Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel

Review: Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel
by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain
Series Editor: D.A. Carson
 

I just finished reading Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain–the authors will be referred to as K&S from this point on–(in the NSBT series, edited by D.A. Carson) yesterday. I must say that the book was much different than I anticipated. This is not to say that I was disappointed in the least. The authors in the first half of the book (and I am over-generalizing here) seek to lay forth John’s teaching about each of the three persons in the trinity individually first and then in regard to how they relate to each other. In the second half of the book they focus their attention more on building a coherent theology of the trinity within the framework of John’s unique theological purpose and emphasis. The first half of the book really stood as the foundation for the second half.
Those who have spent any serious time studying John’s Gospel will find the first half of the book to be delightfully straightforward. I will say, however, that the second half of this book is what really makes this work worthy of honorable mention. I will warn the reader to not skip the general teachings of the Godhead in the first part of the book to delve into the rich theological insight of the second half of the book. The first half really does set a necessary stage for what follows.
The two most helpful chapters (for me, at least) were Chapters 7 (“Christology in John’s trinitarian perspective: Jesus’ Filial Identity”) and 9 (“‘As the Father Has Sent Me, So I am Sending You’: Toward a Trinitarian Mission Theology”). I think I underlined about half of the content in each of these two chapters. K&S’s discussion on both the sonship of Christ and the fatherhood of God and their focus on John’s unique trinitarian emphasis in regard to mission is simply stunning. These two chapters provided more than just a little insight–they completely clarified and (maybe I could go so far to say) revolutionized my understanding of (specifically) John’s trinitarian emphasis. I will provide one quote from each of the two respective chapters.
First, consider what K&S said in regard to Jesus’ filial identity* (the ‘*’ indicates a footnote–look below the text for the * for further explanation):

When sender and sent one are father and son, we are no longer dealing with a relationship between superior and an inferior, where, among other things, the will of the former is imposed upon the latter. When sender and sent one are father and son (at least in the case of the triune life) we are dealing with a relationship between equals, between those sharing the same ontological status.** Thus, when sender and sent one are father and son we are dealing with a relationship where the action to be undertaken involves not the imposition of the will of the one upon the other, but where the action to be undertaken must be understood as common cause, and a common cause because it is family business.
Nevertheless, inasmuch as the analogy holds, equality and engagement in a common cause in no way rule out the relationship of command and obedience that holds between a father and a son, biblically conceived. This explains, for example, why Jesus can say in John 10:18 that, on the one hand, he has received a ‘charge’ from his Father that, on the one hand, consists in having the ‘authority’ to lay down his life on his own accord (freely, as Lord) and to take it up again. The Sons’ obedience to the Father’s charge does not comprise the Son’s authority to act but rather establishes it. He is the free Lord of all–including his own death–as the Son who obeys the Father.” (pg. 122)

Second, consider the following quote regarding John’s unique trinitarian theology of misison.

“The first aspect of Jesus’ mission, that he is sent from the Father to the world, teaches us that there is a centrifugal*** dimension to mission. The church’s mission proceeds from the sending Son to the world in the power of the Spirit. The second aspect of Jesus’ mission, Jesus’ role as the eschatological shepherd-teacher, teaches us that there is a centripetal**** dimension to mission. Jesus gathers his sheep from the world into his fold through the witness of his Spirit-empowered church (cf. John 6:35-65). The third aspect of Jesus’ mission, that he comes into the world and returns to the Father (descent-ascent), emphasizes the transcedent origin and power of the church’s mission…

They explain further;

Keeping all three aspects of Jesus’ mission in mind will protect the church from various forms of reductionism with respect to its missionary endeavor. First, the community that focuses too exclusively on the centrifugal dimension of mission and ignores the centripetal dimension, which includes building a community characterized by worship, sound doctrine and loving fellowship, will not ultimately have an alternative way of life to offer the world (cf. 13:35). Second, the community that focuses too exclusively on the centripetal dimension, which includes John’s expansive trinitarian vision for the transformation of the entire cosmos, will eventually domesticate the gospel to the service of its own private or local ends.***** Third, the community that ceases, in both its centrifugal and centripetal dimensions, to depend wholly upon the spiritual power of the incarnate and ascending Son will quickly become a community that, when it comes to matters of eternal consequence, ‘can do nothing’ (15:5)…” (pg 160-161).

There are many more points worthy of mention, but you will have to get the book if you desire to dig deeper. I do highly recommend Father, Son and Spirit to anyone desiring to know more about John’s unique trinitarian emphasis. I will say that the purpose of this book is not to deal with the doctrine of the trinity as a topic of systematic theology; their purpose, rather, is to emphasize John’s unique trinitarian flavor. Nonetheless, it must be remembered that John’s Gospel is considered by many to be the most overtly trinitarian book in the Bible (see pg. 19).
I do not want to be critical of the authors, but I do want to make two general statements about the book as a whole. First, the last chapter of the book seemed out of place. The book flowed quite nicely up until the last chapter. For the most part, the entire book was rather simple to read, flowed smoothly, and put the spotlight on the actual text of John’s Gospel. The last chapter, on the other hand, focused more on historical theology and complex theological debates than it did on the text of Scripture itself. Surely, the authors did use John 17 as the outline of the chapter, but the content of the chapter focused much more heavily on the historical debates centering on the trinity in general than on John’s unique trinitarian theology. I am not complaining here (in fact, there were many quotable quotes from the last chapter); I’m just making an observation.
Second, I found it to be quite strange that almost no attention was given to the great debates about the trinity which so often center on many passages from the Fourth Gospel. For example, next to nothing was said about the waywardness of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ use of John 1:1; 8:58; 10:34-39; 15:28; 20:28. I find this to be a glaring omission. I know that the purpose of this work was not to be an apologetic for the trinity in the face of the modern day expansion of the Jehovah’s Witness cult. However, one would think that there would be great reason to include something of an apologetic with reference to a correct understanding of John’s unique trinitarian theology in the face of such opposition. The fact is that trinitarian debates of this sort more often than not focus on passages from John’s Gospel. I am sure that lack of space had something to do with this omission. And the authors do provide further reasoning for their approach in the beginning of the book (see pages 19-24). I can live with such an answer, but still feel that the tenacity of the opposition warrants special attention on the subject.
These two critical comments should not deter anyone from valuing the well-communicated truth contained in this volume. I highly recommend The Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel. I was surprised by the readability of the book (although the last chapter was quite dense) and would not be afraid to recommend it to my own congregation for prayerful/thoughtful/discerning consumption. The focus of the book is not simply trinitarian theology, but rather trinitarian theology as communicated specifically in John’s Gospel. Because this is the emphasis, the book is biblically based to the core. If you are more interested in biblical theology than you are in logical theology (not that the two should be completely separated, but arguments from actual texts of Scripture read in context should inform our logical categories of theology, and especially when it comes to such an other-worldly doctrine as the trinity–a doctrine which transcends finite logical categories) you will find this book to be extremely informative and stimulating (both intellectually and spiritually).
If you want to buy this book, click here.
_____________________________
*Filial identity simply refers to Jesus identity as the Son of God the Father. The word filial is defined as ‘having the relation of a child to a parent.’ (see www.dictionary.com)
**Ontology is study of being. To say, therefore, that the Father and Son share the same ‘ontological status’ is to say that neither the Father nor the Son is greater than the other. They are equal at the very core of their being/nature.
***Centrifugal is movement ‘outward from the center’ (www.dictionary.com). Thus, the ‘centrifugal dimension to mission’ is a mission which seeks to go out into the world.
****Centripetal is movement ‘toward the center’ (www.dictionary.com). Thus a ‘centripetal dimension to mission’ is a mission which seeks to bring (or suck) others into God’s intra-trinitarian relationship (which is what the church is to be all about).
*****This is why K&S helpfully state, “The love and power of the triune God at once send us out and draw us in” (pg. 164)
~ Jimmy Snowden
 
[button link=”http://www.amazon.com/Father-Son-Spirit-Biblical-Theology/dp/0830826254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271256705&sr=8-1″ newwindow=”yes”] View at Amazon[/button]  
Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy is the “Pastor of Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Visit his blog, ChosenInChrist.com.
 

Grace is Out of Balance

 

We don’t want to get carried away!

 
From Mike Adams
Mike Adams
I hear it a lot and you probably do too. It goes something like this. “Yes, the Christian life is all about grace, but let’s be balanced here. We don’t want to get carried away” Balanced? Really? Look at Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

That’s way out of balance!
And it’s way out of balance in our favor!
Grace is never balanced. It’s always unbalanced and it’s given to those who are least deserving. We were dead in trespasses and sins until God poured out his grace and mercy on us through Jesus and his finished work on the cross. Grace is so far out of balance that when we were dead in sin and enemies of God (Romans 5:6), he made us alive together with Christ. Grace is God’s one-way unmerited love being dumped on us without restraint. It’s unbalanced in every way. Praise God for that because our condition was so bad and in ruin that and unbalanced assault of unconditional grace is the only thing that could (and can) fix us.
So the next time we’re tempted to think or say, “yes grace, but…” let’s stop and hear what we’re really saying. While we wouldn’t word it this way, what we’re really saying is that we want some measure of control because it’s in our old nature to think we have some measure of control. We call it balance, but it’s not balance. It’s self-centeredness that’s rooted in original sin and pulses through the veins of our old self. So when we say that grace must be balanced, we’re really saying that we want to be in control and have the final say. It’s bondage, not balance.
On the other hand, justice and wrath are balanced because in those, we get what we deserve.
Lose yourself in saving grace today.
Get out of balance and enjoy the freedom we’ve been given in the unbalanced one-way love that is ours in Christ. Be glad you’re not in control and enjoy the freedom that only grace can bring.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
 

Visit and comment at Michael W. Adams’ blog “Journey In Grace

Marks of a true Conversion

George Whitefield | Sermon 23
 

“Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted,
      and become as little children,
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 18:3

 
I suppose I may take it for granted, that all of you, among whom I am now about to preach the kingdom of God, are fully convinced, that it is appointed for all men once to die, and that ye all really believe that after death comes the judgment, and that the consequences of that judgment will be, that ye must be doomed to dwell in the blackness of darkness, or ascend to dwell with the blessed God, for ever and ever. I may take it for granted also, that whatever your practice in common life may be, there is not one, though ever so profligate and abandoned, but hopes to go to that place, which the scriptures call Heaven, when he dies. And, I think, if I know any thing of mine own heart, my heart’s desire, as well as my prayer to God, for you all, is, that I may see you sitting down in the kingdom of our heavenly Father. But then, though we all hope to go to heaven when we die, yet, if we may judge by people’s lives, and our Lord says, “that by their fruits we may know them,” I am afraid it will be found, that thousands, and ten thousands, who hope to go to this blessed place after death, are not now in the way to it while they live.
Though we call ourselves Christians, and would consider it as an affront put upon us, for any one to doubt whether we were Christians or not; yet there are a great many, who bear the name of Christ, that yet do not so much as know what real Christianity is. Hence it is, that if you ask a great many, upon what their hopes of heaven are founded, they will tell you, that they belong to this, or that, or the other denomination, and part of Christians, into which Christendom is now unhappily divided. If you ask others, upon what foundation they have built their hope of heaven, they will tell you, that they have been baptized, that their fathers and mothers, presented them to the Lord Jesus Christ in their infancy; and though, instead of fighting under Christ’s banner, they have been fighting against him, almost ever since they were baptized, yet because they have been admitted to church, and their names are in the Register book of the parish, therefore they will make us believe, that their names are also written in the book of life.
But a great many, who will not build their hopes of salvation upon such a sorry rotten foundation as this, yet if they are, what we generally call, negatively good people; if they live so as their neighbors cannot say that they do anybody harm, they do not doubt but they shall be happy when they die; nay, I have found many such die, as the scripture speaks, “without any hands in their death.” And if a person is what the world calls an honest moral man, if he does justly, and, what the world calls, love a little mercy, is not and then good-natured, reacheth out his hand to the poor, receives the sacrament once or twice a year, and is outwardly sober and honest; the world looks upon such an one as a Christian indeed, and doubtless we are to judge charitably of every such person. There are many likewise, who go on in a round of duties, a model of performances, that think they shall go to heaven; but if you examine them, though they have a Christ in their heads, they have no Christ in their hearts.
The Lord Jesus Christ knew this full well;
he knew how desperately wicked and deceitful men’s hearts were; he knew very well how many would go to hell even by the very gates of heaven, how many would climb up even to the door, and go so near as to knock at it, and yet after all be dismissed with a “verily I know you not.” The Lord, therefore, plainly tells us, what great change must be wrought in us, and what must be done for us, before we can have any well grounded hopes of entering into the kingdom of heaven. Hence, he tells Nicodemus, “that unless a man be born again, and from above, and unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” And of all the solemn declarations of our Lord, I mean with respect to this, perhaps the words of the text are one of the most solemn, “except, (says Christ) ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
The words, if you look back to the context, are plainly directed to the disciples; for we are told, “that at the same time came the disciples unto Jesus.” And I think it is plain from many parts of Scripture, that these disciples, to whom our Lord addressed himself at this time, were in some degree converted before. If we take the words strictly, they are applicable only to those, that have already gotten some, though but weak, faith in Christ. Our Lord means, that though they had already tasted the grace of God, yet there was so much of the old man, so much indwelling sin, and corruption, yet remaining in their hearts, that unless they were more converted than they were, unless a greater change past upon their souls, and sanctification was still carried on, they could give but very little evidence of their belonging to his kingdom, which was not to be set up in outward grandeur, as they supposed, but was to be a spiritual kingdom, begun here, but completed in the kingdom of God hereafter.
But though the words had a peculiar reference to our Lord’s disciples; yet as our Lord makes such a declaration as this in other places of Scripture, especially in the discourse to Nicodemus, I believe the words may be justly applied to saints and sinners; and as I suppose there are two sorts of people here, some who know Christ, and some of you that do not know him, some that are converted, and some that are strangers to conversion, I shall endeavor so to speak, that if God shall be pleased to assist me, and to give you an hearing ear and an obedient heart, both saints and sinners may have their portion.

FIRST, I shall endeavor to show you in what respects we are to understand this assertion of our Lord’s, “that we must be converted and become like little children.” I shall then,

SECONDLY, Speak to those who profess a little of this child-like temper,

And LASTLY, shall speak to you, who have no reason to think that this change has ever past upon your souls. And

 
FIRST, I shall endeavor to show you, what we are to understand by our Lord’s saying, “Except ye be converted and become as little children.” But I think, before I speak to this point, it may be proper to premise one or two particulars.
 
1. I think, that the words plainly imply, that before you or I can have any well-grounded, scriptural hope, of being happy in a future state, there must be some great, some notable, and amazing change pass upon our souls. I believe, there is not one adult person in the congregation, but will readily confess, that a great change hath past upon their bodies, since they came first into the world, and were infants dandled upon their mother’s knees. It is true, ye have no more members than ye had then, but how are these altered!
Though you are in one respect the same ye were, for the number of your limbs, and as to the shape of your body, yet if a person that knew you when ye were in your cradle, had been absent from you for some years, and saw you when grown up, then thousand to one if he would know you at all, ye are so altered, so different from what ye were, when ye were little ones. And as the words plainly imply, that there has a great change past upon our bodies since we were children, so before we can go to heaven, there must as great a change pass upon our souls.
Our souls considered in a physical sense are still the same, there is to be no philosophical change wrought on them. But then, as for our temper, habit and conduct, we must be so changed and altered, that those who knew us the other day, when in a state of sin, and before we knew Christ, and are acquainted with us now, must see such an alteration, that they may stand as much amazed at it, as a person at the alteration wrought on any person he has not seen for twenty years from his infancy.
 
2. But I think it proper to premise something farther, because this text is the grand strong-hold of Arminians, and others. They learn of the devil to bring texts to propagate bad principles: when the devil had a mind to tempt Jesus Christ, because Christ quoted scripture, therefore Satan did so too. And such persons, that their doctrine and bad principles may go down the better, would fain persuade unwary and unstable souls, that they are founded upon the word of God.
Though the doctrine of original sin, is a doctrine written in such legible characters in the word of God, that he who runs may read it; and though, I think, everything without us, and everything within us, plainly proclaims that we are fallen creatures; though the very heathens, who had no other light, but the dim light of unassisted reason, complained of this, for they felt the wound, and discovered the disease, but were ignorant of the cause of it; yet there are too many persons of those who have been baptized in the name of Christ, that dare to speak against the doctrine of original sin, and are angry with those ill-natured ministers, who paint man in such black colors. Say they, “It cannot be that children come into the world with the guild of Adam’s sin lying upon them.” Why? Desire them to prove it from Scripture, and they will urge this very text, our Lord tells us, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Now their argument runs thus, “It is implied in the words of the text, that little children are innocent, and that they come into the world like a mere blank piece of white paper, otherwise our Lord must argue absurdly, for he could never pretend to say, that we must be converted, and be made like wicked creatures; that would be no conversion.” But, my dear friends, this is to make Jesus Christ speak what he never intended, and what cannot be deduced from his words. That little children are guilty, I mean, that they are conceived and born in sin, is plain from the whole tenor of the book of God. David was a man after God’s own heart, yet, says he, “I was conceived in sin.” Jeremiah speaking of every one’s heart, says, “the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.” God’s servants unanimously declare, (and Paul cites it from one of them) “that we are altogether now become abominable, altogether gone out of the way of original righteousness, there is not one of us that doeth good (by nature), no not one.”
And I appeal to any of you that are mothers and fathers, if ye do not discern original sin or corruption in your children, as soon as they come into the world; and as they grow up, if ye do not discover self-will, and an aversion to goodness. What is the reason your children are so averse to instruction, but because they bring enmity into the world with them, against a good and gracious God? So then, it is plain from scripture and fact, that children are born in sin, and consequently that they are children of wrath. And for my part, I think, that the death of every child is a plain proof of original sin; sickness and death came into the world by sin, and it seems not consistent with God’s goodness and justice, to let a little child be sick or die, unless Adam’s first sin was imputed to him. If any charge God with injustice for imputing Adam’s sin to a little child, behold we have gotten a second Adam, to bring our children to him. Therefore, when our Lord says, “unless ye are converted, and become as little children,” we are not to understand, as though our Lord would insinuate, that little children are perfectly innocent; but in a comparative, and as I shall show you by and by, in a rational sense.
Little children are innocent, compare them with grown people; but take them as they are, and as they come into the world, they have hearts that are sensual, and minds which are carnal. And I mention this with the greatest concern, because I verily believe, unless parents are convinced of this, they will never take proper care of their children’s education.
If parents were convinced, that children’s hearts were so bad as they are, you would never be fond of letting them go to balls, assemblies, and plays, the natural tendency of which is to debauch their minds, and make them the children of the devil. If parents were convinced of this, I believe they would pray more, when they bring their children to be baptized, and would not make it a mere matter of form. And I believe, if they really were convinced, that their children were conceived in sin, they would always put up that petition, before their children came into the world, which I have heard that a good woman always did put up, “Lord Jesus, let me never bear a child for hell or the devil.” O! is it not to be feared, that thousands of children will appear, at the great day, before God, and in presence of angels and men will say, Father and mother, next to the wickedness of mine own heart, I owe my damnation to your bad education of me.
Having premised these two particulars, I now proceed to show in what sense we are really to understand the words, that we must be converted and become like little children.
The Evangelist tell us, “that the disciples at this time came unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
These disciples had imbibed the common prevailing notion, that the Lord Jesus Christ was to be a temporal prince; they dreamed of nothing but being ministers of state, of sitting on Christ’ right hand in his kingdom, and lording it over God’s people; they thought themselves qualified for state offices, as generally ignorant people are apt to conceive of themselves. Well, say they, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Which of us shall have the chief management of public affairs? A pretty question for a few poor fishermen, who scarcely knew how to drag their nets to shore, much less how to govern a kingdom.
Our Lord, therefore, in the 2nd verse, to mortify them, calls a little child, and sets him in the midst of them. This action was as much as if our Lord had said, “Poor creatures! Your imaginations are very towering; you dispute who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven; I will make this little child preach to you, or I will preach to you by him. Verily I say unto you, (I who am truth itself, I know in what manner my subjects are to enter into my kingdom; I say unto you, ye are so far from being in a right temper for my kingdom, that) except ye be converted, and become as this little child, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven, (unless ye are, comparatively speaking, as loose to the world, as loose to crowns, scepters, and kingdoms, and earthly things, as this poor little child I have in my hand) ye shall not enter into my kingdom.”
So that what our Lord is speaking of, is not the innocency of little children, if you consider the relation they stand in to God, and as they are in themselves, when brought into the world; but what our Lord means is, that as to ambition and lust after the world, we must in this sense become as little children. Is there never a little boy or girl in this congregation? Ask a poor little child, that can just speak, about a crown, scepter, or kingdom, the poor creature has no notion about it: give a little boy or girl a small thing to play with, it will leave the world to other people. Now in this sense we must be converted, and become as little children; that is, we must be as loose to the world, comparatively speaking, as a little child.
Do not mistake me, I am not going to persuade you to shut up your shops, or leave your business; I am not going to persuade you, that if ye will be Christians, ye must turn hermits, and retire out of the world; ye cannot leave your wicked hearts behind you, when you leave the world; for I find when I am alone, my wicked heart has followed me, go where I will. No, the religion of Jesus is a social religion. But though Jesus Christ does not call us to go out of the world, shut up our shops, and leave our children to be provided for by miracles; yet this must be said to the honor Christianity, if we are really converted, we shall be loose from the world. Though we are engaged in it, and are obliged to work for our children; though we are obliged to follow trades and merchandise, and to be serviceable to the commonwealth, yet if we are real Christians, we shall be loose to the world; though I will not pretend to say that all real Christians have attained to the same degree of spiritual-mindedness.
This is the primary meaning of these words, that we must be converted and become as little children; nevertheless, I suppose the words are to be understood in other senses.
When our Lord says, we must be converted and become as little children, I suppose he means also, that we must be sensible of our weakness, comparatively speaking, as a little child.
Every one looks upon a little child, as a poor weak creature; as one that ought to go to school and learn some new lesson every day; and as simple and artless; one without guile, having not learned the abominable art, called dissimulation.
Now in all these senses, I believe we are to understand the words of the text. ÷ Are little children sensible of their weakness? Must they be led by the hand? Must we take hold of them or they will fall? So, if we are converted, if the grace of God be really in our hearts, my dear friends, however we may have thought of ourselves once, whatever were our former high exalted imaginations; yet we shall now be sensible of our weakness; we shall no more say, “We are rich and increased with goods, and lack nothing;” we shall be inwardly poor; we shall feel “that we are poor, miserable, blind, and naked.” And as a little child gives up its hand to be guided by a parent or a nurse, so those who are truly converted, and are real Christians, will give up the heart, their understandings, their wills, their affections, to be guided by the word, providence, and the Spirit of the Lord. Hence it is, that the Apostle, speaking of the sons of God, says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are (and to be sure he means they only are) the sons of God.”
And as little children look upon themselves to be ignorant creatures, so those that are converted, do look upon themselves as ignorant too. Hence it is, that John, speaking to Christians, calls them little children; “I have written unto you, little children.” And Christ’s flock is called a little flock, not only because little in number, but also because those who are members of his flock, are indeed little in their own eyes. Hence that great man, that great apostle of the Gentiles, that spiritual father of so many thousands of souls, that man, who in the opinion of Dr. Goodwin, “fits nearest the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, in glory,” that chosen vessel, the Apostle Paul, when he speaks of himself, says, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Perhaps some of you, when you read these words, will be apt to think that Paul did not speak true, that he did not really feel what he said; because you judge Paul’s heart by your own proud hearts: but the more ye get of the grace of God, and the more ye are partakers of the divine life, the more will ye see your own meanness and vileness, and be less in your own eyes. Hence it is, that Mr. Flavel, in his book called, HUSBANDRY SPIRITUALIZED, compares young Christians to green corn; which before it is ripe, shoots up very high, but there is little solidity in it: whereas, an old Christian is like ripe corn; it doth not lift up its head so much, but then it is more weighty, and fit to be cut down, and put into the farmer’s barn. Young Christians are also like little rivulets; ye know rivulets are shallow, yet make great noise; but an old Christian, he makes not much noise, he goes on sweetly, like a deep river sliding into the ocean.
And as a little child is looked upon as an harmless creature, and generally speaks true; so, if we are converted, and become as little children, we shall be guileless as well as harmless. What said the dear Redeemer when he saw Nathaniel? As though it was a rare sight he gazed upon, and would have others gaze upon it; “Behold an Israelite indeed:” Why so? “In whom is no guile.” Do not mistake me; I am not saying, that Christians ought not to be prudent; they ought exceedingly to pray to God for prudence, otherwise they may follow the delusions of the devil, and by their imprudence give wrong touches to the ark of God.
It was the lamentation of a great man, “God has given me many gifts, but God has not given me prudence.” Therefore, when I say, a Christian must be guileless, I do not mean, he should expose himself, and lie open to every one’s assault: we should pray for the wisdom of the serpent, though we shall generally learn this wisdom by our blunders and imprudence: and we must make some advance in Christianity, before we know our imprudence.
A person really converted, can say, as it is reported of a philosopher, “I wish there was a window in my breast, that every one may see the uprightness of my heart and intentions:” And though there is too much of the old man in us, yet, if we are really converted, there will be in us no allowed guile, we shall be harmless. And that is the reason why the poor Christian is too often imposed upon; he judgeth other people by himself; having an honest heart, he thinks every one as honest as himself, and therefore is a prey to every one. I might enlarge upon each of these points, it is a copious and important truth; but I do not intend to multiply many marks and heads.
And therefore, as I have something to say by way of personal application, give me leave therefore, with the utmost tenderness, and at the same time with faithfulness, to call upon you, my dear friends. My text is introduced in an awful manner, “Verily I say unto you;” and what Jesus said then, he says now to you, to me, and to as many as sit under a preached gospel, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Let me exhort you to see whether ye are converted; whether such a great and almighty change has passed upon any of your souls. As I told you before, so I tell you again, ye all hope to go to heaven, and I pray God Almighty ye may be all there: when I see such a congregation as this, if my heart is in a proper frame, I feel myself ready to lay down my life, to be instrumental only to save one soul.
It makes my heart bleed within me, it makes me sometimes most unwilling to preach, lest that word that I hope will do good, may increase the damnation of any, and perhaps of a great part of the auditory, through their own unbelief. Give me leave to deal faithfully with your souls. I have your dead warrant in my hand: Christ has said it, Jesus will stand to it, it is like the laws of the Medes and Persians, it altereth not.
Hark, O man! Hark, O woman!
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Lord Jesus Christ says,

“Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted,
and become as little children,
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Though this is Saturday night, and ye are now preparing for the Sabbath, for what you know, you may yet never live to see the Sabbath. You have had awful proofs of this lately; a woman died but yesterday, a man died the day before, another was killed by something that fell from a house, and it may be in twenty-four hours more, many of you may be carried into an unalterable state. Now then, for God’s sake, for your own souls sake, if ye have a mind to dwell with God, and cannot bear the thought of dwelling in everlasting burning, before I go any further, silently put up one prayer, or say Amen to the prayer I would put in your mouths;

“Lord, search me and try me, Lord, examine my heart, and let my conscience speak;
O let me know whether I am converted or not!”

What say ye, my dear hearers? What say ye, my fellow-sinners? What say ye, my guilty brethren? Has God by his blessed Spirit wrought such a change in your hearts? I do not ask you, whether God has made you angels?
That I know will never be; I only ask you, Whether ye have any well-grounded hope to think that God has made you new creatures in Christ Jesus? So renewed and changed your natures, that you can say, I humbly hope, that as to the habitual temper and tendency of my mind, that my heart is free from wickedness; I have a husband, I have a wife, I have also children, I keep a shop, I mind my business; but I love these creatures for God’ sake, and do every thing for Christ: and if God was now to call me away, according to the habitual temper of my mind, I can say, Lord, I am ready; and however I love the creatures, I hope I can say, Whom have I in heaven but thee? Whom have I in heaven, O my God and my dear Redeemer, that I desire in comparison of thee? Can you thank God for the creatures, and say at the same time, these are not my Christ?
I speak in plain language, you know my way of preaching: I do not want to play the orator, I do not want to be counted a scholar; I want to speak so as I may reach poor people’s hearts. What say ye, my dear hearers? Are ye sensible of your weakness? Do ye feel that ye are poor, miserable, blind, and naked by nature? Do ye give up your hearts, your affections, your wills, your understanding to be guided by the Spirit of God, as a little child gives up its hand to be guided by its parent? Are ye little in your own eyes? Do ye think meanly of yourselves? And do you want to learn something new every day?
I mention these marks, because I am apt to believe they are more adapted to a great many of your capacities. A great many of you have not that showing of affection ye sometimes had, therefore ye are for giving up all your evidences, and making way for the devil’s coming into your heart. You are not brought up to the mount as ye used to be, therefore ye conclude ye have no grace at all. But if the Lord Jesus Christ has emptied thee, and humbled thee, if he is giving thee to se and know that thou art nothing; though thou are not growing upward, thou art growing downward; and though thou hast not so much joy, yet thy heart is emptying to be more abundantly replenished by and by.
Can any of you follow me? Then, give God thanks, and take the comfort of it.
If thou art thus converted, and become a little child, I welcome thee, in the name of the Lord Jesus, into God’s dear family; I welcome thee, in the name of the dear Redeemer, into the company of God’s children. O ye dear souls, though the world sees nothing in you, though there be no outward difference between you and others, yet I look upon you in another light, even as so many kings sons and daughters: all hail!
In the name of God, I wish every one of you joy from my soul, ye sons and daughters of the King of kings.
Will not you henceforth exercise a child-like temper? Will not such a thought melt down your hearts, when I tell you, that the great God, who might have frowned you to hell for your secret sins, that nobody knew of but God and your own souls, and who might have damned you times without number, hath cast the mantle of his love over you; his voice hath been, Let that man, that woman live, for I have found a ransom.
O will ye not cry out, Why me, Lord?
Was King George to send for any of your children, and were you to hear they were to be his adopted sons, how highly honored would you think your children to be? What great condescension was it for Pharaoh’s daughter to take up Moses, a poor child exposed in an ark of bulrushes, and bred him up for her child? But what is that happiness in comparison of thine, who was the other day a child of the devil, but now by converting grace art become a child of God? Are ye converted? Are ye become like little children? Then what must ye do?
My dear hearers, be obedient to God, remember God is your father; and as every one of you must know what a dreadful cross it is to have a wicked, disobedient child; if ye do not want your children to be disobedient to you, for Christ’s sake be not disobedient to your heavenly parent. If God be your father, obey him: if God be your father, serve him; love him with all your heart, love him with all your might, with all your soul, and with all your strength. If God be your father, fly from everything that may displease him; and walk worthy of that God, who has called you to his kingdom and glory.
If ye are converted and become like little children, then behave as little children: they long for the breast, and with it will be contented. Are ye new-born babes? Then desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. I do not want that Arminian husks should go down with you; ye are kings sons and daughters, and have a more refined taste; you must have the doctrines of grace; and blessed be God that you dwell in a country, where the sincere word is so plainly preached.
Are ye children?
Then grow in grace, and in the knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Have any of you children that do not grow? Do not ye lament these children, and cry over them; do not ye say, my child will never be fit for anything in the world? Well, doth it grieve you to see a child that will not grow; how much must it grieve the heart of Christ to see you grow so little? Will ye be always children? Will ye be always learning the first principles of Christianity, and never press forward toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? God forbid. Let the language of your heart be, “Lord Jesus help me to grow, help me to learn more, learn me to live so as my progress may be known to all!”
Are ye God’s children? Are ye converted, and become like little children?
Then deal with God as your little children do with you; as soon as ever they want any thing, or if any body hurt them, I appeal to yourselves if they do not directly run to their parent. Well, are ye God’s children? Doth the devil trouble you? Doth the world trouble you? Go tell your father of it, go directly and complain to God. Perhaps you may say, I cannot utter fine words: but do any of you expect fine words from your children? If they come crying, and can speak but half words, do not your hearts yearn over them? And has not God unspeakably more pity to you? If ye can only make signs to him; “As a father pitieth his children, so will the Lord pity them that fear him.” I pray you therefore be gold with your Father, saying, “Abba, Father,” Satan troubles me, the world troubles me, my own mother’s children are angry with me; heavenly Father, plead my cause! The Lord will then speak for you some way or other.
Are ye converted, and become as little children, have ye entered into God’s family?
Then assure yourselves, that your heavenly father will chasten you now and then: “for what son is there whom the father chasteneth not: if ye are without chastisement, of which all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons.” It is recorded of bishop Latimer, that in the house where he came to lodge, he overheard the master of the house say, I thank God I never had a cross in my life: O said he, then I will not stay here. I believe there is not a child of God, when in a good frame, but has prayed for great humility; they have prayed for great faith, they have prayed for great love, they have prayed for all the graces of the Spirit: Do ye know, when ye put us these prayers, that ye did also say, Lord send us great trials: for how is it possible to know ye have great faith, humility and love, unless God put you into great trials, that ye may know whether ye have them or not. I mention this, because a great many of the children of God (I am sure it has been a temptation to me many times, when I have been under God’s smarting rod) when they have great trials, think God is giving them over.
If therefore ye are God’s children; if ye are converted and become as little children; do not expect that God will be like a foolish parent; no, he is a jealous God, he loves his child too well to spare his rod. How did he correct Miriam? How did he correct Moses? How hath God in all ages corrected his dearest children? Therefore if ye are converted, and become as little children, if God hath taken away a child, or your substance, if God suffers friends to forsake you, and if you are forsaken as it were both by God and man, say, Lord I thank thee! I am a perverse child, or God would not strike me so often and so hard. Do not blame your heavenly Father, but blame yourselves; he is a loving God, and a tender Father, “he is afflicted in all our afflictions:” therefore when God spake to Moses, he spake out of the bush, as much as to say, “Moses, this bush represents my people; as this bush is burning with fire, so are my children to burn with affliction; but I am in the bush; if the bush burns, I will burn with it, I will be with them in the furnace, I will be with them in the water, and though the water come over them, it shall not overflow them.”
Are ye God’s children? Are ye converted and become as little children?
Then will ye not long to go home and see your Father?
O happy they that have gotten home before you; happy they that are up yonder, happy they who have ascended above this field of conflict. I know not what you may think of it, but since I heard that some, whose hearts God was pleased to work upon, are gone to glory, I am sometimes filled with grief, that God is not pleased to let me go home too. How can you see so much coldness among God’s people? How can ye see God’s people like the moon, waxing and waning? Who can but desire to be forever with the Lord? Thanks be to God, the time is soon coming; thanks be to God, he will come and will not tarry.
Do not be impatient, God in his own time will fetch you home. And though ye may be brought to short allowance now, though some of you may be narrow in your circumstances, yet do not repine; a God, and the gospel of Christ, with brown bread, are great riches. In thy Father’s house there is bread enough and to spare; though thou are now tormented, yet by and by thou shalt be comforted; the angels will look upon it as an honor to convey thee to Abraham’s bosom, though thou are but a Lazarus here. By the frame of my heart, I am much inclined to speak comfortably to God’s people.
But I only mention one thing more, and that is, if ye are converted, and become as little children, then for God’s sake take care of doing what children often do; they are too apt to quarrel one with another.
O love one another; “he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.” Joseph knew that his brethren were in danger of falling out, therefore when he left them, says he, “fall not out by the way.” Ye are all children of the same Father, ye are all going to the same place; why should ye differ? The world has enough against us, the devil has enough against us, without our quarreling with each other; O walk in love. If I could preach no more, if I was not able to hold out to the end of my sermon, I would say as John did, when he was grown old and could not preach, “Little children, love one another:” if ye are God’s children, then love one another. There is nothing grieves me more, than the differences amongst God’s people. O hasten that time, when we shall either go to heaven, or never quarrel any more!
Would to God I could speak to all of you in this comfortable language; but my master tells me, I must “not give that which is holy to dogs, I must not cast pearls before swine;” therefore, though I have been speaking comfortably, yet what I have been saying, especially in this latter part of the discourse, belongs to children; it is children’s bread, it belongs to God’s people. If any of you are graceless, Christless, unconverted creatures, I charge you not to touch it, I fence it in the name of God; here is a flaming sword turning every way to keep you from this bread of life, till ye are turned to Jesus Christ. And therefore, as I suppose many of you are unconverted, and graceless, go home! And away to your closets, and down with your stubborn hearts before God; if ye have not done lit before, let this be the night. Or, do not stay till ye go home; begin now, while standing here; pray to God, and let the language of thy heart be, Lord convert me! Lord make me a little child, Lord Jesus let me not be banished from thy kingdom!
My dear friends, there is a great deal more implied in the words, than is expressed: when Christ says, “Ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” it is as much to say, “ye shall certainly go to hell, ye shall certainly be damned, and dwell in the blackness of darkness for ever, ye shall go where the worm dies not, and where the fire is not quenched.” The Lord God impress it upon your souls! May an arrow (as one lately wrote me in a letter) dipped in the blood of Christ, reach every unconverted sinner’s heart! May God fulfill the text to every one of your souls! It is he alone that can do it. If ye confess your sins, and leave them, and lay hold on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God shall be given you; if you will go and say, turn me, O my God! Thou knowest not, O man, what the return of God may be to thee.
Did I think that preaching would be to the purpose, did I think that arguments would induce you to come, I would continue my discourse till midnight. And however some of you may hate me without a cause, would to God every one in this congregation was as much concerned for himself, as at present (blessed be God) I feel myself concerned for him. O that my head were waters, O that mine eyes were a fountain of tears, that I might weep over an unconverted, graceless, wicked, and adulterous generation.
Precious souls, for God’s sake think what will become of you when ye die, if you die without being converted; if ye go hence without the wedding garment, God will strike you speechless, and ye shall be banished from his presence for ever and ever. I know ye cannot dwell with everlasting burnings; behold then I show you a way of escape; Jesus is the way, Jesus is the truth, the Lord Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the live.
It is his Spirit must convert you, come to Christ, and ye shall have it; and may God for Christ’s sake give it to you all, and convert you, that we may all meet, never to part again, in his heavenly kingdom; even so Lord Jesus, Amen and Amen.
 
________________
George Whitefield (December 27 [O.S. December 16] 1714 – September 30, 1770), also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican preacher who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally.[1] He became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because he traveled through all of the American colonies and drew great crowds and media coverage, he was one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America. [Credit: Wikipedia]

1 Peter 1v10-12 (I)

 

Prophecy, prediction,
preaching and peering

Peter's first letter

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. ESV

 
We’re going to continue in 1 Peter chapter 1.
You’ll remember that Peter had spoken of his readers as being “scattered, elect sojourners” and we recognised that that is an apt description of every believer in Christ in this world. Peter pointed out that being “scattered, elect sojourners” can involve being “grieved by various trials” in this present life. Even so, as believers in Christ we have every reason to rejoice because we have been born again to the living hope of an eternal inheritance that is being kept for us. Furthermore, besides having confidence that this inheritance is being kept for us we also have the assurance that we are being guarded by God’s power until that time so that we can be sure that we will receive that inheritance.
Last time we looked at verses 8 and 9 where Peter said: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”. Peter was acknowledging the fact that we do not literally or physically see Jesus at the present time but, nonetheless, He is a powerful, present reality. We noted four components of those two verses that are four important facets of the Christian life.

We saw that the FOCUS in those verses was “Him” – none other than the unseen Lord Jesus Christ.

We saw the RELATIONSHIP in those verses – a relationship of love for the unseen Lord Jesus Christ and belief in or “into” the unseen Lord Jesus Christ.

We saw the EXPERIENCE in those verses – Peter spoke of “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory”.

We saw the END in those verses – Peter referred to it as “the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

Having mentioned “the salvation of your souls” we find that verse 10 then goes on to say “Concerning this salvation”. Up until now Peter had been encouraging his readers by pointing them forward to the ultimate end of their salvation. He was pointing them to the certainty of their eternal inheritance. Now he is going on to encourage them by pointing out the background to their salvation. In connection with “this salvation”, he says in verses 10 to 12 that: “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look”. Those are the verses we are going to consider this morning.
The logic that Peter is employing here is very similar to that used by Jesus in Matthew 13v16-17 where He said: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it”. Jesus was saying that His hearers were blessed because they were seeing and hearing firsthand what the prophets of old had an awareness of and a desire for but had only been able to anticipate from afar.
Likewise, Peter’s point is that his readers might be “scattered sojourners” suffering in this world but they were blessed. Why? It was because they were experiencing and partaking of a salvation that the prophets of old had spoken of but could only look forward to and long for.
That’s the overall thrust of verses 10 to 12 but the text itself is quite convoluted and takes a bit of untangling so I’ve struggled with deciding how to go about expounding it. I eventually decided to entitle this sermon ”Prophecy, prediction, preaching and peering” because in the text we read of the prophets who prophesied, the Spirit of Christ who predicted, the evangelists who preached and the angels who peer. So, let’s start by considering:
 
The prophets who prophesied
In speaking of “the prophets” Peter is surely referring to the Old Testament prophets and probably to the whole of the Old Testament scriptures. You’ll remember how Jesus walked incognito with those two sad and confused disciples on the road to Emmaus after His crucifixion. They were reeling at the shock of His death and struggling to make sense of the suggestion that they’d heard that He might be alive after all so Jesus explained what had happened. How did He do that? Well, we read in Luke 24v27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”. I’m sure that, in verse 10, Peter was referring to the same prophets whose words can be found throughout the Old Testament scriptures and he mentions a few things about them and what they did.
Firstly and most obviously, he says that they prophesied.
That’s exactly what you’d expect prophets to do. About what did they prophesy? Well, in particular, Peter says that they “prophesied about the grace that was to be yours”. Remember that Peter was speaking “Concerning this salvation”. That is, concerning the salvation that his readers had received through faith in Christ and he refers to it here as being “the grace that was to be yours”. So, that tells us a couple of things at least. It tells us that the salvation that they had received was salvation by grace. Their salvation was described as “the grace” or the undeserved favour. It also tells us that this salvation, this grace, had been foretold and articulated by the prophets long ago. The salvation that they had now received was “the grace” that the prophets had said was to come. Those are two great reasons for encouragement for those who believe in Christ but are currently struggling as “scattered sojourners”.
There’s great encouragement in knowing that our salvation is by grace because that means that our salvation does not depend on our effort or goodness or worthiness. If it did, we could have no assurance of salvation at all. But, we are saved by grace. As Paul says in Ephesians 2 verses 8 to 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. You see, we are saved by God’s grace through faith and even that isn’t our own doing – it is the gift of God. Surely, there’s great encouragement in knowing that our salvation, from beginning to end, is entirely God’s doing.
There’s also great encouragement in knowing that this salvation by God’s grace was foretold by the prophets of old. There are some who look at the old and new covenants and take the view that God tried the Old Covenant as a means of solving the problem of sin and making people right with Himself but it failed to do the trick so He thought He’d better try something else and He brought in the New Covenant as a second stab at solving the problem. Such an idea really doesn’t provide a basis for much confidence in God’s ability to save us does it? If He’s tried once and failed how can we be sure that He won’t fail again? How can we be sure that plan B will be any more successful than plan A? The reality, of course, was nothing of the sort.
The fact that the prophets “prophesied about the grace that was to be yours” shows that this was God’s purpose all along. You see, the Old Covenant was never intended to bring about salvation. It was never going to able to really take away sin and create a right relationship with God. Its purpose was to point to and pave the way for the New Covenant through which true salvation would be accomplished. And, as we’ll see shortly, what the prophets foretold has come to pass showing that, as you would expect with God, everything has gone according to plan. So, there’s great encouragement in knowing that this salvation by God’s grace was foretold by the prophets of old.
The second thing for us to notice about the prophets is…
In prophesying, according to verse 12, they were also serving. They were acting as servants. Now, of course, in a very real sense they were God’s servants but that isn’t Peter’s emphasis here. Did you notice how Peter described the grace that they “prophesied about”? It wasn’t the grace that was theirs or the grace that would be theirs but “the grace that was to be yours”. They were prophesying about the grace that was to come with the New Covenant and that would be experienced by New Covenant believers such as Peter’s readers and such as us as believers in Christ today. So, in verse 12 we read: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you”.
Now, of course, that is not to say that weren’t serving God. Neither is it to say that nothing that the prophets said had any relevance to their immediate hearers or for the near future. But, it is saying that that wasn’t the main point of what they were doing. They weren’t primarily serving themselves and their own generation. The real thrust of what they said pointed to the New Covenant and was directed towards new Covenant believers. I wonder how often you think in terms of the Old Testament prophets as being your servants. That’s what Peter says they are and recognising that should be a great encouragement to us. Look at what Paul says in Romans 15 verse 4: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”.
In view of that, we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that the Old Testament Scriptures are somehow less important or less relevant to us than those of the New. No, reading what was foretold by the prophets and seeing how it has been fulfilled in Christ should give us grounds for hope and encouragement.
Notice, too, that the prophets weren’t merely unwittingly serving us.
It’s not that they thought that they were only serving their immediate hearers and it just so happened that they were also serving us. It’s not that serving us was an incidental side effect of which the prophets were unaware. No, Peter tells us that “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you”. The Greek word that has been translated there as “revealed” is a word that is always used of revelation given by God. So, the prophets were in no doubt that they were speaking of things that were far greater and way beyond their immediate context. God Himself had made that clear to them. They knew that they were referring to something tremendous that God was yet to do in the future. They knew that they were greatly privileged to speak of these things and were excited about the things of which they spoke.
Thirdly, we see that, besides prophesying and serving, they were also searching and enquiring.
We read in verses 10 and 11 that “they searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories”.
The Greek word that’s been translated here as “searched” is often used in the New Testament and it has the sense of diligently seeking for something. It has the idea of desperately trying to find something. The Greek word that’s been translated here as “inquired” is only used in the New Testament on this one occasion but it is often used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. There, it has the idea of searching through something like searching a house or a tent or a country. Sometimes it’s used to refer to searching through Scripture.
So, these two terms seem to speak respectively of what they were looking for and where they were looking for it. We’re told what they were looking for – it was the “person or time” about which they’d prophesied. We’re not told where they looked but it seems likely that they searched through earlier Scripture as well as their own prophecies to try to find out the “person or time”. What’s clear is that they didn’t just ponder their prophecies and wonder about them. It wasn’t just an intriguing question for them. They actively searched. They desperately wanted to know because they knew how important it was. We now know the “person and time” about which they’d prophesied but I wonder if we really appreciate what a glorious privilege we have in knowing the “person and time” in a way that our servants the prophets were so eager know.
Now, how did the prophets manage to speak of “the grace that was to be yours”? Next session we will pick up this thought and move on to consider “prediction, preaching and peering”.
~ Steve
 
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

Ruth: Homecoming

Ruth1:19-22

So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, Is this Naomi? 20 She said to them, Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter- in- law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. ESV
 
 
Introduction
I’m not sure if Bible believing churches down south still do this, but many years ago they used to have a special “homecoming” service. Usually there would be special music, a guest preacher, and of course, “dinner on the grounds”. You can be sure that the dinner would feature fried chicken, baked beans, corn bread, and sweet tea. Back in those days as a “preacher boy”, I could attest to the always present chicken. I heard of one rather rotund preacher who said as he pointed to his belt, “You know what this is? It’s a fence around a chicken cemetery!” Anyway, a homecoming service was a happy time, though I can’t actually remember anyone coming home for homecoming, since it was a relatively new church. But every church had to have one.
Our text speaks of a homecoming, and in the culture of that time, it was an unexpected homecoming. We live in such a mobile age, in which we have friends and family scattered around the country and the world, that it is very difficult to comprehend how very hard it was for people to move in that time. When people moved away, you expected your goodbye was permanent. So then, for Naomi to return to Bethlehem was a startling event. But this text speaks of more than one woman’s homecoming.
 
Exposition:
I.          The arrival in Bethlehem (1:19)
A.        When Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem, it seems that the men were out in the fields and the women working in town.

1.         You can picture the scene. One woman spots Naomi walking into town, and hurries out for a better look, with her daughters close behind. (There was no morning TV in those days!) She sees her forgotten friend and tells her oldest daughter, “Sarah, run over and tell Martha and Hannah that I think Naomi has come home!” As the word spreads, a crowd of women gather to see and to greet Naomi. It is a happy time of year, and they are so happy to see her! “Naomi, is that you? Welcome home! But… where are Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilion?” And one woman says to a friend in the growing crowd, “I bet she has some story to tell. Who needs a daytime soap opera when you have reality TV in our little town of Bethlehem?” You can see the women looking at her clothes, her face etched with grief and bitterness, and her hair sprinkled with gray hairs. They can sense that amid their joy, a long-lost friend has returned with sorrow. But off to the side stands a young Moabitess, for the moment ignored and unwelcomed. (Please remember that this was life under the law covenant, and Ruth was a despised Gentile.)

Apply: God has made us social creatures—to be part of a community. Being part of a community is an important part of what we are. Tragically, Americans have lost what this means, and millions are suffering the emotional consequences of that loss of community. The church is Christ’s new community in his better covenant, and we need to welcome people into our community. Reach out to strangers and welcome them cheerfully. Your welcome might be their doorway to faith in Jesus.

2.         Since there are few opportunities to remark on this, I want to seize this one. It is good for women to act like women and to socialize like women—very interested in personal matters! Yet a woman should be godly as well as feminine. So watch out for the temptation to spread malicious or salacious gossip. Instead, look for opportunities to spread the joy and peace of the Lord in your conversations. You know that another woman has the need to be listened to. How can you listen and provide godly hope and comfort? Remember that Christ has selected you as a female ambassador for the sake of his name.

B.        The chapter opened with a famine beginning; it closes with a harvest beginning. So, this is a joyous time in Bethlehem. They can see God’s blessing in their fields. God has come back to bless his people! And now the women see a dear friend come back, as if from the dead.
Apply: As a believing community, we need to welcome people home. It matters not where they have lived in the world under the cruel oppression of the evil one. And Satan is a cruel destroyer of humanity! We say, “Come in! Make yourself at home! Rejoice with us, because the Father’s grace in Christ is overflowing!
 
II.        Naomi’s bitter words (1:20-21)
A.        Naomi becomes the wet blanket at her homecoming. She returns their joyful welcome with a putdown. This is not a “pleasant” scene. Yes, I can understand the emotions that were undoubtedly swelling in her heart when she walked into town. The memories of her exit with her husband and two sons would come back. She had a full family and the prospect of a full, prosperous life in Moab. But now she was empty, and it smacks her hard. Naomi is not a cardboard cut-out doll. She is a woman with deep feelings. But her misguided feelings rule the hour!

1.         What is Naomi up to? Let’s begin with this. Naomi overvalues her circumstances and undervalues a person, Ruth. Naomi misevaluates God’s actions, and underestimates the value of her daughter-in-law. We often misinterpret what God has placed in our lives. In addition, Naomi is not even sensing that her true treasure is the Lord, but only views him as the one making her life bitter. Naomi views the Lord as a witness against her in a court of law (1:21), even as she returns to the Lord and his people.

Comment: Is this not how you and I act? We are flawed in every area, including our faith and repentance. God, the object of saving repentance and faith, justifies us and not the purity of our actions. Listen to the message of grace: Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:4-5).

2.         Naomi suddenly decides to change her name. “I can’t stand to be called ‘Pleasant’ one more time! This is going to change right now! Yes, I’m back, but I’m not ‘Pleasant’; I’m ‘Bitter’!” Ouch, Naomi is like a woman that Anne of Green Gables described this way—“all prickles and stings”.

Apply: Oh my friend, please let me ask you this. Do you sense a “Naomi attitude” in your heart? Is there a simmering pot of bitterness on the stove in your mind? Are you just waiting for the opportunity to give anyone who will listen to an earful of your bitterness?
B.        Naomi tells her story from her point of view. But she tells a confused story, as a law covenant daughter of Abraham, returning to God, while blaming the Lord instead of blessing him. She uses two names for God, Shaddai and Yahweh, in a chiastic manner: Shaddai, Yahweh, and then Yahweh and Shaddai. Yahweh, as we have seen, means, “I am who I am”. But what is the meaning and significance of Shaddai?

1.         It seems that Shaddai means “Almighty”, though this cannot be proved beyond question.

2.         The significance of this name for God is clearer in the OTS. It speaks of God’s rule over the universe (Ps 68:14; Job 42:2). As he rules over all things, Shaddai dispenses blessings (Gen 17:1; 35:11; Ps 91:1-2), but he also maintains justice (Job 24:1; 27:2) and people appeal to him for justice (Job 13:3; 31:35). This also means that Shaddai executes judgment (Job 27:14-23; Is 13:6; Ezk 10:5, 18; Joel 1:15). It is in this sense that Naomi now views her covenant Lord. She is thinking of Shaddai as Job did (Job 6:4; 27:2).

C.        Naomi rightly sees God in control of human life. She refuses to look at “second causes”. She left Bethlehem full, but Yahweh brought her back empty. Notice how she puts this! She did not simply return, but the Lord brought her back. She did not lose her husband and sons because of chance, disease or some other calamity, but God emptied her arms of her family. She is upset with the Lord and what he has done, but she still acknowledges his control over her life.

1.         Someone might ask, “How can you trust a God like that?” To which I reply, “How can you trust a god who isn’t in control? Why bother to trust a weakling that fate or sinful people can frustrate?” In addition, we must remember that sovereign power is not the only characteristic of the true God. He is also holy, wise, all-knowing, everywhere-present, eternal, unchangeable, good, merciful, patient and love. Before you complain about his will, I advise you to read about what he has told us his will is for all who trust him. Naomi’s serious problem is that she is evaluating God on the basis of how she feels about her current circumstances. Do you commit the same error? When you’re enjoying a week at the shore, do you sing, “God is so good, he’s so good to me?” But what song do you sing when your car breaks down, you’re in physical pain, you feel no one cares, the bill collectors are calling, and the “wrong” candidate has won the election? Where did God ever promise to work out everything according to the purpose of your ill-considered, short-sighted, self-serving, sinful will? The answer is not to deny that God is sovereign. Neither is the answer to deny that he is holy, wise and good.

2.         I learn a couple truths from this text. One is the shocking kindness and compassion of God in putting up with this kind of talk from his people, who act like spoiled brats. I discover that his mercy is always new, when I lose control and talk like Naomi, do you? We all should shut up, get down on our knees, and confess our arrogant pride that we have dared to contend with the Almighty (Job 40:1-2). Another is that we need to wait and see what God is doing. We are so anxious about our story! But God is writing another story, the story of his glory, in the pages of our lives. Faith is the confidence that God’s story will be wonderful.

Apply: If you could choose, which words would you prefer to be remembered for speaking? Would you choose Ruth’s words (1:16-17) or Naomi’s (1:20-21)? Read both about ten times, think about them for ten hours, and then evaluate which you sound like as you tell the story of your life—even if it is just to your closest friends.
 
III.       But someone else besides Naomi came home in this passage (1:22). Her name is Ruth.
This verse has a difficult structure, but the word “return” is used of both Naomi and Ruth. So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest (NASV).
A.        In Naomi’s previous words, we hear her say nothing about her daughter-in-law.

1.         Naomi has complained in the singular. However, hasn’t Ruth lost her husband, too? Isn’t Ruth also childless? If Naomi has been brought back empty, then what can be said about Ruth, who is now empty in a foreign land?

2.         Suffering can produce a self-centered outlook. Others are forgotten. What matters are my pain and my anguish and my troubles and my loneliness and my heartache! Yes, Naomi was suffering, and we reach out to others in our grief. But surely she should not overlook Ruth but speak in the plural, and talk about how Ruth needs friends and help!

B.        However, the Holy Spirit who inspires the writer of this portion of Scripture has not forgotten Ruth! He points out that Ruth the Moabitess has returned.

1.         How can this be called a return, since Ruth had not left Bethlehem in the first place? The Spirit of God wants us to know that Ruth has returned to the living God.

2.         By calling her a Moabitess, the Spirit wants us to sense the wonder of her conversion. In this Old Testament book, he reminds of God’s greater purpose. God had said that all peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham (Gen 12:3), and had invited the nations to rejoice with his people in the great song of Moses (Deut 32:43). Now Ruth stands as one of the firstfruits of that worldwide vision. Ruth the Moabitess has returned to God and his people! Naomi has not returned empty, because Ruth the Moabitess has come home with her!

3.         To sum up the story to this point, “when God is at work, bitter hopelessness can be the beginning of some surprising good” (Hubbard).

Apply: How can you know that God is at work for your good? You can only know it when you are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and righteousness with God. Only then can you know the love of God from which nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate you.
~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.
 

Love and Common Cents

 

Some statistics about the
relationship of money and marriage

 
love and common centsThe National Marriage Project’s State of Our Unions 2009 Report was released that year in December, but I missed it. It provided an update on the state of marriage, primarily through examining the impact of the Great Recession on marriage. The research they reported was surprising in some categories, affirming in others. One key finding contradicts a longstanding canard that men prefer to marry less educated women. The Marriage Project reports having a college education actually increases a woman’s chance of marrying.
Some key findings are below, but I can summarize them quickly by saying that God’s design for family relationships is still the best pattern for happiness and wealth. No surprises there, really. (Note, please, the pithy summary of best long-marriage indicators in bold below.) But here are some statistics about the relationship of money and marriage:

  • Credit card debt is corrosive in marriage, whereas shared financial assets sweeten the ties that bind couples together. Research indicates that couples with no assets were about 70 percent more likely to divorce over a three-year period compared to couples with assets of $10,000. High levels of credit card debt play havoc in the lives of newly married couples, as debt is associated with less time spent together, more fighting, and significantly lower levels of marital happiness among these couples.
  • One contributor’s research indicates that husbands are significantly less happy in their marriages, and more likely to contemplate divorce, when their wives take the lead in breadwinning. On average, men do not have difficulties with working wives, so long as their wives work about the same amount of time or less than they do. But, according to his analysis of the 2000 Survey of Marriage and Family Life, husbands do not like it when they are clearly displaced as the primary breadwinner in their families. For instance, husbands in families with children at home are 61 percent less likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages when their wives work more hours than they do.
  • Newlywed couples who take on substantial consumer debt become less happy in their marriages over time. By contrast, newlywed couples who paid off any consumer debt they brought into their marriage or acquired early in their marriage had lower declines in their marital quality over time.
  • Because women are now expected to have established themselves socioeconomically prior to marriage, women’s earnings have become a major predictor of marriage. Those with greater economic resources are now significantlymore likely to marry.This is a paradox of modern marriage: Although overall increases in female earning capacity have weakened marriage at the societal level, the rise of the companionate model of marriage has meant that female earnings promote marriage at the individual level.
  • There is good news and bad news on the marriage front. For the college-educated segment of our population, the institution of marriage appears to have gained strength in recent years. For everyone else, however, marriage continues to weaken. Thus there is a growing “marriage gap” in America, between those who are well educated and those who are not. Recent data indicates that, for the college educated, the institution of marriage may actually have strengthened. It once was the case that college-educated women married at a lower rate than their less educated peers. Indeed, marriage rates for college-educated women were lower well into the late twentieth century. Since around 1980, however, this situation has reversed. College-educated women are now marrying at a higher rate than their peers. Not only that, but the divorce rate among these women is relatively low and has been dropping.
  • Teenagers, high-school drop outs, and the non-religious who marry have considerably higher divorce rates. If you are a reasonably well-educated person with a decent income, come from an intact family and are religious, and marry after age twenty five without having a baby first, your chances of divorce are very low indeed.
  • Probably because of marital social norms that encourage healthy, productive behavior, men tend to become more economically productive after marriage; they earn between 10 and 40 percent more than do single men with similar education and job histories.
  • When thinking of the many benefits of marriage, the economic aspects are often overlooked. Yet the economic benefits of marriage are substantial, both for individuals and for society as a whole. Marriage is a wealth-generating institution. Married couples create more economic assets on average than do otherwise similar singles or cohabiting couples.
  • Marriages that end in divorce also are very costly to the public. One researcher determined that a single divorce costs state and federal governments about $30,000, based on such things as the higher use of food stamps and public housing as well as increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency. The nation’s 1.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost the taxpayers more than $30 billion.
  • Research has shown consistently that both divorce and unmarried childbearing increase child poverty. In recent years the majority of children who grow up outside of married families have experienced at least one year of dire poverty. According to one study, if family structure had not changed between 1960 and 1998, the Black child poverty rate in 1998 would have been 28.4 percent rather than 45.6 percent, and the White child poverty rate would have been 11.4 percent rather than 15.4 percent.
  • Children who grow up with cohabiting couples tend to have worse life outcomes compared to those growing up with married couples. Prominent reasons are that cohabiting couples have a much higher breakup rate than married couples, a lower level of household income, and a higher level of child abuse and domestic violence.

~ Carolyn
________________
Read the original post and/or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
 
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.
 

His Benefits

 

“wanting his benefits and
chasing after a free meal”

 
heaven sent foodSome time ago at Cor Deo we were looking at John 6.  It is one of Jesus’ great moments.  In a rare glimpse of ministry up north (rare for John), Jesus has impressed the crowds with a mighty Moses-like miracle.  Unlike the tension he faces down south in Judea, Jesus is a bit of star in Galilee.  So much so that they are starting to move towards making him their new king!
But Jesus didn’t go for the fame option.  
I suppose it is a bit strange, since he was meant to be the king over the Jews in the line of David.  Still, perhaps he perceived an issue in them that made this golden opportunity seem less than ideal?  Perhaps he perceived their political ambitions didn’t match his own and that he was something of a pawn in their great popular revolt?
Actually the indications in the passage do point to their perceiving who he was.  He was the Prophet that had been expected since the time of Moses (the miracle-bread leader).  And the next day, despite his slipping away from them, they keep pursuing him as the crowd grows ever bigger.  Maybe this was the moment to make his move and claim a throne?  Not at all.
When Jesus finally interacts with the crowd again, it is an abject disaster from a PR point of view.  He rebukes them for wanting his benefits and chasing after a free meal (which was no common occurrence in their world).  He urges them to lift their expectations beyond filled stomachs to eternal life.  He points them beyond Moses to God in heaven who has now sent Jesus to them.
They wanted Jesus to be like Moses and give them bread.  
Jesus instead took on the role of the bread and wanted them to be united to him.  He used a shocking image to shake them from their pursuit of self-serving benefits.  Jesus was no benefits delivery man, he wanted to be far closer than that.
It is important to not impose a communion table understanding on this passage.  
Jesus isn’t saying remember me; he is saying consume me, be united to me.  He is shocking them and trying to stir their perspective beyond their deathly-glare into the mirror of their own needs.
This is not just an obscure incident in one corner of one gospel.  The New Testament speaks, time and again, of the richness of union with Christ, of relationship with God, of having His Spirit in us, of being in Christ and He in us.  Yet our tendency will naturally be the same as theirs was in John 6.  With our gaze fixed on ourselves we will look to Jesus as one who can offer us benefits, one who can serve our history-long pursuit of godlike status.  After all, he can give us eternal life, and a nice heaven, and help us avoid hell, and bless our lives here on earth and so on.
Too much of contemporary Christianity does not see the self-absorbed orientation of our own hearts.  
Too much of contemporary Christianity keeps God conveniently distant, only coming close to carry benefits to us at our bidding.  He is the powerful servant who can do what we cannot and deal with the question of our eternal destiny.  But we remain firmly seated on the throne of our own god-like status.
Too much contemporary evangelism fails to recognize the depth of the sin problem.  
Of course, we have failed and fallen short (shall we say 49 out of 50), and since there is a legal consequence in place, we need help to avoid the penalty of that.  But if our evangelism simply offers a mechanism by which we can pursue our own best interests, maybe we are missing an ingredient or two.  And maybe we are all at 0 out of 50, no matter how good we think we have been!
Too much contemporary church life affirms sanctified versions of self-centred living.  
After all, if my behaviour conforms to the accepted standards in church world, then shall we overlook the issue of motivation?  For instance, I can continue to receive many benefits in church world if I live a certain way, but will suffer personally if I choose to pursue certain more overt sins.  So my sanctified selfishness is acceptable?
Jesus shocked the crowds that seemed so ripe for revival.  He had not come to offer them benefits.  He had come to give them himself.  Somehow we need to allow that shock to stir our hearts out of their self-absorption and into a responsiveness to him.  In the gospel God does something profoundly wonderful in changing the very core orientation of our hearts.
David knew about the Lord’s benefits.
And David knew about the Lord.  This is why he didn’t say, “Bless me, O my God, as I forget none of your benefits!”  Instead he cried, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  David’s heart orientation was not toward self, but toward God.  That is what the gospel does to us – it draws us from self into a relationship infinitely more wonderful, a God infinitely more delightful, and a life infinitely more, well, alive.
Leave a comment at our blog.
~ Peter
 
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Peter-Mead.png[/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Peter also authors the BiblicalPreaching.net website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.biblicalpreaching.net” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”http://www.cordeo.org.uk/” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

Abraham's Four Seeds

 

Abraham’s Four Seeds
by John G. Reisinger

 
Abrahams Four SeedsI finished reading “Abraham’s Four Seeds: A Biblical Examination of the Presuppositions of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism” by John Reisinger about 2 months ago and have been wanting to review it ever since. The subtitle of the book sort of fools the reader into thinking that this book might be quite difficult to trudge through, but that really is not the case. Reisinger has a wonderful ability of communicating complicated theology in a simple way. I must say as well that much of what Reisinger says will be difficult to understand if one does not possess at least a cursory knowledge of what Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology teaches. However, he has provided a brief explanation of the basic tenets of these two systems of theology in the first two appendices at the end of the book (and as I will advise later, it is profitable for the reader to read the two appendices before beginning the book no matter the reader’s prior knowledge of Covenant Theology and/or Dispensationalism)
In this book, Reisinger sets forth to prove that both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism are biblically unfounded as systems of theology. On page 6 he explains his purpose in writing the book;

“It is my goal to clearly demonstrate that the starting points of both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, considered as ‘Systems of Theology,’ are not established with the Word of God but with logic applied to previously accepted theological concepts that may or may not be true.”

Reisinger does not doubt that both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism have their strong points, but his major premise is that neither of these two systems, as systems, are biblically coherent.
As can be seen from the title of the book, Abraham’s Four Seeds, Reisinger sees that the center of this debate revolves around one’s interpretation of the “seed” that God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:2, 7; 13:15; 17. He even goes so far to suggest that “All of Scripture from Genesis 12 to the end of the book of Revelation is the story of Abraham and his ‘seed’ as that seed relates to the rest of mankind.” (pg 1)
The big question which God seeks to answer throughout Scripture is who the seed (or offspring) of Abraham refers to, and how one can be in that number. Reisinger sets forth to prove that the seed of Abraham has four different referents in the Scriptures–hence the title of his book, Abraham’s Four Seeds. He asserts that the promised seed of Abraham refers to:

The Natural seed; which “includes all physical children, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Jews and Arabs”

The Special natural seed, which includes “the nation, or children, of Israel, all of the physical seed of Jacob and his twelve sons”

The Spiritual seed, which includes “all believers of all ages”

The Unique seed, which refers to “Christ the Messiah.” (see pg 14)

One might ask; Why in the world would Reisinger focus on God’s promise regarding seed (or offspring) to Abraham in an attempt to expose the unbiblical presuppositions of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism? Reisinger explains just the reason on pg 94!

Both the Dispensationalists and the Covenant Theologian want to bring the promise of Abraham and his seed into the present age in a physical sense via the lineage of their physical children. They both insist that the promise made to Abraham and his seed is an unconditional covenant and is therefore still in effect for physical seeds.

He explains further;

The Dispensationalist naturalizes the seed to mean physical Israel, and the Paedobaptist naturalizes the seed to mean the physical children of believers. The Paedobaptist wants to make the Abrahamic covenant to be a special covenant with believers concerning the salvation of their physical children that is still in effect today. The Dispensationalist wants the same covenant to be a specific covenant still in force with Jews concerning the land of Palestine. In the end, the Paedobaptist does exactly the same thing with Abraham’s seed as the Dispensationalist! He merely does it for a different purpose.

Reisinger makes no bones about the fact that the “the natural seed” and “the special natural seed” play a lesser role than do “the spiritual seed” and “the unique seed” in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, suggesting that God purposed the “the natural seed” and the “special natural seed” to foreshadow, and thus be a type pointing forward to and anticipating the spiritual and unique seed promised to Abraham. (see pg. 32) After all, this is what Paul seems to suggest in Galatians 3:16 and 29.

3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say ‘ and to his seeds,’ as though referring to many, but and to your seed, referring to one, who is Christ… 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise. (HCSB)

Although Reisinger suggests that the physical nation of Israel plays a lesser role in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham regarding seed (or offspring) than does the “spiritual” and “unique” seed, he does not downplay the fact that physical Israel is still (and always be) “a people with God’s peculiar mark upon them” (pg. 44) He explains;

“I personally believe that Israel, as a people, is still a unique people in God’s purposes. However, as a nation, they do not have any spiritual or eternal purposes independent of the church. God does not have two peoples, two programs, two eternal purposes, two gospels, and he most certainly does not have two separate brides for his Son (Eph. 2:11-22).” (pg. 44)

The basic conclusion laid forth by the author is that both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism (as logical systems of theology) seem to miss the boat when it comes to discerning the overall message and theme of Scripture. He suggests that the Gospel is the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham regarding offspring. He says;

The preaching of the Gospel is nothing less than telling the story that (1) the promised seed of Abraham has finally come; (2) God has fulfilled, in Christ, all of the promises made to Abraham and his Seed; and (3) now those same promises are being fulfilled in all those that are united to that true Seed, Christ, by a living faith. (pg 67)

Without a doubt, all of God’s acts of redemption (including the redemption wrought in Christ) has a direct relationship to this promise made to Abraham. Reisinger considers the hermeneutical errors in the approach of both Dispensationalists and Covenant Theologians to be foundational. He says, “If our starting points are wrong, then everything that totally depends upon that foundation is also suspect.” (pg 6). So, you ask, “What is at stake? Who cares if Dispensationalists and Covenant Theologians have misunderstood the nature of the promises God made to Abraham and their fulfillment?” Consider what Reisinger has to say to this:

Dispensationalism cannot get Israel and the church together in any sense whatever, and Covenant Theology cannot get them apart. Dispensationalism cannot see that the church is the true Israel of God and the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham and the fathers, and Covenant Theology cannot see that the church, as the body of Christ, did not, and simply could not, exist in reality and experience until the personal advent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Dispensationalism insists that Israel and the church have totally different promises and destinies (one earthly and the other heavenly), and Covenant Theology insists that Israel and the body of Christ are equally the same ‘redeemed church under the same ‘covenant of grace’ and governed by the same identical ‘canon of conduct.’

Dispensationalism drives a wedge between the OT and the NT and never the twain shall they meet as specific promise (OT) and identical fulfillment (NT); and Covenant Theology flattens the whole Bible out into one covenant where there is no real and vital distinction between either the Old and New Covenants or Israel and the church. (pg 19)
So what is at stake? He continues; “We will never understand either the biblical history of redemption or the relationship between the two major covenants of Scripture” until we accurately understand the nature of the promises God made to Abraham and their fulfillment. (pg. 20) There is definitely more at stake than just a simple lack of intellectual understanding. Thus, it would be foolish (at the very least) to consider the debate waged by Reisinger to be a battle for speculative theology! A failure to understand the relationship between the covenants can result in a works-based, law-oriented pursuit of holiness (see pgs. 72-73), a false assurance of salvation (see pgs. 77-81); a blurring of the lines regarding which promises God has made that we can claim for ourselves (see pgs. 83-95), and a tearing apart of the “new humanity” created by God through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 2:11-22 and Colossians 3:9-11), a “new humanity” consisting of both Jews and Gentiles (see pgs. 104-105). The implications of both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism are quite astounding, to say the least.
Conclusion (and a suggestion and a final word)
Without a doubt, this short book review does not do justice to the book. The importance of the discussion pertaining to the promises God made to Abraham is of utmost importance not just in the realm biblical studies, but also in the life of every believer. The study of the covenants of Scripture and how they relate to each other is arguably the most theologically and exegetically determinative studies in the Bible. If our foundational doctrine is bad, so will be almost everything else that flows out of it. If I were rating this book at Amazon.com I would definitely give it a full 5-star rating. Abraham’s Four Seeds is a must read for all those desiring to dig deep into God’s word. Abraham’s Four Seeds is a short, accessible book worthy of your time. The most wonderful aspect of this book is that Reisinger does not merely tear down the faulty foundations of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism; he doesn’t leave the reader suspended in mid-air without an alternative. Reisinger surely does dismantle both systems of theology, but he then, as a master theologian, builds a firm, biblical theology in its place–a theology which keeps Jesus at the center of God’s redemptive work, provides the believer the needed tools for reading the Scriptures with accuracy, and motivates the believer to live Spirit-empowered lives to the glory of God.
I will caution you, however, to read the two appendices (in which he lays forth the basic tenets of both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism) at the end of the book before delving into Chapter 1. In order to understand much of what Reisinger says you must understand what he is speaking against. After all, he defines what he considers to be a correct approach to the Scriptures by way of contrast. If you don’t get the contrast you will not be able to get an adequate view of his proposed solution. And it really doesn’t matter if you think you already know what Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology is. Reisinger is fair in his description, but you must understand how he views both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism if you expect to follow him adequately. In other words, it will only help you if you start your journey through Abraham’s Four Seeds by reading the first two appendices first. Now get it and read it (discerningly, of course)!
Finally, I must add that the passage which seems (at least to me) to most poignantly expose the faulty foundations of both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism is Galatians 6:15; “For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; [what matters] instead is a new creation.” The children of the promise (see Galatians 4:21-31) are not evidenced by their physical lineage (which Dispensationalists argue) or by the faith of their parents (which Covenant Theologians argue), but rather by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in their own lives which results in a visible trust in Christ alone for salvation and repentance.
~ Jimmy Snowden
 
[button link=”http://www.amazon.com/Abrahams-Four-Seeds-John-Reisinger/dp/0966084543/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357043751&sr=8-1&keywords=abrahams+four+seeds” newwindow=”yes”] View at Amazon[/button]  
Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy is the “Pastor of Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Visit his blog, ChosenInChrist.com.
 

Walking on Water


The Significance of Jesus
Walking on Water
in John 6:16–21

The incident
walking on waterThe incident involving Jesus walking on water is the fifth of the seven signs recorded in detail by John in John 2–12. It is set in the evening after the feeding of the 5,000 recorded in John 6:1–15. Like the fourth sign, its timing is significant. Jesus’ encounter with the Jews in Jerusalem recorded in John 5 had raised the following questions: Is Jesus the prophet like Moses (something implied in the argument of John 5:45–47); and is he equal with God (John 5:18)?
It is very significant, therefore, that Jesus is shown to have the power to walk on water, since walking on water is considered in the Old Testament to be uniquely an activity of God. By walking on water, Jesus thus showed himself to be divine and also greater than Moses. Moses after all had to wait until God made dry land appear before he could lead Israel across the sea at the time of the exodus, whereas Jesus had no such need. Jesus’ divinity can not only be seen in the fact of his walking on water, but also via his I am statement, and through the detail of the immediate arrival of the boat at its destination.
Setting the scene
Summarizing the immediate events leading up to Jesus’ walking on water, Jesus’ disciples had gotten into a boat to travel from the south-eastern area of the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum, a journey of some 10–15 km (John 6:17). A strong wind had been blowing, and when the disciples had reached to about halfway across the lake, they observed Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat (John 6:18–19). Jesus walking on the water is a theologically significant activity. It is a clear sign of Jesus’ deity.
According to Old Testament teaching, only God has power over the sea (e.g., Gen 1:6–7, 9; Exod 14:21; 15:8; Job 26:12; 41:31; Ps 33:7; 74:13; 95:5; 104:6–7; 107:25, 29; Isa 51:15). God is exalted above the sea (Ps 93:3–4; 104:3). Job 9:8 teaches that God “treads upon the waves of the sea” (see also Isa 43:16; Ps 77:19). The sea is also a symbol of the forces of chaos (Gen 1:2; Ps 88:9–10; Isa 51:9–10; Dan 7:2–3; Rev 13:1; 21:1).
Sinking into water is also an Old Testament metaphor for death (Ps 69:14–15). By walking on water, Jesus proved that he is divine, and that he has power over the forces of chaos and death. This sign, therefore, gives clear evidence to prove that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, with power and authority equal with the Father (contra the attitude of the Jews in 5:18).
The disciples fear
Jesus walking on the water and approaching the boat initially only provoked fear in the disciples; but responding to this fear, Jesus said, “It is I. Do not be afraid” (John 6:20). Both clauses in Jesus’ response are significant. The clause translated as it is I literally reads as I am (ἐγώ εἰμι) in the original Greek. The expression ἐγώ εἰμι often functions in Greek as the equivalent of the English it is I or it is me. Nevertheless, in a context which stresses Jesus’ deity, we are most likely meant to understand Jesus’ I am statement as echoing the divine name Yahweh, which is linked in Exod 3:14 with the Hebrew verb אהיהI am.
The implication is, therefore, that Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh (see also Isa 41:4; 43:10). Jesus’ I am statements occur elsewhere in John’s Gospel (see John 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5–6, 8). There are also many I am X statements made by Jesus in John’s Gospel (e.g., 6:35, 51; 8:12; 10:7, 11). Jesus’ command do not be afraid also echoes similar statements made by God elsewhere in the Bible (e.g., Gen 26:24; Exod 14:13; Deut 31:6, 8; and especially Isa 43:1–2, 5). Because none other than Yahweh was with them, they need not have been afraid.
Jesus boarded the boat presumably shortly after his disciples had rowed “about twenty-five or thirty stadia” (John 6:19). One stadium is about 185 m in length. This means that the disciples had rowed about 5 km, which indicates that their location at that point was about halfway across the lake. Yet in John 6:21 we read that when Jesus got into the boat, “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” Jesus delivered his disciples safely and almost instantaneously through the stormy sea to their destination. This detail is theologically significant, because guiding people through a stormy sea safely to the shore is a divine act according to the Old Testament (see Ps 107:23–30; see also Jonah 1:11–17; 2:10).
All in all, the sign of Jesus’ walking on water functions in John’s Gospel to prove Jesus’ divinity.
Readers are invited to comment on Steven’s post.

 
________________
Steven Coxhead has served as a visiting lecturer in Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College since 2002. He also teaches Johannine Theology and the Old Testament at the Wesley Institute in Sydney. In addition he has worked as a part-time lecturer at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney from 2002–2010, teaching the Old Testament, Romans, John’s Gospel, Biblical Hebrew, and New Testament Greek. He has had experience teaching Old Testament, New Testament, and Systematic Theology in South-East Asia.

The Good Shepherd

 

Expositional Bible Study of John 10:11

 

“I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

 
Jesus The Shepherd
Jesus’ claim to be the “good shepherd” is one that is well known — and so it should be. When we think of Him in these terms it brings all kinds of images to mind which recall the ways in which our Lord cares for us.
And if we’re thinking very carefully at all when we read this, we are reminded of David’s famous twenty-third Psalm in which God Himself is depicted in lovely ways as the shepherd of His people.
In fact, there are plenty of other places in the Old Testament (particularly in the Psalms and the Prophets) where God is portrayed with this language. Perhaps most significantly are the promises which God makes through His prophets that, since no one else is worthy or able to assume the responsibility, He will Himself come and be His people’s shepherd. In His care, His people will be safe, and they will be content.
With this in mind as we hear Jesus’ claim we cannot help but be struck by the significance of it: His claim is that He is God come to His people, as promised, to be their shepherd. He is the fulfiller of the long hopes of God’s people.
Jesus the Good Shepherd
But while this is clearly a part of Jesus’ claim, it does not seem to be the focus. The focus is a bit narrower than that. His claim is not just that He is the shepherd but that He is the “good” shepherd.
Commentators have emphasized that the word which Jesus uses here, translated “good,” carries the connotations of “beautiful, attractive.” That is, there is something about Jesus as shepherd that makes him desirable.
Jesus the True Shepherd
But what is it that makes Jesus’ shepherding work so lovely? He tells us: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
To illustrate what He has in mind, Jesus tells about the hired helper who watches the sheep — that is, until there is danger. When the wolf comes, the hired help leaves. The sheep don’t mean that much to him, and so in the face of danger he leaves the sheep to themselves.
Jesus is not like that. He is the “good” shepherd, for He is prepared to die in order for the sheep to be saved. He “lays down His life for the sheep.”
Jesus the Substitute
Now why would Jesus need to die? To put it another way, What is the danger facing the sheep? Clearly, it is something mortal, life-threatening. But what is it?
If you’ve read your Bible much at all you know the answer already. The danger facing the sheep is nothing other than divine judgment for sin. Sin carries with it a death sentence; God made that clear at the very outset of human history. Yet there are these, whom Jesus calls “the sheep,” who will not have to face that judgment. Why? Because Jesus, their “good shepherd” cares for them so deeply that He has come to die in their place, and by His death they will go free.
This gets to the very heart of the Christian gospel. Jesus’ death on the cross was a death for sin. It was the penaltyfor sin. Yet Christ had no sin for which to die! And it is just here that we see Him to be such a “good” shepherd.He bore the punishment of God against sin in the place of the sinner.
Theologians call this “penal substitution,” and so it is. He, the sinner’s substitute, paid the penalty of the sinner’s sin.
Did you ever consider the question of sin? Given that you are a sinner, how do you expect to enjoy the eternal blessings of God? Do you imagine that somehow God will just overlook your sin and let bygones be bygones? But how could He do that? Has He not pledged that His justice will be served, and that sin demands judgment?
You see, the modern idea that God will just overlook our sins is not becoming to Him at all. It makes a mockery of His justice.
But then if sin must be punished, how can the sinner ever be saved? There is only one way: he must find someone who is sinless and who is willing to become his substitute in death. “This,” Jesus says, “is why I have come. And it is this that makes me the good shepherd.”
Jesus, the Object of Our Faith
This is why Jesus and all the Biblical writers emphasize so the necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. None of us is good enough to merit God’s favor; only Jesus Christ is. We, then, had better make our way to Him! And this is precisely what He invites us to do! This is why He came! “He that comes to me,” He says, “I will never cast out.” That is, that one who believingly abandons himself to me and to my care, I will take him and keep him forever.
Jesus’ claim to be the “good shepherd” is a well-supported one. He proved it very well. And for those of us who are trusting in Him for salvation, He continues to prove it every day with satisfying tokens of His love.
~ Fred
 
Fred Zaspel
Pastor Zaspel holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. He is currently a pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010) and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel (Crossway, 2012).
[button link=”http://www.biblicalstudies.com” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Dr. Fred Zaspel’s Biblical Studies[/button]

1 Peter 1:8-9 – ..because of an invisible Person (II)

 

Peter's first letter

 
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1:8-9)

For this session we’re going to pick up where we left off and move on to consider the remaining two points of verses 8 and 9. As I said preciously those verses might not appear to contain such a blatant contradiction as verses 6 and 7 but they certainly include a couple of conundrums. Perhaps a suitable title would be something like “Inexpressible rejoicing because of an invisible Person”.
We’re now going to look at the remaining two of the four components of those two verses for they are really four important facets of the Christian life. They are all true of those who are “scattered, elect sojourners”. Once again, the four points are:

The FOCUS in these verses

The RELATIONSHIP in these verses

The EXPERIENCE in these verses

The END in these verses

For this post we will consider the remaining two of these four points. So let us notice:
 
The EXPERIENCE in these verses
We read that as well as loving Jesus Christ and believing in Him, believers also “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory”. Peter spoke of our rejoicing back in verse 6 where he said: “In this you rejoice”. As we saw last time believers really rejoice as well as genuinely grieving. Although it’s difficult we can perhaps just about get our heads round the apparent contradiction of really rejoicing in spite of trials that cause genuine grief. But now Peter goes a step further. He, as it were, ups the ante. He’s not merely saying that his readers rejoice. He tells us two quite amazing things about their rejoicing.
Firstly, he says that they rejoiced with joy that was “inexpressible” or, it could be translated as “unutterable”.
The Greek word only occurs on this one occasion in the New Testament and it’s saying that the joy in question is so profound that it is beyond the power of words to adequately express it. Peter is saying that we rejoice with a joy that is beyond words. If you try to express this joy, words will fail you. It doesn’t matter how good your vocabulary might be. Adequate, suitable, appropriate words simply don’t exist! I wonder if that is why singing has such a prominent place in Christian experience and worship. Singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” expresses our joy more effectively than spoken words alone. Somehow, the combination of true, sound words and a moving tune is greater than the sum of its parts as an expression of what is in our hearts.
Secondly, Peter says that we rejoice with joy that is “filled with glory”.
There’s actually a single Greek word there that has been translated as “filled with glory” in the ESV. I suppose, because there’s a single Greek word, the NIV refers to it as a “glorious” joy. However, the Greek word is actually the verb that corresponds to “glory” and the ESV has attempted to convey that by saying that it is “filled with glory”. A literal translation would be “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and glorified”. The idea is that this joy is exalted and has something of the glory of God about it. It’s beyond any natural joy and has a heavenly quality to it.
As with loving Jesus and believing in Jesus, Peter wasn’t exhorting his readers to rejoice with this sort of “inexpressible joy” that is “filled with glory”. He was stating categorically that they were rejoicing with such joy! What’s more, it’s again in the present continuous tense! That’s challenging isn’t it? It could even seem very disheartening because when you look at your life you probably conclude that you seldom, if ever, feel such inexpressible and amazing joy.
We need to recognise that elsewhere in the Word of God we are exhorted to rejoice. Joy is prayed for. Let’s read a few examples:

Philippians 1v25: “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith”. Paul’s remaining with them would be, along with other things, would be for the benefit of their “joy in the faith”.

Philippians 4v4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”. So, believers are being exhorted to rejoice and to keep it up.

Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”. This is a prayer to be filled with joy in believing.

It’s very clear that this joy is linked with faith.
I think we have to take it that the “inexpressible joy” that is “filled with glory” that Peter speaks of is a deep seated joy within us that comes about as a consequence of loving Jesus and believing in Him. True Christianity is first and foremost a matter of the heart. It’s not primarily a matter of external performances or intellectual conviction or outward observances. It’s a matter of love, trust, and joy focussed on Jesus Christ. In this life we can only experience something of that – that’s why we have those exhortations and prayers for joy and rejoicing. Its true fullness won’t be experienced until we are glorified. That brings us, finally, to:
 
The END in these verses
Peter goes on to say in verse 9: “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.
Firstly, notice that our faith has an “outcome”.
It has a goal. It has an end. It’s leading somewhere. It isn’t just something to help us get through the day or to get through the week. It isn’t just something to cling on to in hard times. It certainly should help us day to day and in hard times but it isn’t just some sort of emotional prop. It’s so much more than that. It will have a long term “outcome”. It has a definite end in view.
Next, notice that Peter says that we are “obtaining” that “outcome”. Yet again, the verb “obtaining” is in the present continuous tense. So, there’s a sense of development here. There’s a sense of progress towards the end of our faith. We don’t yet have the full outcome of our faith but we are in the process of obtaining it. Something is happening to us. In this life we might not love Christ perfectly. We might not trust in Him fully. We might not rejoice in Him constantly. But, we should be loving Him more and trusting Him more and rejoicing in Him more. We are in the process of “obtaining the outcome of our faith”.
What is “the outcome of your faith”?
Well, Peter describes it as: “the salvation of your souls”. It’s what Peter described back in verse 4 as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”. When will that outcome, that salvation, be? Well, in verse 5 Peter said that it is “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. What will happen then? According to verse 7 there will be “the revelation of Jesus Christ”.
As we saw earlier, we have not seen Him in the past and we don’t see Him at present but we will see Him in the future when we finally obtain “the outcome of our faith”. In the words of 1 John 3v2: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.
What an amazing prospect!
Not only will we “see him as he is” but “we shall be like him”! In the meantime, “though we do not now see him”, may we look forward to the time when we will and increasingly love Him and trust in Him and rejoice in Him. May Jesus Christ be our focus. May our relationship with him be one of love for Him and belief in Him. May our experience be that we rejoice in Him. May we know that the end of our faith is nothing less than the salvation of our souls.
~ Steve
 
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!

Ruth: A Surprising Conversion – Part Two

Ruth

1:16-18

But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. ESV
 
Introduction
Review: Last post we saw that Naomi’s words forced Ruth and Orpah to face the real consequences that their intended return to Israel could lead to. Naomi painted her situation in bleak terms; there was no hope of her providing husbands for them, which was very important in the ancient world. In addition, Naomi says that God is strongly against her. As Orpah hears all this, she makes the sensible, but ungodly choice of returning to Moab and forfeits whatever spiritual blessing that could have been hers. Ruth, however, makes the godly and kind choice by deciding to stay with Naomi. But Naomi does not seem pleased with Ruth’s choice. Now what will Ruth do?
In this section, we hear Ruth speak for the first time, and her words are majestic and poetic. Naomi has been telling Ruth to return to Moab. Now Ruth issues a command of her own. She tells Naomi to stop pressuring her to leave her. Ruth has become a believer in the true and living God, and she wants Naomi to realize that great change.
 
Exposition
I.          Basic parts of Ruth’s conversion
A.        Yahweh, the true and living God, became her God.

1.         Ruth words refer back to God’s promise that forms the basis of his covenant with his people (Gen 17:7-8; Ex 6:6-7; Lev 26:12; cf. Jer 11:4). When God is your God, he is your boss, your rescuer, your provider, and your confident expectation. You trust and depend on God alone. You acknowledge God’s right to direct the world and your life in conformity with his goals and purposes (Job 2:10).

2.         Ruth’s confession shows that she had the same spirit of faith that Abraham had, and in some ways, hers was more remarkable. She left her native land for the Promised Land, but without any promise of land or assurance of God’s blessing that led Abraham out. She leaves for Israel without spouse or possessions or servants toward an unclear future as a widow in a foreign land with another widow.

Apply: What is the core of Ruth’s faith? She has tasted and seen that the Lord is good; she knows that a person is blessed if he or she takes refuge in him (Ps 34:8). She delights in the Lord, not in his gifts.
B.        Yahweh’s people became her people.

1.         Ruth changes her “people group” from Moabite to Israelite. When you trust God, you become part of his people. It’s a package deal (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8). In Ruth’s day, God’s people were Israel; in our day, it’s the church, Christ’s new assembly, his body and his bride. So Ruth throws in her lot with people whom her native people had formerly opposed. This happens throughout history whenever someone puts his or her faith in the true God. That might turn your former people against you. Depending on the time period, you could be called such hated names as Christian, Anabaptist, Reformed, fanatic, schismatic, Holy Roller, Bible thumper, fundamentalist, born again, etc. You see, people hate real change—a change of worldview and way of life—and so they despise anyone who stands for real change.

2.         Ruth had to “count the cost”. She faced an uncertain future as a widow with no apparent way of support among a people that she does not know. She is an example of the teaching of Jesus (Mt 8:21; 10:37; 19:29).

Apply: Too often, God’s people prove to be a disappointment. Some witty Christian put it this way. “To live above, with saints in love, that will indeed by glory! But to live below, with some saints I know—well, that’s a different story!” Or as another wrote more seriously, “So too we may often find the Lord’s people to be a disappointing bunch, exhibiting fewer of the fruits of the Spirit than we would like… Yet flawed as the people of God are, if the Lord is to be our God then his people must be our people, too” (Duguid). When you hang around any true Christian long enough, you are going to see the sad, disgusting work of remaining sin (the flesh), as well as the better fruit of the Holy Spirit.
C.        Yahweh’s promises became her hope.

1.         It is easy to pass over Ruth’s reference to burial, until we remember burial customs of that time (cf. the burial customs of the patriarchs in Genesis). People were buried with their people, in whatever hope they had of an afterlife. “Given the intimate connection between land and deity in the ancient Near East, and the importance of proper burial for a restful afterlife, this was the ultimate commitment in the ancient world” (Duguid).

2.         So then, Ruth cuts all ties with her past, including death and burial. She illustrates the kind of commitment Christ requires of his followers (Lk 9:57-62).

3.         In summary, Ruth’s conversion touches all the dimensions of her life: in regard to geography, all locations; in chronology, from the present to the future; in theology, from idols to the living God; and in genealogy, from the Moabites to the Israelites.

 
II.        Lessons from Ruth’s conversion
A.        When we become a believer in the true and living God, the way we look at ourselves changes.

1.         As an old covenant person, Ruth becomes part of the old covenant nation of Israel. She is joined to Yahweh and his people. This means that she will from that time on live as one of the Lord’s people, keeping the law’s commands and regulations. What she eats, how she dresses, her thoughts, attitudes, words and actions are now within the boundaries of old covenant life. For example, she could longer have a ham sandwich for lunch! She has to keep the Sabbath. Yes, even the basic desire of her heart must change (Deut 6:4-5).

2.         As new covenant people, we become part of Christ’s body or church (assembly or gathering). We are united to Christ by faith. Everything in our way of life must change. When we wake up every morning, we must remember we are in Christ and part of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We have a new mission statement and a way of life that agrees with it (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:1-4:1).

B.        With this union with Christ to God the Father’s family, we gain a new passion for life. We stop wandering aimlessly through life and begin to live for the kingdom of God.

1.         Ruth’s passion shows up in the strong promise and oath she made (1:17), probably with a fitting gesture, such as slashing one’s throat. (Remember that when people speak with emotion, we tend to use gestures!)

2.         True Christianity involves living with passion for the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. The good news has forever changed us, and we want others to hear the good news of Jesus and be saved! And so we gladly make sacrifices of wealth, health, leisure, honor, and perhaps even our lives for the Lord Christ.

Illustration: My daughter Sarah was recently at a meeting for Starbucks’ managers, where the founder told the story of the founding of that company and the sacrifices many made to launch it. Christ’s church grows in the same way. Are you passionate about what we’re doing here?
C.        Our hardships can become the doorway to faith in the Lord for others.

1.         What must have Naomi been thinking as she listened to Ruth’s confession of faith? We are not told! The writer allows us to ponder the scene in solitude. In any case, to the praise of God’s glory, all of Naomi’s complaints failed to have a detrimental influence on Ruth. But clearly, Naomi is not filled with joy at the moment, as this “pest” of a daughter-in-law walks by her side, because her words are filled with her bitterness when she arrives in Bethlehem.

2.         However, God has told us the rest of the story that neither Naomi nor Ruth knew at that moment. God wants us to share his smile, as his sovereign grace as provided a kind, loving, believing sister-in-the-Lord to walk beside bitter Naomi. For at that time, the story of God’s glory is very much wrapped up in Ruth, and through her, Naomi’s life is about to change from bitter sorrow to sweet joy.

Apply: My friend, why not trade in your bitterness, sorrows, frustration, disappointment, and anger for the opportunity to serve the Lord with gladness, because he delights in joy and offers to share joy with you? Life is short. Don’t waste your life being peeved and pouting.
Song: “The Master Has Come and He Calls Us to Follow” (Hymns for the Living Church, #499)
~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.
 

Blind Bartimaeus

 

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus – Moe Bergeron – from danny ovalle on Vimeo.
Visiting Pastor and CMC editor Moe Bergeron preaching on Luke’s quote from Isaiah 61:1-3 & Mark’s example of Bartimaeus in 10:46-52 at historic First Church of Christ located in Bradford (Haverhill), MA.
With Mark 10:46-52 serving as an example of Luke 4:18-19, Mark has drawn for us a picture if you will, of a desperate man, held captive by a dark world, deep loneliness, and absolute poverty. Such was the lot of the blind in our Lord’s day. Bartimaeus is totally dependent upon others to provide the necessities of life. There is no modern welfare system to help him. Those who sit in the seats of the scornful would accuse him of being a sinner and, at the very least, he would be considered by the religious establishment a child of sinners. Despite his blindness, this desperate man, made very good use of his hearing. Blind people are said to hear carefully since hearing at times can provide guidance. This man heard well. (If we don’t have many gifts we should use the gifts we have well.)

Beauty's Link to Terrorism

 

We live in an age that sells us a lie

 
One of my favorite Bible passages is from Psalm 34. Verses 4 and 5 read: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”
I have seen that kind of radiant beauty on those whose hearts are contented in God, who are eager to proclaim all of His blessings and mercies upon their lives. I firmly believe that is the most attractive beauty there is, because it edifies and builds up others. Yet, I also know the strong pull of the cosmetic and cosmeceutical industries and the promises they make to stall or turn back the ravages of time. So I write this post with a bit of ambivalence, because I know the money I spend at various salons.
BotoxThat said, I have never been Botoxed. My dermatologist did inform me a few years ago that it was time to start, because it would keep my fine lines from becoming deep wrinkles. I frowned (deepening those lines) and shook my head. There was no way I was going to stick a neurotoxin in my face, I announced. I was sure that in 20 years, we’d discover why that was a bad idea. She looked at me placidly and said, “I hope not because I have a face full of it.” Maybe she was looking at me in wide-eyed horror, but I couldn’t tell.
Likely it won’t take 20 years. We’re now discovering a new problem associated with the Botox craze: an increased risk of terrorism. Yesterday the Washington Post ran an article about how officials fear that the toxic ingredient in Botox could become terrorist tool:

In early 2006, a mysterious cosmetics trader named Rakhman began showing up at salons in St. Petersburg, Russia, hawking a popular anti-aging drug at suspiciously low prices. He flashed a briefcase filled with vials and promised he could deliver more — “as many as you want,” he told buyers — from a supplier somewhere in Chechnya.

Rakhman’s “Botox” was found to be a potent clone of the real thing, but investigators soon turned to a far bigger worry: the prospect of an illegal factory in Chechnya churning out raw botulinum toxin, the key ingredient in the beauty drug and one of world’s deadliest poisons. A speck of toxin smaller than a grain of sand can kill a 150-pound adult.

No Chechen factory has been found, but a search for the maker of the highly lethal toxin in Rakhman’s vials continues across a widening swath of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. U.S. officials and security experts say they know the lab exists, and probably dozens of other such labs, judging from the surging black market for the drug.

Al-Qaeda is known to have sought botulinum toxin. The Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization, and other groups have bought and sold counterfeit drugs to raise cash. Now, with the emergence of a global black market for fake Botox, terrorism experts see an opportunity for a deadly convergence.

“It is the only profit-making venture for terrorists that can also potentially yield a weapon of mass destruction,” said Kenneth Coleman, a physician and biodefense expert.

That last quote is important. I recognize that criminal elements can run scams on most anything to finances their ventures. In some ways, we can’t take responsibility for what they choose to contort. But in an age of responsible consumerism, we also can’t ignore what kind of markets our consumption creates. This article contains sobering news. I don’t offer it to shame women who have had Botox treatments, nor to add one more temptation to those who are prone to fear. I am posting it because I had never heard about this potential link to terrorism. And I believe that having this kind of information helps us to consider our actions and motives from a broader perspective. It challenges us to rethink what is packaged as normal and acceptable.
We live in an age that sells us a lie: that somehow or another we can get around the aging process. But we can’t. Not in our own strength. Sickness, aging, and death are a consequence of our own sinfulness. They are inevitable consequences, but they are not irrevocable. Because there is One who paid the penalty for our sin and gave us His righteousness in exchange, this is not the end of the story. Jesus triumphed over death! His sinless life and substitutionary death on the cross for our sins has averted the Father’s righteous wrath for all of our wrongs. Through this divine rescue, we can repent and receive Jesus’ gracious gift of forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and life everlasting. And added to those amazing gifts is a new, glorified and ageless body.
~ Carolyn
________________
Read the original post and/or comment at Carolyn McCulley’s blog.
 
Carolyn McCulley
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.