor threatening that then he would die, he returned thus, “Do what you will, and I will do what I ought. It is in your power to put me to death unjustly and in me to die faithfully.” Learn to trust God with your lives, liberties, and comforts in the way of your duty, and when you are afraid, trust in him, and do not magnify poor dust and ashes as to be scared from your God and your duty by their threat.
We may differ from ourselves, according as the Lord is with us or withdrawn from us. Yes, the difference between myself and myself is as great as if I were not the same person. Sometimes bold and courageous, despising dangers, bearing down all discouragement in the strength of zeal and love to God; at another time faint, feeble, and discouraged at every petty thing. From where is this except from the different administrations of the Spirit, who sometimes gives forth more and sometimes less of his gracious influence. These very men who flinched now, when the Spirit was more abundantly poured out on them could boldly own Christ before the council and despised all dangers for his sake.
We are strong or weak according to the degrees of assisting grace. As we cannot take the just measure of Christians by single acts, so neither must we judge them by what they sometimes feel.
But when their spirits are low and their hearts discouraged, they should rather say to their souls, Hope in God, for I will yet praise him; it is low with me now, but it will be better.
--- John Flavel
Jesus’ Kinsmen September 13
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had neither wife nor children. But he did have brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Have you ever wondered what happened to his family, the descendants of Joseph and Mary? They are not entirely lost to history. His brothers, James and Judas, after initially rejecting his ministry, were converted, became leaders in the early church, and wrote the New Testament epistles that bear their names—James and Jude.
But there’s more.
On September 13, 81 the Roman emperor Titus died at age 40 after a two-year reign. He was replaced by his brother, Titus Flavius Domitianus, 29, who reigned until 96 as Domitian. As a youth, Domitian was handsome and tall and modest. In later years he developed a protruding belly, spindle legs, and a bald head (though he had written a book, On the Care of the Hair).
The historian Pliny described Domitian as the beast from hell who sat in its den, licking blood. He relished sadistic cruelty. He caught flies just so he could stab them with his knife and entertained himself with gladiatorial fights between women and dwarfs.
He was the first Roman emperor to title himself God the Lord, and insisted others cheer him with the phrases Lord of the earth! Invincible! Glory! Thou Alone! The Jews and Christians refused to utter such blasphemy and were targeted for intense persecution.
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, the “Father of Church History,” cites Hegesippus, a church historian from the second century, as saying that among the oppressed were the great-grandsons of Joseph and Mary: Domitian brought from Palestine to Rome two kinsmen of Jesus, grandsons of Judas, the brother of the Lord, but seeing their poverty and rustic simplicity, and hearing their explanation of the kingdom of Christ as not earthly, but heavenly, to be established by the Lord at the end of the world, when he should come to judge the quick and the dead, he let them go.
He taught in their meeting place, and the people were so amazed that they asked, “Where does he get all this wisdom and the power to work these miracles? Isn’t he the son of the carpenter? Isn’t Mary his mother, and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? Don’t his sisters still live here in our town?”
--- Matthew 13:54b-56a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 13
"Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well, the rain also filleth the pools." --- Psalm 84:6.
This teaches us that the comfort obtained by one may often prove serviceable to another; just as wells would be used by the company who came after. We read some book full of consolation, which is like Jonathan’s rod, dropping with honey. Ah! we think our brother has been here before us, and digged this well for us as well as for himself. Many a “Night of Weeping,” “Midnight Harmonies,” an “Eternal Day,” “A Crook in the Lot,” a “Comfort for Mourners,” has been a well digged by a pilgrim for himself, but has proved quite as useful to others. Specially we notice this in the Psalms, such as that beginning, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” Travellers have been delighted to see the footprint of man on a barren shore, and we love to see the waymarks of pilgrims while passing through the vale of tears.
The pilgrims dig the well, but, strange enough, it fills from the top instead of the bottom. We use the means, but the blessing does not spring from the means. We dig a well, but heaven fills it with rain. The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord. The means are connected with the end, but they do not of themselves produce it. See here the rain fills the pools, so that the wells become useful as reservoirs for the water; labour is not lost, but yet it does not supersede divine help.
Grace may well be compared to rain for its purity, for its refreshing and vivifying influence, for its coming alone from above, and for the sovereignty with which it is given or withheld. May our readers have showers of blessing, and may the wells they have digged be filled with water! Oh, what are means and ordinances without the smile of heaven! They are as clouds without rain, and pools without water. O God of love, open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing!
Evening - September 13
“This man receiveth sinners.” --- Luke 15:2.
Observe the condescension of this fact. This Man, who towers above all other men, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners—this Man receiveth sinners. This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces—this Man receiveth sinners. It needs an angel’s tongue to describe such a mighty stoop of love. That any of us should be willing to seek after the lost is nothing wonderful— they are of our own race; but that he, the offended God, against whom the transgression has been committed, should take upon himself the form of a servant, and bear the sin of many, and should then be willing to receive the vilest of the vile, this is marvellous.
“This Man receiveth sinners”; not, however, that they may remain sinners, but he receives them that he may pardon their sins, justify their persons, cleanse their hearts by his purifying word, preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and enable them to serve him, to show forth his praise, and to have communion with him. Into his heart’s love he receives sinners, takes them from the dunghill, and wears them as jewels in his crown; plucks them as brands from the burning, and preserves them as costly monuments of his mercy. None are so precious in Jesus’ sight as the sinners for whom he died. When Jesus receives sinners, he has not some out-of-doors reception place, no casual ward where he charitably entertains them as men do passing beggars, but he opens the golden gates of his royal heart, and receives the sinner right into himself—yea, he admits the humble penitent into personal union and makes him a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. There was never such a reception as this! This fact is still most sure this Evening, he is still receiving sinners: would to God sinners would receive him.
ALL HAIL THE POWER
Edward Perronet, 1726–1792
Altered by John Rippon, 1751–1836
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being. --- Revelation 4:11
Sometimes called the “National Anthem of Christendom,” this is one of the truly great worship hymns of the church. Written by a young English minister, it was published in 1779 and has been translated into almost every language where Christianity is known. The strong exuberant lines lead us to heartfelt worship of God each time we sing them. But what does it mean to worship?
It is a quickening of the conscience by the holiness of God; a feeding of the mind with the truth of God; an opening of the heart to the love of God; and a devoting of the will to the purpose of God.
We can be thankful that God moved an 18th century pastor to write this stirring hymn text that reminds us so forcibly that the angels in heaven and ransomed souls from “every kindred, every tribe” on earth are worshiping with us even now. And we will one day all join together in singing “the everlasting song”—when Christ is crowned “Lord of all.”
Edward Perronet came from a family of distinguished French Huguenots who had fled to Switzerland and then England to escape religious persecution. He was ordained to the ministry of the Anglican church but was always more sympathetic to the evangelical movement led by John and Charles Wesley. Soon Edward left the state church to join the Wesleys in their evangelistic endeavors. Although he wrote a number of other hymns, this is the only one for which he will be remembered.
All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him Lord of all!
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
ye ransomed from the fall,
hail Him who saves you by His grace,
and crown Him Lord of all!
Let ev’ry kindred, ev’ry tribe,
on this terrestrial ball,
to Him all majesty ascribe,
and crown Him Lord of all!
O that with yonder sacred throng
ye at His feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown Him Lord of all!
For Today: Colossians 1:15–19; Philippians 2:9–11; Hebrews 2:7, 8
Reflect with joyous anticipation upon that time in heaven when our “everlasting song” will be shared throughout eternity with those from “every kindred and every tribe.” Prepare even now by singing this hymn ---
DISCOURSE V - ON THE ETERNITY OF GOD
(1.) There is no succession in the knowledge of God. The variety of successions and changes in the world make not succession, or new objects in the Divine mind; for all things are present to him from eternity in regard of his knowledge, though they are not actually present in the world, in regard of their existence. He doth not know one thing now, and another anon; he sees all things at once; “Known unto God are all things from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18); but in their true order of succession, as they lie in the eternal council of God, to be brought forth in time. Though there be a succession and order of things as they are wrought, there is yet no succession in God in regard of his knowledge of them. God knows the things that shall be wrought, and the order of them in their being brought upon the stage of the world; yet both the things and the order he knows by one act. Though all things be present with God, yet they are present to him in the order of their appearance in the world, and not so present with him as if they should be wrought at once. The death of Christ was to precede his resurrection in order of time; there is a succession in this; both at once are known by God; yet the act of his knowledge is not exercised about Christ as dying and rising at the same time; so that there is succession in things when there is no succession in God’s knowledge of them. Since God knows time, he knows all things as they are in time; he doth not know all things to be at once, though he knows at once what is, has been, and will be. All things are past, present, and to come, in regard of their existence; but there is not past, present, and to come, in regard of God’s knowledge of them, because he sees and knows not by any other, but by himself; he is his own light by which he sees, his own glass wherein he sees; beholding himself, he beholds all things.
(2.) There is no succession in the decrees of God. He doth not decree this now, which he decreed not before; for as his works were known from the beginning of the world, so his works were decreed from the beginning of the world; as they are known at once, so they are decreed at once; there is a succession in the execution of them; first grace, then glory; but the purpose of God for the bestowing of both, was in one and the same moment of eternity. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy” (Eph. 1:4): The choice of Christ, and the choice of some in him to be holy and to be happy, were before the foundation of the world. It is by the eternal counsel of God all things appear in time; they appear in their order according to the counsel and will of God from eternity. The redemption of the world is after the creation of the world; but the decree whereby the world was created, and whereby it was redeemed, was from eternity.
(3.) God is his own eternity. He is not eternal by grant, and the disposal of any other, but by nature and essence. The eternity of God is nothing else but the duration of God; and the duration of God is nothing else but his existence enduring. If eternity were anything distinct from God, and not of the essence of God, then there would be something which was not God, necessary to perfect God. As immortality is the great perfection of a rational creature, so eternity is the choice perfection of God, yea, the gloss and lustre of all others. Every perfection would be imperfect, if it were not always a perfection. God is essentially whatsoever he is, and there is nothing in God but his essence. Duration or continuance in being in creatures, differs from their being; for they might exist but for one instant, in which case they may be said to have being, but not duration, because all duration includes prius et posterius. All creatures may cease from being if it be the pleasure of God; they are not, therefore, durable by their essence, and therefore are not their own duration, no more than they are their own existence. And though some creatures, as angels, and souls, may be called everlasting, as a perpetual life is communicated to them by God; yet they can never be called their own eternity, because such a duration is not simply necessary, nor essential to them, but accidental, depending upon the pleasure of another; there is nothing in their nature that can hinder them from losing it, if God, from whom they received it, should design to take it away; but as God is his own necessity of existing, so he is his own duration in existing; as he doth necessarily exist by himself, so he will always necessarily exist by himself.
(4.) Hence all the perfections of God are eternal. In regard of the Divine eternity, all things in God are eternal; his power, mercy, wisdom, justice, knowledge. God himself were not eternal if any of his perfections, which are essential to him, were not eternal also; he had not else been a perfect God from all eternity, and so his whole self had not been eternal. If anything belonging to the nature of a thing be wanting, it cannot be said to be that thing which it ought to be. If anything requisite to the nature of God had been wanting one moment, he could not have been said to be an eternal God.
II. God is eternal. The Spirit of God in Scripture condescends to our capacities in signifying the eternity of God by days and years, which are terms belonging to time, whereby we measure it (Psalm 102:27). But we must no more conceive that God is bounded or measured by time, and hath succession of days, because of those expressions, than we can conclude him to have a body, because members are ascribed to him in Scripture, to help our conceptions of his glorious nature and operations. Though years are ascribed to him, yet then are such as cannot be numbered, cannot be finished, since there is no proportion between the duration of God, and the years of men. “The number of his years cannot be searched out, for he makes small the drops of water; they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof” (Job 36:26, 27). The numbers of the drops of rain which have fallen in all parts of the earth since the creation of the world, if subtracted from the number of the years of God, would be found a small quantity, a mere nothing, to the years of God. As all the nations in the world compared with God, are but as the “drop of a bucket, worse than nothing, than vanity” (Isa. 40:15); so all the ages of the world, if compared with God, amount not to so much as the one hundred thousandth part of a minute; the minutes from the creation may be numbered, but the years of the duration of God being infinite, are without measure. As one day is to the life of man, so are a thousand years to the life of God.
The Holy Ghost expresseth himself to the capacity of man, to give us some notion of an infinite duration, by a resemblance suited to the capacity of man. If a thousand years be but as a day to the life of God, then as a year is to the life of man, so are three hundred and sixty-five thousand years to the life of God; and as seventy years are to the life of man, so are twenty-five millions four hundred and fifty thousand years to the life of God. Yet still, since there is no proportion between time and eternity, we must dart our thoughts beyond all those; for years and days measure only the duration of created things, and of those only that are material and corporeal, subject to the motion of the heavens, which makes days and years. Sometimes this eternity is expressed by parts, as looking backward and forward; by the differences of time, “past, present, and to come” (Rev. 1:8), “which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). Though this might be spoken of anything in being, though but for an hour, it was the last minute, it is now, and it will be the next minute; yet the Holy Ghost would declare something proper to God, as including all parts of time; he always was, is now, and always shall be. It might always be said of him, he was, and it may always be said of him, he will be; there is no time when he began, no time when he shall cease. It cannot be said of a creature he always was, he always is what he was, and he always will be what he is; but God always is what he was, and always will be what he is; so that it is a very significant expression of the eternity of God, as can be suited to our capacities.
1. His eternity is evident, by the name God gives himself (Exod. 3:14): “And God said unto Moses, I am that I am; thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, ‘I Am hath sent me unto you.’ ” This is the name whereby he is distinguished from all creatures; I Am, is his proper name. This description being in the present tense, shows that his essence knows no past, nor future; if it were he was, it would intimate he were not now what he once was; if it were he will be, it would intimate he were not yet what he will be; but I Am; I am the only being, the root of all beings; he is therefore, at the greatest distance from not being, and that is eternal. So that is signifies his eternity, as well as his perfection and immutability. As I Am speaks the want of no blessedness, so it speaks the want of no duration; and therefore the French, wherever they find this word Jehovah, in the Scripture, which we translate Lord, and Lord eternal, render it the Eternal,—I am always and immutably the same. The eternity of God is opposed to the volubility of time, which is extended into past, present and to come. Our time is but a small drop, as a sand to all the atoms and small particles of which the world is made; but God is an unbounded sea of being. “I Am that I Am;” i. e. an infinite life; I have not that now, which I had not formerly; I shall not afterwards have that which I have not now; I am that in every moment which I was, and will be in all moments of time; nothing can be added to me, nothing can be detracted from me; there is nothing superior to him, which can detract from him; nothing desirable that can be added to him. Now if there were any beginning and end of God, any succession in him, he could not be “I Am;” for in regard of what was past, he would not be; in regard of what was to come, he is not yet; and upon this account a heathen argues well; of all creatures it may be said they were, or they will be; but of God it cannot be said anything else but est, God is, because he fills an eternal duration. A creature cannot be said to be, if it be not yet, nor if it be not now, but hath been. God only can be called “I Am;” all creatures have more of not being, than being; for every creature was nothing from eternity, before it was made something in time; and if it be incorruptible in its whole nature, it will be nothing to eternity after it hath been something in time; and if it be not corruptible in its nature, as the angels, or in every part of its nature, as man in regard of his soul; yet it hath not properly a being, because it is dependent upon the pleasure of God to continue it, or deprive it of it; and while it is, it is mutable, and all mutability is a mixture of not being. If God therefore be properly “I Am,” i. e. being, it follows that he always was; for if he were not always, he must, as was argued before, be produced by some other, or by himself; by another he could not; then he had not been God, but a creature; nor by himself, for then as producing, he must be before himself, as produced; he had been before he was. And he always will be; for being “I Am,” having all being in himself, and the fountain of all being to everything else, how can he ever have his name changed to I am not.
2. God hath life in himself (John 5:26): “The Father hath life in himself;” he is the “living God;” therefore “steadfast forever” (Dan. 6:26). He hath life by his essence, not by participation. He is a sun to give light and life to all creatures, but receives not light or life from anything; and therefore he hath an unlimited life, not a drop of life, but a fountain; not a spark of a limited life, but a life transcending all bounds. He hath life in himself; all creatures have their life in him and from him. He that hath life in himself doth necessarily exist, and could never be made to exist; for then he had not life in himself, but in that which made him to. exist, and gave him life. What doth necessarily exist therefore, exists from eternity; what hath being of itself could never be produced in time, could not want being one moment, because it hath being from its essence, without influence of any efficient cause. When God pronounced his name, “I Am that I Am,” angels and men were in being; the world had been created above two thousand four hundred years; Moses, to whom he then speaks, was in being; yet God only is, because he only hath the fountain of being in himself; but all that they were was a rivulet from him. He hath from nothing else, that he Both subsist; everything else hath its subsistence from him as their root, as the beam from the sun, as the rivers and fountains from the sea. All life is seated in God, as in its proper throne, in its most perfect purity. God is life; it is in him originally, radically, therefore eternally. He is a pure act, nothing but vigor and act; he hath by his nature that life which others have by his grant; whence the Apostle saith (1 Tim. 6:16) not only that he is immortal, but he hath immortality in a full possession; fee simple, not depending upon the will of another, but containing all things within himself. He that hath life in himself, and is from himself, cannot but be. He always was, because he received his being from no other, and none can take away that being which was not given by another. If there were any space before he did exist, then there was something which made him to exist; life would not then be in him, but in that which produced him into being; he could not then be God, but that other which gave him being would be God. And to say God sprung into being by chance, when we see nothing in the world that is brought forth by chance, but hath some cause of its existence, would be vain; for since God is a being, chance, which is nothing, could not bring forth something; and by the same reason, that he sprung up by chance, he might totally vanish by chance. What a strange notion of a God would this be! such a God that had no life in himself but from chance! Since he hath life in himself, and that there was no cause of his existence, he can have no cause of his limitation, and can no more be determined to a time, than he can to a place.
What hath life in itself, hath life without bounds, and can never desert it, nor be deprived of it; so that he lives necessarily, and it is absolutely impossible that he should not live; whereas all other things “live, and move, and have their being in him” (Acts 17:28); and as they live by his will, so they can return to nothing at his word.
3. If God were not eternal, he were not immutable in his nature. It is contrary to the nature of immutability to be without eternity; for whatsoever begins, is changed in its passing from not being to being. It began to be what it was not; and if it ends, it ceaseth to be what it was; it cannot therefore be said to be God, if there were neither beginning or ending, or succession in it (Mal. 3:6): “I am the Lord, I change not;” (Job 37:23): “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out.” God argues here, saith Calvin, from his unchangeable nature as Jehovah, to his immutability in his purpose. Had he not been eternal, there had been the greatest change from nothing to something. A change of essence is greater than a change of purpose. God is a sun glittering always in the same glory; no growing up in youth; no passing on to age. If he were not without succession, standing in one point of eternity, there would be a change from past to present, from present to future. The eternity of God is a shield against all kind of mutability. If anything sprang up in the essence of God that was not there before, he could not be said to be either an eternal, or an unchanged substance.
4. God could not be an infinitely perfect Being, if he were not eternal. A finite duration is inconsistent with infinite perfection Whatsoever is contracted within the limits of time, cannot swallow up all perfections in itself. God hath an unsearchable perfection. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7.) He cannot be found out: he is infinite, because he is incomprehensible. Incomprehensibility ariseth from an infinite perfection, which cannot be fathomed by the short line of man’s understanding. His essence in regard of its diffusion, and in regard of its duration, is incomprehensible, as well as his action: if God, therefore, had beginning, he could not be infinite; if not infinite, he did not possess the highest perfection; because a perfection might be conceived beyond it. If his being could fail, he were not perfect; can that deserve the name of the highest perfection, which is capable of corruption and dissolution? To be finite and limited, is the greatest imperfection, for it consists in a denial of being. He could not be the most blessed Being if he were not always so, and should not forever remain so; and whatsoever perfections he had, would be soured by the thoughts, that in time they would cease, and so could not be pure affections, because not permanent; but “He is blessed from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 41:13). Had he a beginning, he could not have all perfection without limitation; he would have been limited by that which gave him beginning; that which gave him being would be God, and not himself, and so more perfect than he: but since God is the most sovereign perfection, than which nothing can be imagined perfecter by the most capacious understanding, He is certainly “eternal;” being infinite, nothing can be added to him, nothing detracted from him.
5. God could not be omnipotent, almighty, if he were not eternal. The title of almighty agrees not with a nature that had a beginning; whatsoever hath a beginning was once nothing; and when it was nothing, could act nothing: where there is no being there is no power. Neither doth the title of almighty agree with a perishing nature: he can do nothing to purpose, that cannot preserve himself against the outward force and violence of enemies, or against the inward causes of corruption and dissolution. No account is to be made of man, because “his breath is in his nostrils” (Isa. 2:22); could a better account be made of God, if he were of the like condition? He could not properly be almighty, that were not always mighty; if he be omnipotent, nothing can impair him; he that hath all power, can have no hurt. If he doth whatsoever he pleaseth, nothing can make him miserable, since misery consists in those things which happen against our will. The almightiness and eternity of God are linked together: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and ending, saith the Lord, which was, and which is, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8): almighty because eternal, and eternal because almighty.
6. God would not be the first cause of all if he were not eternal; but he is the first and the last; the first cause of all things, the last end of all things: that which is the first cannot begin to be; it were not then the first; it cannot cease to be: whatsoever is dissolved, is dissolved into that whereof it doth consist, which was before it, and then it was not the first. The world might not have been; it was once nothing; it must have some cause to call it out of nothing: nothing hath no power to make itself something; there is a superior cause, by whose will and power it comes into being, and so gives all the creatures their distinct forms. This power cannot but be eternal; it must be before the world; the founder must be before the foundation; and his existence must be from eternity; or we must say nothing did exist from eternity: and if there were no being from eternity, there could not now be any being in time. What we see, and what we are, must arise from itself or some other; it cannot from itself: if anything made itself, it had a power to make itself; it then had an active power before it had a being; it was something in regard of power, and was nothing in regard of existence at the same time. Suppose it had a power to produce itself, this power must be conferred upon it by another; and so the power of producing itself, was not from itself, but from another; but if the power of being was from itself, why did it not produce itself before? why was it one moment out of being? If there be any existence of things, it is necessary that that which was the “first cause,” should “exist from eternity.” Whatsoever was the immediate cause of the world, yet the first and chief cause wherein we must rest, must have nothing before it; if it had anything before it, it were not the first; he therefore that is the first cause, must be without beginning; nothing must be before him; if he had a beginning from some other, he could not be the first principle and author of all things; if he be the first cause of all things, he must give himself a beginning, or be from eternity: he could not give himself a beginning; whatsoever begins in time was nothing before, and when it was nothing, it could do nothing; it could not give itself anything, for then it gave what it had not, and did what it could not. If he made himself in time, why did he not make himself before? what hindered him? It was either because he could not, or because he would not; if he could not, he always wanted power, and always would, unless it were bestowed upon him, and then he could not be said to be from himself. If he would not make himself before, then he might have made himself when he would: how had he the power of willing and nilling without a being? Nothing cannot will or nill; nothing hath no faculties; so that it is necessary to grant some eternal being, or run into inextricable labyrinths and mazes. If we deny some eternal being, we must deny all being; our own being, the being of everything about us; unconceivable absurdities will arise. So, then, if God were the cause of all things, he did exist before all things, and that from eternity.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Sect. CLII. — I HERE omit to bring forward those all-powerful arguments drawn from the purpose of grace, from the promise, from the force of the law, from original sin, and from the election of God; of which, there is no one that would not of itself utterly overthrow “Free-will.” For if grace come by the purpose of God, or by election, it comes of necessity, and not by any devoted effort or endeavour of our own; as I have already shown. Moreover, if God promised grace before the law, as Paul argues here, and in his epistle to the Galatians also, then it does not come by works or by the law; otherwise, it would be no longer a promise. And so also faith, if works were of any avail, would come to nothing: by which, nevertheless, Abraham was justified before the law was given. Again, as the law is the strength of sin, and only discovers sin, but does not take it away, it brings the conscience in guilty before God. This is what Paul means when he saith, “the law worketh wrath.” (Rom. iv. 15). How then can it be possible, that righteousness should be obtained by the law? And if we derive no help from the law, how can we derive any help from the power of “Free-will” alone?
Moreover, since we all lie under the same sin and damnation of the one man Adam, how can we attempt any thing which is not sin and damnable? For when he saith “all,” he excepts no one; neither the power of “Free-will,” nor any workman; whether he work or work not, attempt or attempt not, he must of necessity be included among the rest in the “all.” Nor should we sin or be damned by that one sin of Adam, if the sin were not our own: for who could be damned for the sin of another, especially in the sight of God? Nor is the sin ours by imitation, or by working; for this would not be the one sin of Adam; because, then, it would not be the sin which he committed, but which we committed ourselves; — it becomes our sin by generation. — But of this in some other place. — Original sin itself, therefore, will not allow of any other power in “Free-will,” but that of sinning and going on unto damnation.
These arguments, I say, I omit to bring forward, both because they are most manifest and most forcible, and because I have touched upon them already. For if I wished to produce all those parts of Paul which overthrow “Free-will,” I could not do better, than go through with a continued commentary on the whole of his epistle, as I have done on the third and fourth chapters. On which, I have dwelt thus particularly, that I might shew all our “Free-will” friends their yawning inconsiderateness, who so read Paul in these all-clear parts, as to see any thing in them but these most powerful arguments against “Free-will;” and that I might expose the folly of that confidence which they place in the authority and writings of the ancient teachers, and leave them to consider with what force the remaining most clear arguments must make against them, if they should be handled with care and judgment.
Sect. CLIII. — As to myself, I must confess, I am more than astonished, that, when Paul so often uses those universally applying words “all,” “none,” “not,” “not one,” “without,” thus, “they are all gone out of the way, there is none that doeth good, no not one;” all are sinners and condemned by the one sin of Adam; we are justified by faith “without” the law; “without” the works of the law; so that, if any one wished to speak otherwise so as to be more intelligible, he could not speak in words more clear and more plain; — I am more than a astonished, I say, how it is, that words and sentences, contrary and contradictory to these universally applying words and sentences, have gained so much ground; which say, — Some are not gone out of the way, are not unrighteous, are not evil, are not sinners, are not condemned: there is something in man which is good and which endeavours after good: as though that man, whoever he be, who endeavours after good, were not comprehended in this one word “all,” or “none,” or “not.”
I could find nothing, even if I wished it, to advance against Paul, or to reply in contradiction to him: but should be compelled to acknowledge that the power of my “Free-will,” together with its endeavours, is comprehended in those “alls,” and “nones,” of whom Paul here speaks; if, that is, no new kind of grammar or new manner of speech were introduced.
Moreover, if Paul had used this mode of expression once, or in one place only, there might have been room for imagining a trope, or for taking hold of and twisting some detached terms. Whereas, he uses it perpetually both in the affirmative and in the negative: and so expresses his sentiments by his argument and by his distinctive division, in every place and in all parts, that not the nature of his words only and the current of his language, but that which follows and that which precedes, the circumstances, the scope, and the very body of the whole disputation, all compel us to conclude, according to common sense, that the meaning of Paul is, — that out of the faith of Christ there is nothing but sin and damnation.
It was thus that we promised we would refute “Free-will,” so that all our adversaries should not be able to resist: which, I presume, I have effected, even though they shall not so far acknowledge themselves vanquished, as to come over to my opinion, or to be silent: for that is not in my power: that is the gift of the Spirit of God!
Sect. CLIV. — BUT however, before we hear the Evangelist John, I will just add the crowning testimony from Paul: and I am prepared, if this be not sufficient, to oppose Paul to “Free-will” by commenting upon him throughout. Where he divides the human race into two distinctive divisions, “flesh” and “spirit,” he speaks thus — “They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, do mind the things of the Spirit,” (Rom. viii. 5). As Christ also does, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” (John iii 6).
That Paul here calls all carnal who are not spiritual, is manifest, both from the division itself and the opposition of spirit to flesh, and from the very words of Paul himself, where he adds, “But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His” (Rom. viii. 9). What else is the meaning of “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you,” but, that those who have not the “Spirit,” are, necessarily, in the “flesh?” And if any man be not of Christ, what else is he but of Satan? It is manifest, therefore, that those who are devoid of the Spirit, are “in the flesh,” and under Satan.
Now let us see what his opinion is concerning the endeavour and the power of “Free-will” in the carnal, who are in the flesh. “They cannot please God.” Again, “The carnal mind is death.” Again, “The carnal mind is enmity against God,” And again, “It is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be.” (Rom. viii. 5-8). Here let the advocate for “Free-will” answer me — How can that endeavour toward good “which is death,” which “cannot please God,” which “is enmity against God,” which “is not subject to God,” and “cannot” be subject to him? Nor does Paul mean to say, that the carnal mind is dead and inimical to God; but that, it is death itself, enmity itself which cannot possibly be subject to the law of God or please God, as he had said just before, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did,” &c. (Rom. viii. 3).
But I am very well acquainted with that fable of Origen concerning the three-fold affection; the one of which he calls ‘flesh,’ the other ‘soul,’ and the other ‘spirit,’ making the soul that medium affection, vertible either way, towards the flesh or towards the spirit. But these are merely his own dreams; he speaks them forth only, but does not prove them. Paul here calls every thing “flesh” that is without the “Spirit,” as I have already shewn. Therefore, those most exalted virtues of the best men are in the flesh; that is, they are dead, and at enmity against God; they are not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be; and they please not God. For Paul does not only say that such men are not subject, but that they cannot be subject. So also Christ saith, “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. vii. 17). And again, “How can ye being evil speak that which is good,” (Matt. xii. 34). Here you see, we not only speak that which is evil, but cannot speak that which is good.
And though He saith in another place, that we who are evil know how to give good gifts unto our children, (Matt. vi. 11), yet He denies that we do good, even when we give good gifts; because those good gifts which we give are the creatures of God; but we ourselves not being good, cannot give those good gifts well. For He is speaking unto all men; nay, even unto His own disciples. So that these two sentiments of Paul, that the just man liveth “by faith,” (Rom. i. 17), and that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” (Rom. xiv. 23), stand confirmed: the latter of which follows from the former. For if there be nothing by which we are justified but faith only, it is evident that those who are not of faith, are not justified. And if they be not justified, they are sinners. And if they be sinners, they are evil trees and can do nothing but sin and bring forth evil fruit — Wherefore, “Free-will” is nothing but the servant of sin, of death, and of Satan, doing nothing, and being able to do or attempt nothing, but evil!