Don’t De-Affect the Text

 
Some time ago I wrote a post on biblicalpreaching.net entitled “Preaching is a matter of life and death.“  In the good discussion that followed I made this comment –

“God has communicated in His Word (and calls us to preach that Word), in such a way as to move the heart/affections, as well as informing the mind, urging the will and so on.”

DiscussionOne person asked the helpful question –

“If the moving of hearts and affections is the work of man (the preacher) then the results will surely be temporary?”

Such an important question deserves more than a quick answer.
Hopefully this is helpful: Thanks for the comment.
You are right that the moving of hearts and affections is the work of the Holy Spirit. 
If we make that our task we can easily fall into manipulation and the achieving of temporary results.  What I am saying is that God’s Word is not simply an information transfer from God’s mind to ours.  Rather, God’s Word is that and so much more.  It was designed and written to move the affections, to captivate the heart, to instill values, to draw people to God, etc.
Since the Bible is not mere information transfer, but carefully written communication that functions on various levels (i.e. through word choices, sentence structure, genre decisions, etc.), our task is to faithfully preach the Bible text as it stands.  That means not flattening it into mere information.
For instance, a Psalm may be highly emotive, full of moving imagery, authorial passion, etc.
If we simply dissect that information and talk about it, then I think we are failing to faithfully represent the text.  Rather we should present the Psalm in such a way that listeners feel the full force of the communication that is there – the images, the emotion, the passion, the truth, etc.  Certainly there is explanation, but also more than that, there is something of experiencing the text as well.
Thus we are to say what it says and appropriately do what it does. 
This does not take on the burden of transforming listeners, for that should always remain the work of the Spirit of God.  However, since God is not an “information only” being (as some seem to suggest by denying any genuine affections in God), then there is no reason why we should “de-affect” the text and make it information only.
Did God inspire merely the information in the Bible, or did His inspiration go much further?  That is, did God inspire every word, every genre choice, every tone, etc.?
I believe our task in preaching is to be genuinely and deeply faithful to the preaching text, “re-presenting” it to the best of our ability (study ability, message formation ability, delivery ability), while always resting fully on God to achieve any life change in the listeners.
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]

LOVE BEARS AND ENDURES ALL THINGS

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

 
Introduction
We are going to be talking about the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints this morning. You may think this strange in light of the fact that we have been talking about love from 1 Corinthians 13. I promise you that it will connect. In fact, what you will find is that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is the blueprint for how we are to bear all things and endure all things.
So this is how we will proceed this morning:

1. I will give a definition of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints,
2. I will give a defense for this doctrine from the Scriptures,
3. We will examine how this doctrine applies to our lives.

 
1. Definition of the Perseverance of the Saints
Instead of making my own definition for the perseverance of the saints I will simply draw your attention to the excellent definition which Wayne Grudem has given it.
The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again. So you see that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints exists in two parts.
First, it states that the true born again Christian can never lose his/her salvation.
The same God who had the power to save you has the power to keep you saved. This is what the perseverance of the saints teaches. Many refer to it as “once saved always saved” or “eternal security.” Now I know that I spend a great deal of time warning you of possessing a counterfeit faith. I even said a few weeks ago that I test myself to see if I am in the faith. To some this may seem like Jimmy doesn’t believe in eternal security. But I do. I believe that if you have been truly born again, if you have embraced Christ with true saving faith, God wants you to rest assured in your salvation. The reason why I sound the warning is because the Scriptures sound the warning. The fact is that many people profess faith in Jesus Christ and think themselves to be saved merely because they walked down an isle and prayed to ask Jesus to come into their heart. Or they think themselves to be saved because they come to church or because they know something about the Gospel or because they read the Bible and pray.
I believe that there are many who think themselves to be saved who are not.
If you have merely prayed to receive Jesus and attended church and read your Bible, but God has not done a real work in your heart, you are not at peace with God. This is why Paul says, “Neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). In other words, simply performing a few duties doesn’t do you any good. What really matters is that God has circumcised your heart and has given you new life and has given you a heart that loves Him. I don’t want anyone who is not truly converted finding peace with God until they have embraced Him with true saving faith. I don’t want anyone who is on their way to hell comforting themselves that they are on their way to heaven. God issues forth constant warnings throughout His word about possessing a false assurance and a false sense of security. So I do challenge you to test yourself to see if you are in the faith. I plead with you to not assume that you are truly born again.
However, if you are truly born again, I want you to rejoice!
I want you to rejoice that you are a child of God. I want you to know that “No power of hell, no scheme of man Can ever pluck me from His hand.” So from this point on I am speaking to those who know that they are truly born again. I hope to make those of you who don’t know Christ jealous. I hope that you look on and say, “I want that hope. I want that security. I want that peace. I want that assurance.” Here is the Good News. Everything that I am about to lay forth can be yours. The problem is not that God is running from you or reluctant to save you. You are the problem. God promises salvation to all who will believe. If you will just repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, throwing yourself upon Him as your only hope, God will receive you. He will wash you and cleanse you and adopt you, regardless of who you are and what you have done. But this morning I am speaking to genuine believers. My purpose this morning is to prove to you that your salvation is secure. So the perseverance of the saints teaches that all who are truly born again will never lose their salvation, and that they will continue faithful to Christ until He comes again. In short it teaches that “if you have it, you never lose it; if you lose it, you never had it.”[1]
 
2. Biblical Defense of the Doctrine
Here I just want to fire off a few passages which clearly communicate that the genuine believer is forever safe. If you are a true child of God, you will never be disowned by Him. You can never lose your position as a son, a child, of God. First, I want to take you to the single most important passage, John 6:37-40.

[37] All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [38] For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Here Jesus tells us that He came to do the will of His Father. That is, God has given Him a divine mission. What is the will of the Father for Jesus? Well, the Father has given Him a people to redeem and to keep. Jesus did just come to give men what they need for salvation and to leave the rest up to them. He has come not just to purchase salvation, but, He says, “this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” If Jesus loses any that the Father has given Him, He mission was a complete failure and He disobeyed the instruction of His Father. God sent Jesus to the earth to save men to the uttermost. If one genuine believer loses his or her salvation, Christ has disobeyed the will of His Father. That is simply an unthinkable proposition. Martyn Lloyd-Jones correctly calls it a “monstrous teaching”—the teaching that you can lose your salvation. It is egregious error to think that the Son would fail to finish the work that the Father had given Him to do.
You may not realize it, but one of the most convincing passages of the fact that true child of God cannot lose his/her salvation is 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.

[27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. [28] Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [29] For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. [30] That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. [31] But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. [32] But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

This may not seem like the first go-to passage if you want to prove that the Christian can never lose his salvation. However, take a look at what is going on here in the text. You have Christians who are cherishing sin unrepentantly in their hearts. They are making a mockery of the death of Christ by cherishing those sins which put Him to death. Talk about a mockery. Talk about an affront to self-giving God who died and bled for Adam’s helpless race. But what is evident is that these were children of God. They were genuine, born again Christians. If anyone was ever a viable candidate to lose their salvation, it was these people. If there was a ever a group of Christians who would have been cast off by God because of gross rebellion, it was these guys. Yet how did God deal with them? He killed them. But why did He kill them? Did He kill them to rush them to condemnation? No! He killed them “so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” God killed them so that He didn’t have to condemn them. This is your security. God will never let you go. If you are a child of God, He will do whatever is necessary to keep from condemnation.
One last passage I want to take you to, John 10:27-30.

[27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one.”

 Jesus gives a clear promise.
This is one of my favorite passages. If you are a child of God, if you are one of God’s true sheep, Jesus has promised eternal life. He says, “they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” If you are a true child of God you are secure. But what is most amazing about this passage is that you see that you are not just being held by the hand of Christ, you are also being held by the hand of the Father. This is what C.H. Spurgeon referred to as ‘God’s full nelson hold.’[2] Jesus is here taking pains to communicate how secure the true child of God is. The sheep cannot perish because they cannot be snatched out of the hand of Jesus and the Father. Let me say this as well, although it shouldn’t need to be said; not even you can snatch yourself out of God’s hand.
The only reason I say this is because many have deified the freewill of man and have actually communicated that a genuine Christian, after having been born again, can choose to walk freely out of God’s hand of grace. This is a preposterous notion on so many levels! Friend, if you are in Christ, rejoice! You can never lose your right standing before Him. You will never cease to be His child. He will protect you from any and every enemy who tries to lure you away from His glorious Kingdom. You are in the loving hands of the Father and the Son! God loves you and He has you firmly in His love. Do you know this reality? So often we talk about our need to cling to Christ—our need to abide in the vine. But let me tell you that the greatest comfort in the Christian life is to know that He is clinging to you. There is a great deal of difference between a child holding on to his father’s hand and the father holding onto his child’s hand. The child is much more safe and secure when his hand is held. This is the reality of the Christian life. It is not so much your grip on God that keeps you in Christ, but His grip on you. The same God who had the power to save you has the power to keep you saved.
 
3. Apply the Doctrine
Here is the question I have for you; why does God continue to keep you? Why doesn’t He toss you aside? Why doesn’t God stop pursuing you? How many times have you committed the same sin again and again and again? How many times have you been ashamed of Christ, His gospel, and His righteous ways in public? How many times has God wooed you by His Spirit to shut the t.v. off and spend time with Him in prayer or in His word and you have said, “No.” Why does He continue with you? Many at this point would simply say, “Because God is faithful. He has promised eternal life to all who would believe on Him.” I do not want to disagree with this. In fact, I do believe that. But God does not keep you by some sort of a passionless raw determinism, or by some sort of an apathetic and mechanical resolve to do what He said He will do. Don’t get me wrong.
God is faithful to His promises.
He will fulfill all that He has promised. But he is not like us when we promise to do something and kick ourselves when we are reminded, “But dad, you promised.” We oftentimes fulfill our promises wishing we hadn’t promised. But this isn’t how God is. God is not saying, “Boy, I wish I had never promised Jimmy eternal life if he would only believe on Me. Now I am stuck with him forever. He is always messing up. He keeps coming to me day after day after day confessing the same sins. He keeps grieving My Holy Spirit. He oftentimes seems to be more interested in football and tennis and acquiring money and knowledge than he does in knowing Me and making Me known. But… I promised and I have to keep my promises.” This isn’t God. God is not faithful to keep His promises out of a Spirit of dispassionate obligation. Why then has God continued to keep you in His grace—why hasn’t he disowned you as an illegitimate child. Because He loves you. He cherishes you. He delights in you. Love drives Him to endure with you. It is His love for you that drives Him to fulfill His promises with joy. Look at how God speaks of you.

Psalm 18:19; “He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

Isaiah 62:5; “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Zephaniah 3:17; “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.

God loves you. He values you.
He delights in you. Zephaniah 3 is probably the most amazing. Here we see that God “rejoices over you with gladness” and “exults over you with loud singing.” What a statement! This is why God continues with you. This is why God hasn’t cast you off. He loves you! He delights in you! Rejoice! If this doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will. All Christians should be happy. Matthew Henry says, “The great God not only loves his saints, but he loves to love them, is pleased that he has pitched upon these objects of his love.” God loves to love you. He cherishes you. This is why He continues with you. Love bears all things and endures all things. You know the depth of your sin. You know that even as Christian that you sin on a daily and hourly and minutely basis. God has endured with you in sin after sin after sin. And this is your confidence—God will continue to endure with you in your weaknesses and sins until the day of Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-29; [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.
To say that love bears all things and believes all things is to say that love has no threshold in regard to sin. If God had a threshold in regard to your sin, he would have disowned you as His child a long time ago. If God would only endure with you until you committed X amount of sins, you would have lost your salvation a long time ago. You have heard people say, “I have had it up to here with you.” What they mean is that you are at the limit of what I am willing to tolerate. Husbands sometimes say this to their wives and wives to their husbands. You have messed up one too many times. This sometimes leads to divorce. I have given you too many chances. You have failed me too many times. This marriage is over. This is a love which does not bear all things and endure all things. This is a love which has limits.
But God’s love has no such limitations.
God will never divorce His bride. He bears all things and endures all things. I look at myself and realize that I have, most likely about 40-50 years left in life. I am confident that I will sin against God, grieve His Spirit, and disappoint Him hundreds of thousands of times, if not millions of times in the next 40-50 years. However, I am secure in His love. I am confident that He will never say, “Jimmy, you sinned against me one too many times. I am through with you. You are no longer My child” God will never divorce His bride. He will never disown or abandon His children. Why? Because He loves us.
One small word of application. This is the point of this morning’s sermon; Do unto others as God has done unto you. Jesus said, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Love says, “I value you too much to cut you off. I value you too much to stop pursuing your good.” This is what God says about you. God keeps you and perseveres with you and endures with you because He delights in you.
This is why Calvinists should be the happiest and most joyful people on planet earth. The Calvinist, after all, has no doubts about His eternity. The Calvinist can sing;

When with the ransomed in glory.

His face I at last shall see,

‘Twill be my joy through the ages.

To sing of His love for me.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!

And my song shall ever be:

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!

Is my Savior’s love for me!

A person who believes you can lose your salvation can’t sing this with confidence. They sing it saying in their heart, “but what if I lose my salvation.” There is no basis or foundation for joy in this monstrous teaching. But let me tell you the Good News. Jesus did not die to just get me into the door of His kingdom. He died to secure my full and final salvation. Jesus did not die just to apply His saving grace to me until I mucked it up. Rather, His body was broken (symbolized by the bread) and his blood was shed (symbolized by the juice) to pay the price for your full and final redemption. Rejoice in His saving, keeping, and enduring love for you. Rejoice! Don’t ever stop rejoicing in His love. I want to close with a hymn by William Gadsby. Meditate on these words and rejoice in His love!

The Love of Christ

 

The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.

His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
’Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.

Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.

Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.

He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart.

At death, beyond the grave, He’ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.

Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day

This is what was purchased for you on Calvary. Jesus died to secure you in His love. If you don’t know with 100% certainty that you are a child of God, please speak to us. God holds his hands out to you. He invites you to come drink of the water of life. You can know this confidence, this hope, this love if you will just come to Him and embrace His Son with faith!


~ Jimmy
 
Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
Visit pastor Snowden’s Blog
 

Compelled By Love

 

What About Love?

 
The service that the apostle Paul rendered to Christ was a costly one. We read of it in the book of Acts, and Paul himself tells us of it here and there in his epistles – whippings, beatings, abandonment, hunger, deprivation, insults, offenses of all kinds, and so on. He certainly was not in this for the money!
But if not money, then what? What was it that motivated him?
What was the incentive? 
Actually, the apostle answers this question in several ways. There are many good reasons for serving Christ. But in 2 Corinthians 5:14 he seems to get to the bottom of it:

“For Christ’s love compels us,
because we are convinced that one died for all,
and therefore all died.”

The driving impulse, Paul says, is, simply, my awareness of “Christ’s love.” Indeed, a sense of his love “compels” me to serve him.
Christ's loveThe NIV translation here is helpful – “Christ’s love.” The ambiguity of the KJV (and of the Greek) – “The love of Christ” – has allowed room for some to misunderstand. Many have (mis)taken this verse to say that it was Paul’s love for Christ that motivated him in his service. But that is not what Paul is saying here. He is speaking of Christ’s love for us, not our love for him.
Now it is all very true that we serve Christ out of love for him.
Of course. But given the fickleness of our love for Christ, it really doesn’t constitute ultimate causes or deepest motives. What is it, after all, that gives rise to our love for Christ? The answer, clearly, is that we love him because of his love for us.
Nor is Christ’s love for us a mere sentiment of good will.
For the apostle Paul, Christ’s love has a specific point of reference – the cross. That is how he explains: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” The cross of Christ is the very definition of his love.
Nor is it the cross merely, but the cross as specifically understood in terms of substitution – “one died for all, and therefore all died.” Here is the love of Christ for us – it is the love of the Redeemer taking our place, bearing our curse, paying the full penalty of our sin, and freeing us from divine wrath that was due us.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus was no third party in the dispute, so to speak.
He was not a substitute unrelated to the problem. No, he is himself the God against whom we had sinned, the one whose wrath demanded our condemnation. Yet, amazingly, humbling himself he assumed our station, took all our obligations and debts to himself, and standing in our place bore our curse – the curse of his broken law and of his own wrath. “He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Surely, this is a love like no other!
This is the love of condescension, of sacrifice, and of rescue.
And so Paul confesses, gladly, that it is this that “compels” him to serve the Lord Jesus. Gripped by an awareness of his matchless love he cannot but serve him. If he could have sung from Isaac Watt’s hymnal, doubtless, he would joyfully have sung with him –

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe!
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
‘Tis all that I can do.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small!
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!

Can there be a greater incentive to Christian service than this?
Yes, we love him!
We love him with all our hearts!
But what has gripped us, what has captured our hearts, is this realization of his great cross-love for us. And for this love we willingly and joyfully give ourselves in return to him.

~ 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).
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Knowing Your Place in History

The Book of Ezra

3:1-13  And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God. 3 And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; 5 And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. 7 They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.

8 Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord. 9 Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: 13 So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.  ESV
 
 
Introduction
I remember one of my college professors, Joe Crawford, saying in class one day that people are always trying to make heaven now. Everyone does this to some extent. In your youth you date, find that special someone, and imagine, “When we’re married, it will be like heaven!” You quickly find out marriage is not heaven! Then you buy your first new car, supposing that it will whisk you heavenward, but the car develops problems and you find that it is not heaven. Your children start to arrive, and they seem so angelic when they’re newborns in your arms. But as they become whining, demanding and mischievous, you decide that they act more like fallen angels. Next, you buy a new home, confident that having a piece of earthly real estate will be heaven. But then you encounter the costs of home ownership and you moan that your house is far from heaven. The years pass and you dream of retirement and that cabin on the lake where you can go out and fish every day. But even if you reach that dream, you discover that your golden years are more about health issues than fishing. Ah, heaven is not to be found in this present age!
But you might say, “Pastor, I know that. I’m not looking for heaven on earth. I just wish my life showed more of the triumph of believers in Bible times. They might have had a few problems, but God made their lives easy.” Oh yeah? Anyone who seriously supposes such ideas is either woefully ignorant of the Bible, or is guilty of selective reading, or has been mislead by false teachers, or is a false teacher. Believers in Bible times did not have easy lives. Yes, we read of the triumphs of some (read Heb 11:1-35a). But do we want to read the rest of that chapter? We do this much too often! For example, many can imagine the glory of being part of the joyful throng in the exodus. God rescues his people! But would you have wanted to be in previous generations that endured years of bitter oppression? Or suppose you were twelve when you and your family left Egypt. You would probably have been filled with hope as you looked forward to a bright, new future! But that future suddenly became dark and dreary two years later when your parents refused to believe and obey the Lord. And you spend the next thirty-eight years, the prime years of your life wandering in the wilderness—and it wasn’t your sin that brought you to such a place! Then you have to wait for the Promised Land to be conquered. You are nearly sixty when you can begin your bright new future!
Our text today is one that is rarely read. I doubt you have verses underlined and notes in the margins of your Bible. In fact, these pages might be like new. Most Christians don’t read the post-exilic books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. And so we fail to listen to an important part of God’s word to us. But let us listen together to one part of that message today.
 
Exposition
I.          They reestablished proper worship (3:1-6).
I think we don’t think enough about what they returned to—a scene of devastation. Yes, they had just come back to the land, and there was so much to do! They had to rebuild their infrastructure, homes, farms and business, etc. But they put the Lord first.
A.        They acted immediately on priority of the altar and the sacrifices (3:1-3). The renewal of worship preceded the rebuilding of the temple. Compare the order when the Lord first made them his people. After he gave them the law covenant, he told them how to build an altar (Ex 20:22-26).

1.         They assembled together as one.

2.         They knew that this was essential for their life with God.

3.         They acted according to what was written for them—Bible based spirituality.

4.         They did this in spite of fear.

Apply: The centrality of Christ and the gospel; knowing justification by grace through faith
B.        They also pursued other parts of old covenant worship (3:4-6).

1.         They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:33-43; Num 29:14-40; Deut 16:13-17).

2.         They offered the other regular offerings: daily (Num 28:1-8), Sabbath (Num 28:9-10), and monthly (Num 28:11-15)

Apply: They became wholly devoted to God. They lived as holy or set apart people ought to. As they were to bring constant offerings, so we must continually fix our eyes on Jesus.
 
II.        They started to rebuild (3:7-9).
A.        They gave in order to start rebuilding (3:7).

1.         The Lord includes us in the privilege of supplying the means for public worship. We give because we highly value the worship of God and the gospel ministry. This requires ongoing faith!

Comment: Most of our money for ministry comes from people who worship together here.

2.         To rebuild required them to plan and to reach out to others. God expects us to use our brains and our backs to build.

B.        They engaged themselves in the hard task of rebuilding (3:8-9). They started in the same month that Solomon began to build the first temple (1 Ki 6:1).

1.         A work of unity – as they acted together in worship, so they worked together to rebuild the temple. Unity is a key idea for the people of God (Eph 4:1-6).

2.         A work of wisdom – they appointed the Levites as supervisors. The Levites were the tribe responsible for the proper worship of the Lord.  It is interesting that David appointed 24,000 men of Levi to oversee the work of the temple (1 Chrn 23:4). But they had only a total of 341 Levites (Ezra 2:40-42). Okay, this was going to make everything quite a bit more difficult. But difficulty is no reason to quit! It is an opportunity to see the power of God.

Apply: Remember that the Lord had reduced Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300, so that he would have the glory. Go ahead, consider our weakness, and then rely on God’s awesome power.
 
III.       They celebrated the present work of the Lord among them (3:10-13).
We must trace the mercy we receive back to its source—the Lord.
A.        A time of singing (3:10-11a)

1.         Trumpets were used by the priests in worship (Num 10:1-10; 1 Chrn 15:24; 16:6).

2.         They followed David’s pattern for worship.

3.         They sang a testimony of praise for God’s goodness (cf. 1 Chrn 16:34; 2 Chrn 7:3; Ps 106:1; 107:1; 136:1; Jer 33:10-11).

B.        A time of mixed emotions (3:11b-13)

1.         The younger generation shouted loudly. They were glad that the Lord had brought them back from exile to worship him!

2.         The older generation wept loudly. Though some of them might have been weeping for joy, many were weeping because they remembered the temple of fifty years before and its former glory. They counted the present as small and wept (Hag 2:1-5).

3.         We should praise God for whatever grace and blessings we have, even if they are not all that we desire.

4.         Their problems were far from over (3:13). Yes, while we are in this present world, we will face affliction. But this must not stop us from praising God for the present blessings we enjoy.

Apply: Now is the time for us to rejoice and worship. And it is also the time for us to rebuild. The Lord has not met our needs so far to encourage us to quit, but to move forward by renewing our faith in him and by working according to faith. The Army of the Potomac had been badly beaten by the Confederates at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. But then came a great change in a small town in Pennsylvania, where there would be another battle. Its name was Gettysburg. And everything was about to change…!
~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.
 

True Sanctification

 
 

Possessing The Mind of Christ

 
Christ Centered LivingPurpose: The purpose of this study is affirm that the Son of God is himself the greatest picture of God’s perfect righteousness/holiness shown to man.
Some teach the error that the Ten Commandments are the highest standard of God’s holiness. We do not agree. Jesus Christ is the highest standard of God’s holy character. Messiah gave what the Law demanded and he keeps on giving to those who look to him for salvation.
As for God’s saints they are to learn from Him.

In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus said; “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

John Piper said it this way;

“So put on Christ. Clothe yourselves with Christ. Arm yourselves with Christ. Never be without the covering of Christ. Let your friendship with Christ be as close as the shirt you wear. That is what I said last week was the key to loving and fulfilling the law. And that is the same final answer this week: Receiving Christ daily and fully is the key to love.” (ref)

My friends, The Spirit of God in you animates His love, the love of God working in and through you is His own. Your love for God, your love for one another, love for our enemies, gives what the Law could only demand. You are His blood washed vessels upon whom He has showered his grace. We are not people of the Letter. We are born of the Spirit. Now walk in the Spirit. Love.
In Romans 7:1-6 Paul writes;

“Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

This is extremely important to know. The apostolic writers do not send God’s New Covenant saints back to the Law for their sanctification. They would never do that. Peter tells his readers this;

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen – 2 Peter 3:14-18

It was Matthew Henry, who said;

“Those who live at the greatest distance from the means of grace often use most diligence, and learn to know the most of Christ and his salvation. But no curious arts, or mere human learning, can direct men unto him. We must learn of Christ by attending to the word of God, as a light that shineth in a dark place, and by seeking the teaching of the Holy Spirit. And those in whose hearts the day- star is risen, to give them any thing of the knowledge of Christ, make it their business to worship him.”

Formulas Anyone?
The following is not a man made method formulated by those who would bring God’s children back to the law for their sanctification. True Apostolic sanctification is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul lays it out for us here in Ephesians 4.

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Let’s learn from the following — Learn of Him and Put on Christ!
So then what does the mind and heart of Jesus Christ look like? Below I’ve taken written snapshots from the New Testament scriptures that will serve to reveal to you the mind of Christ. So let’s get started.

Snapshots of Jesus

Compassion
Mark 8:2

“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.

Resignation
Luke 22:42

…saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Devotedness
Luke 2:49

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Forgiveness
Luke 23:34

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Meekness
Matthew 11:29

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Thankfulness
Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

Unselfishness
Romans 15:3

For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Submission
Matthew 4:7

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Prayerfulness
Luke 6:12

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Love
Ephesians 5:2

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Sympathy
John 11:35

Jesus wept.

Reprover
Luke 22:61

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

Gentleness
John 21:15

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

Endurance
Hebrews 12:3

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Pleasing
John 8:29

And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

Grief
Mark 3:5

And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Humility
John 13:4-5

…rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Patience
2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Revelation 1:9

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Subjection
John 14:31

but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Forgiving
1 Peter 2:23

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Bearing the Cross
John 19:17

and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

Zeal
John 2:17

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Benevolence
Acts 10:38

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Firmness
Matthew 9:10

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.

Receiving sinners
Luke 15:2

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Guilelessness
1 Peter 2:22

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

Industrious
John 9:4

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

Confidingness
1 Peter 2:23

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Love of Unity
John 17:21

that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Not of the World
John 17:14

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

Calmness in Death
Luke 23:46

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Consider the above references. They are just the tip of the iceberg. Keep on learning of HIM! Jesus said;

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. – John 15:4-8 ESV

Objections?
Someone may object on the grounds that I have neglected to mention the use of the Old Testament scriptures. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are to learn of Christ from the Law and the Prophets provided it is He whom we seek. Jesus himself taught two of his disciples just that! See Luke 24:26-32.

And he said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures.

~ Moe
__________________
About our publisher: Maurice “Moe” Bergeron
At the present time Moe serves on the pastoral team of Sovereign Grace Fellowship located in Boscawen, New Hampshire. For fourteen years he served as pastor for Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Salem, NH.  He has also enjoyed speaking engagements at numerous churches and conference venues in the North East United States and the Virgin Islands.
On the Internet front our brother did establish Piper’s Notes in 1995 which for many years had served as the foundation for the sermon library for Dr. John Piper and Desiring God. For a brief history of Moe’s relationship to John Piper and Desiring God open to this blog page at Desiring God.
 

1 Peter 1v18-19 – Point 2 of 3

 

We know what we have been ransomed from.

Peter's first letter

1 Peter 1:17-19
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. ESV

 
Review 
If you have God as your Father, if you have become a child of God then there is something that you must most certainly “know” and what you know gives you reason to “conduct yourself with fear throughout the time of your exile”. So, what is it that Peter says believers in Christ know? In our last post we took up verses 18-19 and considered the first of three “we know” points. In this post we are going to consider Point #1.

1 We know that we have been ransomed

2 We know what we have been ransomed from

3 We know how we have been ransomed

So, we know that we have been ransomed. We were once slaves. We’re now free and that is not our own doing, it’s because someone else has paid the price to set us free. Next let us see that:
 
We know what we have been ransomed from
We see that because Peter continues in verse 18 by saying: “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers”.
That word “from” literally means “out of”. So, before we were ransomed we were enslaved in something or were held captive in something but we have been set free by being ransomed “out of” it. What have we been ransomed “out of”? Well, the ESV uses the word “ways”. That doesn’t sound very informative. What are “ways”?
Well, the Greek word that has been translated as “ways” here in the ESV is actually the same word that Peter used back in verse 15 where he said: “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct. The NIV has “in all you do” in verse 15 and “way of life” here in verse 18. That captures the sense better than “ways”. The word really means “pattern of life” or “way of life”. So, what Peter says we have been ransomed out of is an established way of living. Before we were ransomed we were slaves to a way of life.
Next, notice that Peter said that this way of life was “inherited from your forefathers”.
He wasn’t saying that they’d needed to be set free from their way of life because it was one that had been imposed upon them by an alien conquering power. Neither had they needed to be set free from their way of life because they had foolishly allowed themselves to be seduced by some sort of new fangled, wacky, off the wall sect or something. It hadn’t been that they needed to be set free so that they could get back to their roots. No, the way of life that they had needed to be set free from was simply the way of life that they had “inherited from their forefathers”. It had seemed perfectly normal and natural to them. It was hereditary. It had been handed on from generation to generation. It was the way of life that they had always had.
Why did they need to be set free from a way of life that seemed so ordinary and natural?
Well, notice that Peter describes it as “futile ways”. The NIV puts it as an “empty way of life”. The same Greek word that has been translated as “futile” or “empty” is used in 1 Corinthians 15v17 where Paul said: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”. You see the sense of the word clearly there. Paul was saying that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead then having faith in Him would be useless. It would accomplish nothing. Such faith would be empty, futile, a waste of time. We find the same Greek word being used again in Titus 3v9 where we read: “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless”. Here, the word is translated as “worthless”.
So, you see the shocking thing that Peter is actually saying here.
He’s saying that an ordinary, respectable, status quo way of life achieves nothing. It’s useless. It’s worthless. Now, you might say that Peter was writing to churches that were predominantly Gentile so the way of life that had been handed down to them “from their forefathers” had been a pagan way of life that centred around idol worship and led to all manner of vile practices. Paul said in Ephesians 4v17-19: “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity”.
Surely, you say, that is the “empty way of life” from which they had been ransomed.
Probably so, but we mustn’t think that it’s only pagan Gentiles who have inherited a futile, empty way of life. Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 3v4-9: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”.
The way of life that Paul had inherited from his Jewish forefathers was a far cry from that of pagan Gentiles. It acknowledged God. It involved trying to obey the law of God and being righteous. Nonetheless, as soon as Paul came to faith in Christ, he realised that the way of life that he had inherited from his forefathers had actually been every bit as empty and worthless and useless as the way of life that the pagan Gentiles had inherited from their forefathers.
It’s not something that natural people want to face up to or admit.
But the fact is that unless you are made right with God and relate to Him as He intended any way of life is futile. No matter how you conduct your life, no matter what you set as your priorities, no matter how positive and good and constructive you seek to be, the fact is that apart from having a right relationship with God at the centre of your life, your life will ultimately be futile. You might have some laughs along the way. You might find some things satisfying for a while but they always end. In the final analysis, life without God is futile, empty, vain. That’s the clear message of the book of Ecclesiastes isn’t it? The writer begins in chapter 1 verse 2: “Vanity[of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity”. He didn’t say that because he was a bit of a Puddleglum. It’s not just that he was an Eeyore type character who always saw the gloomy side of things. He seriously wanted to find meaning and purpose. That opening statement came on the back of desperately searching for meaning by trying every sort of thing that life in this world has to offer.
He tried the intellectual way of life.
We read in chapter 1v13: “And I applied my heart[to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven”. Surely exercising an enquiring, scientific mind to explore the wonders of this world must be a worthwhile and satisfying thing to do? Well, having tried it, we have the writer’s verdict in the next verse: “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind”.
He tried the self indulgent, hedonistic way of life.
We read in chapter 2v13: “I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself”” That’s the prevailing way of life for many in our day and age isn’t it? Did it provide meaning and purpose for the writer? No, his verdict was: “But behold, this also was vanity”.
He went to the opposite extreme and tried the hard working way of life.
The term “the protestant work ethic” hadn’t been invented in his day but that was effectively what he tried. Surely there must be joy and satisfaction working hard and seeing the fruit of your labour? Having tried that we see the writer’s verdict in chapter 2v18-23: “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity”.
The fact is that whatever nationality or culture or philosophy or religion that is inherited from our human ancestors, it is always going to a futile, empty, vain way of life that ensnares us. We need to be set free from it and that requires a ransom.
Next week we will consider:
We know how we have been ransomed
 
~ 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!

Heroes of the Faith

 
Hero of the faithDuring one of our Cor Deo meeting we spoke of Athanasius as one of the heroes of the faith.  As bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, (328-373) he was sent into exile by various Roman emperors five times, so that of his 45 years in office he was away more than he was at home.  Still he wrote boldly in defense of the orthodox views of the Trinity despite intense Arian opposition.
The dispute was stirred, in part, by sermons on the Trinity offered by Athanasius. 
Arius, a Libyan priest, rejected his views, arguing that because the Son was born of God it only followed that “there was a time when the Son was not.”  According to Arius the Son was, indeed, the creator of the universe but he himself had first been created by God.
The controversy spread so that throughout the Roman empire Arian Christians could be heard singing a lively tune: “There was a time when the Son was not.” In every city, wrote one historian, “bishop was contending against bishop, and the people were contending against one another, like swarms of gnats fighting in the air.”
While the Arian views gained traction Athanasius dismissed their claims with scorn. 
For him it was a matter of salvation: the Son must be wholly God and wholly man because only a fully human being can atone for human sin; and only a wholly divine being is big enough to swallow death.  To build his case against Arius Athanasius also pointed to the baptismal references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19 that treated the Triune equality as a core conviction of the New Testament church.  He scolded the Arians, too, for returning to a form of polytheism by making Christ out to be a second-tier deity.  There were other arguments as well, brought to bear with unique energy throughout his lifetime.
Others soon followed, including the three Cappadocian Fathers, and the Arian movement eventually declined to insignificance.  We still have a residue presence of modern day Arians knocking on doors around the world but the main work of meeting and dismissing their views was completed in the 4th and 5th centuries.
Today we have new challenges to confront and dismiss, and some of them have as much traction among Christians as the Arian views did in their heyday.  Readers may think of some of these.  Perhaps the myth of progress that treats nature as virtually divine.  Or an existentialism that seeks unrestrained sensual and mental stimulation as ends in themselves.
Of great concern.
What concerns me most, however, is the portrayal of God as a disaffected and distant deity: an offspring of the unmoved-mover of Aristotle.  This power-centric God is presented among too many Christians through anthropopathic themes.  That is, in such circles God has only the appearance of human love, and his disaffected “love” is what he uses to shape human conduct by manipulating our human hunger for affection.  So, in this view, any presumptions that God is a real lover are distortions because divine vulnerability to us—the stuff of love—is excluded by logical necessity.
There have been some rallies against this movement but they offer solutions as destructive as the disease they seek to cure.  Both Process Theology and its more conservative cousin, the Openness of God effort, reduced God’s being in order to have room for the dynamic give-and-take of love.  But these are not answers supported by Scriptures.
Instead we find the Bible portraying the Triune communion as having embraced the human freedom of response to God’s love—to love or not to love him in return—as part of God’s eternal and creative plan for the creation: i.e. “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) as a function of divine love.  We may not be able to analyze the particulars but we are at least assured that the love of the Godhead is real and our love is birthed by his prior love for us.
A final note.
We should, as a final note, comment on a common thread between the disaffected version of God in a gospel commonly promoted today and the God of Arius: both elevate God as a monad or singularity rather than the eternally relational Triune God of the Bible.  Christ, in turn, is reduced to an instrumental figure, used by God to do his will.
Both versions of God are literally dead ends.  Let us resist their claims, even if we may have to face a few years of social exile.  It is worth any disruptions we might face in order to get things right.
Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo.
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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Unity

 

Doing Life Together

 
At Cor Deo we recently had a conversation about Christian unity.
How do we, as believers, determine with whom we can work?
UnityIn recent decades this has been an important conversation as evangelistic campaigns became a feature of the evangelical landscape, not least because of the growth in numbers of denominations.  And as we discuss issues of Christian unity, we also feel the sadness as this year’s Cor Deo training programme is drawing to a close.  Why is it that we feel such a sense of loss as we head our separate ways to serve the Lord?
The whole issue of Christian unity is typically addressed by a shifting scale of truth declarations.  There is a category of primary, essential or core doctrines.  Then there is a category of secondary or non-essential doctrines.  And some will speak of a third category of personal preferences.  Sounds all very helpful.  But how are the lines drawn, and by whom?
Well, typically the primary issues will relate to statements about the Bible, the trinity, the deity of Christ, the lostness of humanity, the “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone” nature of salvation, etc.  And apparently, so the common logic goes, as long as we can find agreement at this level, then it is possible to work together.  Issues in secondary and tertiary categories can be overlooked if there is unity at the level of a broadly evangelical statement of faith.
Secondary issues might include such issues as positions on origins, eschatology, form of baptism and so on.  Differences at this level do not negate the possibility of fellowship, or working together, but might hinder association in the context of a local church.
Tertiary issues of preference might include disagreements over style of worship music, preferences over dress codes and so on.  Dividing into different churches at this level of issue can be frowned upon as the church will then end up divided into special interest groups and lack the diverse multifaceted intricacy of God’s wisdom manifest for the watching eyes of the spiritual realm (see Ephesians 3:10).
So the logic is simple: fellowship and work together with folks who agree on the primary issues, do church together with folks that agree on the secondary issues, seek to do church together with those who differ at the tertiary level and be gracious in everything.
As we come to the final week of the Cor Deo full-time programme in 2013, I can’t help but ponder the logic of this rubric for Christian unity.  A group of participants from different churches, different cultures, different backgrounds and with different personalities, different ages, and different interests.  Is the profound sense of unity that we feel really the fruit of agreement in the primary issues and graciousness in the tertiary?  Is our unusual sense of unity based on agreement on secondary issues?  In reality the three-part scale doesn’t seem to be a helpful road map to the unity we feel, even though it may have some value as we move out into different settings.
During the six months together we haven’t “majored on minors” in order to create unity at a secondary or tertiary level.  We honestly don’t know where each person stands on these types of issues.  And as far as primary issues are concerned, we could have declared agreement on those after a couple of days.  So where does the unity come from?
The sliding scale of truth declarations emphasizes truth, but lacks recognition of other “softer” issues relating to unity.  We have grown to trust one another, recognizing integrity in each other and being bonded through shared experience and relational reciprocity.  “Doing life together” does something in us because we are relationally designed.  Perhaps churches would do well to look beyond post-meeting handshake fellowship as the pursuit of unity.  Avoiding close interpersonal life-on-life experience does not foster unity, it may undermine it by making the unity entirely too brittle.
But simply switching from truth declarations to the experience of life and relationship together is too much of a leap.  In reality the unity we feel at Cor Deo has been fostered in a very specific context that combines truth with life.  Let me briefly describe what I mean:
The list of primary issues can easily be checked off a list by would-be ministry partners.  And it is true that relationships tend to bond in the context of shared life experience and mutual trust.  But the blessing of something like Cor Deo combines the two (and herein is a lesson for local churches too) . . .
Affirming a list of primary issues by signing off on a statement of faith is not difficult, and it is not the path to unity.  Remember, the devil could sign your statement of faith as true!
How much more is unity generated by sharing the life experience of probing and exploring the realities reflected in a statement of faith?  That is, take a group of people eager to probe together the big five issues of Christianity: who is God and what is He like?; what is man and what does it mean to be made in His image?; what is sin and how profound is the human problem?; what is grace and how wonderful is God’s solution?; what is Christian life and how do we grow in the faith?  Five big questions: God, man, sin, grace, life.
If churches could find a way to stop pretending unity is guaranteed by agreeing on a statement of faith and striving to not fall out over tertiary issues, and instead be drawn together by a shared pursuit of the good God who stands behind these big five issues, with hearts open to each other and to what the Bible has to say . . . well, perhaps Christian unity would not feel so brittle.
Cor Deo has been a privilege again this year, because God brought together a diverse group of people hungry to know and love Him.  As we pray about who will join us next year, let’s all be praying for more churches that are bonded together by a profound pursuit of this God who is so worth knowing!
Leave a comment over 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]

LOVE BELIEVES AND HOPES

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
5 does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

 
Introduction
We are moving along to 1 Corinthians 13:7. In these verses Paul lists 15 different ways that love manifests itself. How do you know if the love of Christ dwells in your heart? Well, here are 15 ways that love manifests itself. It manifests itself through patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, etc., etc. This week we arrive at the final four manifestations of the Spirit which Paul lists—“love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” This week I am going to be focusing on the two in the middle—love believes all things and hopes all things.” Next week we will be considering the first and the last in the list.
Before we dig into these two manifestations of love, let me first say that there is disagreement among scholars and preachers in regard to whether Paul is talking about our love toward one another, our love towards God, or God’s love toward us. Jonathan Edwards, for instance, argues that Paul is not saying that love endures hardship from other Christians. He wouldn’t deny that that is a reality. He would say, however, that that is not what Paul is talking about here. He would argue that Paul is saying that the one who truly loves Christ will bear up under every loss and misfortune for His names sake.
He would proceed to argue that if you truly love Christ you will believe all that He has said, put your confidence in all that He has said, and endure everything, even death itself, for the sake of knowing Him and making Him known. Edwards has valid reasons for interpreting these last four manifestations of the Spirit in this way. I do believe that it is quite possible that this is what Paul has in mind. However, I think it is more likely that Paul is not talking about a Christian’s love for God, but our love for one another in the body of Christ.
The reason I put the emphasis on our love for one another is because that is what Paul has been emphasizing all throughout 1 Corinthians 13. It would seem disjointed if Paul were to all the sudden stop talking about our relationships with each other in the body of Christ and without warning switch referents and start talking about our love for God. However, I make Edwards’ position known to you so that you can know that that is one possible way of reading the passage. I don’t think Edwards is out to lunch—there are good reasons that he has for holding his position. Be good Bereans. Do your own homework. Study this out on your own. Nonetheless, I am not thoroughly convinced of Edwards’ position. So as we move forward the emphasis will remain on our love for one another.
 
Love Believes all Things   
Before we talk about what Paul means I first want to say what Paul does not mean. When he says that love believes all things he does not mean that if you truly love you will believe every little thing that every person has ever said. Paul is not saying that love is gullible or naïve. If someone comes to you with some sort tall tale hunting story—you know… “I shot a deer and the bullet went straight through and ricocheted off a metal fence post, went straight through another deer and ricocheted off another fence post, went through the head of a squirrel and ricocheted off the barrel of my gun and zinged right through a bull Moose. That day I killed two deer, a squirrel, and bull moose with one shot.”—if someone comes to you with such a tall tale you can in love say, “You are either lying or you were smoking something in the woods that day that you shouldn’t have been smoking.” But I thought love believes all things! Well… yes but we must remember that people do lie.
God tells us to be discerning people. He tells us to watch out for he lies of the enemy. Some of the greatest tragedies that have happened to the church have happened through the back door of naïve Christians who mean the best but don’t have a discerning bone in their bodies. Remember what Jesus said when He sent His disciples out into the world? “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). And John says of Him, “But Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). Jesus’ assessment of human beings was not all that great. He refused to entrust Himself to a group of crowds who were following Him for the wrong reasons. Gary Shogren helpfully says, “The Christian need not be gullible or falsely optimistic; love does not mean we should fantasize that our fellows are better than they really are.”[1] D.A. Carson says, “Love… always trusts—which does not mean it is gullible, but that it prefers to be generous in its openness and acceptance rather than suspicious and cynical.”[2]
So we must be discerning people. So God is not telling us to be gullible or naïve. What then is he saying? I believe that Paul is speaking about our general assessment of one another. For one reason or another, and some are given to this more than others, we tend toward cynicism and skepticism. Often times our knee jerk reaction to others is suspicion instead of trust. We oftentimes assume guilt without just cause. Love, however, always seeks to give the benefit of the doubt. Love suspends judgment until or unless guilt is objectively proven. Or to put it another way; love does not jump to conclusions without sufficient evidence.
Our justice system here in America operates off the principle that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. What this means is that a person is not declared guilty until sufficient evidence is laid forth which proves guilt. Where did America get this principle? I believe that this principle originated from the Scriptures. This principle, in fact, is laid forth under both the Old Covenant and under the New Covenant. Exercise your mind. Can you think of any passages which teach this principle—the principle that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty? Well… turn with me to Deuteronomy 19:15-19.

[15] “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. [16] If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, [17] then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. [18] The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, [19] then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

This is quite the passage.
First, notice the repetition of the word “any” in vs. 15.
One witness is not sufficient to prove the guilt of a person “for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed.” In other words, it does not matter how small or seemingly simple the case may be, God forbids that the judges of Israel find anyone guilty on the basis of only one witness. One witness is not enough to prove or establish guilt.
Second, He then goes on to say to say that a person can only be charged with guilt on the basis of two or three witnesses.
What is the purpose of this two or three witnesses? This is not just a formality. The requirement of two or three witnesses was designed to protect the innocent from false accusations. Let me set up for you a possible scenario. Tom and Jerry are neighbors in ancient Israel. Tom hates Jerry. Tom wants to do Jerry in good. So he goes before a judge and falsely accuses Jerry of stealing two of his donkeys. Tom knows that if Jerry is charged with theft that he is going to have to give four of his donkeys to him as a penalty for his crime. You see, if guilt could be established on the basis of one witness, enemies would accuse each other falsely all the time in order to do harm to each other. But God says that an accusation will not even be entertained in the court of law unless it can be backed up by two or three witnesses.
Third, you see in vs. 17-18 that the judges “shall inquire diligently.”
In other words, the judges were to listen to the testimony of the witnesses to make sure that their testimonies were valid and did not contradict. And the judges were to “inquire diligently”—they were cross examine and question in order to make sure that the testimony of the witness was credible. You see, the judges were to only declare a man guilty if his guilty could be clearly established.
Fourth, notice in vss. 18-19 that if the charges were to be unfounded, the one who brought the false accusation was to pay for the crime for which he falsely accused his neighbor. So if Tom’s accusations against Jerry were found by the court to be false, Tom will have to give Jerry 4 of his donkeys. God did not take false accusations lightly. If Tom were to falsely accuse Jerry of gouging out his servant’s eye, the penalty for Tom’s false accusation would be that his eye would be gouged out. If Tom were to falsely accuse Jerry of murder, the penalty of Tom’s false accusation would be certain death. God hates false accusations. And I think that it is preposterous that false accusations are not dealt with more severely in our modern day American justice system. I think two things can clearly be deduced from this paragraph from Deuteronomy: 1. The person accused of a crime was presumed innocent until proven guilty, and 2. false accusations were judged severely.
Now this same principle is carried over into the New Testament and is given as the governing principle for how the church is to deal with sin in the church. Turn with me to Matthew 18:15-17.

[15] “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Here we see that church discipline cannot be exercised on the basis of a gut feeling. The church can only pursue church discipline when the unrepentant sin of the person in question is “established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” So this principle carries over from the Old Testament (applied to judicial cases) to the New Testament (applied to the way we deal with sin in the church). The principle carries. I will argue that this is not simply the principle that we are to use as a church when dealing with unrepentant sin, this is the principle which we ought to use in our day to day relationships with each other. Let me put it in the form of a principle: It is not my place to entertain doubt about the character of another brother or sister in Christ unless it is on the basis of two or three witnesses. You have no business entertaining doubt about another unless guilt is clearly established. Love believes all things.
Let me say as well that this is what makes gossip so bad and so dangerous. Gossip is when we drudge up the dirt on each other and put doubts in each others minds in regard the character of another. We are not allowed to entertain doubt with others about the condition or motives of someone else. So you need to check your own heart. Do you allow yourself to entertain doubt in your mind and heart? This takes a certain amount of discipline. Don’t let yourself go down that road. Don’t let yourself stand in suspicion over another brother or sister in Christ. Consider the severity of the warning given by God in James 5:9.

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you not be judged; behold, the judge is standing at the door.

This is a stiff warning. God does not put up with His kids grumbling against each other, assuming the worst of each other. I want to talk for a moment about conspiracy theories. A conspiracy theory is “the belief that the government or a covert organization is responsible for an event that is unusual or unexplained, esp when any such involvement is denied.”[3] There is no question that the government does many things in secret. Sometimes the government has to for security reasons, etc. So I am not opposed to all conspiracy theories. However, many conspiracy theorists live in unrealistic suspicion on the government.
I am not sure how many of you are aware of how many conspiracy theories flooded the internet just days after the Sandy Hook Massacre in Newtown, CT just a few weeks ago.[4] For example, there was one theory which said that the government staged the massacre with crisis actors in order to provide the government a crisis situation which would provide them good reason to impede on your 2nd amendment rights and enact stricter gun control legislation. Many have argued that no one died in the school shooting. It was all the work of the government and pulled off by a well coordinated cast and camera crew.
I personally know a man who pastors a church in the Newtown area and has been called upon to counsel the victim’s family and friends. This is was not a fake situation concocted by the government to destroy your second amendment rights. They certainly capitalized on the situation to further their own liberal agenda, but to say that they capitalized on a tragedy and that they created a mock tragedy are two different things. Both republicans and democrats exploit tragedies for all they’re worth.
But here is the point; you read or listen to these conspiracy theories and you wonder not just how an individual could come up with such nonsense, but you wonder how someone could be so convinced by their theory. I have an answer. They can be so convinced of their theory because they approach the evidence presupposing that the government must’ve had a hand. They don’t approach the evidence asking if the government may have had a hand. They approach the government assuming that the government is already guilty. Thus they approach the evidence asking one question, “How on earth did they pull this off.” Anyone who examines the evidence without presupposing that the government must’ve had a hand in the massacre immediately rejects all conspiracy theories which suggest that the government had a hand in it. However, if you approach the data already convinced that the government was involved you can come up all sorts of crazy theories.
We often times have conspiracy theories in regard to each other. We interpret everything said to us and done to us in the worst possible way, assuming the worst. You have probably witnessed it. “Can you believe what she just did to me?” “She gave you a box of chocolates. I would see that an expression of kindness.” “You would think. She is evil. I told her two years ago that I am allergic to dark chocolate. She knew what she was doing.” Are you kidding me?!! But this is what happens when we entertain doubts about the character of other people. We assume guilt and interpret everything and do in a negative light.
Let me give you another example.
You come to church and someone seems cold toward you and even seems to be avoiding you. What do you do? Oftentimes instead of believing all things we assume the worst and interpret actions and words in the worst possible light. You immediately become offended and say in your heart, “Two can play that game.” But for all you know that person may not have seen you and so didn’t realize that he gave you the cold shoulder. For all you know, she may have been suffering through a migraine or maybe he had just received horrible news on his way to church and wasn’t at liberty to share and so was not in a mood to socialize. Reasons abound. However, we oftentimes don’t give the benefit of the doubt and assume the worst.
How many arguments could you have avoided with your spouse if you would only assume the best and apply the “innocent until proven guilty” rule? How many times has your spouse misinterpreted something that you have said or done because he/she was not giving you the benefit of the doubt? So many married couples live in a defensive posture. Because they assume the worst they can’t trust themselves to their spouse. In the body of Christ we are not allowed to entertain doubts about another persons motivations, intentions, or character without just cause. Love believes all things.
Love Hopes all Things  
Next we see that love hopes all things. Paul could either mean here that love does not give up on people—it holds out hope for growth and restoration—or that love is fueled by hope in God’s sure promises. It can be taken either way. Maybe it is best to take both meanings. Love, in other words, so trusts in God’s sure promises that it doesn’t look at any one person as a lost cause. Love banks on the words which Jesus spoke to His disciples in Matthew 16:26.

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

This is why love presses on. This is why love endures all things. Love never says, ‘You are no longer worth pursuing.’ Our tendency as Christians is to walk by sight and not by faith. Our tendency is to see rebellion and sin and say, “He/she is beyond hope. What’s the use of pursuing? What’s the use of praying? What’s the use of burning so much energy for such a hopeless case?”  In other words, love desires that others receive all that God has for them. Love always perseveres in hope. You want your brothers and sisters in Christ to experience and know the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Love drives you to pursue their good in Christ even if it seems like a lost cause.
When I lived in Las Vegas nearly 10 years ago I became really good friends with one of the young guys my age at church. We would get together for coffee and talk theology. Each summer I helped him take his youth group to California for a mission-centered youth camp. We became really close. Not long after I moved to Missouri for seminary, I got a phone call from my brother informing me that my good friend had rejected the faith, divorced his wife, and basically embraced the world in all of its filth. I was informed that he refused to talk with me because he knew that I would encourage his repentance. He was right.
Nonetheless, this was nearly 10 years ago. He was the last person I thought would reject Christ. I still pray for him. He has been steadfast in his rejection of Christ for nearly 10 years. However, I still pray that God would do the impossible. I still pray that God would overcome the hardness of his heart. I still pray that God would restore to him the joy of His salvation, that He would renew a steadfast Spirit in him, and that He would know once again the joy of knowing Christ. This is how love manifests itself. Love hopes all things. Love throws itself on the promises of God and cries out to God for mercy. I still try to imagine what it would be like to get a phone call or a email from him informing me of the great joy that he now enjoys in Christ. You see, love never throws in the towel and says, “What’s the point. He is too far gone.” No one is too far gone.
This is a good test for us a church.
One of the ways to test the love of a church is to see how she continues in prayer for those whom she has disciplined. We try to do things in a biblical manner here at SGF. Every church which seeks to follow the bible will end up having to exercise church discipline somewhere down the line. Do we long for and hope for their repentance. The goal of excommunication is restoration. But so often our tendency is to go through the process of church discipline, excommunicate the person out of the fellowship, and then once we get used to the newness of the situation we grow lax in pursuing their restoration to Christ in prayer. Often times it is a battle to not fall prey to the out of sight out of mind principle. Do we see those who have been disciplined as being beyond hope? They are far too gone in their sin? Love hopes all things.
Love refuses to consider any unrepentant professing Christian to be beyond the grace of God, beyond the hope of God’s deliverance. The Lord says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). We need to continue to pursue as a community those who have been disciplined in their unrepentant sin. We need to encourage one another to not grow weary in praying for those professing Christians who have been disciplined because of unrepentant sin. Love hopes all things. Even when, from the perspective of the flesh, all seems hopeless, love pursues and prays and pleads for restoration and renewed joy and fellowship. Love hopes all things.



[1] Shogren, 1 Corinthians, 416.
[2] Carson, Showing the Spirit, 63.
[3] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/conspiracy+theory?s=t

~ Jimmy
 
Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
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The Epistle of James

 
[box] Note: Much of the information in this booklet may be found in the standard sources, such as NT Introductions, commentaries on James, and Bible encyclopedias. The material here is compiled largely from these sources and so is not copyrighted.[/box]  
I. The Author
In keeping with the ancient custom, the author of the letter identifies himself at the very beginning. But in a sense, the author here is not very specific in his identification of himself. James 1:1 merely reads, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This does tell us, though, that whoever this James was, he was well known to the readers. Further, only a cursory reading of the epistle reveals that he was a man highly esteemed among them, one who stood in a position of recognized spiritual authority, and one whom they were obliged to obey. Assuming that the critical view (namely, that the book was pseudepigraphal, written by someone who deceivingly took the name James) is in error, the following four men named James in the NT provide for us a list of the possibilities.
A. Survey of the Choices

1. James the son of Zebedee & brother of John
This man was the most prominent “James” in the gospels. He was one of the “sons of thunder,” originally a fisherman with John (his brother), along with Peter and Andrew. He became a disciple of Jesus and was later martyred by Herod Agrippa I, as recorded in Acts 12:2 (circa A.D. 44). There is not much chance that this James could have written this letter before he was killed, and there is no tradition arguing that he did.
2. James the son of Alphaeus, another disciple
Very little is known about this James, the brother of Matthew (Levi). He was another disciple of our Lord, but again, there is no hint that he is the one who wrote this epistle.
3. James the father of Judas the disciple (Judas Thaddaeus)
This man is even more obscure. Not a likely candidate.
4. James the brother of Jude & half-brother of our Lord
This seems to be the author of our epistle. He is not so identified, but much about his character is revealed that is in keeping with what is known about him. This choice is also in keeping with tradition which tells us that he remained in Jerusalem and that Peter, James, & John chose James, the brother of Jesus to be the pastor of the Jerusalem church after the ascension of Christ (cf. Clement of Alexandria). The fact that he does not so identify himself (as our Lord’s brother) may be an indication of his humility, but it also reveals the standing and personal authority he had in the opinion of his readers. He was a man well known and highly esteemed in the new Christian community. “James, a servant of God and of Jesus Christ” was an entirely sufficient identification to them. The brevity of it only makes the author obscure to the modern reader.

B. Biographical Sketch
James is first introduced in Matthew 13:55 as one of our Lord’s brethren. John 7:5 relates the sad fact that even as late as six months before the crucifixion (the feast of tabernacles), James was still an unbeliever. I Cor. 15:7 tells us that in the midst of the resurrection appearances of Christ, “He was seen of James.” A little later, a number of people are recorded as meeting for prayer with the apostles in the upper room, as they awaited Pentecost; among them were “Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brethren.”
In Gal. 1:18-19 Paul is describing the events of his life following his three years in Arabia after his conversion; at this time he spent two weeks with Peter in Jerusalem and also met another important church leader by the names of James, who “was the Lord’s brother.” By the time of Acts 12:17 James was evidently already a leader in the Jerusalem church, for Peter, released from prison, asks that the news be reported to James. In Acts 15:13 James is the one presiding at the great council of Jerusalem which met to decide the important question of the relationship of Christianity to the Mosaic law; his leadership role is evident.
In Gal. 2:9 Paul refers to him as a “pillar” of the church—equal to Peter and John. So far James has come from his unbelief! The remaining references to James (Gal. 2:12-13 & Acts 21:18-19) reveal his zeal for the Mosaic law. He was evidently in firm agreement with the decision of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:13-19), but he was also careful to keep peace between the Gentile believers and the more “legalistic”(?) Jewish Christians (verse 20). Perhaps he himself (as Peter, cf. Gal. 2:11) carried this matter too far; this does not minimize his standing as an apostle, however (Gal. 1:19). (Note: At least four other men beside the original 11 have apostolic status: Matthias [Acts 1:26], Barnabas [Acts 14:4, 14], Paul, and James.) He was “nicknamed” “James the Just” because of his recognized piety, and was said to have “knees like those of camels” because of his much time spent in prayer. Josephus records that James was martyred during an uprising against Christians while Ananus was high priest in 62 A.D.
 
II. The Date
Liberal scholars assign a very late date to the epistle of James (A.D. 85-130), but the evidence demands a much earlier date than that. It would seem that an event as important as the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) would have been somehow evident in such a Jewish writing, had it yet occurred. Further, if we are correct in assigning this letter to James the brother of our Lord, the writing would obviously have been before A.D. 62, the time of his death. Moreover, the very elementary church order reflected in the epistle points to a very early date: there are no bishops or deacons mentioned at all, and the meeting place of the church is still the “synagogue” (James 2:2 “assembly,” Greek, sunagoge). The opinion of the ancient church was also in keeping with an early date of writing, for in their arrangement of the books of the NT James is placed before the Pauline epistles.
Added to all this, the obvious Jewish tone of the letter, the very thin line which appears to exist between Judaism and Christianity, the absence of developed Christian phraseology, the lack of elaborated Christian doctrine, no mention at all of the later conflict between the Jewish demands upon the Gentiles within the church or of circumcision or of the Jerusalem council of A.D. 49 (i.e., Christianity is still wearing its “Jewish diapers,” and there is yet no Gentile prominence within the church)—all point to a date of writing sometime around A.D. 46. This, then, is the earliest of all the NT books, the “First Epistle To the Christians.” But prepare yourself for the study of it—as it has been well said, while James is ancient, it is not musty!
 
III. The Recipients
The letter is addressed “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1b). “Twelve tribes,” obviously, identifies the readers as Jewish, and “of the dispersion” (diaspora) further identifies them as those Jews living outside of Palestine. The fact that the letter was written in Greek (rather than Aramaic) seems further to specify those living in the Western area of the dispersion (e.g., Syria), which was an early center of Christian evangelistic outreach (Acts 11:19). James further identifies them as “brethren” having “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1). Adding up the evidence specifies the recipients as early Jewish believers outside of Palestine. (James’ influence was far-reaching!) The letter was written from an apostle in Jerusalem to the Christian Jews abroad.
 
IV. The Style
This epistle (letter) is in many ways very different from the other NT epistles. It often sounds more like a sermon preached and recorded by a stenographer! More than likely, the letter was intended to be read publicly at the meetings of the churches to whom it was sent. What follows is a brief sketch of some of its chief characteristics.
A. Literary Devices & Techniques

1. Duadiplosis (paronomasia)
This literary device is a subtle but effective method of emphasizing a point by linking together clauses and sentences or ideas by repeating its key words. For instance, in James 1:3-4 “patience” is emphasized—”the trying of your faith worketh patience, but let patience have its perfect work.” Verses 4-5 emphasize the thought of maturity in the negative—”no lack.” Verses 5-6 speak of “asking.” See also “temptation” (verses 12-14), “lust” (14-15), “wrath” (19-20), etc. Remaining alert to these will often be an aid to interpretation.
2. Figures of Speech — chiefly metaphor & simile
Metaphors and similes are methods of comparison, speaking of one thing in terms of another. James employs these figures from all areas of life:

a. Rural Life

He speaks of earthly prosperity as a flower that withers (1:10), speech as a spring and a tree (3:11), righteousness as fruit (3:18), life as a fog that is soon gone (4:14), etc.

b. Marine Life & Astronomy

A man who cannot make up his mind to trust God is compared to a wave of the sea (1:6). God, the source of good gifts is unchanging as the sun (1:17). etc.
c. Domestic Life
The development and result of sin is likened to conception, birth, growth, and death (1:15). The careless listener is likened to the man who doesn’t look into the mirror very well (1:23). In 4:4 unfaithfulness is compared to adultery. etc.
d. Public Life
The future bliss of believers is compared to receiving the victor’s “crown” (1:12). Hedonistic pleasures are like a hostile army encamped in our body (4:1). etc.

3. Illustrations
Most of James’ illustrations are taken from the normal experiences of every-day life. He often refers, to illustrate a point, to wind, flowers, sun, vapor, farming. There is more poetic imagery in James’ short epistle than in all of Paul’s epistles combined. (Maybe he learned it from his mother, cf. Lk.1).
4. Rhetorical Questions
James often asks questions which answer themselves. Few things are as effective in argument as forcing someone to answer an obvious question. James does this repeatedly (e.g., 2:4, 5, 6, 7, 14, 16, 20, 21 etc.)
5. Excellent Greek
Greek scholars agree that the Greek written in the original of James is the best in the entire NT, except for the book of Hebrews. He seems to have been a well-educated man.
6. Plain & Direct
The net effect of all this is that his letter comes across as plainly, vividly, and directly as any possibly could. With his fervency, poetical imagery, illustrations, questions, and superior use of language in general, there is never a reason for misunderstanding him. With James, the issues are never abstract but real and familiar and very personal.

B. Other Characteristics

1. Authoritative
James does not hesitate to tell you what you should do. You can’t even read the letter casually without recognizing that James preaches to us from a superior position. He commands and even rebukes and never apologizes for it. No OT prophet ever spoke with more authority. In this brief letter of 108 verses there are 54 imperatives (commands).
2. Practical
It is evident that James’ purpose is not to instruct us merely in what to believe but in what we should do because of what we believe.
3. Relevant
The personal issues which James deals with are as contemporary as tomorrow’s news!
4. Jewish
Addressed to the 12 tribes of the dispersion, the whole mental atmosphere of the letter is Jewish. Almost every subject in the letter is emphasized in the OT, and there is almost no distinctively Christian teaching. The meeting place is the synagogue (2:1), Abraham is their father (2:21), God is called The Lord of Sabbaoth (5:4, only time in NT), His illustrations are often from the OT, and the whole approach is that of an OT prophet. It is the most Jewish writing of the NT.
5. Different from Paul
Much has been made of James’ difference from Paul. The two apostles each begin their letters with a salutation, but the similarity seems, at times, to end there. This is true, to some extent, in regard to style as well as content. Martin Luther’s opinions about James are well known (as are most of Luther’s opinions!). “It is a right strawy epistle,” he said, because of James’ emphasis on works rather than faith. (In typical Luther fashion: “At the University of Wittenburg, we fire our stoves with the epistle of James.”) This is simply a misunderstanding of James, and Luther is said to have moderated his views later in life.
This misunderstanding stems from a failure to recognize the issues in focus in James and Paul—they are not standing face to face fighting each other but back to back fighting different enemies. Paul attacks the idea that a man can be saved by works and so emphasizes faith. James attacks the idea that a man’s faith may be dead (i.e., unproductive) yet real, and so James emphasizes works. The two men are not contradictory but complementary to each other.
6. Identical to Paul
For the record, it should be understood that everything James says is also found in the writings of Paul. Compare Rom. 2:6-10 & Eph. 2:8-10 to James 2:1, 5, & 23. Also, it should be noted that the two often use the same terminology with different meanings. The “works” Paul attacks are those which pretend to save; the “works” James demands are those which demonstrate salvation.
7. Similar to Jesus
It has been said that if John rested on Jesus’ bosom, James sat at his feet. James preserves more of Christ’s teaching than all the other epistles combined. He never actually quotes his older brother, but he seems to constantly refer to his teachings as a basis for his own. There are at least 10 parallels to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, and for almost everything we read in James we can recall some statement of Jesus which may have suggested it. This is so pervasive that even when the parallels fail, many are inclined to suspect that James may be repeating some unrecorded teaching of our Lord. This is all the more interesting seeing that James was an unbeliever until after Jesus’ resurrection. (Cf. Mt. 5:48 & James 1:4, Mt. 7:7 & James 1:5, Mk. 11:23 & James 1:6, Mt. 7:24-26 & James 1:22, Mt. 7:1 & James 4:11-12, Mt. 23:12 & James 4:10, Mt. 7:16 & James 3:12, etc.)

 
V. Its Canonicity
When the ancient church sat to determine which writings were Inspired and so to be included in the “Canon” of Holy Scripture, the epistle of James faced some problems. It was a part of the antilegomena — books “disputed” by at least some section of the Church. The ancient church historian, Eusebius (265-340) records this for us, although he himself accepted James. The problems were provoked basically by two considerations, much later by a third.
The first problem was its relative obscurity—the letter had remained for some time unknown to a good many churches, especially those in Africa. This problem was resolved by the consideration that the letter was addressed only to a specific locality and people; furthermore, it finally became evident that the letter was more widely recognized than previously thought.
The second problem was its questionable authorship even after the book had become more widely known. They questioned who the writer was and what was his authority for doing so (i.e., his apostleship). With the author identified & its wide acceptance, these doubts were settled by the fourth century, and at the third council of Carthage (397) it became universally recognized. James suffered no further problems until Martin Luther questioned it on the grounds of a supposed conflict with Paul (see above).
 
VI. Its Position in the Canon
Although James was written before Paul’s letters, it has been placed after Paul’s for several reasons, perhaps the best of which is the fact that Paul’s are a more complete and systematic presentation of Christian Truth, and James is therefore supplementary to Paul. It falls into a group of NT books called the General (“catholic”) Epistles (Hebrews-Jude). They are called “General” because the authors & audiences are varied.
 
VII. Survey
The burden of James’ letter is to exhort us to consistent Christian living. He does this by dealing with many dangers which face us (problems which can lead us into sin) and by exhorting us to proper Christian virtues. One by one these issues are handled, and we are instructed in regard to them. The subjects which James takes up are as follows.

A. Trials
B. Temptations
C. Hypocrisy
D. Partiality
E. Empty Faith
F. Tongue
G. Worldly Wisdom
H. Sin
I. Slander
J. Self-Confidence
K. Injustice
L. Prayer
M. The Erring Brother

 
VIII. Summary
It often seems that any attempt to outline the book of James is futile. Discovering the major divisions of the letter is a task which has seen many give up. But however the book is divided, it must be kept in mind that James’ purpose is simply to exhort us in matters of daily Christian living. The following is one humble attempt to summarize that exhortation.

A. The Christian Attitude
1. Toward Trials
2. Toward Temptations
3. Toward the Word
4. Toward Others

B. The Christian Faith
1. The Demonstration of It
2. The Illustrations of It

C. The Christian Life
        1. The Dangers
a. The Tongue
b. The World
c. The Flesh
d. Injustice

2. The Virtues
a. Patience
b. Prayer

 
IX. Purpose & Theme

James is concerned to show us the proper “behavior of belief”; that is, his letter consists of a series of tests of our faith. What we profess to believe, he insists, must be evident by how we live. The issues he takes up, then, are not trivial—these things tell on us! A man is saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone!

 
X. Key Verse
James 2:17 states the theme very well—”Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

~ 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).
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Ruth: The Bigger Story

Ruth

Ruth 4:13-22

So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son. 14 And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. 15 And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. 16 And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. 17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
18 Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, 19 And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, 20 And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, 21 And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, 22 And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.  ESV
 
 
Introduction
Greetings, dear friends! So how are you today? How do you like your life now? Are you content? Or are you really wishing for more? Are you feeling discouraged or depressed? Does it seem like the Lord cares? Or do you feel that he has forgotten you?
Sometimes we may wonder. We might pray something like this: “Father in heaven, I believe that you are Lord of heaven and earth and that you have the absolute right to do whatever you want to do. But what in the world are you doing? This hurts so much! Why are you doing this?”

“The explanation for much that takes place in our lives lies well beyond our own lives, and may be hidden from us all through our lives! For God does not mean to touch only our lives by what he does in us; he has the lives of others in view—even those yet unborn. That is why life can seem so untidy for the people of God. He has not yet finished his business.” [Ferguson, Faithful God, p. 145]

We must fully understand that we are part of the story of God’s glory. Life is not the story of your or my personal happiness; it is not about you or me. It is God’s story, but because it is God’s story, our lives have meaning and significance, even if we are people like Ruth and Naomi. Their lives seemed to be ruined, but God brought them into his story, and now we get to see their part in God’s bigger story.
 
Exposition
Let’s think about three truths that become clear in this last section…
I.          The Lord’s power
A.        The Lord enabled her to conceive (4:13). This can seem very strange to American people, who assume that people are in charge of everything. It actually portrays a very shallow acquaintance with life. If you doubt my words, think of the many couples who cannot reproduce.

1.         Ruth had been married once and had not been pregnant. She fits in the “barren wife” theme that is in the Scriptures. This reminds us that God is the source of life: “and life comes from God” (praise song, “You are God”). We need to restore this viewpoint in our thinking (Ps 139:13-16).

2.         God makes us and prepares us for the mission he gives to us (Jer 1:5; Gal 1:15). You are significant in the context of the plan of God. God has made you what you are to serve him in your family, your church and the world. Sadly, the godless have no sense of purpose; their life is meaningless; weep for them if you understand!

B.        As God gave fruitfulness to the land (1:6) so now he gives fruitfulness to Ruth (4:13).

1.         This is in answer to the prayers of the people at the gate (4:11). The women also prayed that Ruth’s child would become famous in Israel (4:14). As we shall see, that prayer is also answered. Prayer is one of God’s means toward fulfilling his purposes. We do not have, because we do not ask (Mt 7:7-11; Js 4:2c).

Apply: This is important in the life of this local church at this moment in time. In a time of economic recession, this local assembly is also struggling. We need to think and prudently, and we need to pray fervently (Js 5:16b-18).
 
II.        The Lord’s ways
A.        The small stories are important to God.

1.         In the book of Ruth, we have seen God’s provision for two widows. God had given laws about gleaning and a kinsman redeemer to provide for the needy. At the end of this book, we see him giving Naomi and Ruth a new family. This is very important to them, and God has provided (cf. Ps 68:4-6).

2.         Naomi emptiness has been replaced with fullness through her daughter-in-law and her son; now she can enjoy being “nanny” to little Obed (4:16). What a great blessing it is to have grandchildren and to be able to hold them on your lap and care for them. Naomi’s arms are no longer empty, because God filled them.

Apply: Perhaps you are facing some severe struggles in this time. Your outlook is gloomy, and you may be asking, “Does God care about the little story of my life?” Yes, he does. Take refuge in him until the disaster has passed (Ps 57:1). When you are afraid, trust in him (Ps 56:3).
B.        God uses the unexpected.

1.         After Ruth bears a child, the women praise the Lord for what he has done through Ruth. They tell Naomi that Ruth is “better than seven sons”. This is high praise for Ruth in a culture where sons were highly sought after; it was the highest honor they could give the former Moabitess, who is a woman of honor. Now, think of what God taught Israel in the Torah. The Lord gave them the two great commands (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18); he told them to care for the alien living among them (Lev 19:33-34). But ironically, Ruth the alien is the one who teaches Israel to care; she is like the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). God does the unexpected.

2.         The women celebrate two blessings for Naomi in the birth of Obed.

Naomi is sure of a kinsman redeemer in her grandson, and she has someone to care for her in her old age. Obed will renew her life or “turn her life back”. This is the same word as “brought back” in 1:21. How Naomi misevaluated her life then! She thought that the Lord had brought her back empty; surprise! God has given her a grandson who will bring back her life; he will sustain her in her old age. God does the unexpected.

Apply: Have you been evaluating your life on its present circumstances? You need to change your mind and reevaluate them on your relationship to Christ. Are you in Christ? Then you have one who will renew or bring back your life again and again and again.
C.        The importance of community

1.         The neighboring women named the baby Obed (4:17). They name him Obed, which means “servant”; he will be able to serve Naomi and provide for her when he matures. The community senses the significance of the child and shares it with Naomi. Perhaps this seems strange to us in a self-absorbed western culture, but it seems that the parents would get all sorts of suggestions from their family and neighbors about naming a child (cf. Lk 1:59-66). They had a much healthier understanding of the need for community in a person’s life.

2.         The women of the community celebrate the birth of Ruth’s son and Naomi’s grandson; the birth of a child is an important event in human life and should be celebrated. Sometimes men joke about women’s concerns about bridal and baby showers, but such times are important. Here the Holy Spirit puts God’s approval upon such events by putting this common event into the story; later Jesus showed the same sort of approval by attending a wedding and providing the best wine at the reception.

Apply: We need to be sharing all of life with one another.
 
III.       The Lord’s purpose
A.        The end of the book shows that this is much more than a little story about two struggling widows who need a kinsman redeemer to set them free and provide for them. It is part of a bigger story, about God providing a king for Israel—David. And that bigger story is actually part of the biggest story, for David is the father of Jesus the Anointed (Mt 1:1). All that happened in the story was controlled by God to lead up to David. In this story of Ruth, God was writing a much bigger story than any of the characters imagined.

1.         There are ten names in the genealogy. Not everyone is mentioned; “father” means ancestor in some sense. It is a list of significance; fifth and seventh names in such lists were held in special honor; here the fifth is Nahshon, the tribal leader of Judah during the wilderness (cf. Num 1:7; 2:3; 7:12, 27), and the seventh is Boaz, the kinsman redeemer, the man who should costly kindness and love.

2.         God has a purpose he is working out in human history; he does this through people. God lists selected names in his word to highlight his involvement with real people in human history. They are not “just a bunch of names”; no, they are people, like you and me. All of them had a significant part in the line of the Messiah.

3.         God works within a covenant community. This list spans many centuries (seven or eight centuries!) in the old covenant era. The Lord’s purpose worked out gradually over a long time. God’s new covenant community stretches over twenty centuries now; we are part of bigger story than our own lives. We can read of Christians of other times and places and realize that we are part of the story of God’s glory with them

B.        Ruth had gone to Israel to seek refuge under God’s wings (2:12). Does God reward those who seek him (Heb 11:6)? Yes, he does! Who could have forecast such a destiny for this widow from an outcast people? The Lord did more for her than she could have asked or imagined (Eph 3:20-21), by putting this outcast widow into the line of the Messiah (Mt 1:1-17)! Think of the not so nice people we read of in this genealogy. There is shrewd Abraham, self-centered Isaac, deceiving Jacob, and incestuous Judah and Tamar. Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth a childless widow, and David, oh David, for all God’s blessings on him was an adulterer and murderer. Solomon was sexually immoral, Rehoboam would not listen to wise counsel, Uzziah was filled with pride, and Manasseh was an idolater, who sacrificed his own children to idols.
Point: Jesus came to save his people from their sins. Even his own family line was filled with sinners, yet he came to be the friend of sinners. Is Jesus your friend? Turn from your selfish ways and trust Jesus to save you; he is the sinner’s friend.
Apply: God builds his church with outcasts (cf. 1 Cor 1:26-29). They have a place in God’s heart; do they have a place in ours?
~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.
 

Divine Wisdom in the Absurdity of the Cross


To some people Christianity comes across

as being a religion that is just plain ridiculous.

 
Richard DawkinsFor example, the famous agnostic scientist, Richard Dawkins, was interviewed on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q&A program (9 April 2012), ridiculing the concept of the Son of God dying on a cross:

“the idea that … the only way we can be redeemed from sin is through the death of Jesus … that’s a horrible idea. It’s a horrible idea that God, this paragon of wisdom and knowledge, power, couldn’t think of a better way to forgive us our sins than to come down to earth in his alter-ego as his Son and have himself hideously tortured and executed so that he could forgive.”

For Richard Dawkins, the idea of the Son of God dying on the cross is simply absurd.
Christians should not be surprised to find people ridiculing their religion. As Paul says in 1 Cor 1:18: “the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” To most of the world who do not know God, the gospel, the message of Jesus going to the cross, does not make sense. “You Christians are saying that some Jewish man who was executed on a cross by the Romans some two thousand years ago is your God? Really? And what other fairy stories do you believe?”
The word of the cross might be foolishness to those who are perishing, “but to those who are being saved, to us [the word of the cross] is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). The gospel is the key means by which God’s power can be communicated to us human beings. The power of God that brings salvation to the world is Jesus, and people can encounter Jesus in the world today primarily through the message of the Christian gospel.
But why the cross?
As Richard Dawkins suggests, it does seem such a far-fetched kind of story: God, who made this universe, coming down at a certain point in human history to get beaten, whipped, spat upon, and nailed to a wooden cross. Why has God chosen to do this?
Paul’s slightly modified quotation of Isa 29:14 in 1 Cor 1:19 identifies a key reason for the idea of the Son of God dying on a cross. Through the strange but wondrous event of the cross, God is destroying the wisdom of the wise, and the intelligence of the intelligent.
Applying Paul’s teaching to people like Richard Dawkins, we can acknowledge that Dawkins is an intelligent man in terms of human knowledge; but all his intelligence and understanding, and all of his study and degrees, become foolishness when they are used to scorn the cross of Christ.
It is important to see science and other forms of human knowledge for what they are.
The origin of the word science can help us in this regard.
The word science comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. Science is simply human knowledge, and all human knowledge has limitations. Despite this, the history of the Western world over the last 150 years has seen the word of God replaced with human opinion. The human brain has been set up in place of the Bible. This is why the message of the cross is absurd to the majority of people in the Western world today. The fount of knowledge is no longer the church but the laboratory.
We humans might smugly think that we know a lot—the advances in science and technology since the beginning of the twentieth century have certainly been amazing—but our knowledge can never compare with the knowledge and wisdom of the God who created and controls the universe. God knows the limitations of human thinking, and he sees our arrogance when we act as if our knowledge were unlimited or necessarily correct.
In 1 Cor 1:21, Paul teaches, in effect, that God has deliberately designed the gospel to look somewhat absurd and incredible in order to render foolish the wisdom of the wise. The gospel does sound kind of foolish: the God of universe allowing himself to be picked on by Jews and crucified by Romans. It is truly a rather weird idea; but, according to Paul, God is using the weirdness of the idea that God gave up everything and died on a cross, to prove his wisdom in comparison to human foolishness.
God decided to come into the world to die, in order to prove his wisdom and power.
When a man dies, he is dead. A dead man is effectively useless and of no real value. Getting one’s self killed is ordinarily the opposite of what the wisdom of the world is used for. Wisdom and knowledge is generally used in order to keep one’s self alive in order to experience some form of prosperity. Jesus’ death on the cross challenges this belief. Furthermore, the significance of the cross is that death by crucifixion was considered to be the most painful and shameful form of official capital punishment used by the Romans at the time.
What good is a shamefully dead god?
The gospel is absurd to the world. But because the human race has used its wisdom to deny God, God in his wisdom has been pleased to turn the tables, and to show up the absurdity of human wisdom. God incarnate was dead, yes; but only for a time. Christ’s death paved the way for his resurrection. Because of Christ’s resurrection, the foolishness of God is wiser than any human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than any human strength.

Readers are invited to comment on Steven’s post.

 
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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.

1 Peter 1v18-19 – Point 1 of 3

 

We know that we have been ransomed.

Peter's first letter

1 Peter 1:17-19
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. ESV

 
Review 
In the second section of 1 Peter chapter 1, which begins at verse 13, Peter concentrates on showing how the fact of salvation should be worked out in practise in the lives those who believe in Christ and have become children of God. He does so by means of a series of imperatives or commands. We saw the first of those commands in verse 13 where he said: “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed”. We saw the second one in verse 15 where he said: “be holy in all your conduct”.
Last time we looked at verse 17 where we saw the third command “conduct yourselves with fear. We were able to work out that the fear that Peter spoke of was not “abject fear” of judgement because the fear he referred to was for those who, through Christ, call on God as their Father. As Paul says in Romans 8v1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
We then went on to recognise that, although it is certainly right to have a “reverential fear” of God because is holy and almighty, that is not the fear that Peter spoke of either because the context of this fear is “throughout the time of your exile” or “sojourning”. That is “throughout the time you spend as strangers here in this present world away from your heavenly home”. Rather than either “abject fear” or “reverent fear”, Peter was referring to a fear of displeasing our loving heavenly Father.
Now, although we only considered verse 17 last time, the sentence in the Greek actually continues to the end of verse 21 and adds more to our understanding of the fear with which we are to conduct ourselves. It provides further confirmation that it is neither “abject fear” nor “reverential fear” that Peter had in mind. We’ll consider verses 18 and 19 today. Having said in verse 17: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile”, Peter continues by saying “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”.
Do you see the flow there?
It’s “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile knowing that……”. The ESV has rightly continued the sentence but how are we to understand “knowing that”? That could be taken to mean “but make sure that you remember this” or “and be aware of this”. Unlike the ESV, the NIV has, unnecessarily, chosen to begin a new sentence at verse 18. Instead of saying “knowing that” it says “For you know that”. Now I think that is a helpful translation because it captures the correct sense more clearly. The sense really is “because you know that”. Peter is saying to those who call upon God as their Father to “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” because of what you know. If you have God as your Father, if you have become a child of God then there is something that you must most certainly “know” and what you know gives you reason to “conduct yourself with fear throughout the time of your exile”.
So, what is that Peter says believers in Christ know?
From verses 18-19 we’ll consider in three posts three things that Peter says that we know. In this post we are going to consider Point #1.

1 We know that we have been ransomed

2 We know what we have been ransomed from

3 We know how we have been ransomed

 

We know that we have been ransomed

We see that at the very beginning of verse 18 where Peter says: “knowing that you were ransomed.
Now, the word “ransomed” isn’t often used in our modern world. There aren’t many situations nowadays in which it’s applicable. The one situation that might involve being ransomed that probably springs to mind is that of a hijacking or a kidnapping. A ransom will be demanded when someone has been taken as a hostage. We sometimes hear of Somali pirates capturing sailors off the east coast of Africa and then demanding that a ransom be paid to gain their release. Of course, that is in a context that is completely illegal and thoroughly reprehensible. We rightly decry such demands for a ransom to be paid. Consequently, we could easily have a rather negative perception of what a ransom is.
However, in the culture of Peter’s day there were two common scenarios in which people were “ransomed” that were considered to be quite normal and legitimate. One was in the case of prisoners of war. They would be set free from captivity if their own side was willing to pay a ransom price for them. That was a commonly accepted procedure. The other scenario was in the case of slaves. In a process known as “manumission” a slave’s freedom could be bought by paying a ransom price. In some cases slaves would save up their own money so that they would eventually be able to pay the ransom for themselves. In other cases a wealthy benefactor would pay the ransom to buy a slave’s freedom for them.
So, when Peter speaks here of “knowing that you were ransomed” he is saying that we know that we were once slaves or captives but that a price has been paid in order to set us free. Peter then goes on to speak of the captivity that we have been set free from and the price that has been paid to secure that freedom. We’ll go on to look at what we’ve been ransomed from and the ransom price that has been paid in a moment but, before we do that, there are three more things that we need to note from the opening clause.
Firstly, note that Peter said “knowing that you were ransomed”.
So, this knowledge of being ransomed is something that we know about ourselves. It’s personal. It’s not a vague, abstract, blanket idea. It’s not just that you know that a ransom has been paid. You know that a ransom has been paid for you. It applies to us as believers in Christ. If you are a believer in Christ you must know yourself to be a ransomed person. That means that you know that you personally were once a captive. You personally were once enslaved but have now been set free because a price has been paid. So, “knowing that you were ransomed” is a reason for great rejoicing and celebration.
Secondly, note that Peter said “knowing that you were ransomed”.
The important point there is the use of the past tense. This ransom that is applied to us personally is something that has been done in the past. We’re not “being ransomed”. We’re not “going to be ransomed”. We were ransomed at some definite point in the past. It’s referring to something that has been done – a payment that has been made. So, “knowing that you were ransomed” is a reason for great confidence.
Thirdly, note that in saying “knowing that you were ransomed” Peter is using the passive voice.
In other words, this is not referring to anything that we have done. It is something that has been done for us. We’re not like those slaves who were able to scrimp and save until they had enough to be able to pay the ransom for themselves. We’re like those prisoners who were held captive by the enemy. We were unable to set ourselves free. We were unable to escape. We are free only because someone else has paid the ransom for us. So, “knowing that you were ransomed” is a reason for great humility. It allows no room for pride.
So, we know that we have been ransomed. We were once slaves. We’re now free and that is not our own doing, it’s because someone else has paid the price to set us free.
Next we will examine point 2: “We know what we have been ransomed from.”
~ 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!

Faith and Experience

 

Does objective truth suffice

so that we can have a true and proper faith

without any subjective engagement?

 
Christians, if quizzed, will favor firm objective truth rather than loose subjectivity. 
If, for instance, believers are asked, “Do you know that God loves you?” most will respond with, “Yes, of course”.  We can treat God’s love as an objective certainty affirmed in the Bible.  But if the subjective question is asked, “Do you often feel God’s love?” many will probably answer “no”.
Our engagement with objective truth is a well-grounded bias as we recognize how many features of faith are based on proclaimed truth rather than on personal experiences.  We worship Jesus, for instance, as a man the Bible reveals to be God’s Son: one who is wholly God, wholly man, and wholly one in his divine humanity.  This portrayal of Jesus is a bedrock of faith yet we embrace it because we find it in the Bible and not because we somehow, “feel it must be true”.
But what about knowing Christ as in John 17:3? 
Is some sense of relational experience crucial to Christian faith or is it optional?  Does objective truth suffice so that we can have a true and proper faith without any subjective engagement?
Let me answer by affirming that subjectivity is crucial as it completes God’s revelation to us—as in the completion of an electric circuit.  God reveals his heart of love to us, and our hearts then respond in kind as we experience that love.  To know the God who “is love” (1 John 4:8 & 16) is to engage his love in a personal experience.  To know him is to love him.
I enjoy reading the Puritan preacher, Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), on this. 
He held that regeneration is our experience of God that only those who meet Christ can know, and those who have a “veil of ignorance” cannot fathom: “Of spiritual things, such as is union [with Christ], and as is the communion between Christ and us, and the mystery of regeneration in the new creature, such as is the joy in the Holy Ghost, the inward peace of conscience” [Works, 2.462].
Sibbes pressed the point in a sly jab towards academics who could talk about God without loving Christ: “As a blind man can talk of colours, if he be a scholar, and describe them better than he that hath his eyes, he being not a scholar.  But he that hath his eyes can judge of colours a great deal better.”
Red to orange in the rainbowHis point is well taken: a man born blind can learn and even teach about the spectrum of light but it takes a sighted person to tell another viewer, “Look at that part of the rainbow where red turns to orange”.  This is where the difference between a revealed truth, such as Christ’s full humanity and his true deity, and a relational truth such as our experience of the Spirit telling us to speak to God as our “Abba—Daddy” overlap.  Both are true and mutually supportive, but—to use a radio analogy—one operates in the spiritual frequency of an unfelt explanation of Christ’s being while the other operates in the spiritual frequency of a felt encounter with Christ’s love.  We can think, for instance, of the difference between the visible and the invisible spectra of light.
The lesson is this: to engage God in whole terms—in both the objective and subjective reality of his being—we need his self-disclosure to become visible to the “eyes of our hearts” (as in Ephesians 1:18).  Engaging God in Christ is not an “either-or” option that distinguishes thinking Christians from emotional Christians.  Rather it is a “both-and” faith.  So some of our earlier Reformation companions, including John Calvin and Sibbes, were correct to speak of faith as a personal experience of God’s love for us as revealed to our hearts and minds by the Spirit who uses objective Bible promises from God to speak to our hearts.
Some may not be there in their experience. 
So we must ask: is this subjective faith out of reach for some?  For those who have never felt God’s love in Christ but who “want it”?  No.  There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that God keeps us from feeling his attractive love, a love that always elicits a response of love in return.  We love him because he first loved us.
The problem is in us: in our refusal to look towards him with open hearts.
Paul said as much in the case of people being blinded by “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  How does the enemy maintain such power?  By misguided loves: when the blinded person’s real love is for what the world offers, as in John 3:19—they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.
So let’s affirm objective truth while also responding subjectively in love to the one who is, in himself, the ultimate living Truth.  He’s absolutely and objectively lovely and those who know him will experience that love subjectively.
Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo.
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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