Dedicated to the Passionate Pursuit of the Glory of God.

Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Monday, February 27, 2006

Meditation: Biblical Mandate to Muse on God

I wrote previously about the importance of reading and studying for the Christian. While these activities may be difficult, they are at least within the cultural norm of the West. One thing, however, that is quite foreign is the art of meditation. I do not mean the unbiblical meditation of the East that teaches that we must utterly empty our mind. Rather, I mean the meditation that we are continually exhorted to do in Scripture.

J.I. Packer provides a great definition for this practice.

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself; reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God's power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God's greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us - 'comfort' us, in the old, strong, Bible sense of the word - as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What are your thoughts? I think I'd like to call the practice "Contemplation" or "Spiritual Reflection" but I do think that Packer hits it right on.

In Christ alone,

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Church Membership: Is it Biblical?

I have to write a 12-15 page paper for one of my classes. I could do a hermeneutic paper on a passage of my choosing or a theology paper. One thing that I would like to study more is Church Membership and the biblical picture given to us regarding it. If it is biblical and is important, then churches today are surely neglecting their duty. If, however, it is not biblical, we are adding to the word of God and stand condemned. Accordingly, I am about 92% sure that I am going to write my paper on this topic.

I am curious, What are your thoughts on Church Membership?

And also, here is a quotation from the currently unpopular position:

"“Whatever the reason, this unwillingness to formally identify with a local church is an indication that they'’re not totally committed to that church and therefore should not be given regular, formal, service opportunities. Regular, formal ministry opportunities are a privilege given to people who are willing to commit and submit without reservation to the total ministry of the church."” Wayne Mack, To Be or Not to Be A Church Member? That is the Question! (2004), page 53.

In Christ alone,

Friday, February 24, 2006

Truly Tragic


I started to write a post for today but then stumbled across this article linked by Justin Taylor. It literally took any energy that I had away. I'm not exactly sure how one is supposed to respond to this story.

Read it here.
See the Depravity and hate it.
See that we too would be in the same place but for the grace of God.
See God's sovereignty in the midst of darkness.

In Christ alone,

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Warning! Graphic Material - Part IV

Today we will conclude the series on Ezekiel 16. After all that God has done for Israel, we saw that Israel returned the favor by not only rebelling but prostituting herself. We saw that we are really no different than Israel and deserve the same response. This response was one of Anger where God sharply rebukes the nation and says that She is worse than Sodom!

Today we will see that even in the midst of this God is loving. Consider the Word of the Lord:

60"Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

61"Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant.

62"Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD,

63so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done," the Lord GOD declares.

There is even apart of this that still hints at God's anger towards Israel and her sin. However, we must contemplate our initial reaction to this. Do we get defensive (for ourselves or Israel)? Do we shy away from this humiliation and shame that we have? Or can we, by the Grace of God, hear this and shout "verily verily". We are indeed wretched sinners and we must never forget this. We have terribly offended God and we deserve everlasting shame.

There is a famous preacher named Charles Simeon and he has a quotation that I liked. I briefly searched for it and amazingly he cites this very passage as support!

From Simeon:
I have never thought that the circumstance of God's having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63).

I'm not convinced that we must agree with him entirely, but this is quite counter-cultural and it is definitely worth thinking through.

Now then, we have contemplated and reflected on our estate, we must proceed to meditate on God's deed. In the midst of all of this, He promises to give us a New Covenant, an everlasting covenant. This covenant, as we know in retrospect, is the substance to which all previous shadows have pointed. In this covenant, the New Covenant, God himself (viz. Jesus) condescends and becomes a man. He lives a perfect life in the place of our disgusting life. He then, in the only completely unjust death of human history, is murdered. The very wrath of God is poured out on Jesus as he takes upon Himself our sins. Accordingly, God can now justly forgive us "for all that [we] have done".

This, indeed, is a beautiful picture of the love of God. It is true that it is couched behind some uncomfortable imagery, but we must never lose sight of this image. We must see the love of God, humiliation of self, and exaltation of Christ. What is the purpose of all of this? V. 62 "And you shall know that I am Lord."

In Christ alone,

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Warning! Graphic Material - Part III

This is the third part of a four-part series from Ezekiel 16. To remind people, I chose this passage because it is rarely quoted (especially the whole thing) because of the subject material, but also has great teaching points.
So far we have seen God rescue Israel from her pitiful state. In turn we saw Israel respond by prostituting herself. This post shows the response of God (viz. His anger).

In yesterday's post I asked you to see yourself in the place of Israel. If you have done that then view this response as the response you deserve to hear.

35Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD.

36Thus says the Lord GOD, "Because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols,

37therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated So I will gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness to them that they may see all your nakedness.

38"Thus I will judge you like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy.

39"I will also give you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your shrines, demolish your high places, strip you of your clothing, take away your jewels, and will leave you naked and bare.

40"They will incite a crowd against you and they will stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.

41"They will burn your houses with fire and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women Then I will stop you from playing the harlot, and you will also no longer pay your lovers.

42"So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you, and I will be pacified and angry no more.

43"Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head," declares the Lord GOD, "so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.

44"Behold, everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb concerning you, saying, 'Like mother, like daughter.'

45"You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and children. You are also the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.

46"Now your older sister is Samaria, who lives north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lives south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.

47"Yet you have not merely walked in their ways or done according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you acted more corruptly in all your conduct than they.

48"As I live," declares the Lord GOD, "Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done.

49"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.

50"Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me Therefore I removed them when I saw it.

51"Furthermore, Samaria did not commit half of your sins, for you have multiplied your abominations more than they. Thus you have made your sisters appear righteous by all your abominations which you have committed.

52"Also bear your disgrace in that you have made judgment favorable for your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. Yes, be also ashamed and bear your disgrace, in that you made your sisters appear righteous.

53"Nevertheless, I will restore their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and along with them your own captivity,

54in order that you may bear your humiliation and feel ashamed for all that you have done when you become a consolation to them.

55"Your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to their former state, and you with your daughters will also return to your former state.

56"As the name of your sister Sodom was not heard from your lips in your day of pride,

57before your wickedness was uncovered, so now you have become the reproach of the daughters of Edom and of all who are around her, of the daughters of the Philistines--those surrounding you who despise you.

58"You have borne the penalty of your lewdness and abominations," the LORD declares.

59For thus says the Lord GOD, "I will also do with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath by breaking the covenant.

Your sin is not a minor indiscretion and is not an accident. It is rebellion against the Lord on High who created you for His glory. He takes your sin personally and you deserve the same fate as Israel (as do I). If you think that this is an over-reaction then your view of Sin and your view of God are too small. If you have an infinite view of God then you must view your transgressions against Him as infinitely heinous.

Tomorrow, in light of all of this, we will see God's response. From what we have seen so far, Israel (and you with her) ought to be cast into hell forever. This passage leaves us with a covenant that we have broken. There is absolutely nothing, at this point, that we can do to fix this. Furthermore, we have no desire to fix it as we love the idea of playing the harlot. However, we have a great God who can solve our greatest problem. Tomorrow we will consider the promise of our Lord.

In Christ alone,

Monday, February 20, 2006

Warning! Graphic Material - Part II

We ended on Ezekiel 16:14 in our last post. We saw the state of Israel before God came into the picture (squirming in her own blood) and we saw that God redeemed her and made her beautiful. It is not time to examine the tragic response that Israel has. Read this excerpt and see yourself for where Israel has fallen, you have fallen all the more.

Ezekiel 16:

15"But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing.

16"You took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen.

17"You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them.

18"Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them.

19"Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened," declares the Lord GOD.

20"Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter?

21"You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.

22"Besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare and squirming in your blood.

23"Then it came about after all your wickedness ('Woe, woe to you!' declares the Lord GOD),

24that you built yourself a shrine and made yourself a high place in every square.

25"You built yourself a high place at the top of every street and made your beauty abominable, and you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry.

26"You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and multiplied your harlotry to make Me angry.

27"Behold now, I have stretched out My hand against you and diminished your rations. And I delivered you up to the desire of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of your lewd conduct.

28"Moreover, you played the harlot with the Assyrians because you were not satisfied; you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied.

29"You also multiplied your harlotry with the land of merchants, Chaldea, yet even with this you were not satisfied."'"

30"How languishing is your heart," declares the Lord GOD, "while you do all these things, the actions of a bold-faced harlot.

31"When you built your shrine at the beginning of every street and made your high place in every square, in disdaining money, you were not like a harlot.

32"You adulteress wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband!

33"Men give gifts to all harlots, but you give your gifts to all your lovers to bribe them to come to you from every direction for your harlotries.

34"Thus you are different from those women in your harlotries, in that no one plays the harlot as you do, because you give money and no money is given you; thus you are different."

Wow! God restores Israel from her pitiful condition and she becomes a harlot. However, she is not a typical harlot who gets paid for her degrading passions, rather she bribes men to come into her! Furthermore, she doesn't just bribe the men, she uses the very things that God has bestowed upon her to bribe these men.

Reader, do you see yourself here? Can you confess that you are just as horrible as Israel? If not, I wonder if we really can see the value of the cross. He who views their sin as small will see the results of the cross as small; he who see his sin as great will see the cross as great and in turn greatly glorify God.

We have looked at the original state of Israel, the beauty that God gave to her, and the horrific response of disgusting infidelity. Next we will turn to God's response.

In Christ alone,

Friday, February 17, 2006

Warning! Graphic Material!

I have, at least for the time being, decided to do a little post on some of the passages of Scripture that are not often referenced. One passage that comes to mind is Ezekiel 16. Since the chapter has 63 verses I will not cover the entire chapter in one post.

This first portion is not too graphic (at least not compared to the rest) and does show God's love in a vivid way. Later portions will become slightly more graphic. It is important to remember that this is the word of the Lord spoken to Israel:

Ezekiel 16:

3and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem, "Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.

4"As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths.

5"No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.

6"When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, 'Live!' Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, 'Live!'

7"I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.

8"Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine," declares the Lord GOD.

9"Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.

10"I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk.

11"I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck.

12"I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.

13"Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.

14"Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you," declares the Lord GOD.

Allow the imagrey to penetrate your heart. See yourself in the place of Israel, helplessly squirming in your own blood whom God decided to make great. We will examine what Israel does in light of this in the next post.

In Christ alone,

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Be diligent

I am intentionally allowing a day off in order to allow the Spurgeon quotation in the post below to be read. If you do read this post, please use the time that you would normally spend reading my long posts to re-read Spurgeon's quotation on reading/studying. I plan to print that out and to keep it with me as a constant exhortation. Especially in our age, even moreso than his, we need to hear this.

2Tim 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handlin gthe word of truth.

In Christ alone,

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Give Thyself Unto Reading

Ligon Duncan over at the T4G blog quoted an excellent excerpt from Spurgeon. I recommend reading Duncan's whole post, but I will only reproduce the quotation from Spurgeon here. It is quite a dandy!

Referring to this verse:
2 Timothy 4:13 When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.

Spurgeon says:

How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, "GIVE THYSELF UNTO READING."

The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. YOU need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"join in the cry.

Paul herein is a picture of industry. He is in prison; he cannot preach: WHAT will he do? As he cannot preach, he will read. As we read of the fishermen of old and their boats. The fishermen were gone out of them. What were they doing? Mending their nets. So if providence has laid you upon a sick bed, and you cannot teach your classif you cannot be working for God in public, mend your nets by reading. If one occupation is taken from you, take another, and let the books of the apostle read you a lesson of industry" (from Spurgeon'’s sermon #542 "PAUL - His Cloak And His Books" in the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 9 (1863): 668-669).

In Christ alone,

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Two Updates for Today

I don't normally update twice a day but here are some updates:

Update 1

One of my Elders, Kenny Clark, has a great article that goes with Valentine's Day. It discusses the Love of God made known in Christ. He also quotes John Piper heavily regarding a reviled savior. I strongly recommend reading this one.

Update 2

Many of you know that John Piper had prostate cancer. Some of you probably know that today he went in for his surgery.

Here are the initial reports:

"11:30 a.m.: The doctors reported to Noel that John’s prostate has been removed successfully and things are going well from what they can tell. They are now beginning reconstruction. After that, Pastor John will have about a 1-hour recovery period before he is taken to his room where Noel will be able to see him."


"1:30 p.m.: We got word that John Piper is out of surgery. His wife, Noël, reported that the procedure went “beautifully.” So praise God with us and continue to pray with us for John’s recovery. We will keep you updated."

Continued Prayer: Please pray for the recovery period and the coming days of healing.

News, as it comes out, will be posted here.

In Christ alone,

The Paradox of the Christian Ethic

This is a third post in a continuing series where a brief quotation of a famous member of Church history is presented. This comes from Francis of Assisi who seems remarkable in that almost every major school finds value in his writings.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
Not so much to be understood as
To understand;
Not so much to be loved
As to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we awaken to eternal life.

In Christ alone,

Monday, February 13, 2006

Doubt Dispelled

Today I would like to post another quotation from early Christian history. Consider Augustine as he retells his conversion experience. If you have not read the Confessions then I strongly advise you to. There is much more to this story, but this will suffice as a brief summary. Augustine’s big battle with sin was always Lust/Sex. He had a concubine and finally sent her away as he planned to marry, but he shortly returned to other women. According to him, it is not until this day that he finally gets a glimpse of the glory of the Gospel and is forever changed. Augustine goes on to be a monk (ie. Vow of poverty and celibacy). The change in this man is simply amazing. This literally sex-crazed man will be forever transformed into one of the greatest names in Christian history.

Heb. 13:7 “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

I probed the hidden depths of my soul and wrung its pitiful secrets from it, and when I gathered them all before the eyes of my heart, a great storm broke within me, brining with it a great deluge of tears … For I felt that I was still enslaved by my sins, and in my misery I kept crying, ‘How long shall I go on saying “Tomorrow, tomorrow”? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?’

I was asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard the sing-song voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or girl I cannot say, but again and again repeated the chorus, ‘take it an dread, take it and read.’ At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before. I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be God’s command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall. For I had heard the story of Antony, and I remembered how he had happened to go into a church while the Gospel was being read and had taken it as an instruction addressed to himself when he heard the words, ‘Go home and sell all that belongs to you. Give it to the poor, and so the treasure you have shall be in heaven; then come back and follow me.’ By this message from God he had at once been converted.

So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting, for when I stood up to move away I had put down the book containing Paul’s Letters. I seized it and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: ‘No orgies or drunkenness, no immorality or indecency, no fighting or jealousy. Take up the weapons of the Lord Jesus Christ; and stop giving attention to your sinful nature, to satisfy its desires.’ I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of faith flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”

Augustine’s Confessions VIII

In Christ alone,

Friday, February 10, 2006

Those Christians

I found this interesting bit of writing and I thought that I would post it. It comes from an anonymous letter to Diognetus possibly during the 2nd century.

Those Christians

For Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect, or have some peculiar lifestyle.
This teaching of theirs has not been contrived by the invention and speculation of inquisitive men; nor are they propagating mere human teaching as some people do. They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food and the other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the wonderful and certainly unusual form of their own citizenship.
They live in their own native lands, but as aliens; as citizens, they share all things with others; but like aliens, suffer all things. Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country.
They marry and have children just like every one else; but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, but not a shared bed. They are at present in the flesh but they do not live according to the flesh. They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey appointed laws, and go beyond the laws in their own lives.
They love every one, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They are short of everything and yet have plenty of all things. They are dishonored and yet gain glory through dishonor.
Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens, and are persecuted by Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility.
To put it simply - the soul is to the body as Christians are to the world. The soul is spread through all parts of the body and Christians throughout all the cities of the world. The soul is in the body but is not of the body; Christians are in the world but not of the world.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Romans 9 - Part 6

Today we will finally conclude our series on Romans 9. There are technically two paragraphs left but v. 27-29 are just two Old Testament quotations that assist in what has already been stated. Accordingly, we will examine the last two paragraphs v. 27-33.

What is the context for our discussion? Paul has just explained that God has the right to make two peoples; One people destined for wrath and another destined for glory. Paul then examined who was included in this group of “vessels of mercy” destined for glory. He states that it is not just the Jews, but also the Gentiles. He then quotes a passage from Hosea in order to give the Old Testament background for the inclusion of Gentiles as the people of God.

Paul will now give us the Old Testament background for the rejection of all but a few of the Jews (namely the remnant).

Consider the two quotations from Isaiah:

Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.”


Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us to a posterity, We would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.”

There is not a lot in these two quotations that needs to be expounded upon. The basic idea is a question regarding who are the Children of God. We will remember that this discussion started in the very beginning of the chapter. These Children of God are namely those whom are vessels of mercy and prepared for Glory. Paul, is finally going to conclude his argument for the inclusion of Gentiles and the rejection of many Jews. This passage deals with the rejection of many Jews. Basically the idea is that God has always maintained that though physical Israel is big, only a remnant will be saved.

One interesting bit of theology that can be picked up from the second quotation is that the people understand that but by the special grace of God, they would be in exactly the same position as Sodom or Gomorrah. This attitude of “But for the Grace of God” seems to be severely lacking in many evangelical settings. I pray that it is something that we never lose.

So then, after an entire chapter of argumentation, What shall we say then? Paul will not draw towards a conclusion (although the full discussion continues into chapter 11).

That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;”

What is the point? The Gentiles weren’t seeking righteousness but they have attained it. Why? Remember v. 16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” This is exactly the situation here. It is not based upon the Gentiles who have strived for righteousness, but by God who has shown mercy.

but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.

The Jews, on the other hand were striving after righteousness, but as is always the case when we depend on ourselves, we fall woefully short. Israel is no different, and anything short of faith in the historic Christ of the Gospel is not sufficient for salvation.

They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.

Jesus, the Christ, is the great offense. The God-man is foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews (1Cor 1:24). They have seen the Christ but there eyes have not been made upon. They cannot see the beauty of Christ and cannot believe in Him. Accordingly, they will be disappointed. In fact, we are all in this woeful condition. We cannot conjure up faith. The Jews were legitimately seeking after righteousness, but could not manufacture it. Just as the Jews were utterly unable to attain righteousness, so to are we. However, praise be to God who has chosen to open the eyes of some and display His glory on us vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for Glory.

Let us learn to love this truth. We all are infinitely deserving of an eternity in Hell. Paul has argued this point throughout Romans. He begins by saying that whether Jew or Greek we have fallen short. He then reminds us that in Adam we have fallen and are dead. He has declared that we must be set free from the body of this death. Not one Jew, nor Gentile, ought to see Heaven’s glory. Yet, God, in His amazing plan, has determined to save some in order to make his glory known. While we deserve destruction, God has prepared us beforehand for Glory. What a great and glorious, merciful, and gracious God we serve. Let us once and for all see the terrible condition we were in and see the beauty of God’s saving love for those whom He has chosen. There are some who would immediately like to talk about Moral Responsibility. I absolutely affirm that we are morally responsible for all of our choices and do have legitimate choices that have legitimate consequences. However, let us please not jump ship so quickly. Let the truth that Paul has argued in Romans 9 get a hold of you. Get a glimpse of the Glory of Christ and allow it to utterly transform you.

In Christ alone,

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Spurgeon Helps us with Romans

If you have read this blog for any length of time you know that I do not quote Spurgeon that often. I might quote Owen, Edwards or Whitefield but rarely Spurgeon. The reason is not because I disagree with much of what he has to say but mostly because he seems over-quoted to me and other reformers under-quoted. The other reason is that I use his Catechism for the Puritan Catechism of the week and don't want Spurgeon-overload.

That being said, we have been engaged in a discussion of Romans 9 which is certainly a great text for the Reformed view. In light of this, I'd like to share some Spurgeon quotations. Information from Spurgeon can be found at Phil Johnson's website, but these quotations have been most recently quoted on Reformation Theology so I will link there also.

“But,” say others, “God elected them on the foresight of their faith.” Now, God gives faith, therefore he could not have elected them on account of faith, which he foresaw. There shall be twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a shilling; but will any one say that I determined to give that one a shilling, that I elected him to have the shilling, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense. In like manner to say that God elected men because he foresaw they would have faith, which is salvation in the germ, would be too absurd for us to listen to for a moment. 41,42.317

Recollect also that God himself did not foresee that there would be any love to him in us arising out of ourselves, for there never has been any, and there never will be; he only foresaw that we should believe because he gave us faith, he foresaw that we should repent because his Spirit would work repentance in us, he foresaw that we should love, because he wrought that love within us; and is there anything in the foresight that he means to give us such things that can account for his giving us such things? The case is self-evident—his foresight of what he means to do cannot be his reason for doing it. 1299.341

Our Saviour has bidden us to preach the gospel to every creature; he has not said, “Preach it only to the elect;” and though that might seem to be the most logical thing for us to do, yet, since he has not been pleased to stamp the elect in their foreheads, or to put any distinctive mark upon them, it would be an impossible task for us to perform; whereas, when we preach the gospel to every creature, the gospel makes its own division, and Christ’s sheep hear his voice, and follow him. 2937.262

God neither chose them nor called them because they were holy, but He called them that they might be holy, and holiness is the beauty produced by His workmanship in them. ME329

In Christ alone,

If things go according to plan then the last post on Romans 9 should be posted within two days. I am tempted to proceed onto Romans 10, but I know that would cause me to move into 11 and 12, and i might be very well into chapter 16 before I decide to stop. Since I have enjoyed this brief study, I am considering doing something similar (although maybe at a faster pace). Because it would be my natural inclination to stay in the NT and do maybe Ephesians, I think I would first like to look at something that is Old Testament. OT study seems to be severely lacking in my own life and in the church as a whole. At this point I am undecided and am up for suggestions.

May you 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.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Romans 9 - Part 5

EDIT: I posted this when Blogger was down and it disappeared. Amazingly I was able to recover it. It was originally written on Saturday. This puts us behind schedule some, but rest assured we will get through Romans 9 by the end of this week!

Today we resume our previously scheduled post regarding Romans 9 (the length is longer than I may have liked so grabbing a cup of coffee may be helpful!). Up to this point we have looked at verses 1 through 18 and have at times paused to consider the immediate context (Chapter 8). This paragraph spans verses 19 through 26. The immediate context for this passage is the discussion regarding Jacob and Esau. Due to no actions of their own, God loved Jacob and hated Esau. Paul develops this by stating that it does not depend on the man who wills or runs, but on God who has mercy. The last illustration is with Pharaoh who had his heart hardened by God. Accordingly, we have two sets of people for our immediate context. Jacob versus Esau and Moses versus Pharaoh. What is Paul’s concluding summary of the people? He says, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

Anyone who has ever attempted to state the same thing as Paul knows the question that an objector will next ask. Thankfully, Paul acknowledges this objection and devotes the next paragraph to the answer.

What is the objection:

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

Follow the reasoning here. God has chosen some men to show mercy to and some men to harden their hearts. This manifests itself in God specially loving some and comparatively hating others. The result in the lives of the people is dramatic. So, the objector asks “How is it fair to blame the person? It is God’s fault! He willed for it to be this way and no one can oppose the will of God and therefore God is ultimately at fault”.

This line of reasoning is probably very common for anyone who has tried to explain the Reformed view of Salvation. Nevertheless, we need not any external Reformed Apologetics. Rather, we will examine the response of Paul.

On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

Well, this is probably not an answer that most Arminians are going to like in this discussion but it is the answer that the Apostle gives. His point is that God has made us in a similar way as a potter molds clay. The potter never has the right, or even the ability, to turn back and ask why he has been made in such a way. Similarly, we do not dare turn and ask of God why he has chosen to give mercy to others and harden the rest. We might also notice at this that this is wholly the decision of God/the potter. We have no indication that this decision is based on anything future that the people may do. In fact, we have evidence stated exactly to the contrary when we learn that “the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.”

Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Allow me to pose this question do you. Do you believe that God has the right to choose some people for honorable use (will be defined momentarily) and others for common use? If you do have a problem with this, I must beg you to repent of your sin against God. You are in fact clay. God has made you from the dust and He therefore has the moral authority to choose to do whatever He likes with you. If you think that you may turn and pose questions to Him, then please allow God’s rebuke to Job in Job 38-41 be a rebuke to you.

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

He is dealing with the same question as above. People have rebelled against their creator. God, instantly, has the right and the desire to pour out his wrath upon them. However, he is a patient and long-suffering God. Just as He did not immediately strike down Adam and Eve, He allows wretched sinners to continue in their rebellion. This, my brethren, is Common Grace. God grants to those who attack him the breath, strength, and abilities to carry out their attacks. To answer the original question posed, “Why does He still find fault?” he gives this answer: How could God not find fault? He has created all people for His glory and yet they have rebelled and continue to sin even as the God they hate is sustaining them. God is perfectly just in pouring out his wrath on the reprobate, but even in this, He does so after showing much patience.

And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He called, not from among Jews only but also from among Gentiles.

This is the beautiful truth of God’s special love for His elect. He has endured everything that He might make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy. Notice that everything is being done for the Glory of God. If your theology (whether Calvinistic or Arminian) stops short of this, then we have terribly missed the point.

At this time we must look at these two vessels. We must acknowledge that the text says “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” as well as “vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory”. The Arminian must let the full force of these words hit them. An Arminian should not be able to swallow this easily. They have been prepared for Destruction. Do you allow for this in your Theology? Some Calvinists must also let this verse sink in. This is a Double or Nothing matter. Single Predestination is not consistent with this passage. God has prepared both the vessel of wrath for destruction and also the vessel of mercy for glory. He of course brings this out in two different ways, but both sets of people were equally prepared ahead of time.

As he says also in Hosea, I will call those who were not my people, my people, and her who was not beloved, beloved. And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, you are not My people, they shall be called sons of the living God”

The teaching here is that God is not a God of partiality. He has not made his election contingent on one group of people. He does not just include Jews but from the Gentiles also. This is the great truth of Christianity. Whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or freeman, God has opened the door of Salvation.

How could we dare question the integrity or morality of God? He has the moral right as creator. This is increased by the fact that He has delayed His wrath and made glorious those who do not deserve it out of His mercy. Add to all of this that God is not a God of partiality. He has chosen vessels of mercy from both the Jews and the Gentiles, both groups who have horrifically sinned against their maker (see Romans 1-3).

Oh the day that we can look at this doctrine and turn in doxology to God. I fear for now we will have to continue to contend vigorously for the truths demonstrated here, but how I long for the day where we may hear of God’s beautiful work and simply praise Him for it.

Oh Calvinist Brother, do you love this truth and praise God for it as much as you love to attack the Arminian view? It is true we must defend against error, but it will all be to no avail if at the end of the day we do not love God all the more.

Arminian Brother, do you ever preach the truth in such a way that a person asks you “Why does He still find fault?” or “Why did you make me like this?”. If not, please ask yourself if you are preaching the same truths as Paul.

In Christ alone,

Friday, February 03, 2006

More notes from Philippians

I've decided to take one more day of prayer and contemplation before addressing Romans 9:19-26. It is a difficult passage to even attempt to address in a post, especially with the theological implications that may result.

For today, however, I thought that I would stay on the theme of Philippians. I argued yesterday that Paul opens his letter with a salutation that intentionally portrays himself as lowly and others as more important than himself. I then suggested that he got this directly from the theology that he teaches in Phil 2. Today I wanted to continue this theme in the last half of the book.

If it is true that the citizens of Philippi were boasting in themselves and creating monuments to themselves then we can understand why Paul might include some of the things that he has in Chapters 1 and 2. However, if this is really an important historical context that has implications in our understanding of the text, it makes sense to ask whether this theme is present throughout the entire epistle. Of course, it is my contention that it is.

Consider chapter 3 beginning in verse 3b:
"...and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation 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 the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless."

Here, Paul seems to do the very thing that I have contended that he is arguing against. Paul lays out all of his titles, in much the same way that a prideful Philippian may have.

However, what does Paul do with all of these titles (and by implication what is he telling everyone else to do with their titles)? Consider 3:7ff:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be in loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him , not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith..."

Paul immediately sets his titles in opposition with knowing Christ. He is said to count them all as loss in order to gain Christ and later he is said to count them as rubbish for the same purpose. He desires to be found in Him, with a righteousness that is not his own but that which is from God.

Oh brethren, let us heed this word. Do you want to be great? Then cut off the pride that results in viewing life in a man-centered, earthly way. Put no confidence in your flesh to be of any merit, but cast your eyes upon the Lord of Hosts from whom all true righteousness comes.

Heed the words in 3:18-21:
For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Do you want to satisfy yourself? Your glory will prove to be your shame and still worse you will be declared an enemy of the cross of Christ. Do not set your minds on earthly things. Rather, set your gaze on Christ Jesus and the heavenly things and long eagerly for our humble state to be transformed to His glory. Oh Jesus will, in that last day, transform us into Glory. Will you be found having a righteousness of your own or will it be said of you that you have "the righteousness that comes from God"?

In Christ alone,

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Humbled Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant

Today I am going to take a break from Romans 9. The time spent studying and writing on that great chapter can be exhausting. In order to avoid tiring myself out, I am going to post a shorter entry on a reflection from my Philippians translation today.

The book begins with this salutation:
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.

It is important to note that this is the only Epistle in which Paul calls himself a bond-servant (doulos) without also affirming his own Apostleship. Rather, than assert his authority as an Apostle, he chooses to humble himself by focusing on the lowly nature of being a servant. Of course he then does the same thing with Jesus in the next chapter. The famous passage in Phil 2 says:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

At this point it is helpful to do a little bible background study on the Roman city of Philippi. They were a small city with many Roman solders who were very interested in their appearance. Archeology has revealed that people would build columns, fountains, and buildings and place their inscription in a noticeable location. This inscription would list all of their titles, the amount they contributed, etc. Historical investigation has revealed that Philippi did this far more than any city except the capital of the Roman empire.

So then, how does this relate to this introduction? Paul calls himself a bond-servant. Slaves were worth very little in the Roman empire. They were not even allowed to join the army and certainly could not be considered a reliable witness in court. So Paul, does not assert his title (namely as an Apostle) but humbles himself as a servant. In the midst of this He considers others more highly than himself (another verse from Romans 2) by giving the titles to the church leaders (namely overseer/bishop and deacon).

He is living out the theology that he will soon preach from the get-go. He is preaching the truth that Jesus exemplifies. Jesus stripped Himself of his preincarnate glory to be made a man. In doing so, He humbled Himself more than any person ever could. However, it is after this occurs that God highly exalts him and bestows on Him the name which is above every name.

Let us follow the example of both Paul and our savior.

In Christ alone,