STOP PUTTING GOD in a BOX

December 7, 2008

LEGALISM (Judgmental, Self-righteous, Uncaring)

How can legalism destroy our witness?

Matthew 12:1-14
Then he went over to the synagogue, and noticed there a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it legal to work by healing on the Sabbath day?” (They were, of course, hoping he would say “Yes,” so they could arrest him!) (Matthew 12:9-10, tlb)
Legalism puts rules above God. As they pointed to the man with the shriveled hand, the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus by asking him if it was legal to heal on the Sabbath. Their Sabbath rules said that people could be helped on the Sabbath only if their lives were in danger. Jesus healed on the Sabbath several times, and none of those healings were in response to emergencies. If Jesus had waited until another day, he would have been submitting to the Pharisees’ authority, showing that their petty rules were equal to God’s law. If he healed the man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees could claim that because Jesus broke their rules, his power was not from God. But Jesus made it clear how ridiculous and petty their rules were. God is a God of people, not rules. The best time to reach out to someone is when he or she needs help.
Legalism puts rules above human needs. The Pharisees were so concerned about Jesus’ breaking one of their rules that they did not care about the man’s shriveled hand. What is your attitude toward others? If your convictions don’t allow you to help certain people, your convictions may not be in tune with God’s Word. Don’t allow dogma to blind you to human need.

Galatians 4:8-20
Before you Gentiles knew God you were slaves to so-called gods that did not even exist. And now that you have found God (or I should say, now that God has found you) how can it be that you want to go back again and become slaves once more to another poor, weak, useless religion of trying to get to heaven by obeying God’s laws? (Galatians 4:8-9, tlb)
Legalism kills joy. Have you lost your joy? Paul sensed that the Galatians had lost the joy of their salvation because of legalism. Legalism can take away joy because (1) it makes people feel guilty rather than loved; (2) it produces self-hatred rather than humility; (3) it stresses performance over relationship; and (4) it points out how far short we fall rather than how far we’ve come because of what Christ did for us. If you feel guilty and inadequate, check your focus. Are you living by faith in Christ or by trying to live up to the demands and expectations of others?

Colossians 2:6-23
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:23, niv)

Legalism is attractive, but destructive. To the Colossians, the discipline demanded by the false teachers seemed good, and legalism still attracts many people today. Following a long list of religious rules requires strong self-discipline and can make a person appear moral, but religious rules cannot change a person’s heart. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

For the Baptist Identity People, this is a recommended read.
I Pray that this will cause you’all to search your Hearts and Not Put God in a Box.


This is Our Problem of the Sower Today

June 24, 2008

Title: THE PROPHETIC PARABLES OF MATTHEW 13

Author: A, W, Pink

CHAPTER I

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

“And He spoke many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” The careful reader will notice an omission here, namely, that this parable does not begin with the words “the kingdom of heaven is like unto.”
This cannot be without some good reason, for that which is omitted from Holy Writ is oftentimes as meaningful as what is recorded. Each of the six parables which follow do begin with this clause. The reason why it is left out at the beginning of the first is not difficult to account for. As we have shown in a previous article, “the kingdom of heaven” is an expression which, in the present dispensation, has reference to Christendom—the sphere of Christian profession, that circle where the sovereignty of Christ is publicly owned. But the “kingdom of heaven” did not assume this form until after Christ had returned to the Father.
Thus, because this first parable contemplates the period of time covered by our Lord’s earthly ministry these words are appropriately omitted. The first parable forms an introduction to those which follow: it describes the work of Christ
preparatory to the establishment of His kingdom among the Gentiles, though the principle of it is of wider application.

“Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” In Mark 4:3 we find that this same parable is introduced by the words, “Hearken, behold, there went out a sower to sow.” This word “hearken” indicated that the Savior was about to communicate
something of unusual importance. The figure He was using was so simple as to be almost unimpressive, so that there was a danger of His hearers regarding it as of little account; therefore the “Hearken!” “Behold” was also designed to arrest attention; it was a word bidding us to carefully ponder what follows.

The action of Christ at the beginning of this parable was both tragic and blessed. Speaking from the human side, it ought to have been, “A Reaper went forth to reap,” or “An Husbandman went forth to gather fruit.” For fifteen hundred years there had been a liberal sowing of the Seed in Israel, by Moses, David, the prophets, and last of all John the Baptist. But harvest for Jehovah there was not. Touchingly is this brought out in Isaiah 5: “My well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Isa. 5:1-2

The blessedness of Christ’s action here is to be seen in His wondrous condescension and grace in stooping so low as to take the humble place of a “Sower,” hence the “Behold.” The words “went forth to sow,” or as Mark’s Gospel puts it “went out” were indicative of the great dispensational change which was soon to be introduced. There was no longer to be a planting of vines or fig-trees in Israel, but a going out of the mercy of God unto the Gentiles; therefore what we have here is the broadcast sowing of the Seed in the field at large, for as Mat. 13:38 tells us “the field is the world.”

One great design of this opening parable is to teach us the measure of success which the Gospel would receive among the Gentiles. In other words, we are shown what the results of this broadcast sowing of the Seed would be. First of all, most of the ground upon which it fell would prove unfavorable: the hard, shallow, and thorny soils were uncongenial to productiveness. Second, external opposition would be encountered: the birds of the air would come and catch it away. Third, the sun would scorch, and that which was lacking in moisture at its roots would wither away. Only a fractional part of the Seed sown would yield any increase, and thus all expectations for the ultimate universal triumph of the Gospel were removed.

The plain teaching of our present parable should at once dissipate the optimistic but vain dreams of post-millennarians. It answers clearly and conclusively the following questions: What is to be the result of the broadcast sowing of the seed? Will all the world receive it and every part of the field produce fruit? Will the seed spring up and bear a universal harvest, so that not a
single grain of it is lost? Our Savior explicitly tells us that the greater part of the seed produces no fruit, so that no world-wide conquests by the Gospel, in the Christianizing of the race, are to be looked for. Nor was there any hint that, as the age progressed, there would be any change, and that later sowers would meet with greater success, so that the wayside, stony, and thorny ground hearers would cease to exist or would rarely be found. Instead of that, the Lord Himself has plainly warned us that instead of the fruitage from the Gospel showing an
increase, there would be a marked decrease; for when speaking of the fruit borne He said, “which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty” (Mat. 13:23). These words are too plain to be misunderstood.
We believe that the “hundred fold” had reference to the yield borne in the days of the apostles; the “sixty” at the time of the Reformation; the thirty” the days in which we are now living. The history of the last nineteen centuries has witnessed the fulfillment of Christ’s prediction; only a fractional percentage in any land, city or village has responded to the Gospel!

Most of the details of this parable are concerned not with the Sower or the
Seed, but with the various soils in which the Seed fell. In His interpretation the Lord Jesus explained the different soils as representing various classes of those who hear the Word. They are four in number, and may be classified as hard-hearted, shallow-hearted, half-hearted, and whole-hearted. It is important to see that in the parable Christ is speaking not from the standpoint of the divine counsels—for there can be no failure there—but from that of human
accountability. What we have here is the Word of the kingdom addressed to man’s responsibility, the effect it has on him, and his response. Let us now look briefly at each class separately:

1. The wayside hearers. “And when He sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up . . . when any one hears the word of the kingdom and understands it not, then comes the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received Seed by the wayside”
(Mat. 13:4, Mat. 13:19). Here, the heart which receives the Seed is unreceptive and unresponsive. It is like the public highway, hardened by the constant traffic of the world. Though the Word is said to be “sown in his heart” it finds no real lodgment in it, and this is what makes it so solemn. The “engrafted word” is that which is received “with meekness,” and for this there must be a laying aside of
“all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” (James 1:21). It is at this point that the individual’s accountability comes in, the responsibility of the one who hears the Word.

It is to be noted that it is “when anyone hears the word of the kingdom and understands it not, then comes the wicked one and catches away that which was sown in his heart.” Those who hear the Word are responsible to “understand” it.
It is true that the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, but he ought to; and that they are “foolishness unto him,” but it ought not so to be. As we are told in 1 Cor. 8:2, “if any man think that he knows anything, he knows
nothing yet as he ought to know.” Understanding of the Word is obtained from
God alone, and it is the responsibility of all who bear and read His Word to cry unto Him, “That which I see not, teach Thou me” (Job. 34:32). His promise is “the meek will He teach His way” (Psa. 25:9). But if there is no humbling of the heart before God, no seeking wisdom from above, then will there be no “understanding” of the Word; and the Devil will “catch away” that which we have heard or read: but we shall have only ourselves to blame!

2. The stony-ground hearers. “Some fell upon stony places, where they had
not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away . . . He that received the seed into stony places, the
same is he which hears the Word, and anon with joy receives it; yet has he not root in himself, but endures for awhile: for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word, by and by he is offended” (Mat. 13:5-6, Mat. 13:20-21).
The type of ground that is here referred to, is that where the bed is of rock, with only a thin layer of earth over it. In this shallow soil the seed is received, but the growth is but superficial. Our Lord’s interpretation at once identifies the particular class of hearers which are here in view. At first they promise well, but
later prove very disappointing. What we have here is lack of depth. The emotions have been moved, but the conscience has not been searched; there is a natural “joy” but no deep conviction or true repentance. When a Divine work of grace is wrought in a soul, the first effects of the Word upon it are not to produce peace and joy, but contrition, humility and sorrow.

The sad thing is, that today almost everything connected with modern evangelistic (?) effort is calculated to produce just this very type of hearer. The “bright singing,” the sentimentality of the hymns (?), the preacher’s appeals to the emotions, the demand of the churches for visible and quick “results,” produce nothing but superficial returns. Sinners are urged to make a prompt “decision,” are rushed to the “penitent form,” and then assured that all is well with them; and the poor deluded soul leaves with a false and evanescent “joy.” And the deplorable thing is that many of the Lord’s own people are supporting and fellow-shipping this Christ-dishonoring and soul-deceiving burlesque of true Gospel ministry.

“But endures for awhile.” “This is the flesh at its fairest; capable of coming so near to the kingdom of God, and all the more manifesting its hopeless nature.
There is the unbroken rock behind that never yields to the Word, and gives it no lodgment; and the class of hearers pictured here are born of the flesh only. Let things be outwardly favorable to profession, it is plain that the number of these
may multiply largely, and may stick like dead leaves to a tree that has had no rough blast to shake them off. But life is none the more in them” (The Numerical Bible).

3. The thorny-ground hearers. “And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them… He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the Word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Mat. 13:7, Mat. 13:22). In Mark
4:9
the “lusts of other things entering in” and in Luke 8:14 the “pleasures of this life” are named as additional hindrances represented by the “thorns.” Here it is not so much inward causes as it is external snares that render the third class of hearers unfruitful.

Thus the Lord has here made known what it is that, from the human side, makes so much of the Seed sown, unproductive. The reasons why the preaching of the Word does not produce a spiritual harvest in all who hear it are, first, the
natural hardness of man’s heart and the resultant opposition of Satan; second, the superficiality of the flesh; third, the attractions and distractions of the world.
These are the things which produce barrenness, and they are recorded for the Christian’s learning and warning. Thus too are the servants of Christ instructed what to expect, and informed what it is which will oppose their labors—the Devil, the flesh and the world.

4. The good-ground hearers. “But other fell into good ground and brought forth fruit… He that received seed into the good ground is he that hears the Word, and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty” (Mat. 13:8, Mat. 13:23). It is to be carefully noted
that when He was defining the good-ground hearer, Christ did not say “this is he in whom a Divine work of grace has been wrought,” or “whose heart has been made receptive by the operation of the Holy Spirit.” True it is that this must precede any sinner’s receiving the Word so that he becomes fruitful, yet, this is not the particular aspect of the Truth with which Christ is here dealing. As already stated, He is speaking here not of the accomplishment of God’s counsels, but from the standpoint of human responsibility.

What the Lord is here making known is, that which the hearer of the Word must himself seek grace to do, if he is to be fruitful. The supplementary accounts given of this parable by Mark and Luke must be carefully compared. In Luke 8:15 we are told, first, that that Word must be received “in an honest and good heart.” Second, that they “keep it.” And third, “bring forth fruit with patience.”
Such are the conditions of fruitfulness: an unprejudiced mind and an open heart;
understanding the Word received; holding it fast, perseverance.

In closing let us call attention to one or two practical lessons inculcated by this parable.

First, the preciousness of the Seed. If there were only one grain of wheat left in the world today, and it was lost, all the efforts of man could not reproduce it.
Thus it is with the Word: were it taken from us all the wit and wisdom of man could not replace it. Then let us value, love, and. study it more.

Second, the inconspicuousness of the Sower. Scarcely anything at all is told us in the parable about Him, beyond the simple fact that He actually sowed the Seed. The emphasis is upon the Seed, the various kinds of soil and the obstacles
to and conditions of fruitfulness. Why is this? Because the personality of the sower and the method of sowing are of secondary importance. A little child may drop a seed as effectively as a man; the wind may carry it, and accomplish as
much as though an angel had planted it! All—not merely preachers only—may be “sowers.”

Third, the conditions of fruitfulness. There is much “rocky ground” in the garden of each of our souls: then despise not God’s hammer and ploughshare.
There are many “thorns” in each of our lives which must be plucked up if there is to be more room for fruit! Finally, there needs to be much prayer for “understanding,” “patience,” and hiding of the Word in our hearts so that we shall
“keep” it.

Fourth, the fullness of the parable. There are some who decry the idea that we
should seek for a meaning to every detail in our Lord’s parables, and tell us we should be content with discovering its general significance. But such a loose conception is manifestly condemned by Christ’s own example. In His
interpretation He gave a meaning to every detail; not only so, but by comparing the three accounts of this parable, we learn that the “thorns” represent at least four distinct things! How this shows us the need of carefully studying and prayerfully meditating upon every jot and tittle of Holy Writ!


THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT IN SALVATION

June 24, 2008

Title: THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

Author: A. W. Pink

CHAPTER IV

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN SALVATION

Rom. 11:33.

Segment 2

3. The Sovereignty of God the Holy Spirit in Salvation.

Since the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity, it necessarily follows that He is in full sympathy with the will and design of the other Persons of the Godhead. The eternal purpose of the Father in election, the limited design in the death of the Son, and the restricted scope of the Holy Spirit’s operations are in perfect accord. If the Father chose certain ones before the foundation of the world and gave them to His Son, and if it was for them that Christ gave Himself a ransom, then the Holy Spirit is not now working to “bring the world to Christ.” The mission of the Holy Spirit in the world today is to apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. The question which is now to engage us is not the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power—on that point there can be no doubt, it is infinite—but what we shall seek to show is that, His power and operations are directed by Divine wisdom and sovereignty.

We have just said that the power and operations of the Holy Spirit are directed by Divine wisdom and indisputable sovereignty. In proof of this assertion we appeal first to our Lord’s words to Nicodemus in John 3:8 —”The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” A comparison is here drawn between the wind and the Spirit. The comparison is a double one: first, both are sovereign in their actions, and second, both are mysterious in their operations. The comparison is pointed out in the word “so.” The first point of analogy is seen in the words “where it listeth” or “pleaseth”; the second is found in the words “canst not tell.” With the second point of analogy we are not now concerned, but upon the first we would comment further.

“The wind bloweth where it pleaseth . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The wind is an element which man can neither harness nor hinder. The wind neither consults man’s pleasure nor can it be regulated by his devices. So it is with the Spirit. The wind blows when it pleases, where it pleases, as it pleases. So it is with the Spirit. The wind is regulated by Divine wisdom, yet, so far as
man is concerned, it is absolutely sovereign in its operations. So it is with the Spirit. Sometimes the wind blows so softly it scarcely rustles a leaf; at other times it blows so loudly that its roar can be heard for miles. So it is in the matter of the new birth; with some the Holy Spirit deals so gently, that His work is imperceptible to human onlookers; with others His action is so powerful, radical, revolutionary, that His operations are patent to many. Sometimes the wind is purely local in its reach, at other times wide-spread in its scope. So it is with the Spirit: today He acts on one or two souls, tomorrow He may, as at Pentecost, “prick in the heart” a whole multitude. But whether He works on few or many, He consults not man. He acts as He pleases. The new birth is due to the sovereign will of the Spirit.

Each of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity is concerned with our salvation: with the Father it is predestination; with the Son propitiation; with the Spirit regeneration. The Father chose us; the Son died for us; the Spirit quickens us. The Father was concerned about us; the Son shed His blood for us, the Spirit performs His work within us. What the One did was eternal, what the Other did was external, what the Spirit does is internal. It is with the work of the Spirit we are now concerned, with His work in the new birth, and particularly His sovereign operations in the new birth. The Father purposed our new birth; the Son has made possible (by His “travail”) the new birth; but it is the Spirit who effects the new birth—”Born of the Spirit” (John 3:6).

The new birth is solely the work of God the Spirit and man has no part or lot in it. This from the very nature of the case. Birth altogether excludes the idea of any effort or work on the part of the one who is born. Personally we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth. The new birth is a spiritual resurrection, a “passing from death unto life” (John 5:24) and, clearly, resurrection is altogether outside of man’s province. No corpse can reanimate itself. Hence it is written, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). But the Spirit does not “quicken” everybody—why? The usual answer returned to this question is, Because everybody does not trust in Christ. It is supposed that the Holy Spirit quickens only those who believe. But this is to put the cart before the horse. Faith is not the cause of the new birth, but the consequence of it. This ought not to need arguing. Faith (in God) is an exotic, something that is not native to the human heart. If faith were a natural product of the human heart, the exercise of a principle common to human nature, it would never have been written, “All men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Faith is a spiritual grace, the fruit of the spiritual nature, and because the unregenerate are spiritually dead—”dead in trespasses and sins”—then it follows that faith from them is impossible, for a dead man cannot believe anything. “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8)—but they could if it were possible for the flesh to believe. Compare with this last-quoted Scripture Heb. 11:6—”But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Can God be “pleased” or satisfied with any thing which does not have its origin in Himself?

That the work of the Holy Spirit precedes our believing is unequivocally established by 2 Thess. 2:13—”God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Note that “sanctification of the Spirit” comes before and makes possible “belief of the truth.” What then is the “sanctification of the Spirit”? We answer, the new birth. In Scripture “sanctification” always means “separation,” separation from something and unto something or someone. Let us now amplify our assertion that the “sanctification of the Spirit” corresponds to the new birth and points to the positional effect of it. Here is a servant of God who preaches the Gospel to a congregation in which are an hundred unsaved people. He brings before them the teaching of Scripture concerning their ruined and lost condition; he speaks of God, His character and righteous demands; he tells of Christ meeting God’s demands, and dying the Just for the unjust, and declares that through “this Man” is now preached the forgiveness of sins; he closes by urging the lost to believe what God has said in His Word and receive His Son as their own personal Saviour. The meeting is over; the congregation disperses; ninety-nine of the unsaved have refused to come to Christ that they might have life, and go out into the night having no hope, and without God in the world. But the hundredth heard the Word of life; the Seed sown fell into ground which had been prepared by God; he believed the Good News, and goes home rejoicing that his name is written in heaven. He has been “born again,” and just as a newly-born babe in the natural world begins life by clinging instinctively, in its helplessness, to its mother, so this newborn soul has clung to Christ. Just as we read, “The Lord opened” the heart of Lydia “that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14), so in the case supposed above, the Holy Spirit quickened that one before he believed the Gospel message. Here then is the “sanctification of the Spirit:” this one soul who has been born again has, by virtue of his new birth, been separated from the other ninety-nine. Those born again are, by the Spirit, set apart from those who are dead in trespasses and sins.

A beautiful type of the operations of the Holy Spirit antecedent to the sinner’s “belief of the truth”, is found in the first chapter of Genesis. We read in Gen. 1:2, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The original Hebrew here might be literally rendered thus: “And the earth had become a desolate ruin, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” In “the beginning” the earth was not created in the condition described in Gen. 1:2. Between the first two verses of Genesis 1 some awful catastrophe had occurred [the Gap Theory-ed.]—possibly the fall of Satan—and, as the consequence, the earth had been blasted and blighted, and had become a “desolate ruin”, lying beneath a pall of “darkness.” Such also is the history of man. Today, man is not in the condition in which he left the hands of his Creator: an awful catastrophe has happened, and now man is a “desolate ruin” and in total “darkness” concerning spiritual things. Next we read in Genesis 1 how God refashioned the
ruined earth and created new beings to inhabit it. First we read, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Next we are told, “And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.” The order is the same in the new creation: there is first the action of the Spirit, and then the Word of God giving light.
Before the Word found entrance into the scene of desolation and darkness, bringing with it the light, the Spirit of God “moved.” So it is in the new creation. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light” (Psa. 119:130), but before it can enter the darkened human heart the Spirit of God must operate upon it. sovda

To return to 2 Thess. 2:13 : “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” The order of thought here is most important and instructive. First, God’s eternal choice; second, the sanctification of the Spirit; third, belief of the truth. Precisely the same order is found in 1 Peter 1:2—”Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” We take it that the “obedience” here is the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5), which appropriates the virtues of the sprinkled blood of the Lord Jesus. So then before the “obedience” (of faith, cf. Heb. 5:9), there is the work of the Spirit setting us apart, and behind that is the election of God the Father. The ones “sanctified of the Spirit” then, are they whom “God hath from the beginning chosen to salvation” (2 Thess. 2:13), those who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2).

But, it may be said, is not the present mission of the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of sin”? And we answer, It is not. The mission of the Spirit is threefold; to glorify Christ, to vivify the elect, to edify the saints. John 16:8-11 does not describe the “mission” of the Spirit, but sets forth the significance of His presence here in the world. It treats not of His subjective work in sinners, showing them their need of Christ, by searching their consciences and striking terror to their hearts; what we have there is entirely objective. To illustrate. Suppose I saw a man hanging on the gallows, of what would that “convince” me? Why, that he was a murderer. How would I thus be convinced? By reading the
record of his trial? by hearing a confession from his own lips? No; but by the fact that he was hanging there. So the fact that the Holy Spirit is here furnishes proof of the world’s guilt, of God’s righteousness, and of the Devil’s judgment.

The Holy Spirit ought not to be here at all. That is a startling statement, but we make it deliberately. Christ is the One who ought to be here. He was sent here by the Father, but the world did not want Him, would not have Him, hated Him, and cast Him out. And the presence of the Spirit here instead evidences its guilt.
The coming of the Spirit was a proof to demonstration of the resurrection, ascension, and glory of the Lord Jesus. His presence on earth reverses the world’s verdict, showing that God has set aside the blasphemous judgment in the palace of Israel’s high priest and in the hall of the Roman governor. The “reproof” of the Spirit abides, and abides altogether irrespective of the world’s reception or rejection of His testimony. Had our Lord been referring here to the gracious work which the Spirit would perform in those who should be brought to feel their need of Him, He had said that the Spirit would convict men of their unrighteousness, their lack of righteousness. But this is not the thought here at all. The descent of the Spirit from heaven establishes God’s righteousness, Christ’s righteousness. The proof of that is, Christ has gone to the Father. Had Christ been an Imposter, as the religious world insisted when they cast Him out, the Father had not received Him. The fact that the Father did exalt Him to His own right hand, demonstrates that He was innocent of the charges laid against Him; and the proof that the Father has received Him, is the presence now of the Holy Spirit on earth, for Christ has sent Him from the Father (John 16:7)! The world was unrighteous in casting Him out, the Father righteous in glorifying Him; and this is what the Spirit’s presence here establishes.

“Of judgment, because the Prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11). This is the logical and inevitable climax. The world is brought in guilty for their rejection of, for their refusal to receive, Christ. Its condemnation is exhibited by the Father’s exaltation of the spurned One. Therefore nothing awaits the world, and its Prince, but judgment. The “judgment” of Satan is already established by The Spirit’s presence here, for Christ, through death, set at nought him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil (Heb. 2:14). When God’s time comes for the Spirit to depart from the earth, then His sentence will be executed, both on the world and its Prince. In the light of this unspeakably solemn passage, we need not be surprised to find Christ saying, “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him”. No, the world wants Him not; He condemns the world.

“And when He is come, He will reprove (or, better, “convict”—bring in guilty) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on Me; Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). Three things, then, the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth demonstrates to the world: first, its sin, because the world refused to believe on Christ; second, God’s righteousness in exalting to His own right hand the One cast out, and now no more seen by the world; third, judgment, because Satan the world’s prince is already judged, though execution of his judgment is yet future. Thus the Holy Spirit’s presence here displays things as they really are.

The Holy Spirit is sovereign in His operations and His mission is confined to God’s elect: they are the ones He “comforts,” “seals,” guides into all truth, shews things to come, etc. The work of the Spirit is necessary in order to the complete accomplishment of the Father’s eternal purpose. Speaking hypothetically, but reverently, be it said, that if God had done nothing more than given Christ to die for sinners, not a single sinner would ever have been saved. In order for any sinner to see his need of a Saviour and be willing to receive the Saviour he needs, the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within him were imperatively required. Had God done nothing more than given Christ to die for sinners and then sent forth His servants to proclaim salvation through Christ, leaving sinners entirely to themselves to accept or reject as they pleased, then every sinner would have rejected, because at heart every man hates God and is at enmity with Him. Therefore the work of the Holy Spirit was needed to bring the sinner to Christ, to overcome his innate opposition, and compel him to accept the provision God has made. We say “compel” the sinner, for this is precisely what the Holy Spirit does, has to do, and this leads us to consider at some length, though as briefly as possible, the parable of the “Marriage Supper.”

In Luke 14:16 we read, “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many.” By comparing carefully what follows here with Matthew 22:2-10 several important distinctions will be observed. We take it that these passages are two independent accounts of the same parable, differing in detail according to the distinctive purpose and design of the Holy Spirit in each Gospel. Matthew’s account—in harmony with the Spirit’s presentation there of Christ as the Son of David, the King of the Jews—says, “A certain king made a marriage for his son.” Luke’s account—where the Spirit presents Christ as the Son of Man—says, “A certain man made a great supper and bade many.” Matthew 22:3 says, “And sent forth His servants;” Luke 14:17 says, “And sent His servant.” Now what we wish particularly to call attention to is, that all through Matthew’s account it is “servants,” whereas in Luke it is always “servant.” The class of readers for whom we are writing are those that believe, unreservedly, in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, and such will readily acknowledge there must be some reason for this change from the plural number in Matthew to the singular number in Luke. We believe the reason is a weighty one and that attention to this variation reveals an important truth. We believe that the “servants” in Matthew, speaking
generally, are all who go forth preaching the Gospel, but that the “Servant” in Luke 14 is the Holy Spirit Himself. This is not incongruous, or derogatory to the Holy Spirit, for God the Son, in the days of His earthly ministry, was the Servant of Jehovah (Isa. 42:1). It will be observed that in Matthew 22 the “servants” are sent forth to do three things: first, to “call” to the wedding (Matthew 22:3); second, to “tell those which are bidden . . . all things are ready: come unto the marriage” (Matthew 22:4); third, to “bid to the marriage” (Matthew 22:9); and these three are the things which those who minister the Gospel today are now doing. In Luke 14 the Servant is also sent forth to do three things: first, He is “to say to them that were bidden, Come: for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17) ; second, He is to “bring in the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (Luke 14:21); third, He is to “compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23), and the last two of these the Holy Spirit alone can do!

In the above Scripture we see that “the Servant,” the Holy Spirit, compels certain ones to come in to the “supper” and herein is seen His sovereignty, His omnipotency, His Divine sufficiency. The clear implication from this word “compel” is, that those whom the Holy Spirit does “bring in” are not willing of themselves to come. This is exactly what we have sought to show in previous paragraphs. By nature, God’s elect are children of wrath even as others (Eph. 2:3), and as such their hearts are at enmity with God. But this “enmity” of theirs is overcome by the Spirit and He “compels” them to come in. Is it not clear then that the reason why others are left outside, is not only because they are unwilling to go in, but also because the Holy Spirit does not “compel” them to come in? Is it not manifest that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the exercise of His power, that as the wind “bloweth where it pleaseth”, so the Holy Spirit operates where He pleases?

And now to sum up. We have sought to show the perfect consistency of God’s ways: that each Person in the Godhead acts in sympathy and harmony with the Others. God the Father elected certain ones to salvation, God the Son died for the elect, and God the Spirit quickens the elect. Well may we sing,

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below,

Praise Him above ye heavenly host,

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Practical Advice for God’s Work in the Ministry

June 21, 2008

FOOD FOR THOUGHT, FROM 

Title:   The Nelson Study Bible

Author:    

 

1 Timothy 1

1:1

Paul begins his first letter to Timothy by asserting his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The Greek word for apostle means “sent one.” Thus Paul was declaring that he was an ambassador sent by Christ. The commandment of God refers to God’s sovereign commissioning of Paul’s ministry (see Acts 9). The authority of Paul’s ministry came from two sources: from God our Savior and from the Lord Jesus Christ. The title Savior identifies God as the source of our salvation, both our justification and sanctification. Paul speaks of Christ as our hope because He is the reason we can expectantly look forward to eternal life in
glory.

1:2

Timothy was a young believer from Lystra who traveled with Paul during his second and third missionary journeys (Acts 16:2, 3). True son refers to a legitimate child who possessed all the rights and privileges of membership in a family. Paul was indicating total acceptance of Timothy as a believer.

1:3

It is not certain when Paul traveled to Macedonia. His request for Timothy to remain in Ephesus, ministering to believers there, demonstrates Paul’s confidence in the young man.

 

Practical Advice for the Ministry

 

Timothy was a young minister, appointed to lead the apparently contentious church at Ephesus. He had already learned the essentials of the gospel; now he had to learn how to lead. In this letter, Paul was passing on all the wisdom he had accumulated in his years of ministry. His insights are extremely practical, and valuable even today.

 

Exhortations: what to
do

 

Warnings: what to
avoid

 

Command others to teach no other doctrine than the true doctrine of Christ (1:3).

 

Do not listen to fables or endless genealogies, which cause disputes (1:4).

 

Teach the good News that
Christ saves sinners (1:15-18).

 

Reject fables (4:7).

 

Pray and intercede for
everyone (2:1).

 

Do not neglect your gift
(4:14).

 

 

Choose church leaders who are worthy of the office (3:1-15).

 

Do not rebuke older men, but
exhort them (5:1).

 

 

Instruct others in sound
doctrine (4:6).

 

Do not receive an accusation against an elder unless there are two witnesses (5:19).

 

 

Train oneself in godliness
(4:7, 8).

 

Do not govern the church with prejudice; be impartial (5:21).

 

 

Be an example to the
believers in word, in
conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity (4:12).

 

Do not hastily lay hands on anyone (5:22).

 

 

Honor widows (5:3)

 

Withdraw from those who reject Paul’s teaching and are constantly arguing over
words (6:4, 5).

 

 

Stay pure (5:22).

 

Flee from those who are
greedy and want to
become wealthy from the ministry (6:5-11).

 

 

Pursue righteousness, faith, love, patience, and
gentleness (6:11).

 

Avoid profane and idle talk, which is falsely called knowledge (6:20).

 

 

 

1:4

The word fables is used in Titus 1:14 in connection with Jewish fables.

Genealogies is used in Titus 3:9 within the context of the Law. The errors that Paul left Timothy to correct in Ephesus appear to have been primarily Jewish in nature, involving unrestrained speculation about genealogies and allegorical interpretations of the Law like those found in rabbinical literature. In Ephesus this could have been combined with Gnostic speculation concerning a number of spiritual beings. The Greek word for edification means stewardship” and expresses the concept of orderly management of a household. Paul understands the church as the “house of God” (see 3:14, 15). Disputes do not promote “house order” in the church. The focus of a believer’s life should be the clear and sound doctrine found in the Word of God, not human speculation.

1:5

The purpose of Paul’s command to Timothy is the promotion of God’s love in the church (see John 13:34, 35).

1:6

Idle talk means “empty chatter.” Gossip, speculation, and criticism should not come from the lips of believers.

1:7

teachers of the law: This phrase is derived from Judaism and is used in Luke 5:17; Acts 5:34 in connection with the Pharisees. These were the individuals whom Timothy was to instruct and correct. Their errors came from their relation to the law. These men were loveless, legalistic teachers with impure hearts and motives. Instruction without love promotes legalism.

1:8

The proper function of the law is to make sinners aware of their sinfulness (see Rom. 3:20).

1:9

Paul’s list of those who have violated the law appears to parallel the order of the Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20:3–17). The first three pairs of violations recall the first four commands, which address a person’s relationship with God: the lawless and insubordinate, the ungodly and … sinners, and the unholy and profane. Following these are eight violations that parallel five of the last six commands of the Ten Commandments. Covetousness is not mentioned.

1:10

Fornicators are persons involved in sexual immorality in general. Sodomites are specifically male homosexuals (see 1 Cor. 6:9). But heterosexual and homosexual immorality are violations of the seventh commandment. kidnappers … liars … perjurers: These are violations of commandments eight and nine.
Sound doctrine may also be translated “healthy teaching.” Sound is derived from the Greek for “in good health.” Doctrine is a key theme in 1 Timothy (see also 4:1, 6, 13, 16; 5:17; 6:1).

                                              1:11

according to the glorious gospel: This phrase should be interpreted in its immediate context, a discussion about the purpose of the law. The proper use of the law is to demonstrate human sinfulness and need our for the Good News that Christ has saved us from bondage to the law and our own sins.

1:13

Before Paul trusted in Christ as Savior, he was a blasphemer, speaking against God; a persecutor, pursuing Christians like a hunter pursuing his prey (see Acts 8:3; 9:1–5); and an insolent man, a violent person acting out of personal pride. but I obtained mercy: If the apostle Paul could find mercy after the terrible things he did against Christ, then God surely offers salvation with “open arms” to all people (see 2:4).

1:14

Grace is God’s undeserved, unearned, freely given favor. The grace given to Paul was exceedingly abundant, overflowing beyond all expectations.

1:15

Paul summarized the heart of the gospel (v.11): Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. World refers to all humanity. Save means to deliver or rescue. Christ came to die for the sins of humanity. of whom I am chief: Paul saw the degradation of sin and understood the sinfulness of human beings. Because of this, he placed himself first among sinners.

1:16

believe on Him: Over 185 times in the New Testament the sole condition given for salvation is belief, having faith or trust in Jesus Christ. The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day. All those who place their trust in Jesus for salvation will be saved from the coming judgment. To add any other condition to faith for salvation is to make justification a matter of works (see Rom. 11:6; Gal. 2:16).

1:18

Apparently earlier in his ministry prophecies had been made about Timothy and his future role in the church. Paul urges Timothy to wage the good warfare.
According to this powerful imagery, Christian ministry is spiritual warfare directed against God’s enemies.

1:20

Hymenaeus and Alexander: Paul offered examples of two men (see also 2 Tim. 2:17, 18; 4:14) who were failing to fight the good fight (v. 18, 19). The phrase delivered to Satan is similar to 1 Cor. 5:5. The authority to “deliver over” was apostolic in nature. Paul did not deliver the two men because they were unbelievers, but so that they would learn not to blaspheme. In the New
Testament the word translated learn is used only of God’s discipline of believers (see 1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 12:6, 7, 10). Paul was indicating that these men should be excluded from the church so that they might abandon their evil ways (1 Cor. 5:1–5).

 

 

 

 


THE TRUE CHURCH

June 17, 2008

By J. C. RYLE, Bishop of Liverpool

I want you to belong to the one true Church: to the Church outside of which there is no salvation. I do not ask where you go on a Sunday; I only ask, “Do you belong to the one true Church?”

Where is this one true Church? What is this one true Church like? What are the marks by which this one true Church may be known? You may well ask such questions. Give me your attention, and I will provide you with some answers.

The one true Church is composed of all believers in the Lord Jesus. It is made up of all God’s elect — of all converted men and women — of all true Christians. In whomsoever we can discern the election of God the Father, the sprinkling of the blood of God the Son, the sanctifying work of God the Spirit, in that person we see a member of Christ’s true Church.

It is a Church of which all the members have the same marks. They are all born again of the Spirit; they all possess “repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ,” and holiness of life and conversation. They all hate sin, and they all love Christ. They worship differently, and after various fashions; some worship with a form of prayer, and some with none; some worship kneeling, and some standing; but they all worship with one heart. They are all led by one Spirit; they all build upon one foundation; they all draw their religion from one single book — that is the Bible. They are all joined to one great centre — that is Jesus Christ. They all even now can say with one heart, “Hallelujah;” and they can all respond with one heart and voice, Amen and Amen.

It is a Church which is dependent upon no ministers upon earth, however much it values those who preach the gospel to its members. The life of its members does not hang upon Church-membership, or baptism, or the Lord’s Supper — although they highly value these things, when they are to be had. But it has only one Great Head — one Shepherd, one chief Bishop — and that is Jesus Christ. He alone, by His Spirit, admits the members of this Church, though ministers may show the door. Till He opens the door no man on earth can open it —neither bishops, nor presbyters, nor convocations, nor synods. Once let a man repent and believe the gospel, and that moment he becomes a member of this Church. Like the penitent thief, he may have no opportunity of being baptized; but he has that which is far better than any water-baptism — the baptism of the Spirit. He may not be able to receive the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper; but he eats Christ’s body and drinks Christ’s blood by faith every day he lives, and no minister on earth can prevent him. He may be excommunicated by ordained men, and cut off from the outward ordinances of the professing Church; but all the ordained men in the world cannot shut him out of the true Church.

It is a Church whose existence does not depend on forms, ceremonies, cathedrals, churches, cha-pels, pulpits, fonts, vestments, organs, endowments, money, kings, governments, magistrates or any act of favor whatsoever from the hand of man. It has often lived on and continued when all these things have been taken from it. It has often been driven into the wilderness, or into dens and caves of the earth, by those who ought to have been its friends. Its existence depends on nothing but the presence of Christ and His Spirit; and they being ever with it, the Church cannot die.

This is the Church to which the scriptural titles of present honor and privilege, and the promises of future glory especially belong; this is the Body of Christ; this is the flock of Christ; this is the household of faith and the family of God; this is God’s building, God’s foundation, and the temple of the Holy Ghost. This is the Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven; this is the royal priesthood, the chosen generation, the peculiar people, the purchased possession, the habitation of God, the light of the world, the salt and the wheat of the earth; this is the “holy Catholic Church” of the Apostles’ Creed; this is the “One Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the Nicene Creed; this is that Church to which the Lord Jesus promises “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” and to which He says, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 16:18; 28:20).

This is the only Church which possesses true unity. Its members are entirely agreed on all the weightier matters of religion, for they are all taught by one Spirit. About God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and sin, and their own hearts, and faith, and repentance, and necessity of holiness, and the value of the Bible, and the importance of prayer, and the resurrection, and judgment to come— about all these points they are of one mind. Take three or four of them, strangers to one another, from the remotest corners of the earth; examine them separately on these points: you will find them all of one judgment.

This is the only Church which possesses true sanctity. Its members are all holy. They are not merely holy by profession, holy in name, and holy in the judgment of charity; they are all holy in act, and deed, and reality, and life, and truth. They are all more or less conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. No unholy man belongs to this Church.

This is the only Church which is truly catholic. It is not the Church of any one nation or people: its members are to be found in every part of the world where the gospel is received and believed. It is not confined within the limits of any one country, or pent up within the pale of any particular forms or outward government. In it there is no difference between Jew and Greek, black man and white, Episcopalian and Presbyterian — but faith in Christ is all. Its members will be gathered from north, and south, and east, and west, and will be of every name and tongue — but all one in Jesus Christ.

This is the only Church which is truly apostolic. It is built on the foundation laid by the Apostles, and holds the doctrines which they preached. The two grand objects at which its members aim, are apostolic faith and apostolic practice; and they consider the man who talks of following the Apostles without possessing these two things to be no better than sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

This is the only Church which is certain to endure unto the end. Nothing can altogether overthrow and destroy it. Its members may be persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, beaten, be-headed, burned; but the true Church is never altogether extinguished; it rises again from its afflictions; it lives on through fire and water When crushed in one land it springs up in another. The Pharaohs, the Herods, the Neros, the Bloody Marys, have labored in vain to put down this Church; they slay their thousands, and then pass away and go to their own place. The true Church outlives them all, and sees them buried each in his turn. It is an anvil that has broken many a hammer in this world, and will break many a hammer still; it is a bush which is often burning, and yet is not consumed.

This is the only Church of which no one member can perish. Once enrolled in the lists of this Church, sinners are safe for eternity; they are never cast away. The election of God the Father, the continual intercession of God the Son, the daily renewing and sanctifying power of God the Holy Ghost, surround and fence them in like a garden enclosed. Not one bone of Christ’s mystical Body shall ever be broken; not one lamb of Christ’s flock shall ever be plucked out of His hand.

This is the Church which does the work of Christ upon earth. Its members are a little flock, and few in number, compared with the children of the world: one or two here, and two or three there — a few in this parish and a few in that. But these are they who shake the universe; these are they who change the fortunes of kingdoms by their prayers; these are they who are the active workers for spreading knowledge of pure religion and undefiled; these are the life-blood of a country, the shield, the defence, the stay, and the support of any nation to which they belong.

This is the Church which shall be truly glorious at the end. When all earthly glory is passed away then shall this Church be presented without spot before God the Father’s throne. Thrones, principal-ities, and powers upon earth shall come to nothing-dignities, and offices, and endowments shall all pass away; but the Church of the first-born shall shine as the stars at the last, and be presented with joy before the Father’s throne, in the day of Christ’s appearing. When the Lord’s jewels are made up, and the manifestation of the sons of God takes place, Episcopacy, and Presbyterianism, and Congregationalism will not be mentioned; one Church only will be named, and that is the Church of the elect.

Reader, this is the true Church to which a man must belong, if he would be saved. Till you belong to this, you are nothing better than a lost soul. You may have the form, the husk, the skin and the shell of religion, but you have not got the substance and the life, yes; you may have countless outward privileges: you may enjoy great light, and knowledge — but if you do not belong to the Body of Christ, your light and knowledge, and privileges, will not save your soul. Alas, for the ignorance that prevails on this point! Men fancy if they join this church or that church, and become communicants, and go through certain forms, that all must be right with their souls. It is an utter delusion, it is a gross mistake. All were not Israel who were called Israel, and all are not members of Christ’s Body who profess themselves Christian. Take notice; you may be a staunch Episcopalian, or Presbyterian, or Independent, or Baptist, or Wesleyan, or Plymouth Brother — and yet not belong to the true Church. And if you do not, it will be better at last if you had never been born.

 


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June 17, 2008

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