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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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For Our Good!

In the words of R.C. Sproul:

“Romans 8:28 is one of the most comforting texts in all of Scripture. It assures the believer that all “tragedies” are ultimately blessings. It does not declare that all things that happen are good in themselves but that in all the things that happen to us God is working in and through them for our good. This is also firmly grounded in His eternal purpose for His people.” (Loved by God)

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The Jerusalem Water Shaft

Archaeology and the Bible:

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” (2 Samuel 5:6-8 ESV)

David’s capture of Jerusalem recounted in 2 Samuel 5:6-8 speaks of Joab using a water shaft built by the Jebusites to surprise them and defeat them. Historians had assumed it was simply a legend until archaeological excavations by R.A.S. Macalister, J.G. Duncan, and Kathleen Kenyon on Ophel found these very water shafts.

Reformation Day 2012

Today is a religious holiday celebrated in remembrance of the Reformation. On Reformation Day, we give praise to God for what He did in 16th century Germany through Dr. Martin Luther and the other Reformers who followed. They accomplished nothing less than the recovery of the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Church of the 16th century had incorporated many errors and superstitions into its doctrine of beliefs. One, the sale of indulgences, incensed Martin Luther and he determined to hold a debate with other faculty members at the University of Wittenberg on the subject. Luther knew that forgiveness from sins could not be purchased. He taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Among other things, Luther had made a study of the Greek New Testament and had been persuaded that the Greek word for repentance, “metanoia”, meant a change of heart, not a performance of outward works.

Luther’s Ninety-five Theses were written in Latin. He nailed them on the Wittenberg Castle Church Door on October 31st, 1517. The church door functioned as a public bulletin board and it was there that important notices were displayed. Luther wished these to be discussed by scholars, rather than the general populace. Yet, within a couple of weeks, copies were available all over Germany. The Ninety-five Theses were quickly translated into German and were made available to people as far away as Rome. Luther’s ideas spread like wildfire, aided by the newly invented printing press.

The Catholic Church tried to silence Luther with accusations of heresy and threats of excommunication. However, He was protected by his local ruler, Frederick the Wise. Martin Luther continued to write more critiques of the Church in the years that followed.

I am thankful for Luther and the other Reformers who returned the church to the faith of Paul and Augustine by putting the Scriptures ahead of church traditions and church authority. I also pray that God will keep us faithful to the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Contemplating Providence

John Calvin writes:

“We ought to contemplate providence not as curious and fickle persons are wont to do but as a ground of confidence and excitement to prayer. When he informs us that the hairs of our head are all numbered it is not to encourage trivial speculations but to instruct us to depend on the fatherly care of God which is exercised over these frail bodies.”

The Marcionite Heresy

Heresy and the Church:

Marcion was born around the year 85. He traveled to Rome around 135 A.D. where he became known in the church and began to teach. He thought there were huge differences between the God revealed in the Old Testament (OT) and the God found in the New Testament (NT). He decided to reject the God of the OT because he believed Him to be an evil craftsman who created an evil world. Marcion put together his own bible, excluding the OT, and including only Paul’s letters and Luke’s gospel. He excluded a few parts of Paul’s letters where Paul refers to the OT and references to hell and/or judgment. Marcion’s unorthodox canon forced the church fathers to begin naming the accepted documents. Marcionite churches spread throughout the Roman world until the beginning of the fourth century.

“And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:19 ESV)

Professing Christians, Awake!

The language of this text is borrowed from natural sleep, in which a person is in a great measure unaware of what is happening around him but life remains in the body. This condition is applied to Christians who have grown insensitive to divine things – they sleep, but life remains in their souls. In particular, the exhortation is for those who find themselves in a state of spiritual slumber to shake off their drowsiness and awake to spiritual realities.

“Now it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Rom. 13:11).

Asahel Nettleton writes:

Consider the glorious future that awaits you. You who have long traversed the wilderness on your way to Zion, your struggles for eternal life will have an end. You who have long labored, prayed, and groaned to be delivered from the bondage of sin, “look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). This night you may wake up amid the song of angels, and a crown of glory may be placed on your head. Awake, then, and behold the glorious dawn of a bright new day!

Finally, consider the great danger of being deceived. A genuine Christian can never sleep sound without being disturbed. He inevitably will become frightened and wake up alarmed about his own condition. However, there are those who remain sound asleep and live at ease in Zion. They neither weep for their sins nor rejoice in the glory of God. Their hope of heaven is really only a pleasant dream while meanwhile they sink further into spiritual deception.

The Christian church is a net that gathers of every kind. Remember that ten virgins professed to be followers of Christ but only five were ready for the bridegroom. Many who now commune on earth will never meet in heaven. Many who now appear to us to be real Christians will, no doubt to our surprise, be found on the left hand of Christ, “for many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Sadly, the sinner who has professed religion with a false hope can hardly be driven to give it up. However, it is far better to destroy such hope and for the person to conclude that he is lost than for him to awake too late. “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh . . . : lest coming suddenly he finds you sleeping” (Mark 13:35-36). At midnight the cry will be made. Then there will be a great confusion, for thousands will be deceived. Therefore, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Rev. 3:1-3)

Moving beyond the Gospel?

Quoting Benjamin B. Warfield:

It belongs to the very essence of the type of Christianity propagated by the Reformation that the believer should feel himself continuously unworthy of the grace by which he lives. At the center of this type of Christianity lies the contrast of sin and grace; and about this center everything else revolves. This is in large part the meaning of the emphasis put in this type of Christianity on justification by faith. It is its conviction that there is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only “when we believe.” It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place, or that can take a place along with Him. We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace. Though blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, we are still in ourselves just “miserable sinners”: “miserable sinners” saved by grace to be sure, but “miserable sinners” still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath. That is the attitude which the Reformers took, and that is the attitude which the Protestant world has learned from the Reformers to take, toward the relation of believers to Christ. (“Miserable-Sinner Christianity’ in the Hands of the Rationalists,” chapter III in Perfectionism, Part One, vol. 7 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield [New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000] pp. 113–14)

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