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.
A Charitable Reaction
By R.C. Sproul 1/01/2013
Has anyone ever said something unkind to you or about you? I think we all have had that experience. Becoming victims of slander or malicious gossip can be difficult to bear. However, God calls us to exhibit a very specific kind of response in such circumstances.
Years ago, I received a letter from a friend who is a pastor at a church in California. In it, the pastor included a copy of an article that had appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Although the article included a photo of him standing in his church and holding his Bible, it was basically a vicious personal attack against him.
When I saw that picture and read that article, I felt a great deal of empathy for my friend because I had recently had a similar experience. A person I believed was my friend made some very unkind statements about me publicly, and word had gotten back to me. My feelings basically vacillated between despondency and anger, even though I knew I needed to respond with joy (Matt. 5:11–12).
(Mt 5:11–12) 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ESV
I believe the greatest book ever written about the virtue of love in the Christian life is ASIN: B001MY34L0. Books by Jonathan Edwards click here) In this book, Edwards included a chapter on how we are to respond to false charges. There, he makes the biblical point that such attacks should not surprise us; rather, we should expect them:
Men that have their spirits heated and enraged and rising in bitter resentment when they are injured act as if they thought some strange thing had happened to them. Whereas they are very foolish in so thinking for it is no strange thing at all but only what was to be expected in a world like this. They therefore do not act wisely that allow their spirits to be ruffled by the injuries they suffer.
Edwards’ point is that if the Christian expects to be slandered and keeps his eyes focused on God when it happens, he will not be depressed over it.
Edwards reinforces the concept that other human beings can harm only my worldly pleasure. A person can injure my body, steal my money, or even destroy my reputation. However, all of these things have to do only with the cares and pleasures of this world. But we have an inheritance that is laid up in heaven, a treasure no one can steal or defile (1 Peter 1:4). It is protected by the Lord Himself.
We might be tempted to think that Edwards was a spiritual giant who could handle personal attacks with ease, while we are “ordinary” believers. How, then, can we not be distressed when we are hurt by people we thought were our friends? Yet while it is true that it is part of our human nature to respond to personal attacks with sadness, anger, or bitterness, these feelings are part of our fallen humanity. They are not fruits of the Holy Spirit. This means that Edwards, as great a saint as he was, was not calling “ordinary” Christians to do anything extraordinary. We are all called to bear our injuries with joy, patience, love, and gentleness.
This kind of response is required of all of us because the Christian life is about the imitation of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). We are being molded into His image, so we are to strive to live as He lived. Our Lord was slandered and falsely accused of all kinds of offenses, but He opened not His mouth in protest (Isa. 53:7). Like a lamb, He accepted these vitriolic attacks, and, in the very moment of His passion, He prayed for the forgiveness of those who were attacking Him (Luke 23:34). This is how we are called to react to our enemies (1 Peter 4:13). Therefore, every false accusation, every slander, every ill word spoken about me is an opportunity for me to grow in my sanctification.
Edwards helped me see that I had allowed my soul to become distressed, and that was sin. Instead of seeing the attack on me as an occasion to imitate Christ and to grow in my sanctification, I had resisted God’s Spirit, who had brought this painful event into my life for my edification, that I might remember where my treasure is.
The key to responding to attacks and insults as Christ would is to nurture love for God. Edwards writes:
As love to God prevails, it tends to set persons above human injuries, in this sense, that the more they love God the more they will place all their happiness in him. They will look to God as their all and seek their happiness in portion in his favor, and thus not in the allotments of his providence alone. The more they love God, the less they set their hearts on their worldly interests, which are all that their enemies can touch.
We need to keep Edwards’ insight in mind as we deal with the inevitable attacks and insults that come our way in this life.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
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
Together in Suffering
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/01/2013
It is perhaps the deepest challenge and, in turn, the greatest lesson for a man when those whom he loves suffer. Everyone is tempted to wonder about God’s will and the why of suffering. Everyone tastes the bitterness of that first fruit, pleasing as it was to the eyes and desirable to make one wise. Everyone feels the sting of suffering, the shared pain of shared lives. But a man, a husband, a father — he feels something else: impotence. There comes, when the doctor gingerly delivers the bad news, a horrible, gnawing, piercing pain because you are the fixer, and you can’t fix it. You are the hero, encased in kryptonite. Those who look to you, who hope in you, discover the dreadful truth that your knowledge, your strength, and your will are insufficient, wanting. Worse still, you run headlong into the same truth: You have failed.
As strategy after strategy failed and as each new step in her fight against cancer came with longer and longer odds, I wanted nothing more than to give my dear wife hope, a reason to believe that she could get better, that as bad as it all was, we could together get through it. We, naturally, spoke quite a bit about Jesus. I reminded her that Jesus reigns, that He does all His holy will. I reminded her that Jesus had suffered greatly, only to be exalted to the right hand of the Father. I reminded her that Jesus loved her with an everlasting, immutable, and unstoppable love. He was the answer to my weakness.
But there was still a weakness in my understanding. There was one promise I longed to make to her, one beautiful thought that I thought would warm and comfort her. One thing I had purposed in my heart as this journey began, however — I would not tell her a lie. I knew that if she could not trust me to tell her the truth, that even the truths I told her could offer no comfort. So while I told her Jesus had suffered even greater hardship, I would not tell her that He had trod her exact path, that He had experienced exactly the hardship she was going through. That is exactly where I went wrong.
It is a good and glorious thing to remember what our union with Christ means in terms of our justification. That our sin is imputed to Him and His righteousness imputed to us is no legal fiction, as Rome accuses, precisely because of the reality of our union with Him. He really was guilty because He really was one with us. We really are innocent because we really are one with Him.
It is a good and glorious thing to remember what our union with Christ means in terms of our glorification. His work did not merely acquire for us a verdict of not guilty. Rather, because we are in union with Him, we are joint heirs with Him. The glory that is His in His resurrection is ours. The glory that is His in His ascension is ours. We are even now, because we are in union with Him, seated with Him in the heavenly places. We are kings and queens even now because we are one with Him — the One who reigns over all.
There is, however, more still. Remember that Jesus, when He met Saul on the road to Damascus, did not ask, “Why are you persecuting My bride?” but “Why are you persecuting Me?” He, in union with us, so identifies with us, that what we suffer, He suffers. Because we are one flesh, what one half suffers the other does as well. Because of our union with Him, Jesus suffered from acute myeloid leukemia. Because of our union with Him, Jesus went into remission after a successful bone marrow transplant. Because of our union with Him, Jesus relapsed. Because of our union with Him, Jesus’ clinical trial was unable to slow the deadly progression of the disease. Because of our union with Him, He was unable to try more chemotherapy because His kidneys began to fail. Because of our union with Jesus, Jesus went into hospice, said goodbye to His friends, to His parents, His sister and brother, and to His little children. Because of our union with Jesus, Jesus said goodbye to the man who loved her forever and always. And because of our union with Jesus, Jesus, one with me, sat helpless while His bride waltzed into eternity.
Jesus, however, was raised from the dead. With Him was raised my beloved and with Him was raised my hope. Because she is in union with Him, she has found the fullness of the kingdom, and His righteousness is now all her own. Furthermore, because I am in union with Him, though I see through a glass darkly, I am there to dance with her. Because I am in union with Him, I got to be there when Jesus and Denise welcomed our little girl Shannon to eternal rest.
We are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. By His grace, we know that in His grace, His kingdom and His righteousness has been seeking us. But even that is not the utmost glory of the kingdom. The great glory of the kingdom is the glory of the King. For the King and His kingdom are one, even as we and the King are one. Rest and rejoice. Give thanks and give praise.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
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
A Heart for Adoption
By Dan Cruver 2/01/2013
To be loved by the Father through the Son in the Spirit is to be caught up into an ever-flowing eternal love that progressively transforms, often painfully so, the one who is loved. As those who have been brought graciously to faith in Christ, to be caught up into a love like that is the greatest, most universe-renewing of all gifts. We who were once haters of God, “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), are now forever in His eternally beloved Son through God’s transformative work of adoption (Eph. 1:3–6; see Rom. 8:15).
This wonderful gospel reality—or, I should say, this breathtaking adoption reality—forever changes everything, including how we relate to God, our fellow human beings, and creation itself as God’s good stewards.
One of the gifts that a heart aflame with the adoptive love of our triune God has is an increasing openness to those who are fatherless in this sin-cursed, sin-spoiled world. Because of the rebellion of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we find ourselves in a world that idolizes the strong and powerful, but marginalizes the weak and powerless.
Because of what God has done for us through adoption, our Father eventually and inevitably awakens in us a heart for orphaned children. For some of us, this means we will adopt or help other families adopt, but for everyone it means that we will visit orphans in their distress in countless other ways (James 1:26–27), including advocating for them with hope-giving words (1:18, 26–27), partnering with international churches that care for orphans overseas through family-care strategies, and more. Certainly, God does not call every Christian to adopt, but He does call the church to care for orphans—adoption being one small way to fulfill this calling—and that calling is fueled by God’s adoptive grace to us.
With all this said, it’s important to make the following observation: When Christians are unsure of their Father’s delight in them, real Christian heart joy is absent and passionate Christian living is anemic. It’s nearly impossible to mobilize Christians who are unsure of God’s delight in them to care for orphans with unflappable confidence and joy for the long haul.
When Jesus was about to go public with the mission of God, His Father declared over Him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). As Scripture makes clear, Jesus had been sent to fulfill the Father’s mission to redeem humanity and renew creation—which includes, by the way, the removal of the word orphan from the human vocabulary. God’s Son went forward with the mission of His Father in the strength and knowledge of His Father’s delight (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
The good news of the gospel is that God speaks analogously to every Christian, everyone who is in Christ. If we are adopted by God and are in Christ, we are “sons” and “children of God” (Rom. 8:15–16). As God’s adopted children, we not only have the privilege of participating in His work, we also do so in the strength and knowledge of our Father’s love.
Orphans need churches that are full of people who daily hear and rehearse this amazing truth—in Christ we are beloved children of God and are to live in the light of this fact.
As I’ve already mentioned, when God the Father declared His love for His Son (Matt. 3:17), it was the day that Jesus launched His public messianic ministry. As our Messiah, Jesus was the faithful Son who always did the will of His Father. Never once did He disobey or disappoint Him. All of His living, from His birth to His death, was perfect in thought, word, deed, and motive. His life was perfectly lived, and He lived it as our Messiah. Our lives are not lived in perfect obedience, but we, too, must live as children of God (albeit adopted ones) rather than as slaves who have no inheritance (Rom. 8:15).
Living as the church involves learning to live each day knowing that God the Father delights in His adopted children even as He delights in Jesus. Those who learn to live in the knowledge of God’s loving pleasure will find that circumstances no longer control them. They will find that they are able to deal with the difficulties of an other-centered life with confidence and humility. If we are confident that we are being loved by God in this way, not only will we desire to love others as we are loved, we will also be empowered and compelled to do so.
Imagine the impact churches would have upon the orphan crisis if they were filled with people who moved forward in the strength and knowledge of their Father’s delight. Just imagine.
Orphans need churches that point them daily to the love of their Father in heaven.
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.
Union with Christians
By Ken Jones 2/01/2012
The doctrine of union with Christ is central to understanding the riches of God’s grace in the gospel and all of its implications. Whether it be from the words of Jesus Himself, particularly in passages such as John 15, or from the Epistles saturated with phrases such as “in Him,” “through Him,” and “by Him,” it is evident that union with Christ is essential for both defining what Christians are and what we possess. Moreover, this union has tremendous implications within the context of Christian fellowship.
We are familiar with the biblical language that likens the corporate body of believers to a single human body (Rom. 12:4–5; 1 Cor. 12:12–27; Eph. 4:15–16). The basis for such metaphors is the faith of individual Christians in a common body of truth, that is, the gospel. The Apostle John expresses it this way: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3; see also 1 Cor. 15:1–2). Or, consider the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:2: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” As important as our secondary doctrines are (those that determine our denominational affiliations and local church choices), what unites us as Christians is our faith in what Jude calls “our common salvation” and “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (v. 3).
At the risk of sounding like a minimalist or reductionist, our union with Christ ought to cause us to be collegial and gracious in our disputes, debates, and dialogues with others who also “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” but with whom we may have significant differences on various points. Our consciences and respective confessions may not allow us to worship together or even cooperate in different endeavors, but our mindset should be that those who look by faith to the person and work of Jesus Christ for their salvation are, as far as we are able to tell (as no one knows the heart of another), brothers and sisters in the faith.
In Ephesians 1:15 and Colossians 1:4, Paul commends his readers for their “love for all the saints.” We would do well to foster such a spirit. We should not treat professing Christians in our families, on our jobs, and in our neighborhoods as if they had a contagious disease when we have minor doctrinal differences with them. Rather, we should see them as those for whom Christ died. We should not be ready to attack on those points of disagreement but to seek gracious ways to show them a more excellent way. If meekness and humility are to characterize how we defend the faith before unbelievers (1 Peter 3:15), how much more should we strive for this spirit in our dealings with other Christians?
In addition to motivating us to deal with other Christians with civility and love, our union with Christ ought also to govern how we view Christians throughout the world that we may never see face to face in this life. Apart from denominational mission support or the occasional visit from an actual foreign missionary to a local church in an effort to gain support, most American Christians are simply unaware of what other Christians endure and suffer because of their faith. In no way do I mean this as an indictment. It is simply a reminder that union with Christ and the communion of the saints ought to enlarge our vision of the body of Christ and the diverse circumstances and situations that many of our brothers and sisters face. I’m sure that most of us share in financial support for missionaries and mission work. American Christians have proven to be very generous in providing relief and aid when disaster strikes in any part of the world. But as we wrap our minds around the concept of our union with Christ and the communion of the saints, I pray that we would make room in our personal and corporate prayers for brothers and sisters in any number of situations.
A number of years ago, I was conducting interviews at a major Christian event and was approached by a brother who asked me to interview a gentleman that he was supporting from a sub-Saharan African country. As it turned out, the gentleman that I was being asked to interview was an African pastor who had devoted his life to purchasing the freedom of Christians who had been taken by Muslims as prisoners of war and sold as slaves. We should think about underground churches in different countries, as well as inmates and those who minister to inmates here or abroad. Union with Christ and the communion of the saints should cause us to see that the struggles of these Christians are our struggles as well.
Let us not be so consumed with what is happening in our part of the vineyard that we do not see the glory of Christ in the lives and issues of brothers and sisters purchased by the same blood, who uphold the same faith. “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21–23).
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 ASIN: B015X4DLQC, 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)
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!
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Synopsis | The East Gate of Jerusalem is a perfect example of a door which only the Lord can open. In our lives, God opens and closes doors as he pleases and we should not try to fight against it.
The East Gate | Ezekiel 43:1-4
s1-339 | 02-25-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | Ezekiel chapters 42-44 describe how the Lord’s glory will return to the temple and the role of the priests.
Ezekiel 42 - 44
m1-351 | 03-07-2007
Only audio available | click here
Synopsis | In the last four chapters of Ezekiel, we study the millennial temple, the Lamb without blemish and the 12 tribes of Israel.