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Amos 6 - 9

Amos 6

Woe to Those at Ease in Zion

Amos 6:1      “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
2  Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
3  O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?

4  “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
5  who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6  who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7  Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.”

8 The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and hate his strongholds,
and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”

9 And if ten men remain in one house, they shall die. 10 And when one’s relative, the one who anoints him for burial, shall take him up to bring the bones out of the house, and shall say to him who is in the innermost parts of the house, “Is there still anyone with you?” he shall say, “No”; and he shall say, “Silence! We must not mention the name of the LORD.”

11  For behold, the LORD commands,
and the great house shall be struck down into fragments,
and the little house into bits.
12  Do horses run on rocks?
Does one plow there with oxen?
But you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood—
13  you who rejoice in Lo-debar,
who say, “Have we not by our own strength
captured Karnaim for ourselves?”
14  “For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,
O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts;
“and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath
to the Brook of the Arabah.”

Amos 7

Warning Visions

Amos 7:1     This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings. 2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,

“O Lord GOD, please forgive!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!”
3  The LORD relented concerning this:
“It shall not be,” said the LORD.

4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5 Then I said,

“O Lord GOD, please cease!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!”
6  The LORD relented concerning this:
“This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them;
9  the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

Amos Accused

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said,

“ ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.’ ”

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. 15 But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

17 Therefore thus says the LORD:

“ ‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’ ”

Amos 8

The Coming Day of Bitter Mourning

Amos 8:1      This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. 2 And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me,

“The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them.
3  The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
declares the Lord GOD.
“So many dead bodies!”
“They are thrown everywhere!”

4  Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
5  saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
6  that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

7  The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
8  Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who dwells in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”

9  “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10  I will turn your feasts into mourning
and all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist
and baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.

11  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the LORD.
12  They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.

13  “In that day the lovely virgins and the young men
shall faint for thirst.
14  Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria,
and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’
and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’
they shall fall, and never rise again.”

Amos 9

The Destruction of Israel

Amos 9:1      I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:

“Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,
and shatter them on the heads of all the people;
and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword;
not one of them shall flee away;
not one of them shall escape.

2  “If they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
if they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
3  If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will search them out and take them;
and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
4  And if they go into captivity before their enemies,
there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;
and I will fix my eyes upon them
for evil and not for good.”

5  The Lord GOD of hosts,
he who touches the earth and it melts,
and all who dwell in it mourn,
and all of it rises like the Nile,
and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;
6  who builds his upper chambers in the heavens
and founds his vault upon the earth;
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—
the LORD is his name.

7  “Are you not like the Cushites to me,
O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.
“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?
8  Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom,
and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,
except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
declares the LORD.

9  “For behold, I will command,
and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
but no pebble shall fall to the earth.
10  All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’

The Restoration of Israel

11  “In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old,
12  that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations who are called by my name,”
declares the LORD who does this.

13  “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
14  I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
15  I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the LORD your God.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Catechisms for the Imagination

By N.D. Wilson 11/01/2013

     What are stories for? Ask an average group of young American narrative consumers this question and they most likely won’t know what you mean. What you’ll likely get are blank faces, shrugs.

     So, let’s get more specific. What are movies, TV shows, comic books, and novels for? What’s the point? Why watch? Why read? Why do we as a culture bother to spend billions of dollars (and hours) creating and consuming stories?

     The consensus answer — regardless of whether the kids asked are active and aggressive readers or merely passive imbibers of whatever happens to be on — will almost always come down to one word and one word only: fun. Why do we watch? For fun. Why do we read? For fun.

     Spider-man and Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead all exist for fun. Twilight is fun. Or it isn’t fun. And so this girl is absorbed in the books while that boy sneers and mocks. Personal and peer-group tastes and pleasures are adhered to as if they were indisputable and authoritative.

     But the word fun is a simplistic label for what is actually a remarkable and complex experience. Stories make people feel. Stories (particularly novels) take control of and govern the imagination, causing readers to feel things on command. Stories create empathetic and sympathetic bonds between readers and fictional characters, and those bonds are truly real. In fact, they can be more lasting than the bonds between readers and their fellow earth-walking humans because a fictional character is fixed and unchanging. I have deeply admired and looked up to Faramir (from The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings, the second book of the Lord of the Rings series) from my youth, and that admiration has only grown. On the other hand, there are real men whom I long admired, and whom I admire no longer.

     Stories create affection and fear and joy, love and hate and relief. Stories can create loyalties and destabilize loyalties. Stories are catechisms for the imagination. Catechisms for emotions, for aspirations. Stories mold instincts and carve grooves of habit in a reader’s judgments.

     Stories are dangerous, and that isn’t a bad thing. Rain is dangerous. Sunlight is dangerous. Stories are potent, but that potency can be used for true and good and beautiful ends, or it can be used to attack and destroy and undermine truth and goodness and beauty.

     Let a faithful author guide a child’s imagination, and that child will learn (and feel) what it is like to be courageous, to stand against evil, to love what is lovely and honor what is honorable. Hand them the wrong book, and they could learn to numb their own conscience, to gratify and feed darker impulses. The wrong stories catechize imaginations with sickness.

     Twilight is a manual for adolescent girls on how to become abused women. Is that man moody and mercurial and vicious? Is he death and danger? Let’s have tens of millions of young girls practice (through emotional connection to a character proxy) envisioning themselves trailing around behind him like kicked puppies, just hoping for a sparkly smile. And let’s have that imagined behavior rewarded. What could go wrong?

     Of course, it’s rarely that simple. Books (and stories in general) can weave just a single layer of dissonance through an otherwise harmonic structure. The Hunger Games begins with a girl selflessly offering herself as a substitute for her little sister. Grand. We see beauty there and we bite. We attach to Katniss (our heroine) because she has earned our sympathy, and then we ride with her through her awful and horrific servitude to the debauchery of a corrupt nation. But a switch takes place. We linked up with her when she was driven by selflessness, but she quickly moves into a radical Darwinian selfishness, willing to participate in the murder of innocents in order to preserve herself. Cruciform behavior is subbed out and survival of the fittest (as an ethical justification for bloodshed) is subbed in.

     And here we see what happens when a book (and a character) is well-crafted but false. When I criticize the motivation of a character in The Hunger Games, it is easy for people to respond emotionally as if I had insulted their most beloved sister. Because, even though the character isn’t real, the affection and loyalty and pride and worry created in the readers is very real indeed. And once the affections are involved, objective critical discussion is emotionally charged (and zesty).

     Critical thinking and imaginative selfcontrol are obviously essential things to give to young readers. We should want to raise children with the ability to resist an author and a narrative, to laugh, criticize, and dismiss folly, no matter how hard a storyteller might be working to feed them falsehood. But the first step is to establish their tastes in truth with stories that will root their instincts and loyalties in goodness and beauty. Feed them narratives that love the lovely and honor the honorable. Let them wander Narnia and Middle-earth and be edified and strengthened and inspired. Give them a strong foundation and stubborn taste. When it comes to story, there’s nothing wrong with being a picky eater.

Click here to go to source

     Per Amazon | N. D. Wilson is a best-selling novelist, professional daydreamer, and occasional screenwriter. He enjoys hilltops, callouses, and the smell of rain on hot asphalt. He and his wife have five children, and he is currently a Fellow of Literature at New Saint Andrews College, where he teaches freshmen how to play with words.

N.D. Wilson Books:

The Coming of the Kingdom part 33

By Dr. Andrew Woods 03/11/2015

We began scrutinizing New Testament texts that "kingdom now" theologians employ in an attempt to argue that the kingdom is a present reality to show that none of these passages teach a present form of the kingdom. We have examined the typical texts from the Gospels,  Acts, and Paul's letters used by "kingdom now" theologians. In this installment we will conclude our examination of the Pauline epistles and begin a similar exploration of the general epistles.

Fellow Workers For The Kingdom Of God

A final text from the Pauline corpus consistently employed by "kingdom now" theologians is  Colossians 4:11, which says, "and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow - workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision." The logic of the "kingdom now" theologian here is that if Paul refers to his co-laborers as fellow workers of the kingdom of God, then they must be all working together to presently establish God's kingdom upon the earth. However, there is no verb in the expression "fellow workers for the kingdom of God." The Greek word translated "for" here is the preposition eis. Because a verb does not definitively identify the time period of the kingdom, the word "kingdom" here should be read in harmony with the bulk of the passages in Paul's writings that place the kingdom exclusively in the future ( 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 15:24, 50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:1, 18 ). McClain explains, "The Greek preposition here is eis, and therefore the passage may be read in harmony with the idea of a future Kingdom, toward which as a glorious goal all the labors of the Church are directed." [1] Peters similarly observes, "There is only one kingdom...and believers become 'heirs' of it...The apostles represent themselves and co-laborers as working for it still future,  Col 4:11; 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28, etc." [2]

Since We Receive A Kingdom

Let us now turn our attention to the handful of texts found in the general epistles that "kingdom now" theologians typically use. One such passage is  Hebrews 12:28, which says, "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." The present tense participle "we receive" indicates to some that the reception of the kingdom is a present manifestation in the life of the child of God. Yet, it is unnecessary to re-write the consistent, biblical, terrestrial definition of the word "kingdom" here based upon a vague reference to it at the conclusion of an epistle. It seems better to interpret this reference on the basis of the de jure/de facto distinction that has been discussed earlier in this series. [3] While believers are legally heirs of God's coming kingdom, the kingdom is not yet a factual reality upon the earth. Thus, all  Hebrews 12:28 teaches is that believers are citizens of the earthly kingdom to come rather than present, factual residents in the spiritual, Davidic kingdom. Concerning  Hebrews 12:28, McClain explains:

It is not unusual for Scripture, on behalf of believers, to assert ownership regarding certain blessings even before they are possessed in Christian experience. Compare  1 Corinthians 3:21–22 where "all things" are said to belong to the believer, yet among these things are some that are yet "to come." The ownership is legally certainly, though the experience of possession may be future. [4]

Regarding  Hebrews 12:28, E.R. Craven similarly notes, "the reception of the Basileia herein spoken of manifestly may be de jure. Believers on earth receive a sure title to their future possession." [5]

A Kingdom Of Priests

As noted earlier in the series,  Exodus 19:5-6 represent the first reference to the term "kingdom" in relation to God's kingdom in all of the Bible. [6]  Exodus 19:5-6 says, "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." Notice how parts of these verses are quoted in  1 Peter 2:9 for the benefit of the New Testament saints: "But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." [7] The "kingdom now" theologian treats this New Testament recitation of these verses as follows: if national Israel is called a kingdom of priests in the Old Testament and if these same verses are applied directly to the New Testament Church, then the Church is also a kingdom of priests. If the Church is indeed a kingdom of priests, then she too, like Old Testament Israel, represents a present manifestation of the kingdom of God upon the earth. In fact, amillennialist and "kingdom now" theologian Anthony Hoekema relies upon this very New Testament citation in his attempt to prove that the Church has permanently replaced national Israel in the outworking of God's purposes. [8]

However, all Peter could be indicating by his Old Testament citation of  Exodus 19:5-6 in  1 Peter 2:9 is that the Church is analogous or similar to God's kingdom program through Israel in some respects. Such a limited interpretation seems preferable in comparison to the notion that the Church is the "New Israel" or the present manifestation of the kingdom of God upon the earth, as is presumed by amillennialists. In other words, just as Israel was God's representative to the nations and called to a life of holiness, the Church's purpose is analogous in regard to its missional calling and personal holiness. It is a logical fallacy to assume that similarity is the same as equality. For example, I have two cars in my garage that are quite similar. Both have a steering wheel, an engine, four tires, seat belts, etc... However, it would be fallacious to assume that one car equals the other automobile merely on account of these similarities. Thus, just because there are some points of similarity between God's kingdom program through Israel and the Church, this does not necessarily mean that the Church becomes the kingdom program through its identity as the New Israel.

Moreover,  1 Peter 2:9 may not even be addressed to the Church as a whole but rather only to the more limited audience of the believing Jewish remnant within the Church. [9] Curiously absent from  1 Peter 1:1 is any reference to the fact that Peter's letter was addressed "to the church (or churches) of..." This is a familiar formula Paul uses when addressing a Church - wide audience. Peter would certainly have employed it had he had a Church - wide audience in mind. Instead, Peter addresses his audience as those "scattered," which is an English translation from the Greek word diaspora. Peter's use of the word diaspora in  1:1 refers to Jews in dispersion among the Gentiles in all of its other New Testament ( John 7:35; James 1:1 ), LXX (  Deut. 28:25; 30:4; Neh. 1:9; Isa. 49:6; Jer. 41:17; Ps. 147:2; 2 Macc. 1:27; Jdt. 5:23 ), and Pseudepigraphical (Pss. Sol. 8:28; T. Asher 7:2) uses.

Other terms found in verse  1 Peter 1:1 also seem to be describing Jews in the Diaspora. For example, they are called "aliens" or "sojourners" (parepidemois). This word is also used only of Jews ( 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11; Heb 11:13 ). The etymology of this compound word means "away from home" (para means "away" and epi means "from" and demos means "home" or "house rules"). [10] Thus, the word is a fitting description of Jews outside of their homeland in the Diaspora. Elsewhere Peter calls his audience "pilgrims" ( 1 Pet. 2:11, KJV), which also is a fitting description of Jews outside the land.

In addition, the concepts found in  1 Peter 2:9 are inapplicable to the Church as a whole and are applicable only to a believing Jewish audience. Interestingly, "race," "nation," and "people" are all singular nouns. These nouns could not be describing the church as a whole since the church consists of many races, nations, and peoples ( Gal. 3:28 ). Paul even indicates that the Church is not a nation ( Rom 10:19 ). However, these terms aptly describe the Jewish race. Because Peter, who was the apostle to the circumcised ( Gal 2:7-8 ), wrote this letter, it is logical to assume that a Jewish audience is in view. Thus, to assume that Peter wrote to a Gentile audience in  1 Peter is to assume that Peter not only went outside his ministry sphere but that he also violated his disposition against ministering to the Gentiles ( Acts 10; Gal. 2:11-14 ). If this more limited interpretation of Peter's original audience is correct, then Peter's only point in citing  Exodus 19:5-6 in  1 Peter 2:9 would be to show that although national Israel as a whole had failed to live up to her high calling as given in  Exodus 19:5-6, the believing Jewish remnant within the Church has not similarly failed. In other words, Peter by using this citation is not indicating that the Church at large now represents the kingdom of God upon the earth, as is incorrectly presupposed by amillennialists and other "kingdom now" theologians.

Continue Reading (Part 34 on Sept 24 web page)

[1] Alva J. McClain, By Alva J. McClain - The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God
[2] George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, 3 Volume Set
[3] See parts 31 and 32 of this series.
[4] McClain, 436.
[5] E.R. Craven, "Excursus on the Basileia," in The Revelation of John (A commentary on the Holy Scriptures ... by J.P. Lange ... Tr. from the German, rev., enl., and ed. by P. Schaff) (New York: Scribner, 1874), 97.
[6] See part 3 of this series.
[7] Italics added to both citations.
[8] Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 197-98.
[9] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, ISRAELOLOGY: The Missing Link In Systematic Theology. (Tustin, CA: Ariel, 1994), 186-88; idem, The Messianic Jewish Epistles, Ariel's Bible Commentary (Tustin, CA: Ariel, 2005), 318-21.
[10] Stanley Toussaint, class notes of Andy Woods in BE2035A Seminar in Hebrews and General Epistles, Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring 2003.

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Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.

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The Cleansing of the Leper

By Charles C. Ryrie

     The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum was followed rapidly by a sequence of events which led to the miracle of the cleansing of a leper ( Matt 8:2–4; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 5:12–16 ). That evening after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed, the whole city gathered at Peter’s door to beseech the Savior for deliverance from various maladies. It had already been a busy day, but the Lord healed many of them ( Mark 1:32–34 ). In spite of His weariness of body, the next day He arose early to seek His Father’s face in prayer, but His disciples found Him and reported that many others back in town were seeking Him. Our Lord’s reply was to remind them of the many others in other towns who also needed Him.

I. The Leprosy of the Man

     It was while the Lord was on this preaching tour through Galilee that a leper accosted Him. Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases. known to man, for the Egyptians recognized it before 1500 B.C. It was evidently not at all uncommon in Palestine in Jesus’ day (cf.  Matt 10:8; 11:5; Luke 7:22 ), but this incident is the first record of cleansing in Christ’s public ministry.

     The characteristics of leprosy. Leprosy is a disease which seems to know no climatic or social boundaries. Although today’s three million lepers are found chiefly in tropical Africa, South America, India, and China, the disease has appeared and does appear in all parts of the world. “Race, occupation, social status and climate have no bearing on the incidence” (John M. Musser, Internal Medicine, 4th edition, 1945, p. 73).

     Leprosy appears in two forms. One affects the nerves and the other the skin. It is the latter which seems to be the type spoken of everywhere in the Bible, but neither type is a disease of the blood. The bacilli appear in the blood only during times of fever (ibid., p. 74;, cf. C. I. Scofield, editor, The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 141: “Leprosy speaks of sin as (1) in the blood …). A person may harbor the germs for years before the disease erupts. When it does appear, however, it takes the form of nodules or of swelling of the extremities and usually affects the face, legs, or feet first. From then on the disease runs a fearful and sometimes lengthy course. “As the nodules enlarge the skin becomes deeply furrowed; the ear lobes, lips and nose become thickened, tending to cause resemblance to a lion’s face … [the skin] is often dusky or ‘muddy,’ dry or scaling. The nails are often striated. Ulcerations occur easily. Ulcers may heal, but often penetrate deeply and spread, causing appalling mutilation. Various digits may drop off.… Destruction of the cornea and conjunctiva results in blindness” (ibid., p. 75; cf. also Sir Henry L. Tidy, A Synopsis of Medicine, 9th edition, 1949, p. 137).

     The Jews evidently regarded the disease as contagious though it is not readily so. Methods of arresting the disease have been known for some time, and modern drugs can eliminate the germs from the body, but nothing can undo the toll the disease takes upon a body before it is either arrested or cured. These are the general characteristics of leprosy.

     The consequences of leprosy. In the Old Testament certain very specific tests were given for the diagnosing of leprosy ( Lev 13 ). When it was discovered the afflicted person was rigidly cut off from the community. He was compelled to put on the marks of mourning as if he were dead. He had his clothes rent, his head uncovered, his lips covered, and wherever he went he had to shout “unclean” in order to warn others away ( Lev 13:45; Num 12:12 ). Often a separate place was designated in the synagogues for lepers, and infraction of any of these regulations of separation was punishable with forty stripes.

     It is these consequences that have caused leprosy to be regarded as a type of sin. Actually the nearest Biblical reference which would justify this type is  Psalm 51:7 (“Purge me with hyssop”). Because the hyssop mentioned here is also a part of the cleansing ritual for the leper ( Lev 14:4 ), it is assumed that David’s sin is being compared to leprosy and thus leprosy is a type of sin. In reality, David may more likely have had in mind the hyssop used in the ritual of cleansing in connection with the red heifer offering ( Num 19:18 ), and thus it seems doubtful at best to speak of leprosy as a distinct type. It can, however, certainly be considered as an illustration of some aspects of sin. Principally leprosy illustrates the defilement of sin which results in separation. Insidiousness, loathsomeness, uncleanness, separation, defilement, death, are all points of comparison between leprosy and sin, but resemblance does not constitute leprosy a type — only an illustration.

II. The Love of the Master

     The way the leper approached the Lord gives indication of his great faith in the power of Christ. “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” It was the love of Christ that motivated His action in this instance as in all His work, but it was love related to power. I might love to give each reader a million dollars but I am not able to do so. The Lord of glory not only loved this man and us but He was and is able to do something about his and our miserable condition. Salvation is not only related to the truth that “He loved the world” but also to the truth that “He is able.”

     However, love and power are not enough; there must be willingness, and the form in which the leper’s question was cast shows that he recognized this fact. The question was not, Could He do it? but, Would He do it? “There might be the ability without the will, or the will without the ability, but his hope was that in Christ there would be the combination of both, and all that was needed for that, in his estimation, was the will” (William M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, Expounded and Illustrated, p. 114).

     Thus powerful and willing love resulted in active love, and the Savior touched the leper. The act of touching the defiled man, which normally would also have defiled the one who touched him, illustrates the deep mystery involved in the Savior’s identifying Himself with sin. Who can fathom all that may be involved in the fact that He was made sin for us ( 2 Cor 5:21 )? And yet this touching of the leper may illustrate something of that mystery.

III. The Law of Moses

     After the cleansing came the command: “See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them”Mark 1:44 ). “Those things which Moses commanded” are recorded in  Leviticus 14. Briefly, the ritual of cleansing was as follows: two clean living birds, a cedar rod, scarlet, and hyssop were taken; one bird was then killed in an earthen vessel over running water; the hyssop was then tied to the rod with the scarlet band and it and the living bird were dipped in the blood of the dead bird; next the blood on the rod was sprinkled over the leper seven times, and the living bird was loosed. At this point the leper was pronounced clean, but more was still required of him. He had to wash his clothes, shave, bathe, stay away from his house for seven days, repeat the ablutions and shaving, and finally on the eighth day offer at the temple a sin offering, a trespass offering, a meal offering, and a burnt offering. It is evident that the law was very detailed about this procedure, and doubtless, because it had seldom if ever been used, there would have been a lot of scratching of priestly heads had the leper obeyed the Lord and gone to them. Instead, he chose to disobey and publish his miracle abroad so that it actually hindered his benefactor’s ministry.

     The power of the law. Certain important doctrinal facts about the relation of the Savior, the sinner, and the Mosaic law are illustrated in this miracle. The first is that the Mosaic law was powerless to cleanse. It could after a length of time pronounce as true the fact that a man was cleansed, but it could not perform the cleansing itself. The nature of the law has not changed; it still cannot cleanse the sinner no matter how admirably he may try to keep its commands. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justffied in his sight” ( Rom 3:20 ). It was never given as a means of spiritual salvation, and great is the error of those who so use it today.

     The purpose of the law. The Lord’s reason for commanding this leper to go to the priests was that the Mosaic law might be used as a testimony to them. In the process of performing the ritual of the law they might have been led to the Savior. Such is a legitimate purpose of the preaching of the law today. It may be used to lead a man to Christ. It is for the unrighteous ( 1 Tim 1:9 ), to shut him up to faith in Christ ( Gal 3:23–24 ). Our Lord used it this way ( Luke 10:25–37 ) and so may we.

     Although the law may be used to show a sinner his hopeless condition, only Christ can save. What then is the place of the law in the life of the redeemed? Being saved does not exempt one from lawful living, but the law involved is no longer the law of Moses but the law of Christ. So it was for the cleansed leper ( Mark 1:44 ), and so it is for the cleansed sinner in this age ( 1 Cor 9:21 ). He is no longer under any part of the Mosaic law (including the Ten Commandments,  2 Cor 3:7–11 ), but he is to live by the commandments of Christ under grace.

     But, someone will say, Are not many of the requirements of the law (and especially the principles of the Ten Commandments) repeated substantially in the teachings of grace? The answer is obviously yes. Then, one will say, Why insist that the Christian is not under the Mosaic law (including the Ten Commandments)? We insist on it for the evident reason that the Scripture says so ( 2 Cor 3:7–11; Rom 10:4; Heb 7:11–12 ), and for the very practical reason that even though some of the standards may be similar under law and grace, no one will ever possibly reach any of those standards in his life if he tries to do so by keeping the law. The law can only motivate to sin ( Rom 7 ) and never to sanctification. Legalism is the greatest enemy of sanctification; thus to connect the believer’s sanctification with the law is to defeat him before he starts.

     Love is the only workable motive for sanctification, but love does not mean license. No doubt, the leper was so overpowered with love for his deliverance and his deliverer that he thought he was doing right by telling everyone else of Jesus. But that was not real love, for if he had had genuine thoughtful love he would have obeyed. The law of Christ is tailor-made and perfect in every detail. The love of Christ brings perfect obedience to each and all of those details. May, the lessons of this miracle be practiced in a life of obedience motivated by the love of the one who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 105 | Charles C. Ryrie, Dr. Ryrie’s Articles     and Books

Ordinary Means

By Michael G. Brown 11/01/2013

     Nowadays, ordinary is a bad word. In a culture that is constantly looking for the next big thing, who wants what is ordinary? We want the spectacular. We want what is bigger, better, and exciting. We desire extraordinary gadgets, extraordinary kids, and extraordinary lives. To feel validated as a person, one must not settle for what is ordinary.

     Our approach to church is not much different. In a world that values novelty, innovation, and relevance, the expectation is for pastors to appear hip, worship to feel amazing, and teaching to be useful for our most recent news feed of felt needs. We don’t want ordinary ministers of ordinary churches, but bigger-than-life celebrities who lead transformational movements that are in a rush to make a radical impact on our lives. We want churches that are worthy of our personal quest for the spectacular. We want churches that are worthy of us.

     In such an age as ours, why should we bother planting churches that are committed to the ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament? Such an endeavor seems backwards and counterintuitive. Yet this is precisely what the Head of the church has called us to do. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave us our marching orders:

     All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18–20)

     The goal of the church’s mission is to make disciples. The means of the church’s mission is the ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament in the local church.

     This becomes clear when we consider how the Apostles sought to fulfill the Great Commission. After receiving the power of the Spirit (Acts 2:1–4), they preached the gospel (vv. 14–36), baptized people (vv. 37–41), and began meeting weekly with those who “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42). Not long after receiving their commission, they planted a church.

     The whole book of Acts goes on to document this pattern of planting churches that were committed to the ordinary means of grace, following Jesus’ prophecy that the Apostles would be His witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (1:8). The Apostles went throughout the world preaching the gospel, baptizing believers and their households, and planting congregations where they appointed elders to oversee the new disciples (14:21–23). This work continued in the transition from the Apostles to ordinary ministers (1 and 2 Timothy; Titus), and remains to this very day (Eph. 4:1–16).

     The necessity of the local church for the making of disciples can hardly be overemphasized. This is our Lord’s chosen means for gathering His redeemed people, feeding them with His Word, receiving their worship, nurturing their faith, and bonding them as a community rooted and established in love (Rom. 12; Eph. 4; Phil. 1:27–2:11). The local church is a manifestation of the people who belong to Christ, and also the place where He meets them through the means He has ordained: an ordinary ministry of Word, water, bread, and wine.

     Those means do not appear spectacular to the world. There is nothing particularly exciting or novel about a ministry of preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. It is the same routine each week. We hear the Scriptures proclaimed, we come to the table, we sing, we pray, we enjoy fellowship, and then we go home. There are no halftime shows, no rock concerts, and no celebrity personalities. It is plain, ordinary, and even boring at times. Truth be told, it is about as exciting as watching a tree grow.

     But then Jesus said that the coming of His kingdom is like the growing of a tree (Luke 13:18–19). A tree doesn’t grow by big and marvelous events but through the slow, steady diet of sun and rain year after year. The same is true with the kingdom of God. More often than not, it does not grow by what the world considers a mark of success: big buildings, big budgets, and big names. Instead, it grows in simple and often small services where the gospel is proclaimed. It grows where believers and their children are baptized into the covenant community. It grows where repentant sinners come to a holy meal that appears tiny and insignificant. It grows where ordinary members of a congregation love and serve one another. It grows in those late-night, unglamorous meetings of the elders as they seek to tend faithfully to Christ’s sheep.

     We do not need more movements, more conferences, and more celebrities. We do not need the next big thing. What we need are more churches committed to the way disciples have been made since the Apostles planted a church in Jerusalem two thousand years ago: the slow-going, unspectacular, ordinary ministry of Word and sacrament, where God is raising dead sinners and creating a living communion of saints.

     By God’s power and grace, we are growing together into a tree whose glory will not appear fully until the end of the age. Until then, the extraordinary is God’s business. Our task is to be faithful to fulfill the ministry Christ gave us, as ordinary as it is.œ

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     Rev. Michael G. Brown is pastor of Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, Calif.

By John Walvoord (1990)

Prophecy of the Christian’s Future Perfection

     Colossians 1:22–27. In contrasting the tremendous change between being alienated from God because their behavior was characteristically evil, Christians have now been reconciled to God by Christ through His death and have the hope of being presented in moral and physical perfection in heaven. Paul expressed it: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (v.  22 ). Because not all the Colossian Christians were genuinely saved, he pointed out that our inheritance is only for those who continue in the faith, demonstrating that they are truly born again (v.  23 ).

     Because it is believed the Colossian Christians were battling an error known as Gnosticism, which was supposed to give its adherents superior knowledge, the apostle Paul here, as through the epistle, holds up the wonderful spiritual blessings that belong to a Christian in time and the glorious future that is ours, which is beyond our knowledge or comprehension.

     Paul also mentioned in connection with this the revelation of the mystery, the truth not revealed in the Old Testament, that in this dispensation Christ would indwell the believer. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v.  27 ). This revelation far exceeds any of the so-called special knowledge of the Gnostics.

The Promise of Appearing with Christ in Glory

     Colossians 3:4. Having declared that the Christians are now raised with Christ spiritually and positionally in Christ are already with Him at the right hand of God, Paul exhorted them to set their “minds on things above” (v.  2 ). Paul pictured, then, the ultimate goal: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (v.  4 ). The indwelling Christ, who is the center of a Christian’s life now, will be all the more a part of a Christian’s life in heaven because He will be visibly present and will share something of the glory of heaven with Him.

The Promise of Receiving an Inheritance from the Lord

      Colossians 3:23–24. After exhorting all classes of Christians — husbands, wives, children, fathers, and slaves — to living a life in keeping with their faith in Christ, the apostle added the promise, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (vv.  23–24 ).

     Though all Christians will have an inheritance in Christ because it is based fundamentally on grace, it is nevertheless true that our inheritance is also a reward for faithful service to God in this present world. The point is that God is not settling all accounts now, and in heaven there will be reward for those who did not receive their reward in life.

Prophecy In Thessalonians

     Probably the first of Paul’s inspired epistles,  1 Thessalonians has a special place in that it was addressed to a young church. Paul founded this church on his second missionary journey when he spent three Sabbath days preaching the gospel. Though the Jews who rejected Paul’s message stirred up trouble and forced Paul to leave, the young Christians in Thessalonica stood firm and formed the nucleus of the church there. To encourage them in their faith, Paul wrote his two epistles to them. Especially significant is the fact that the doctrine of the coming of the Lord and related events form one of the main doctrines of both  1 and  2 Thessalonians, with some reference to the coming of the Lord in every chapter. The instruction given by Paul in the field of prophecy was the basis for his enlarging on this teaching in his epistles. Especially significant is the detailed account of the rapture in  4:13–18.

The Hope of the Lord’s Return Encourages Faith and Endurance

     1 Thessalonians 1:3. In thanking God for His work of grace in the hearts of the Thessalonians, Paul referred to the importance of their hope in Christ: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in your Lord Jesus Christ” (v.  3 ). The faith of the Thessalonians was well-rounded and caused them to work faithfully for God. Their labor was also encouraged by their love for each other and their love for God. Their steadfastness, their endurance, according to Paul, were “inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.  3 ). In  1 Thessalonians the hope of the Lord’s return is seen as an integral part of our total faith and hope in God.

Waiting for God’s Son from Heaven

     1 Thessalonians 1:10. The testimony of the Thessalonian church involved three time frames. Paul was assured that when he was there they had come to Christ in deep conviction of the Holy Spirit as this was manifested in their manner of life (vv.  4–5 ). They had a history of being faithful in persecution. Though they were in suffering, they remained true to God and became an example to the churches of the area (vv.  6–7 ). The truth they had received was not only sufficient for their own faith but became their message to those everywhere that heard of the Thessalonian church.

     A summary of their present testimony was that “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (v.  9 ). In this way, exercising faith and manifesting that faith in service, they were also looking forward to the coming of the Lord as a part of their Christian faith. They had a future time frame, as Paul expressed it, “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus who recues us from the coming wrath” (v.  10 ). Prophecy of the future was comprehended by the Thessalonian church in proper perspective with faith in what had already been accomplished in history by Christ.

Living in Expectation of God’s Coming Kingdom and Glory

     1 Thessalonians 2:12. In his encouragement of the Thessalonians, Paul wrote that God had dealt with them “as a father deals with his own children” (v.  11 ), and he urged them to live in a worthy manner before God (v.  12 ). Their entire faith, life, and service, however, was an anticipation of God’s future calling into His kingdom and glory. As Paul expressed it, “encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (v.  12 ). Throughout this epistle the coming of the Lord is linked as a natural outcome and encouragement to live for Christ in this present world. They were sure that while their present experience might involve persecution and trial, they were destined to be a part of God’s kingdom with glory and blessing forever.

The Wicked Destined for the Wrath of God

     1 Thessalonians 2:15–16. Just as the Christian’s life has as its goal God’s blessing in eternity, so the wicked can anticipate experiencing God’s wrath. Paul referred to Jews who were unbelievers “who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last” (vv.  15–16 ). Written over all human experience is the fact that the present leads to the future and that the future is determined by what is done in the present. The wicked can only anticipate God’s judgment, in contrast to the righteous, who will experience God’s blessing.

The Thessalonian Church to Be Paul’s Glory and Joy in Heaven

     1 Thessalonians 2:19–20. In speaking of his intense concern and love for the Thessalonian church, Paul indicated he wanted to see them, but Satan stopped him (vv.  17–18 ). In attempting to express his love and concern for them, Paul pointed out that not only was he involved with them at the present time, but he was looking forward to the time when they will be present in heaven, when they will be a source of joy and glory for him. He stated, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (vv.  19–20 ).

     Having stated that their present service and faithfulness to God would be rewarded in heaven, he now added this additional thought that because he had led them to Christ and encouraged them in their Christian life, he too would have the satisfaction of seeing them in the presence of the Lord, and that they would be the basis of Paul’s glory and joy. In expressing this thought, the apostle was continuing in the line of revelation he had given earlier in the epistle that our present life is inexorably linked to that which is to come.

Being Blameless and Holy When the Lord Comes

     1 Thessalonians 3:13. In praying for them and urging them on in their Christian life, the apostle holds before the Thessalonian church the prospect of being recognized as those who are serving the Lord, blameless and holy when the Lord comes. Paul stated, “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (v.  13 ). This verse is commonly related to the rapture of the church, that when Christ comes He will find His church on earth, serving Him effectively. The passage could, however, also be taken in regard to the arrival in heaven of those caught up at the rapture. In heaven, their holiness and faithfulness to God will be especially evident before God the Father and before saints and angels. Paul was not advocating here sinless perfection as something that could be attained in this life, but he does hold that it is possible for a Christian to live in such a way that he will manifest his desire to serve the Lord and be blameless in what he is doing.

The Revelation of the Rapture of the Church

     1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. Taking its place alongside  1 Corinthians 15:51–58, this passage in  Thessalonians becomes one of the crucial revelations in regard to the rapture of the church. Though the Old Testament and the Synoptic Gospels reveal much concerning the second coming of Christ, the specific revelation concerning Christ’s coming to take His church out of the world, both living and dead, was not revealed until  John 14:1–2, the night before His crucifixion. Because the apostles at that time did not understand the difference between the first and second comings of Christ, they could hardly be instructed in the difference between the rapture of the church and Christ’s second coming to judge and rule over the earth. A careful study of this passage in  1 Thessalonians will do much to set the matter in its proper biblical revelation.

     Unlike passages that deal with the second coming of Christ and trace the tremendous world - shaking events that shall take place in the years preceding it, the rapture of the church is always presented as the next event and, as such, one that is not dependent on immediate preceding events. The rapture of the church, defined in  1 Thessalonians 4:17 as being “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” is a wonderful truth especially designed to encourage Christians.

     Accordingly, Paul stated that he did not want the Thessalonians to be uninformed or ignorant concerning Christians who had died. Accordingly, they were not to grieve for them as the world does that has no hope. In this passage, as in all Scriptures, the sad lot of those who leave this world without faith in Christ is described in absolute terms of having “no hope” (v.  13 ). Only in Christ can one have hope of life to come in heaven.

     The nature of their faith in Christ that prompts them to believe that they will be ready when Christ comes is stated in verse  14: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

     Though there may be debate as to what is absolutely fundamental in Christian doctrine, it is evident that faith in the fact that Christ died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead is essential to effective faith in Christ.

     If one can accept the supernatural event of Christ’s dying for sin and rising from the grave, one can also believe in the future rapture of the church. This is defined as their faith “that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (v.  14 ). Though the general truth of the resurrection of the dead is variously stated in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, a special revelation of the rapture of a particular body of saints and the translation of those living at the time is nowhere linked to the doctrine of the second coming when Christ comes to establish His kingdom. At the rapture, believers are caught up to heaven. At the second coming, believers remain on earth. Accordingly, the event that Paul was describing here is quite different from the second coming of Christ as it is normally defined.

     In what sense will Jesus bring with Him those who have fallen asleep? This refers to Christians who have died, and the expression of falling asleep is used to emphasize the fact that their death is temporary. When a Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven ( 2 Cor. 5:6–8 ). On the occasion of the rapture of the church, accordingly, Paul declared that Jesus would bring with Him the souls of those who have fallen asleep. The purpose is brought out for this in the verses that follow in that Jesus will cause their bodies to be raised from the dead and their souls will reenter their bodies.

     The actual sequence of events was described by Paul: “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” ( 1 Thess. 4:15–17 ).

     This revelation was introduced as truth that is “according to the Lord’s own word” (v.  15 ), that is, given to Paul by special revelation. Though Jesus introduced the doctrine of the rapture in  John 14:1–3, there was no exposition of it while He was still on earth. Accordingly, this revelation, given to Paul for the purpose of passing it on to the Thessalonian church, becomes an important additional revelation concerning the nature of the rapture.

     One of the questions that seems to have faced the Thessalonians is the question of whether if the Lord came for the living, they would have to wait before they could see those who were resurrected from the dead. This thought was set at rest when Paul stated, “we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep” ( 1 Thess. 4:15 ). In verse  16, the sequence of events is described. The Lord Jesus Himself will come down from heaven, that is, there will be a bodily return to the sphere of earth. Jesus will utter a loud command related to the resurrection of the dead and the translation of the living. This will be accompanied by the voice of the archangel. The archangel Michael, though not related to the order of events here, in view of the fact that he is the leader of the holy angels in their opposition to Satan, can understandably voice triumph and victory. This will be followed by the trumpet call of God. When this sounds, the event will take place. Christians who have died will rise first. Then, Christians still living, being translated into bodies suited for heaven, “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v.  17 ).

     For all practical purposes, these events will take place at the same time. Those living on earth who are translated will not have to wait for the resurrection of Christians who have died because, as a matter of fact, they will be resurrected a moment before. In expressing the thought that those who “are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds” (v.  17 ), Paul was expressing the essential character of the rapture, which is a snatching up or a bodily lifting up of those on earth, whether living or resurrected, their meeting the Lord in the air, and then their triumphant return to heaven. This is described as being “with the Lord forever” (v.  17 ).

     This is in keeping with the original revelation of the rapture in  John 14:1–3 where Christ informed His disciples that He was coming for them to take them where He was, that is, in the Father’s house in heaven. They will remain in heaven until the great events describing the period preceding the second coming of Christ will take place, and the church in heaven will participate in the grand procession described in  Revelation 19 of Christ’s return from heaven to earth to set up His earthly kingdom.

     The mention of clouds ( 1 Thess. 4:17 ) is taken by some to be literal clouds, as was true of His ascension ( Acts 1:9 ). Some believe the great number of those raptured will resemble a cloud, similar to the reference of  Hebrews 12:1. The glorious prospect is that once this takes place, there will be no more separations between Christ and His church.

     The locale of their future is not permanent, as they will be in heaven during the time preceding the second coming. They will be on earth during the millennial kingdom, and then will inhabit the new heaven and new earth in eternity. In each of these situations they will be with Christ in keeping with the symbolism of their marriage to Him as the heavenly Bridegroom. Though this passage is most informative concerning the nature of the rapture, it is designed to be an encouragement to those who are living for Christ.

     Most significant in this passage is the fact that there are no preceding events, that is, there are no world - shaking events described as leading up to this event. As a matter of fact, the church down through the centuries could expect momentarily the rapture of the church, a hope that continues today. By contrast, the second coming of Christ will be preceded by divine judgments on the world and followed by the establishing of Christ’s earthly kingdom. No mention is made of that here, but the emphasis is placed on the wonderful fellowship Christians will enjoy with the Savior. The wonderful hope of the rapture of the church is a source of constant encouragement to those who put their trust in Him and who are looking for His coming.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart

By J.D. Greear 11/01/2013

     If there were a world record for the “number of times asking Jesus into your heart,” I’m pretty sure I would hold it. I’ve probably “prayed the prayer” more than five thousand times. Every time was sincere, but I was never quite sure I had gotten it right. Had I really been sorry enough for my sin that time around? Some wept rivers of tears when they got saved, but I hadn’t done that. Was I really sorry? Was that prayer a moment of total surrender? Did I really “get” grace?

     So I would pray the sinner’s prayer again. And again. And again. And maybe get baptized again. Every student camp, every spring revival. Rinse and repeat.

     I used to think I was alone in this, that I was just a neurotic oddball. But when I began to talk about this, I would have such a slew of people tell me they had the same experience that I concluded the problem was endemic. Countless people in our churches today are genuinely saved, but they just can’t seem to gain any assurance about their salvation.

     The opposite is the case, too. Because of some childhood prayer, tens of thousands of people are absolutely certain of a salvation they do not possess.

     Both problems are exacerbated by the clichéd, truncated, and often sloppy ways we present the gospel in shorthand. Now, shorthand is fine insofar as everyone knows what the shorthand refers to. It is obvious, however, that in the case of “the sinner’s prayer,” most people don’t anymore. Surveys show that more than 50 percent of people in the U.S. have prayed a sinner’s prayer and think they’re going to heaven because of it even though there is no detectable difference in their lifestyles from those outside of the church.

     On this issue—the most important issue on earth—we have to be absolutely clear. I believe it is time to put the shorthand aside. We need to preach salvation by repentance before God and faith in the finished work of Christ.

     This does not mean that we stop pressing for a decision when we preach the gospel. The greatest Reformed evangelists in history—such as George Whitefield, C.H. Spurgeon, and John Bunyan—pressed urgently for immediate decisions and even urged hearers to pray a prayer along with them. Each time the gospel is preached, that invitation ought to be extended and a decision should be called for (Matt. 11:28; John 1:12; Rev. 22:17). In fact, if we do not urge the hearer to respond personally to God’s o‰ffer in Christ, we have not fully preached the gospel.

     Furthermore, repentance and faith in Christ are in themselves a cry to God for salvation. The sinner’s prayer is not wrong in itself—after all, salvation is essentially a cry for mercy to God: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In Scripture, those who call on God’s name will be saved. I’m not even categorically opposed to the language of asking Jesus into your heart, because—if understood correctly—it is a biblical concept (Rom. 8:9–11; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17).

     For many, however, the sinner’s prayer has become a Protestant ritual they go through without considering what the prayer is supposed to embody. God doesn’t give salvation in response to mere words; faith is the instrument that lays hold of salvation. You can express faith in a prayer, but it is possible to repent and believe without a formal prayer, and it is possible to pray a sinner’s prayer without repenting and believing.

     This finally clicked for me when, almost in desperation, I read Martin Luther’s commentary on The Confessions (Saint Augustine). Luther points out that salvation comes by resting on the facts God revealed about the death of Christ. Just as Abraham was counted righteous when he believed that God would keep His promise, we are saved by believing that He has done so in Christ.

     The gospel is the declaration that Jesus is Lord and has made an end to our sins. We are saved by submitting to those two truths. Conversion is a posture we take toward the declarations that Scripture makes about Jesus. The point is not how we felt or what we said at the moment of conversion; the point is the posture we are in now.

     Think of conversion like sitting down in a chair. If you are seated right now, there was a time at which you transferred the weight of your body from your legs to the chair. You may not remember making that decision, but the fact you are seated now proves that you did. Your decision was necessary, but when trying to discern where your physical trust is— legs or chair—present posture is better proof than past memory.

     Does this mean that backsliding Christians are not saved? No, believers can still backslide. Technically, any time you sin you are backsliding. As a believer, you will struggle with indwelling sin for the rest of your life. You will fall often, and sometimes you will fall hard.

     But each time you fall, you get up again, looking heavenward. A person in the midst of a backslide may be saved, but assurance is only the possession of those in a present posture of repentance and faith (Heb. 6:9–10).

     Ultimately, the world is divided into two categories: many are “standing” in rebellion against the lordship of Jesus, standing in hopes of their own righteousness to merit favor with God; others are “seated” in submission, resting on His finished work. So when it comes to assurance, the only real question is: Where is the weight of your soul resting? Are you still standing in rebellion, or have you sat down in the finished work of Christ?

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     Per Amazon | J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, it's also the pool itself. Joy, reckless generosity, and audacious faith all come by learning more about God's extravagant love found in Christ.

     God has blessed The Summit Church with tremendous growth. Under J.D.'s leadership, the Summit has grown from a plateaued church of 300 to one of nearly 9,000, making it one of Outreach magazine's "top 25 fastest-growing churches in America" for several years running.

     J.D. has also led the Summit to further the kingdom of God by pursuing a bold vision to plant one thousand new churches by the year 2050. In the last ten years, the church has sent out more than 550 people to serve on church planting teams, both domestically and internationally. J.D. completed his Ph.D. in Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a faculty member, writing on the correlations between early church presentations of the gospel and Islamic theology. Having lived and served among Muslims, he has a burden to see them, as well as every nation on earth, come to know and love the salvation of God in Christ.

     He and his beautiful wife Veronica live in Raleigh, NC and are raising four ridiculously cute kids: Kharis, Alethia, Ryah, and Adon.

J.D. Greear Books:

Comforting Eve

By Eric Watkins 12/01/2013

     There are countless places in the Bible that will comfort Christians in their trials or encourage them in their obedience through reflection on the things that are to come. Perhaps it is too common (and unhelpful) to reduce these things, the study of which is called eschatology, to “that hard-to-understand stuff at the end of the Bible.” Rather, I would like to suggest that eschatology is not simply that with which the Bible ends; it is also that with which the Bible begins, and that knowing our eschatology is extremely comforting.

     Let us begin with Eve. Among the women we honor in the Bible, Eve is not considered often enough, either for the weight of her afflictions or for the means by which God comforts her. Eve’s story is one of the most broken stories in the Bible. She comes into the world in innocence. Lovely and loveable, she is formed to bless and please the man from whose side she was taken. Yet she is left physically and spiritually unprotected in the garden by her husband, who then blames her for his faults. She experiences the most violent rupture of human history — the fall. Having once basked in the light of innocence, she now withdraws into the darkness of sin, shame, and loneliness. Eve is the beginning of a long line of broken-hearted women.

     In the midst of this, God promises a climactic redemption. He promises that she will bear children, and that from her will come a son who will consummately destroy that dreaded, deceptive serpent (Gen. 3:15). This son will obey all that was disobeyed. This son will succeed where Eve’s husband failed, and will once and for all remove her earthly garments of shame and replace them with heavenly garments of righteousness (see v. 21 for the preview). Eve looks forward to a climactic event of rescue, redemption, and reconciliation. She then conceives children in hope. What went through her mind as she bore Cain in her womb and bore hope in her heart?

     Eve bears two sons, but neither is the son she was promised. In fact, one will kill the other. What woman could endure this? A failed husband, her own failures, and now in the dawning hours of hope, her older son murders the younger, and thereby prolongs her darkness. The enmity begins — two kingdoms, two cities, and the first visible death. Both in her lifetime, both from her womb.  Is it too much to call Eve the mother of the broken-hearted?

     What could possibly comfort her and reunite her with her younger son? What could reverse the curse upon her family? What could turn these long nights of sadness into an eternal day of gladness? And for Eve’s daughters and sons, what can truly comfort us when the dearest of things in this life are taken? When the sufferings of life seem to be more than we can endure? When this world, or our family, or perhaps even our spiritual family hurts us with wounds too deep for words?

     It is here that we must admit that trite clichés of good intentions barely comfort us at all. Some wounds are simply too deep for earthly consolation. We must, by faith, join Eve and the choir of the broken-hearted, who often sing their songs of praise through a veil of tears. We must learn, with Eve, to long for the coming Son who is better than Adam and Abel, and to rest in His word of promise. He has come and is yet coming again, and through His Spirit we are assured of our eternal consolation.

     But we must remember that even when He came into this world, it offered Him no bed of roses but rather a crown of thorns, and that we bear our crosses united to Him in a bond that cannot be broken. We must learn to find our truest comfort in the same place Christ did—in heaven.

     I do not mean to commend an ungodly stoicism, disinterest in this life, or even pessimism. But I have learned after pastoring people for twelve years that in this life, some things do not just “get better.” And people do not always just “get over it.” Wounds heal, but scars remain. Eve saw flowers and rainbows and even had other children, but she would never forget what she lost in this age or what she awaited in the age to come.

     As Paul so pastorally says to us, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Our cry, “How long, O Lord?” will indeed be answered on that climactic day that God has appointed for the eternal consolation of His sons and daughters. The Bible (from beginning to end) is fixed on the coming of our King and His kingdom.

     What could truly comfort Eve — and us? In a profound sense, the answer is eschatology. It is the consummate coming of Christ and His glorious kingdom, and the foretaste of that kingdom that we have now through His Word and Spirit. That is eschatology—and there is nothing more comforting than that.

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     Dr. Eric B. Watkins is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, Fla.

An Act Of Divine Healing

By Charles C. Ryrie

     For some reason mothers-in-law seem to be notoriously infamous. However, in the two instances in the Bible where they are mentioned, just the opposite is true. In the Old Testament the fragrance of Naomi’s character permeates the Book of  Ruth, while Peter’s mother-in-law was the subject of one of our Lord’s miracles ( Matt 8:14–16; Mark 1:28–30; Luke 4:38–39 ).

     The setting of this second incident was Peter’s house in Capernaum and the occasion was the first-century equivalent of Sunday dinner. But on that Sabbath day when the Lord and Peter returned from the synagogue (where He had cast out the demon) no sumptuous meal awaited them. Jewish custom made the Sabbath, not only a day of rest but also a day of joy, not the least reason for which was the festive meal. Christians are inclined to call to mind only the thirty-nine kinds of work forbidden on the Sabbath by the Mishna and thus to forget the fact that it was expected to be a day of delight (cf.  Isa 58:13 and  Prov 10:22, which were applied to the Sabbath; also cf. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah). Three meals of the choicest available food were prescribed for it along with regulations as to how that food could be kept warm, since no fire could be kindled on the Sabbath ( Exod 35:3; cf. Sabbath, VII, 2;  Luke 14:1, which was one of these Sabbath meals).

     Sickness had overtaken one member of that household, an illness which became the occasion for another of the Master’s miracles as well as an opportunity to learn from this mother-in-law and her experience

A Lesson about Sickness

     Unfortunately, the people of God are not exempt in this life from illness, and until we are free from the very presence of sin it shall be so. The Scriptures assign a number of reasons why people become sick. Sometimes, as in the case of Lazarus, sickness comes solely for the purpose of glorifying God ( John 11:4 ). God is glorified when His character is displayed, and certainly God was displayed in Christ’s raising of Lazarus from the dead. Difficult as it may be for us to understand, it is nevertheless true that there are times when the glory of God is best seen through the medium of sickness, suffering, and even death. Undoubtedly, one of the chief reasons why Christians cannot ascribe to God full sovereignty in the design and execution of His purpose is that we cannot understand the inclusion in His plan of things which to us seem out of place. But such things, including sickness, work for His glory ( Eph 1:11–12 ).

     On several occasions during the Lord’s earthly ministry He came upon cases of sickness which He healed in order that men might believe. Indeed, in the case of the man born blind ( John 9 ) the manifestation of the works of God (v.  3 ) eventuated in the conversion of that man (v.  38 ). In another instance, sickness was evidently allowed to sadden the home of the nobleman of Capernaum in order that the Lord might heal the afflicted son so that the whole household would believe in Him ( John 4:53 ). Thus we may conclude that sometimes sickness is permitted for the particular purpose of bringing men to Christ.

     Another reason for illness is the activity of demons. The gospel records abound with evidence that demons can inflict both mental ( Mark 5:4–5; Luke 9:37–42 ) and physical disorders ( Matt 9:33; 12:22; Luke 13:11, 16 ). Of course, not all illness is due to demon possession but some certainly is. A physician’s diagnosis in  Acts 5:16 clearly distinguishes between demon affliction and other illnesses.

     Although we realize that the ultimate reason for the existence of sickness is sin, nonetheless it is sometimes true that the experience of sickness is due to some specific sin in the life of a believer. A clear example of such illness is found in the inspired diagnosis of Paul concerning the physical difficulties which some members of the Corinthian church were experiencing. The reason, he declares, why some of them were weak and sickly was to be traced to their previous behavior at the Lord’s Supper. They had partaken of the sacred remembrance with definite unconfessed sin in their lives, and God had punished some of them with sickness.

     Not every illness, however, can be said to be primarily for the glory of God or the salvation of someone; nor can it be attributed to demon possession or persistent sin; one may become sick from overwork. Such was the experience of Epaphroditus who nearly died because he had worked so strenuously ( Phil 2:25–30 ). This killing work was not what usually makes most folks sick today — it was not that which advanced him up the business or social ladder; rather, it was various sorts of personal ministry to the Apostle Paul during his imprisonment. Is it Scriptural to be sick because of overwork? Yes, if the work is the work of Christ. It is interesting to note that although Paul had and used the gift of healing, such was not the means of recovery in this instance or in the case of Trophimus ( 2 Tim 4:20 ) or even in his own case ( 2 Cor 12:7–9 ).

     But none of these reasons for sickness seems to include the case of Peter’s mother-in-law. Her fever was chronic and severe. “Was taken” in  Luke 4:38 is an imperfect periphrastic which denotes a chronic state, and the word great is a Lukan medical term which is regularly used to distinguish severe illness (cf. A. T. Robertson, Luke the Historian, in the Light Research). The cure in this case seems to have been for the purpose that she could serve God. A seemingly similar purpose in the case of unbelievers occurs in  Acts 28 where God through Paul raised up the father of Publius as well as many others in the island of Melita in order that, out of grateful hearts, they might minister to the temporal needs of Paul and Luke. Though there doubtless was a spiritual ministry on the part of Paul, only the physical ministry is mentioned in the record, and the only response recorded on the part of the people was of material things. But in both these examples — Publius’ father and Peter’s mother-in-law—sickness is connected with service. In the case of a believer, we may surmise that the Lord might allow him to become sick in order that he might realize that his life and strength must come from God and that the purpose of God’s giving life and strength is that he might serve Him. This is the lesson Paul had to learn in all the circumstances of life ( Phil 4:11–13 ), and it is not unlikely that this is the lesson we are meant to learn from the sickness of Peter’s mother-in-law.

A Lesson about Selflessness

     The sick mother became the object of the second lesson while the teacher and example of the lesson is the Lord Jesus. It is the lesson of selflessness which is the very essence of Christianity. It is taught by the One who “made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant” ( Phil 2:7 ), and it is being taught to those (for Peter, Andrew, James, and John were present in the house that day,  Mark 1:29 ), who are not greater than their Lord. It is the lesson for all followers of Christ; it is the lesson of selflessness.

     The teaching method the Lord used on this occasion is a most effective one. It is teaching by actions. His actions that day show us that selflessness includes the idea of hard work. It had already been a busy day for the Lord before He arrived at Simon’s house. He had been to the synagogue service and taught those there gathered. He had entered into conflict with demons and cast them out of the possessed man in the synagogue. It would have been only right that He be allowed to rest at Peter’s house that afternoon, but there was a need there which He gladly met. In the evening when the day’s work might be thought to be done the whole city was gathered in front of Peter’s house, many of whom needed help from the miracle-working Master. So again the Lord ministered tirelessly to the multitude at the end of that busy day. What a lesson there is in this for ministers and servants of Christ who, impressed with their own importance, are always “saving themselves” for important activities by avoiding contact with people.

     Furthermore, our Lord’s actions show us that selflessness means a ready and eager willingness to serve. According to  Luke, request had to be made only one time to the Lord on behalf of Peter’s wife’s mother (“besought” in  Luke 4:38 is in the aorist tense). Then the response was immediate. This is one of the constant characteristics of our Lord’s life — the eager, willing response to the needs of others. Little wonder that  Matthew reports this day of such totally selfless ministry to others as the fulfillment of  Isaiah 53:4a Matt 8:17 ). Since  Isaiah 53:1–4a speaks of the life sufferings of Christ, our Lord’s bearing of sickness is not related to the realm of expiation but to the realm of His infinite compassion toward men. These are nonvicarious life sufferings which were prophesied by  Isaiah and fulfilled on this day of healing. Thus  Isaiah 53:4a “was fulfilled by Christ when He, moved by this boundless compassion, healed those who came before Him” (L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology (4 Volume Set)). Many interpreters do not find the solution to  Matthew’s quotation of  Isaiah’s prophecy in the distinction between the life sufferings of Christ and the expiatory sufferings of His death. Such ones usually believe that “the true relevancy of the prophecy is to be sought by regarding the miracles generally to have been, as we know so many of them were, lesser and typical outshewings of the great work of bearing the sin of the world, which He came to accomplish; just as diseases themselves, on which those miracles operated, are all so many testimonies to the existence, and types of the effect of sin” (Henry Alford, The Greek New Testament (Alford's Greek Testament). 4 Volumes in 2.). Surely such compassion stemming from infinite perfection is beyond human measurement. Yet, though our comprehension may be small, our imitation of the compassion of Christ ought to be great. The world says “get”; Christianity says “give.” Give continuously, and give eagerly.

A Lesson about Service

     As soon as our Lord healed Peter’s mother-in-law she arose and ministered to them. The cure was instantaneous, and the response in service immediate. So it should be on the part of all of those who have been healed spiritually by Christ. Forgiven sins should result in faithful service.

     Evidently Peter’s father-in-law was dead, and that is the reason why his mother-in-law made her home with Peter and his wife. There can be no doubt that this was his mother-in-law, for the Greek word is regularly used to designate such a relationship, and there is another common word for stepmother. We know from  1 Corinthians 9:5 that Peter’s wife accompanied Peter on his preaching missions. Clement of Alexandria says that Peter’s wife helped him in his ministry by ministering to the women (The Stromata, or Miscellanies (With Active Table of Contents)). Thus we presume that the mother-in-law was present in the home because her husband, not Peter’s wife, was dead. Her presence there surely was a blessing and help to the home, and her response to the healing touch of the Lord by serving teaches us several things about service in general and women’s ministry in particular.

     All of the evangelists use the same word to describe her ministering. It is the word from which we get the English word deacon. The verb means to execute the commands of another and evidently comes from two words which together mean to raise the dust by hastening. One who serves, then, is one who speedily does the bidding, of his master (cf. Walter Bauer, άποπλανέω - διεγείρω (Griechisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch Zu Den Schriften Des Nts Und der Übrigen Urchristlichen Literatur) (German Edition)). The use of this word in all its forms in connection with Christ in the gospels is very strange. A glance at a concordance will show that whenever ministry is spoken of as being rendered directly to the Lord Jesus, it is the ministry of angels or of women. After the temptation angels came and ministered to Him ( Matt 4:11; Mark 1:13 ). Every other use of the word in relation to the Lord is of the ministry of women to Him. Of no man is it recorded that he ministered to Jesus, but on two occasions it is recorded of Martha that she served Jesus; mention is made of a band of women who ministered to Him of their substance; and there is this occasion when Peter’s wife’s mother served the Lord ( Luke 10:40; John 12:2; Luke 8:3 ). Thus in the life of our Lord women had a very special place as ministers to Him in a sense in which no man was His minister.

     The exact nature of this service of women is seen in the miracle before us. It consisted in ministering to the physical needs of the group gathered in the house. This is the same kind of ministry Martha performed as well as the band of women who evidently provided money for the material needs of the band of disciples (cf. Josephus, Josephus. Jewish Antiquities Books XV - XVII; Volume VIII of IX.; Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke (Classic Reprint)). Peter’s mother-in-law doubtless helped with the preparation of the Sabbath meal in the home that day. Years ago Spurgeon wisely commented on this passage as follows: “But notice that what this good woman did was very appropriate. Peter’s wife’s mother did not get out of bed and go down the street and deliver an address to an assembled multitude. Women are best when they are quiet. I share the apostle Paul’s feelings when he bade women be silent in the assembly. Yet there is work for holy women, and we read of Peter’s wife’s mother that she arose and ministered to Christ. She did what she could and what she should. She arose and ministered to Him. Some people can do nothing that they are allowed to do but waste their energies in lamenting that they are not called on to do other people’s work. Blessed are they who do what they should do. It is better to be a good housewife, or nurse, or domestic servant, than to be a powerless preacher or a graceless talker. She did not arise and prepare a lecture, nor preach a sermon, but she arose and prepared a supper, and that was what she was fitted to do. Was she not a housewife? As a housewife let her serve the Lord” (C. H. Spurgeon, Sermons On Our Lord's Miracles Vol 1: (Uniform with "Sermons on Our Lord's Parables") Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle and New Park Street Chapel).

     It is not within the scope of this study to show that the remainder of the New Testament does not depart far from the picture of the ideal ministry of women in this miracle. Her service is primarily, if not exclusively, related to the home, and the exercise of that service is private, not public. This is not degradation but distinctiveness; it is not inferiority but exaltation in the sphere in which God created women. In the gospels the service of women to Christ specifically consisted in caring for His physical wants by providing hospitality, by giving of money, and in His death by the preparation of the spices for the body. Our Lord’s response to this was significant, for He allowed women to follow Him; He taught them; He honored them with the first announcement of the resurrection. But, equally clear is the fact that He limited their activity by not choosing one of them for the official work. The incarnation was in a Man. The Lord’s Supper was instituted in the presence of men only. The New Testament was written by men. Little weight is given by scholars to Harnack’s suggestion that  Hebrews was written by Priscilla (Harnack, “Probabilia uber die Adresse und den Verfasser des Hebraerbriefs,” Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1:16–41, 1900). Even less attention can be given to Benjamin W. Bacon’s conjecture that Revelation was written by one of the four daughters of Philip (“The Authoress of Revelation—A Conjecture,” Harvard Theological Review, 23:235–50, July, 1930). Yet the ministry of women is clearly defined in the New Testament and superbly illustrated by the actions of this mother-in-law on that Sabbath day. Thus the lesson for women is that their service is chiefly related to the home and that it often consists of ministering to physical needs. This is the true diaconate of women.

     These are the lessons of the miracle of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. And yet the lessons are but one lesson — the lesson of service. There seems to have been no other reason for the illness of this woman than that she might realize that her strength came from God and that with that strength she could serve Him. Further, she saw that all service for the Master should be like His — unceasing and eager even at the end of a long day which had already been filled with good deeds; and that such service of women is something peculiarly exalting to them when performed in accordance with the pattern which God Himself has revealed.

Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 105 | Charles C. Ryrie, Dr. Ryrie’s Articles     and Books

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 105

Tell of All His Wondrous Works

23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24 And the LORD made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25 He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.

26 He sent Moses, his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they did not rebel against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood
and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33 He struck down their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
young locusts without number,
35 which devoured all the vegetation in their land
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the first fruits of all their strength.

ESV Study Bible

Against the Law

By Mark Jones 12/01/2013

     There are few theological aberrations more difficult to define than antinomianism. Some simply look at the etymology of the word and conclude that antinomians are against (anti) God’s law (nomos). Others are a bit more specific, suggesting that antinomians are those who deny the third use of the law (the law as a guide for the Christian life; for example, Eph. 6:1) as normative for the Christian believer. Still others contend that we should distinguish between theoretical antinomianism — just described — and practical antinomianism.

     Practical antinomianism may take on two forms. The first group are those who claim to be Christians but openly disregard God’s law in their lives. The second group are preachers who claim that they affirm the need for the moral law in the Christian life, but their preaching betrays this affirmation because there are almost never any exhortations in their sermons.

     There are elements of truth to all of these claims. Nonetheless, antinomianism is best understood as a theological phenomenon that arose in the sixteenth century and found its classical expression in the following century, particularly in Puritan England.

     Recoiling against the perceived excesses of Puritan practical divinity, antinomian theologians shared a number of characteristics that distinguished them from their Reformed counterparts. In their minds, they were the true champions of free grace. They were the heroes who vigorously held to the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone (often by preaching that doctrine alone). And they were the preachers who were going to “proclaim liberty to the captives.” With such rhetoric, finding fault with the antinomians was always going to be difficult. But their opponents, perfectly orthodox Reformed theologians with international reputations such as John Owen and Samuel Rutherford, did not shy away from the controversy. They noted that the errors of the antinomians were many and varied, since one error inevitably leads to another.

     The English antinomians gave an excessive priority to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, to the point that it effectively eclipsed their doctrine of sanctification. The current idea held by some that sanctification is merely the art of getting used to one’s justification is very much antinomian, historically considered. Moreover, most antinomians held to a view that God sees no sin in the believer, which means believers’ sins can do them no harm. Consequently, our sin or obedience has no real effect on our relationship with God (see, however, John 14:21, 23). On this supposition, God cannot be more or less pleased or displeased with his children (see, however, 2 Sam. 11:27). Divine chastisement is totally foreign to antinomian thinking (see, however, Heb. 12:3–11).

     Antinomian theologians also interpreted the Scriptures in ways that had to stay faithful to their overall principles. Regarding Philippians 1:10 — “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” — they believed it to be accomplished in justification. However, in its context, this verse clearly refers to sanctification. Today, many understand Christ’s words in Matthew 5:20 (“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”) in a similar way. Yet, Christ is not here speaking of His own imputed righteousness. After all, the Pharisees did not actually keep God’s law; rather, they left the commandments and held “to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). Those described in Romans 8:4 surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:6; see Ps. 106:3) because their obedience is Spirit-wrought (Rom. 8:13) and far more extensive.

     A robust doctrine of union with Christ provides the best antidote to antinomianism. Both justification and sanctification are blessings given to all Christians (1 Cor. 1:30). To sever one blessing from the other is, to use John Calvin’s words, to sever Christ. The Christian who is justified must necessarily be sanctified because of union with Christ. But these applied benefits must never eclipse the person of Christ. Christ’s person is a greater gift to His people than His benefits. Union with Christ helps believers to keep this salient fact in mind. We do not merely receive from Christ, but, more importantly, we belong to Him. Our identity is “in Him,” so much so that our understanding of the Christian life has strong corollaries with Christ’s own life of faith and obedience to the Father.

     In John 15, Christ brings home to his disciples the reality of their union with Him. In that same context (v. 10) He informs them that if they keep his commandments, they will abide in His love. But He also, rather remarkably, claims that He remained in his Father’s love because He kept his Father’s commandments. In speaking this way, Christ desires that His joy should be in His disciples so that their joy may be full (v. 11). Because the antinomians did not view the law as a true instrument of sanctification, to them the preaching of the law could only condemn believers. However, while the power to obey the law does not come from us, God nevertheless uses the law as a means for sanctifying the church.

     Thus, the solution to antinomianism must always be found in the person of Christ who provides, commands, and promises. After all, He is the one who said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), just before promising to provide them with the Holy Spirit.

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     Rev. Dr. Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden Universiteit) has been the Minister at Faith Vancouver Church (PCA) since 2007. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He lectures at various seminaries around the world and is currently writing a book titled, "God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God" (Crossway, 2017) and "Faith, Hope, and Love" (Crossway, 2017).

     Mark Jones Books:

Knowing Christ
A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life
Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?
God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God
Faith. Hope. Love.: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace
A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin (Profiles in Reformed Spirituality)
A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christology by Mark Jones (20-May-2012) Paperback
Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-century British Puritanism
The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen's Theology (Ashgate Research Companions)
Why Heaven Kissed Earth: The Christology of the Puritan Reformed Orthodox Theologian, Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) (Reformed Historical Theology)

The Continual Burnt Offering (1 Corinthians 1:10)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

September 23
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.    ESV

     The security and growth of the churches of God depend upon their obedience to His Word. The people of these early assemblies were very similar to those found in practically the same circumstances today. In themselves they were weak and unreliable. But their confidence was in the living God. In His Word He has given all necessary instruction for the confirmation and development of His disciples, both as individuals and in their church relationships. It is all-important to realize that we have in the Scriptures, especially in the book of the Acts and in the Epistles of Paul, who deals particularly with truths regarding the privileges and responsibilities of the church, all that is needed to guide us aright.

‘Mid scenes of confusion and creature-complaints,
How sweet to the soul is communion with saints;
To find at the banquet of mercy there’s room,
To feel in communion a foretaste of home.
Sweet bonds, that unite all the children of peace!
And thrice-blessed Saviour, whose love cannot cease!
Tho’ oft amid trials and dangers we roam,
With Thine we’re united, and hasting toward home.
--- D. Denham

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • Darrell Bock
  • Mark L. Bailey
  • Andy McQuitty

Emerging Adulthood and Church |
Dallas Theological Seminary


On the Way to the Day of Christ |
Dallas Theological Seminary


Blessed are the Peacemakers |
Dallas Theological Seminary


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Understanding Satan’s role (3)
     (Sept 23)    Bob Gass

     ‘The trouble the LORD had brought on him.’

(Job 42:11) Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. ESV

     Satan’s attack can strengthen your faith. The devil dared to question the stability of Job’s faith, so God gave him permission to test Job. ‘The LORD said to Satan, “All right then. Everything Job has is in your power, but you must not touch Job himself”’ (Job 1:12 NCV). Notice, God set both the permission and the parameters of the struggle. Job passes the test and Satan complains that Job would have fallen had he been forced to face pain. Again, God gives permission, and again He sets the parameters: ‘Job is in your power, but you may not take his life’ (Job 2:6 NCV). Though the pain and the questions are abundant, in the end Job’s faith and health are greater than ever. Again, we may not understand the reason for the test, but we know its source. Read this verse from the last chapter of the book of Job. The family of Job ‘comforted him and made him feel better about the trouble the LORD had brought on him’. Satan has no power except that which God gives him. Even when Satan appears to win, he loses. Martin Luther was right on target when he described the devil as God’s tool, a hoe He uses to care for His garden. The hoe never cuts what the Gardener intends to save, and never saves what the Gardener intends to weed. Surely a part of Satan’s punishment is the frustration he feels in unwillingly serving as a tool to create a garden for God. So be encouraged today: Satan’s attack will strengthen your faith, refine it, and take it to greater heights.

Is 41-42
Philip 2

UCB The Word For Today
American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Imagine writing a book which would sell a million copies a year for over one hundred years! Well, one man did. His name was William Holmes McGuffey, born this day, September 23, 1800. Considered the “Schoolmaster of the Nation,” McGuffey’s Readers were the mainstay of America’s public school system from 1836 till the 1920’s. McGuffey was the president of Ohio University and formed the first teachers’ association in that part of the nation. In his Fifth Eclectic Reader, William McGuffey wrote: “Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man.”

American Minute
The Soul of Prayer
     by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)

     In God’s eyes the great object of prayer is the opening or restoring of free communion with Himself in a kingdom of Christ, a life communion which may even, amid our duty and service, become as unconscious as the beating of our heart. In this sense every true prayer brings its answer with it; and that not “reflexly” only, in our pacification of soul, but objectively in our obtaining a deeper and closer place in God and His purpose. If prayer is God’s great gift, it is one inseparable from the giver; who, after all, is His own great gift, since revelation is His Self-donation. He is actively with us, therefore, as we pray, and we exert His will in praying. And, on the other hand, prayer makes us to realize how far from God we were, i.e. it makes us realize our worst trouble and repair it. The outer need kindles the sense of the inner, and we find that the complete answer to prayer is the Answerer, and the hungry soul comes to itself in the fullness of Christ.

     Prayer is the highest use to which speech can be put. It is the highest meaning that can be put into words. Indeed, it breaks through language and escapes into action. We could never be told of what passed in Christ’s mountain midnights. Words fail us in prayer oftener than anywhere else; and the Spirit must come in aid of our infirmity, set out our case to God, and give to us an unspoken freedom in prayer, the possession of our central soul, the reality of our inmost personality in organic contact with His. We are taken up from human speech to the region of the divine Word, where Word is deed. We are integrated into the divine consciousness, and into the dual soliloquy of Father and Son, which is the divine give and take that upholds the world. We discover how poor a use of words it is to work them into argument and pursue their dialectic consequences. There is a deeper movement of speech than that, and a more inward mystery, wherein the Word does not spread out to wisdom, nor broods in dream, but gathers to power and condenses to action. The Word becomes Flesh, Soul, Life, the active conquering kingdom of God. Prayer, as it is spoken, follows the principle of the Incarnation with its twofold movement, down and up.2 It is spirit not in expression only, but in deed and victory. It is speech become not only movement, but moral action and achievement; it is word become work; as the Word from being Spirit became flesh, as Christ from prophet became priest, and then Holy Spirit. It is the principle of the Incarnation, only with the descending movement reversed. “Ye are gods.” God became man in His Son’s outgoing that man might become divine; and prayer is in the train of the Son’s return to the Father, a function of the Ascension and Exaltation, in which (if we may not say man becomes God) we are made partakers of the divine nature, not ontologically, but practically, experimentally. It is the true response, and tribute, and trophy to Christ’s humiliation. Man rises to be a co-worker with God in the highest sense. For it is only action, it is not by dream or rapture, far less in essence, that we enter communion with an active being—above all with the eternal Act of God in Christ that upholds the world. As such communion prayer is no mere rapport, no mere contact. It is the central act of the soul, organic with Christ’s; it is that which brings it into tune with the whole universe as God’s act, and answers the beating of its central heart. It is a part and function of the creative, preservative, and consummatory energy of the world.

     What is true religion? It is not the religion which contains most truth in the theological sense of the word. It is not the religion most truly thought out, not that which most closely fits with thought. It is religion which comes to itself most powerfully in prayer. It is the religion in which the soul becomes very sure of God and itself in prayer. Prayer contains the very heart and height of truth, but especially in the Christian sense of truth—reality and action. In prayer the inmost truth of our personal being locks with the inmost reality of things, its energy finds a living Person acting as their unity and life, and we escape the illusions of sense, self, and the world. Prayer, indeed, is the great means for appropriating, out of the amalgam of illusion which means so much for our education, the pure gold of God as He wills, the Spirit as He works, and things as they are. It is the great school both of proficiency and of veracity of soul. (How few court and attain proficiency of soul!) It may often cast us down, for we are reduced by this contact to our true dimensions—but to our great peace.

     Prayer, true prayer, does not allow us to deceive ourselves. It relaxes the tension of our self-inflation. It produces a clearness of spiritual vision. Searching with a judgment that begins at the house of God, it ceases not to explore with His light our own soul. If the Lord is our health He may need to act on many men, or many moods, as a lowering medicine. At His coming our self-confidence is shaken. Our robust confidence, even in grace, is destroyed. The pillars of our house tremble, as if they were ivy-covered in a searching wind. Our lusty faith is refined, by what may be a painful process, into a subtler and more penetrating kind; and its outward effect is for the time impaired, though in the end it is increased. The effect of the prayer which admits God into the recesses of the soul is to destroy that spiritual density, not to say stupidity, which made our religion cheery or vigorous because it knew no better, and which was the condition of getting many obvious things done, and producing palpable effect on the order of the day. There are fervent prayers which, by making people feel good, may do no more than foster the delusion that natural vigour or robust religion, when flushed enough, can do the work of the kingdom of God. There is a certain egoist self-confidence which is increased by the more elementary forms of religion, which upholds us in much of our contact with men, and which even secures us an influence with them. But the influence is one of impression rather than permeation, it overbears rather than converts, and it inflames rather than inspires. This is a force which true and close prayer is very apt to undermine, because it saps our self-deception and its Pharisaism. The confidence was due to a lack of spiritual insight which serious prayer plentifully repairs. So by prayer we acquire our true selves. If my prayer is not answered, I am. If my petition is not fulfilled, my person, my soul, is; as the artist comes to himself and his happiness in the exercise of the talent he was made for, in spite of the delay and difficulty of turning his work to money. If the genius is happy who gets scope, the soul is blessed that truly comes to itself in prayer.

--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).

The Soul of Prayer
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin
and desire nothing but God,
and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen,
they alone will shake the gates of Hell
and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.
--- from a letter in Works of John Wesley
Works of John Wesley

The sufficiency of the doctrine of Christ, to make men wise unto salvation. Paul desired to know nothing else; and, indeed, nothing else is of absolute necessity to be known. A little of this knowledge, if saving and effectual upon thy heart, will do thy soul more service, than all the vain speculation and profound parts that others so much glory in. Poor Christian, be not dejected, because thou sees thyself out-stript and excelled by so many in other parts of knowledge; if thou know Jesus Christ, thou knowest enough to comfort and save thy soul. Many learned philosophers are now in hell, and many illiterate Christians in heaven.
--- John Flavel
Works of John Flavel (6 Vol. Set)

As you confront your problems rather than avoid them, your faith is nurtured and stretched. Your confidence grows; your fears subside.
--- Charles Stanley
Enter His Gates: A Daily Devotional (Walker Large Print Books)

All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
--- Arthur Schopehauer

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     4. After this these Jews, without keeping any decorum, grew insolent upon their good fortune, and jested upon the Romans for being deluded by the trick they had put upon them, and making a noise with beating their shields, leaped for gladness, and made joyful exclamations; while these soldiers were received with threatenings by their officers, and with indignation by Caesar himself, [who spake to them thus]: These Jews, who are only conducted by their madness, do every thing with care and circumspection; they contrive stratagems, and lay ambushes, and fortune gives success to their stratagems, because they are obedient, and preserve their goodwill and fidelity to one another; while the Romans, to whom fortune uses to be ever subservient, by reason of their good order, and ready submission to their commanders, have now had ill success by their contrary behavior, and by not being able to restrain their hands from action, they have been caught; and that which is the most to their reproach, they have gone on without their commanders, in the very presence of Caesar. "Truly," says Titus, "the laws of war cannot but groan heavily, as will my father also himself, when he shall be informed of this wound that hath been given us, since he who is grown old in wars did never make so great a mistake. Our laws of war do also ever inflict capital punishment on those that in the least break into good order, while at this time they have seen an entire army run into disorder. However, those that have been so insolent shall be made immediately sensible, that even they who conquer among the Romans without orders for fighting are to be under disgrace." When Titus had enlarged upon this matter before the commanders, it appeared evident that he would execute the law against all those that were concerned; so these soldiers' minds sunk down in despair, as expecting to be put to death, and that justly and quickly. However, the other legions came round about Titus, and entreated his favor to these their fellow soldiers, and made supplication to him, that he would pardon the rashness of a few, on account of the better obedience of all the rest; and promised for them that they should make amends for their present fault, by their more virtuous behavior for the time to come.

     5. So Caesar complied with their desires, and with what prudence dictated to him also; for he esteemed it fit to punish single persons by real executions, but that the punishment of great multitudes should proceed no further than reproofs; so he was reconciled to the soldiers, but gave them a special charge to act more wisely for the future; and he considered with himself how he might be even with the Jews for their stratagem. And now when the space between the Romans and the wall had been leveled, which was done in four days, and as he was desirous to bring the baggage of the army, with the rest of the multitude that followed him, safely to the camp, he set the strongest part of his army over against that wall which lay on the north quarter of the city, and over against the western part of it, and made his army seven deep, with the foot-men placed before them, and the horsemen behind them, each of the last in three ranks, whilst the archers stood in the midst in seven ranks. And now as the Jews were prohibited, by so great a body of men, from making sallies upon the Romans, both the beasts that bare the burdens, and belonged to the three legions, and the rest of the multitude, marched on without any fear. But as for Titus himself, he was but about two furlongs distant from the wall, at that part of it where was the corner 10 and over against that tower which was called Psephinus, at which tower the compass of the wall belonging to the north bended, and extended itself over against the west; but the other part of the army fortified itself at the tower called Hippicus, and was distant, in like manner, by two furlongs from the city. However, the tenth legion continued in its own place, upon the Mount of Olives.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 25:20
     by D.H. Stern

20     Like removing clothes on a chilly day
          or like vinegar on soda
     is someone who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The missionary’s goal

     Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. ---
Luke 18:31.

     In the natural life our ambitions alter as we develop; in the Christian life the goal is given at the beginning, the beginning and the end are the same, viz., Our Lord Himself. We start with Christ and we end with Him—“until we all attain to the stature of the manhood of Christ Jesus,” not to our idea of what the Christian life should be. The aim of the missionary is to do God’s will, not to be useful, not to win the heathen; he is useful and he does win the heathen, but that is not his aim. His aim is to do the will of his Lord.

     In Our Lord’s life Jerusalem was the place where He reached the climax of His Father’s will upon the Cross, and unless we go with Jesus there, we shall have no companionship with Him. Nothing ever discouraged Our Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He never hurried through certain villages where He was persecuted, or lingered in others where He was blessed. Neither gratitude nor ingratitude turned Our Lord one hair’s breadth away from His purpose to go up to Jerusalem.

     “The disciple is not above his Master.” The same things will happen to us on our way to our Jerusalem. There will be the works of God manifested through us, people will get blessed, and one or two will show gratitude and the rest will show gross ingratitude, but nothing must deflect us from going up to our Jerusalem.

     “There they crucified Him.” That is what happened when Our Lord reached Jerusalem, and that happening is the gateway to our salvation. The saints do not end in crucifixion: by the Lord’s grace they end in glory. In the meantime our watchword is—I, too, go up to Jerusalem.

My Utmost for His Highest
(Not That He Brought Flowers)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

Not that he brought flowers
  Except for the eyes' blue,
  Perishable ones, or that his hands
  Famed for kindness were put then
  To such usage; but rather that, going
  Through flowers later, she yet could feel
  These he spared perhaps for my sake.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Climax of Hebrew literary art
     The Teacher's Commentary

     To the Jews, Isaiah was the greatest of the prophets. The commentator Karl Delitzsch called Isaiah the “universal prophet.”

     Probably no other Old Testament document has been more deeply studied than the Book of Isaiah. Certainly none has had more books and articles written about it. The New Testament alludes to it over 250 times and quotes Isaiah specifically at least 50 times!

     There are several reasons for this fascination with Isaiah. As literature, Isaiah has been called the “climax of Hebrew literary art.” In content, it deals in a sweeping way with the great themes of the Old Testament. Judgment and hope, sin and redemption, find clear expression here. Christians have been fascinated by the picture of Jesus the Messiah drawn by this man who wrote so many centuries before Christ’s birth. The picture of the suffering Messiah in
Isaiah 53 has been critical in our understanding of Jesus’ Calvary death.

     Isaiah has also been a source of controversy. The book is divided into two distinct halves, set apart by a historical interlude. The first half of Isaiah announces judgment; the second half seems to assume the judgment has passed and that hope has come. Were these two sections of Isaiah written by the same person? Or was a “Second Isaiah” added later on? Conservatives have argued persuasively that the whole book was written by Isaiah the son of Amoz, whose ministry extended over some 60 years from 739 to about 681 b.c.

     This was a critical period of Old Testament history. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was overwhelmed by Assyria. Judah was threatened as well. What was God’s message to a nation and people threatened by a Gentile world power? How were His people (and how are we) to live in the face of the powers of the world around them?

But the primary reason for reading Isaiah is to see the Lord.

The Teacher's Commentary
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     Richard loved being president of his synagogue. By all accounts, he did a pretty good job. In his first year he dealt with a major leak in the roof, and in his second year, the synagogue recorded a small surplus. He ran things efficiently, like a business, but he showed sensitivity and compassion to congregants who were having financial difficulties. He had an excellent relationship with the rabbi and cantor. Richard especially loved the trappings of the office—sitting on the bimah next to the rabbi, making announcements, having his name at the top of the stationary, running board meetings, and wielding the gavel.

     The trouble began when Richard left office. If it had been up to him, he would have stayed on as president-for-life. But the bylaws restricted the president to a two-year term. On the first Saturday after he stepped down, Richard walked into the sanctuary and, as if by habit, began to go up to the bimah. He caught himself on the third step and sheepishly walked down and found a seat. He turned red as he noticed a few congregants chuckling. Later, over wine and cake, Richard criticized the new president’s style of making announcements and pointed out the four mistakes and gaffes his successor had made. At the next month’s board meeting, Richard twice raised his hand and commented, rather angrily, “That’s not how we did it when I was president.” He made a number of phone calls to board members complaining about the direction that the synagogue was now taking.

     One night after a meeting, the rabbi invited Richard into his office for a chat. “You’ve got to be more supportive of the new administration, Dick. And if you can’t do that, then at least you’ve got to try not to be so critical. You’re starting to get a reputation as an angry, bitter man.”

     “Rabbi, it’s so difficult for me. This place has been my life for the past two years. I was in this building every single day, without fail. Meetings three nights a week, and some of them into the wee hours. Phone calls, day and night, at work and at home. I didn’t mind … I loved it! I came to feel like the synagogue was my baby. I can’t just sit back and watch other people do what I did, especially when I feel that they’re undoing some of what I worked so hard to accomplish. And to be honest, Rabbi, there’s a big void in my life. I don’t know what to do with myself. I miss the action, I miss the tumult, and to tell you the truth, I miss the koved, the honor that came with the job.”

     “Richard, I hear how hard all this is for you. Let me offer some thoughts … First, do you remember when you took office, Murray didn’t come to meetings for three or four months? People thought that he was glad to be rid of the burdens of being president. But he told me that the real reason was that it was just too difficult to sit through meetings run by someone else, and he wanted to give you the freedom to find your own way without him breathing down your neck.

     “Second, you still have a critical role to play in our synagogue. Not as angry critic, but as elder statesman. Our new president could definitely benefit from your experience and counsel. But do it privately, behind the scenes, and do it as an older brother, not as a judgmental parent.

     “And third, you’ve got to fill the void in your life. Maybe in another capacity in the synagogue—the men’s club has been moribund for years now, and the youth committee is without a chairperson. Or maybe even in another organization. You’ve got so much to offer, Richard. Standing up to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites through the desert were not the hardest things Moses ever did. The Midrash tells us that it was stepping aside for Joshua. Let Moses be your role model. You were our Moses when the roof left a Red Sea of water in the social hall; you can be our Moses now as well.”


     Bob was so excited when he was elected president of his synagogue. He had devoted many years to the congregation, working his way up from school board member to education vice president to executive vice president. By all accounts, he had done well in all his undertakings. Bob had an excellent relationship with the rabbi and cantor, and he was well liked by the other officers. When it came a time to choose a successor to Richard, Bob was the unanimous choice of the nominating committee.

     The trouble began when Richard left office. It was a tradition for the president to sit next to the rabbi at services on Shabbat Mornings. On the first Saturday after being installed, Bob arrived for services half an hour early; he was so eager to sit in the place of honor next to the rabbi. While waiting for the service to begin, Bob greeted the worshipers and shook hands with well wishers. A few minutes before the service was to begin, Bob excused himself and walked toward the bimah. He watched with amazement as Richard, the former president, walked into the sanctuary and began to go up to the bimah to the “seat of honor.” Bob felt uncomfortable, especially when a few congregants near him laughed at Richard’s gaffe.

     Later, during the Kiddush, Bob overheard Richard criticizing him for the way he made announcements. The tension in the room was palpable. Although Bob had come to services in a happy and upbeat mood, he left feeling hurt and dejected. During the next weeks, Bob worked hard on the new programs that he had envisioned to make the synagogue more personal and user-friendly. However, at the next board meeting, Richard twice criticized Bob for these innovations, saying, “That’s not how we did it when I was president.”

     Bob had just about had it when the rabbi asked to see him in his office. “Bob, I’ve seen the frustration on your face. I know that the tension with Richard has made it hard for you.” Bob admitted how difficult it had been for him, adding, “Rabbi, I came in with such enthusiasm and vision, but Richard has thwarted me at every step. In fact, I told my wife last night that after two months on the job, I’m thinking of resigning.”

     “Bob, I understand what you’re feeling,” the rabbi told him. “It’s hard to follow someone else, especially someone who won’t step down. The Midrash has a beautiful maxim that describes what has happened to Richard: ‘It is easy to go up to the stage but difficult to go down.’ I know, because it happened to me. Remember when I moved here from my previous congregation? Well, people from there still called me for advice. They wanted me to officiate at their weddings and funerals. And they had lots of stories about how the new rabbi was wrecking things. At first, I got sucked in. I drove back there to help them. I listened to their stories. In some way, it even made me feel better, hearing about how my successor was failing. Feeling so wanted and needed stroked my ego. Then, after a few months, my wife saw what was going on, and she said to me, in essence, ‘Don’t you think what you’re doing is unfair?’ She was right, and I started to back off.

     “Richard is a good man. He wants to be supportive. It’s just really hard for him right now. In fact, Richard could be a wonderful ally of yours. He has the best interest of the synagogue at heart, and he has a lot of talents—and connections. Maybe you can turn to him, not as your critic, but as your ‘big brother.’ Ask him for advice. Bring him back into the process. He’s probably feeling pretty left out right now. And maybe you can find a role for him so that he can continue to shine. In two years, it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the synagogue. If you ask Richard to be general chairman of the anniversary celebration, you’ll be giving him a central role for the next two years, and you’ll be keeping him out of your hair. He can help assure your success while shoring up his own legacy.

     “And most of all, be patient. The Midrash doesn’t say that it’s impossible to go down from the stage, only that it’s difficult to go down. Richard will get the hang of it; it’ll just take some time, just as it took me some time, just as it takes most people some time. And remember this two years from now, after your successful presidency, so that you can try to go down from the stage with ease and grace.”

     I am reminded of John the Baptist, who said, I must decrease and he must increase and what did Jesus say about John the baptist?.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 23

     How great is God—beyond our understanding!
--- Job 36:26.

     I am tired of the known and the knowable, tired of saying this star is fifty millions of miles in circumference, and yonder planet is five million times larger than the earth. (Preaching Through the Bible) It is mere gossip in polysyllables, getting importance by hugeness.

     It is in this manner that people want to make God pronounceable in words! Failing this, they suppose they have destroyed him by saying he is Unknowable and Unknown.

     Human soul, if you would truly see—see the boundless, see the possible, see God—go into the dark when and where the darkness is thickest. The light is vulgar in some uses. It shows the mean and vexing detail of space and life with too gross a palpableness, and it frets the sensitivity of the eyes. I must find the healing darkness.

     Deus absconditus. God hides himself, most often in the light; he touches the soul in the gloom and vastness of night, and the soul, being true in its intent and wish, answers the touch without a shudder or a blush. It is even so that God comes to me.

     God does not come through human argument, a flash of human wit, a sudden and audacious answer to an infinite enigma. His path is through the pathless darkness—without a footprint to show where he stepped; through the forest of the night he comes, and when he comes the brightness is all within!

     My God—unknown and unknowable—cannot be chained as a prisoner of logic or delivered into the custody of a theological proposition. Shame be the portion of those who have given him a setting within the points of the compass, who have robed him in cloth of their own weaving and surnamed him at the bidding of their cold and narrow fancy!

     For myself, I know that I cannot know him, that I have a joy wider than knowledge, a conception that domes itself above my best thinking, as the sky domes itself in infinite pomp and luster above the earth whose beauty it creates.

     God? God! God! Best defined when undefined; a fire that may not be touched; a life too great for shape of image; a love for which there is no equal name. Who is he? God. What is he? God. Of whom begotten? God. He is at once the question and the answer, the self-balance, the All.
--- Joseph Parker

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Fulton Street Revival

     The mood of America was grim during the mid-1850s. The country was teetering on the brink of civil war, torn by angry voices and impassioned opinions. A depression had halted railroad construction and factory output. Banks were failing; unemployment soared. Spiritual lethargy permeated the land.

     In New York City Jeremiah C. Lanphier, a layman, accepted the call of the North Reformed Dutch Church to a full-time program of evangelism. He visited door-to-door, placed posters, and prayed. But the work languished and Lanphier grew discouraged.

     As autumn fell over the city, Lanphier decided to try noontime prayer meetings, thinking that businessmen might attend during their lunch hours. He announced the first one for September 23, 1857, at the Old Dutch Church on Fulton Street. When the hour came, Lanphier found himself alone. He sat and waited. Finally, one man showed up, then a few others.

     But the next week, 20 came. The third week, 40. Someone suggested the meetings occur daily, and within months the building was overflowing. The revival spread to other cities. Offices and stores closed for prayer at noon. Newspapers spread the story, even telegraph companies set aside certain hours during which businessmen could wire one another with news of the revival.

     In all these cities, prayer services began at noon and ended at one. People could come and go as they pleased. The service opened with a hymn, followed by the sharing of testimonies and prayer requests. A time limit of five minutes per speaker was enforced by a small bell, when anyone exceeded the limit. Virtually no great preachers or famous Christians were used. It was primarily a lay movement, led by the gentle moving of God’s Spirit.

     The revival—sometimes called “The Third Great Awakening”—lasted nearly two years, and between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were said to have been converted. Out of it came the largest outlay of money for philanthropic and Christian causes America had yet experienced.

  You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be in need.
  You let me rest in fields of green grass.
  You lead me to streams of peaceful water,
  And you refresh my life.
  Psalm 23:1-3

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 23

     "Accepted in the beloved." --- Ephesians 1:6.

     What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God, but the term “acceptance” in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine complacence, nay, even of divine delight. How marvellous that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love! But it is only “in the beloved.” Some Christians seem to be accepted in their own experience, at least, that is their apprehension. When their spirit is lively, and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly-minded, so drawn above the earth! But when their souls cleave to the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted. If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father’s sight, but that they stand accepted in One who never alters, in One who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, how much happier they would be, and how much more they would honour the Saviour! Rejoice then, believer, in this: thou art accepted “in the beloved.” Thou lookest within, and thou sayest, “There is nothing acceptable here!” But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy sins trouble thee; but God has cast thy sins behind his back, and thou art accepted in the Righteous One. Thou hast to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, but thou art already accepted in him who has overcome the powers of evil. The devil tempts thee; be of good cheer, he cannot destroy thee, for thou art accepted in him who has broken Satan’s head. Know by full assurance thy glorious standing. Even glorified souls are not more accepted than thou art. They are only accepted in heaven “in the beloved,” and thou art even now accepted in Christ after the same manner.

          Evening - September 23

     “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe.” --- Mark 9:23.

     A certain man had a demoniac son, who was afflicted with a dumb spirit. The father, having seen the futility of the endeavours of the disciples to heal his child, had little or no faith in Christ, and therefore, when he was bidden to bring his son to him, he said to Jesus, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Now there was an “if” in the question, but the poor trembling father had put the “if” in the wrong place: Jesus Christ, therefore, without commanding him to retract the “if,” kindly puts it in its legitimate position. “Nay, verily,” he seemed to say, “there should be no ‘if’ about my power, nor concerning my willingness, the ‘if’ lies somewhere else.” “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” The man’s trust was strengthened, he offered a humble prayer for an increase of faith, and instantly Jesus spoke the word, and the devil was cast out, with an injunction never to return. There is a lesson here which we need to learn. We, like this man, often see that there is an “if” somewhere, but we are perpetually blundering by putting it in the wrong place. “If” Jesus can help me—“if” he can give me grace to overcome temptation—“if” he can give me pardon—“if” he can make me successful? Nay, “if” you can believe, he both can and will. You have misplaced your “if.” If you can confidently trust, even as all things are possible to Christ, so shall all things be possible to you. Faith standeth in God’s power, and is robed in God’s majesty; it weareth the royal apparel, and rideth on the King’s horse, for it is the grace which the King delighteth to honour. Girding itself with the glorious might of the all-working Spirit, it becomes, in the omnipotence of God, mighty to do, to dare, and to suffer. All things, without limit, are possible to him that believeth. My soul, canst thou believe thy Lord to-night?

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 23

          SUN OF MY SOUL

     John Keble, 1792–1866

     For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You. (Psalm 84:11, 12)

     Jesus taught that we can learn much from the lilies of the field. How do they grow? By struggling and seeking to display their beauty? No, they simply open themselves to the existing sun, and in their sun-centeredness, they grow and become objects of beauty for all to enjoy. Indeed the sun is one of the most important factors in nature’s growth.

     We too need sun for our souls—the warmth of God’s love and presence in our lives. We were created for this in order to be complete persons. It was St. Augustine who realized this truth centuries ago: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

     John Keble, a professor of poetry at Oxford University for 10 years and later an Anglican minister of the humble parish church in the village of Hursley, wrote this poem in 1820. Seven years later he published a collection of poems titled The Christian Year with all of the poems following the church calendar year. “Sun of My Soul” was one of the poems from that collection. The book was extremely successful, going through 109 editions before John Keble’s death in 1866.

     The poem was originally named “Evening” and was based on the account in Luke 24:29, where Christ went in to dine with the two Emmaus disciples following His resurrection.

     This prayer for the constant and unobscured sense of Christ’s unwavering presence and blessing, whether in life or death, and finally the full enjoyment of God’s love in “heav’n above,” is still a worthy goal for each believer.

     Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear, it is not night if Thou be near; O may no earth-born cloud arise to hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes!
     When the soft dews of kindly sleep my weary eyelids gently steep, be my last thought; how sweet to rest forever on my Savior’s breast!
     Abide with me from morn till eve, for without thee I cannot live; abide with me when night is nigh, for without Thee I dare not die.
     Be near to bless me when I wake, ere thru the world my way I take; abide with me till in Thy love I lose myself in heav’n above.

     For Today: Psalm 4:6–8; Luke 1:77–79; 24:29; 2 Corinthians 4:4

     Pray with John Keble that “no earth-born cloud” will obscure a sense of Christ’s presence and blessing in your life. Carry this musical message to help ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     6. The world could not be ordered and governed but by some Principle or Being which were immutable. Principles are always more fixed and stable than things which proceed from those principles; and this is true both in morals and naturals. Principles in conscience, whereby men are governed, remain firmly engraven in their minds. The root lies firmly in the earth, while branches are shaken with the wind. The heavens, the cause of generation, are more firm and stable than those things which are wrought by their influence. All things in the world are moved by some power and virtue which is stable; and unless it were so, no order would be observed in motion, no motion could be regularly continued. He could not be a full satisfaction to the infinite desire of the souls of his people. Nothing can truly satisfy the soul of man but rest; and nothing can give it rest but that which is perfect and immutably perfect; for else it would be subject to those agitations and variations which the being it depends upon is subject to. The principle of all things must be immutable, which is described by some by a unity, the principle of number, wherein there is a resemblance of God’s unchangeableness. A unit is not variable; it continues in its own nature immutably a unit. It never varies from itself; it cannot be changed from itself; but is, as it were, so omnipotent towards others, that it changes all numbers. If you add any number, it is the beginning of that number, but the unit is not increased by it; a new number ariseth from that addition, but the unit still remains the same, and adds value to other figures, but receives none from them.   Really interesting insight.)

     III. The third thing to speak to is, that immutability is proper to God, and incommunicable to any creature. Mutability is natural to every creature as a creature, and immutability is the sole perfection of God. He only is infinite wisdom, able to foreknow future events; he only is infinitely powerful, able to call forth all means to effect; so that wanting neither wisdom to contrive, nor strength to execute, he cannot alter his counsel. None being above him, nothing in him contrary to him, and being defective in no blessedness and perfection, he cannot vary in his essence and nature. Had not immutability as well as eternity been a property solely pertaining to the Divine nature, as well as creative power and eternal duration, the apostle’s argument to prove Christ to be God from this perpetual sameness, had come short of any convincing strength. These words of the text he applies to Christ (Heb. 1:10–12): “They shall be changed, but thou art the same.” There had been no strength in the reason, if immutability by nature did belong to any creature. The changeableness of all creatures is evident:

     1. Of corporeal creatures it is evident to sense. All plants and animals, as they have their duration bounded in certain limits; so while they do exist, they proceed from their rise to their fall. They pass through many sensible alterations, from one degree of growth to another, from buds to blossoms, from blossoms to flowers and fruits. They come to their pitch that nature had set them, and return back to the state from whence they sprung; there is not a day but they make some acquisition, or suffer some loss. They die and spring up every day; nothing in them more certain than their inconstancy: “The creature is subject to vanity” (Rom. 8:20). The heavenly bodies are changing their place; the sun every day is running his race, and stays not in the same point; and though they are not changed in their essence, yet they are in their place. Some, indeed, say there is a continual generation of light in the sun, as there is a loss of light by the casting out its beams, as in a fountain there is a flowing out of the streams, and a continual generation of supply. And though these heavenly bodies have kept their standing and motion from the time of their creation, yet both the sun’s  standing still in Joshua’s time, and its going back in Hezekiah’s time,  show that they are changeable at the pleasure of God. But in man the change is perpetually visible; every day there is a change from ignorance to knowledge, from one will to another, from passion to passion, sometimes sad and sometimes cheerful, sometimes craving this, and presently nauseating it; his body changes from health to sickness, or from weakness to strength; some alteration there is either in body or mind. Man, who is the noblest creature, the subordinate end of the creation of other things, cannot assure himself of a consistency and fixedness in anything the short space of a day, no, not of a minute. All his months are months of vanity (Job 7:3); whence the Psalmist calls man at the “best estate altogether vanity,” a mere heap of vanity (Psalm 35.) As he contains in his nature the nature of all creatures, so he inherits in his nature the vanity of all creatures. A little world, the centre of the world and of the vanity of the world; yea, “lighter than vanity” (Psalm 62:9), more movable than a feather; tossed between passion and passion, daily changing his end, and changing the means; an image of nothing.      2. Spiritual natures, as angels. They change not in their being, but that is from the indulgence of God. They change not in their goodness, but that is not from their nature, but divine grace in their confirmation; but they change in their knowledge; they know more by Christ than they did by creation (1 Tim. 3:16). They have an addition of knowledge every day, by the providential dispensations of God to his church (Eph. 3:10); and the increase of their astonishment and love is according to the increase of their knowledge and insight. They cannot have a new discovery without new admirations of what is discovered to them: there is a change in their joy when there is a change in a sinner (Luke 15:10). They were changed in their essence, when they were made such glorious spirits of nothing; some of them were changed in their will, when of holy they became impure. The good angels were changed in their understandings, when the glories of God in Christ were presented to their view; and all can be changed in their essence again; and as they were made of nothing, so by the power of God may be reduced to nothing again. So glorified souls shall have an unchanged operation about God, for they shall behold his face without any grief or fear of loss, without vagrant thoughts; but they can never be unchangeable in their nature, because they can never pass from finite to infinite.

     No creature can be unchangeable in its nature:—

     1.  Because every creature rose from nothing. As they rose from nothing, so they tend to nothing, unless they are preserved by God.  The notion of a creature speaks changeableness; because to be a creature is to be made something of nothing, and, therefore, creation is a change of nothing into something. The being of a creature begins from change, and, therefore, the essence of a creature is subject to change. God only is uncreated, and, therefore, unchangeable. If he were made he could not be immutable; for the very making is a change of not being into being. All creatures were made good, as they were the fruits of God’s goodness and power; but must needs be mutable, because they were the extracts of nothing.

     2. Because every creature depends purely upon the will of God. They depend not upon themselves, but upon another for their being. As they received their being from the word of his mouth and the arm of his power, so by the same word they can be cancelled into nothing, and return into as little significancy as when they were nothing. He that created them by a word, can by a word destroy them: if God should “take away their breath, they die, and return mto their dust” (Psalm 104:29). As it was in the power of the Creator that things might be, before they actually were, so it is in the power of the Creator that things after they are may cease to be what they are; and they are, in their own nature, as reducible to nothing as they were producible by the power of God from nothing; for there needs no more than an act of God's will to null them, as there needed only an act of God’s will to make them. Creatures are all subject to a higher cause: they are all reputed as nothing. “He doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou?” (Dan. 4:35.) But God is unchangeable, because he is the highest good; none above him, all below him; all dependent on him; himself upon none.

     3. No creature is absolutely perfect. No creature can be so perfect, or can ever be, but something by the infinite power of God may be added to it; for whatsoever is finite may receive greater additions, and, therefore, a change.

     No creature you can imagine, but in your thoughts you may fancy him capable of greater perfections than you know he hath, or than really he hath. The perfections of all creatures are searchable; the perfection of God is only unsearchable (Job 11:6), and, therefore, he only immutable. God only is always the same.

     Time makes no addition to him, nor diminisheth anything of him. His nature and essence, his wisdom and will, have always been the same from eternity, and shall be the same to eternity, without any variation.

     IV. The fourth thing propounded is, Some propositions to clear this unchangeableness of God from anything that seems contrary to it.

     Prop. I. There was no change in God when he began to create the world in time. The creation was a real change, but the change was not subjectively in God, but in the creature; the creature began to be what it was not before. Creation is considered as active or passive. Active creation is the will and power of God to create. This is from eternity, because God willed from eternity to create in time; this never had beginning, for God never began in time to understand anything, to will anything, or to be able to do anything; but he alway understood and alway willed those things which he determined from eternity to produce in time. The decree of God may be taken for the act decreeing, that is eternal and the same, or for the object decreed, that is in time; so that there may be a change in the object, but not in the will whereby the object doth exist.

     1. There was no change in God by the act of creation, because there was no new will in him. There was no new act of his will which was not before. The creation began in time, but the will of creating was from eternity. The work was new, but the decree whence that new work sprung was as ancient as the Ancient of Days. When the time of creating came, God was not made ex nolente volens, as we are; for whatsoever God willed to be now done, he willed from eternity to be done; but be willed also that it should not be done till such an instant of time, and that it should not exist before such a time. If God had willed the creation of the world only at that time when the world was produced, and not before, then, indeed, God had been changeable. But though God spake that word which he had not spoke before, whereby the world was brought into act; yet he did not will that will he willed not before. God did not create by a new counsel or new will, but by that which was from eternity (Eph. 1:9). All things are wrought according to that “purpose in himself,” an according to “the counsel of his will” (ver. 11); and as the holiness of the elect is the fruit of his eternal will “before the foundation of the world” (ver. 4), so, likewise, is the existence of things, and of those persons whom he did elect. As when an artificer frames a house or a temple according to that model he had in his mind some years before, there is no change in the model in his mind; the artificer is the same, though the work is produced by him some time after he had framed that copy of it in his own mind, but there is a change of the thing produced by him according to that model. Or, when a rich man intends, four or five years hence, if he lives, to build a hospital, is there any change in will, when, after the expiration of that time, he builds and endows it? Though it be after his will, yet it is the fruit of his precedent will. So God, from all eternity, did will and command that the creatures should exist in such a part of time; and, by his eternal will, all things, whether past, present, or to come, did, do, and shall exist, at that point of time which that will did appoint for them: not, as though God had a new will when things stood up in being, but only that which was prepared in his immutable counsel and will from eternity, doth then appear. There can be no instant fixed from eternity, wherein it can be said, God did not will the creation of the world; for had the will of God for the shortest moment been undetermined to the creation of the world, and afterwards resolved upon it, there had been a moral change in God from not willing to willing; but this there was not, for God executes nothing in time which he had not ordained from eternity, and appointed all the means and circumstances whereby it should be brought about. As the determination of our Saviour to suffer was not a new will, but an eternal counsel, and wrought no change in God (Acts 2:23).

     2. There is no change in God by the act of creation, because there was no new power in God. Had God had a will at the time of creation which he had not before, there had been a moral change in him; so had there been in him a power only to create then and not before, there had been a physical change in him from weakness to ability. There can be no more new power in God, than there can be a new will in God; for his will is his power, and what he willeth to effect, that he doth effect: as he was unchangeably holy, so he was unchangeably almighty, “which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8); which was almighty, and is almighty, and ever will be almighty. The work therefore makes no change in God, but there is a change in the thing wrought by that power of God. Suppose you had a seal engraven upon some metal a hundred years old, or as old as the creation, and you should this day, so many ages after the engraving of it, make an impression of that seal upon wax; would you say the engravement upon the seal were changed, because it produced that stamp upon the wax now which it did not before? No, the change is purely in the wax, which receives a new figure or form by the impression; not in the seal, that was capable of imprinting the same long before. God was the same from eternity as he was when he made a signature of himself upon the creatures by creation, and is no more changed by stamping them into several forms, than the seal is changed by making impression upon the wax. As when a house is enlightened by the sun, or that which was cold is heated by it, there is a change in the house from darkness to light, from coldness to heat; but is there any change in the light and heat of the sun? There is a change in the thing enlightened or warmed by that light and heat which remains fixed and constant in the sun, which was as capable in itself to produce the same effects before, as at that instant when it works them; so when God is the author of a new work, he is not changed, because he works it by an eternal will and an eternal power.

     3. Nor is there any new relation acquired by God by the creation of the world. There was a new relation acquired by the creature, as, when a man sins, he hath another relation to God than he had before,—he hath relation to God, as a criminal to a Judge; but there is no change in God, but in the malefactor. The being of men makes no more change in God than the sins of men. As a tree is now on our right hand, and by our turning about it is on our left hand, sometimes before us, sometimes behind us, according to our motion near it or about it, and the turning of the body; there is no change in the tree, which remains firm and fixed in the earth, but the change is wholly in the posture of the body, whereby the tree may be said to be before us or behind us, or on the right hand or on the left hand. God gained no new relation of Lord or Creator by the creation; for though he had created nothing to rule over, yet he had the power to create and rule, though he did not create and rule: as a man may be called a skilful writer, though he does not write, because he is able to do it when he pleases; or a man skilful in physic is called a physician, though he doth not practise that skill, or discover his art in the distribution of medicines, because he may do it when he pleases; it depends upon his own will to show his art when he has a mind to it. So the name Creator and Lord belongs to God from eternity, because he could create and rule, though he did not create and rule. But, howsoever, if there were any such change of relation, that God may be called Creator and Lord after the creation and not before, it is not a change in essence, nor in knowledge, nor in will; God gains no perfection nor diminution by it; his knowledge is not increased by it; he is no more by it than he was, and will be, if all those things ceased; and therefore Austin illustrates it by this similitude:—as a piece of money when it is given as the price of a thing, or deposited only as a pledge for the security of a thing borrowed; the coin is the same, and is not change though the relation it had as a pledge and as a price be different from one another: so that suppose any new relation be added, yet there is nothing happens to the nature of God which may infer any change.

     Prop. II. There was no change in the Divine nature of the Son, when he assumed human nature. There was an union of the two natures, but no change of the Deity into the humanity, or of the humanity into the Deity: both preserved their peculiar properties. The humanity was changed by a communication of excellent gifts from the divine nature, not by being brought into an equality with it, for that was impossible that a creature should become equal to the Creator. He took the “form of a servant,” but he lost not the form of God; he despoiled not himself of the perfections of the Deity. He was indeed emptied, “and became of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7); but he did not cease to be God, though he was reputed to be only a man, and a very mean one too. The glory of his divinity was not extinguished nor diminished, though it was obscured and darkened, under the veil of our infirmities; but there was no more change in the hiding of it, than there is in the body of the sun when it is shadowed by the interposition of a cloud.

     His blood while it was pouring out from his veins was the “blood of God” (Acts 20:28); and, therefore, when he was bowing the head of his humanity upon the cross, he had the nature and perfections of God; for had he ceased to be God, he had been a mere creature, and his sufferings would have been of as little value and satisfaction as the sufferings of a creature. He could not have been a sufficient Mediator, had he ceased to be God: and he had ceased to be God, had he lost any one perfection proper to the divine nature; and losing none, he lost not this of unchangeableness, which is none of the meanest belonging to the Deity. Why by his union with the human nature should he lose this, any more than he lost his omniscience, which he discovered by his knowledge of the thoughts of men; or his mercy, which he manifested to the height in the time of his suffering? That is truly a change, when a thing ceaseth to be what it was before: this was not in Christ; he assumed our nature without laying aside his own. When the soul is united to the body, doth it lose any of those perfections that are proper to its nature? Is there any change either in the substance or qualities of it? No; but it makes a change in the body, and of a dull lump it makes it a living mass, conveys vigor and strength to it, and, by its power, quickens it to sense and motion. So did the divine nature and human remain entire; there was no change of the one into the other, as Christ by a miracle changed water into wine, or men by art change sand or ashes into glass: and when he prays “for the glory he had with God before the world was” (John 17:5), he prays that a glory he had in his Deity might shine forth in his person as Mediator, and be evidenced in that height and splendor suitable to his dignity, which had been so lately darkened by his abasement; that as he had appeared to be the Son of Man in the infirmity of the flesh, he might appear to be the Son of God in the glory of his person, that he might appear to be the Son of God and the Son of Man in one person. Again, there could be no change in this union; for, in a real change, something is acquired which was not possessed before, neither formally nor eminently: but the divinity had from eternity, before the incarnation, all the perfections of the human nature eminently in a nobler manner than they are in themselves, and therefore could not be changed by a real umon.

     Prop. III. Repentance and other affections ascribed to God in Scripture, argue no change in God. We often read of God’s repenting, repenting of the good he promised (Jer. 18:10), and of the evil he threatened (Exod. 32:14; John 3:10), or of the work he hath wrought (Gen. 6:6). We must observe, therefore, that,

     1. Repentance is not properly in God. He is a pure Spirit, and is not capable of those passions which are signs of weakness and impotence, or subject to those regrets we are subject to. Where there is a proper repentance there is a want of foresight, an ignorance of what would succeed, or a defect in the examination of the occurrences which might fall within consideration. All repentance of a fact is grounded upon a mistake is the event which was not foreseen, or upon an after knowledge of the evil of the thing which was acted by the person repenting. But God is so wise that he cannot err, so holy he cannot do evil; and his certain prescience, or foreknowledge, secures him against any unexpected events. God doth not act but upon clear and infallible reason; and a change upon passion is accounted by all so great a weakness in man, that none can entertain so unworthy a conceit of God. Where he is said to repent (Gen. 6:6), be is also said to grieve; now no proper grief can be imagined to be in God. As repentance is inconsistent with infallible foresight, so is grief no less inconsistent with undefiled blessedness. God is “blessed forever” (Rom. 9:8), and therefore nothing can befall him that can stain that blessedness. His blessedness would be impaired and interrupted while he is repenting, though he did soon rectify that which is the cause of his repentance. “God is of one mind, and who can turn him? what his soul desires that he doth” (Job 23:13).

The Existence and Attributes of God

Amos 6-9
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click here

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Jon Courson | Jon Courson

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