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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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Faithful Preachers

R.C. Sproul:

“The more faithful preachers are to the Word of God in their preaching, the more liable they are to the charge of hypocrisy. Why? Because the more faithful people are to the Word of God the higher the message is that they will preach. The higher the message, the further they will be from obeying themselves.” (The Holiness of God)

Luke as a Historian

Opinion of Sir William Ramsay, one of the outstanding Near Eastern archaeologists:

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length…In short, this author should be placed among the very greatest of historians.”

 

The Wonder of God’s Love

Contemplate with love that God should go to such great expense in adopting us. When God adopted you, He paid a high price. It was not easy to make the heirs of wrath into the heirs of promise. God chose fallen man and so our adoption was purchased at the price of the blood of His own Son. Such is the wonder of God’s love in adopting us, that He should pay so high a price to accomplish it. L.R. Shelton, Jr. writes:

In Mark 14:36 we see in our Lord’s agony He cried in His native tongue, Hebrew, “Abba, Father.” Is not this a lesson for us?

Adoption comes to us by redemption: We should prize redemption, because it was by the precious blood of Christ that we were redeemed from the curse of the law. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:4,5).

By adoption we are no more like to bond servants  “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father” (Gal 4:1-2). By adoption we are heirs: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal 4:7). No man living has ever realized to the full what this means. Believers are at this moment heirs, but what is the estate? It is God Himself! We are heirs of God (Rom 8:17)! Not only of the promises, of the covenant engagements, and of all the blessings which belong to the chosen seed, but heirs of God Himself? The Lord is my portion, saith my soul. This God is my God for ever and ever. Surely “the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psa 16:6).

Meditate upon this truth: that God should adopt us when He had a Son of His own. Men adopt because they want children, and desire to have some one to bear their name; but that God should adopt us when He had a Son of His own, the Lord Jesus, is a wonder of love. Now since God had a Son of His own, and such a Son, how wonderful God’s love in adopting us. We needed a Father, but He did not need sons.

Contemplate what we were before God adopted us. We were very deformed, in a state of sin and misery, very unlovely, and surely a man will not adopt one for his heir that is crooked and ill-favored, but rather he that has some beauty. But when we were yet in our blood, God adopted us. “When I saw thee polluted in thy blood, it was the time of love” (Eze 16:6). God did not adopt us when we were adorned with holiness and had the angels’ glory upon us; but when we were as filthy as hell itself, diseased as lepers; that was the time of His love. Praise the Lord! (“Adoption”)

 

It was Foreordained Who should Receive the Word of Life

Every event in the course of human affairs in all of history and in all nations, no matter how insignificant it may appear to us, has its exact place in God’s eternal plan. Loraine Boettner D.D. writes:

That Luther was as zealous for absolute predestination as was Calvin is shown in his commentary on Romans, where he wrote: “All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins, and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.”

And Melanchthon, his close friend and fellow-laborer, says: “All things turn out according to divine predestination; not only the works we do outwardly, but even the thoughts we think inwardly”; and again, “There is no such thing as chance, or fortune; nor is there a readier way to gain the fear of God, and to put our whole trust in Him, than to be thoroughly versed in the doctrine of Predestination.”

“Order is heaven’s first law.” From the divine viewpoint there is unbroken order and progress from the first beginnings of the creation to the end of the world and the ushering in of the kingdom of heaven in all its glory. The divine purpose and plan is nowhere defeated nor interrupted; that which in many cases appears to us to be defeat is not really such but only appears to be, because our finite and imperfect nature does not permit us to see all the parts in the whole nor the whole in all its parts. If at one glance we could take in “the mighty spectacle of the natural world and the complex drama of human history,” we should see the world as one harmonious unit manifesting the glorious perfections of God. “Though the world seems to run at random,” says Bishop, “and affairs to be huddled together in blind confusion and rude disorder, yet, God sees and knows the concatenation of all causes and effects, and so governs them that He makes a perfect harmony out of all those seeming jarrings and discords. It is most necessary that we should have our hearts well established in the firm and unwavering belief of this truth, that whatever comes to pass, be it good or evil, we may look up to the hand and disposal of all, to God.

In respect of God, there is nothing neither casual nor contingent in the world. If a master should send a servant to a certain place and command him to stay there till such a time, and, presently after, should send another servant to the same place, the meeting of these two is wholly casual in respect to themselves, but ordained and foreseen by the master who sent them. They fall out unexpectedly as to us, but not so as to God. He foresees and He appoints all the vicissitudes of things.” (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

He is Faithful

As Christians, we have hope that we shall persevere to the end. The reasons we shall be found blameless in the end, are all found in our God. Charles H. Spurgeon writes on this topic:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)

We are variable as the wind, frail as a spider’s web, weak as water. No dependence can be placed upon our natural qualities, or our spiritual attainments; but God abideth faithful. He is faithful in His love; He knows no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He is faithful to His purpose; He doth not begin a work and then leave it undone. He is faithful to His relationships; as a Father He will not renounce His children, as a friend He will not deny His people, as a Creator He will not forsake the work of His own hands. He is faithful to His promises, and will never allow one of them to fail to a single believer. He is faithful to His covenant, which He has made with us in Christ Jesus, and ratified with the blood of His sacrifice. He is faithful to His Son, and will not allow His precious blood to be spilled in vain. He is faithful to His people to whom He has promised eternal life, and from whom He will not turn away.

This faithfulness of God is the foundation and cornerstone of our hope of final perseverance. The saints shall persevere in holiness, because God perseveres in grace. He perseveres to bless, and therefore believers persevere in being blessed. He continues to keep His people, and therefore they continue to keep His commandments. This is good solid ground to rest upon, and it is delightfully consistent with the title of this little book, “All of Grace.” Thus it is free favor and infinite mercy which ring in the dawn of salvation, and the same sweet bells sound melodiously through the whole day of grace. (All of Grace)

 

Danger

John Calvin:

“Men are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity. For when matters go smoothly, they flatter themselves, and are intoxicated by their success.”

The Apologetic Task

R.C. Sproul:

The apologetic task is difficult, complex, and never-ending. Yet it is the mandate of God to us. The responsibility is ours; its success is God’s.

History and Doctrine

Jesus did not content Himself with the articulation of permanent moral principles. He announced an approaching event and gave an account of its meaning. When He gave an account of the meaning He rooted it in the significance of historical facts. J. Gresham Machen writes:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV)

The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. . . .

It has already been admitted that if doctrine is to be abandoned, Paul must be abandoned: it may now be admitted that if doctrine is to be abandoned, even the primitive Jerusalem Church, with its message of the resurrection, must be abandoned. . . .

Must we really take such a step as that? It would certainly be an extraordinary step. A great religion derived its power from the message of the redeeming work of Christ; without that message Jesus and His disciples would soon have been forgotten. The same message, with its implications, has been the very heart and soul of the Christian movement throughout the centuries. . . .

It is not true that in basing Christianity upon an event the disciples of Jesus were departing from the teaching of their Master. For certainly Jesus Himself did the same thing. Jesus did not content Himself with enunciating general principles of religion and ethics; the picture of Jesus as a sage similar to Confucius, uttering wise maxims about conduct, may satisfy Mr. H. G. Wells, as he trips along lightly over the problems of history, but it disappears as soon as one engages seriously in historical research. ‘Repent,’ said Jesus, ‘for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ The gospel which Jesus proclaimed in Galilee consisted in the proclamation of a coming Kingdom. But clearly Jesus regarded the coming of the Kingdom as an event, or as a series of events. No doubt He also regarded the Kingdom as a present reality in the souls of men; no doubt He represented the Kingdom in one sense as already present. We shall not really succeed in getting along without this aspect of the matter in our interpretation of Jesus’ words. But we shall also not get along without the other aspect, according to which the coming of the Kingdom depended upon definite and catastrophic events. But if Jesus regarded the coming of the Kingdom as dependent upon a definite event, then His teaching was similar at the decisive point to that of the primitive Church; neither He nor the primitive Church enunciated merely general and permanent principles of religion; both of them, on the contrary, made the message depend upon something that happened. Only, in the teaching of Jesus the happening was represented as being still in the future, while in that of the Jerusalem Church the first act of it at least lay already in the past. Jesus proclaimed the event as coming; the disciples proclaimed part of it at least as already past; but the important thing is that both Jesus and the disciples did proclaim an event. Jesus was certainly not a mere enunciator of permanent truths, like the modern liberal preacher; on the contrary He was conscious of standing at the turning-point of the ages, when what had never been was now to come to be. (Christianity and Liberalism)

The Written Word and the Holy Spirit

James M Boice:

“The Reformers, and particularly John Calvin, stressed the way the objective, written Word and the inner, supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit work together, the Holy Spirit illuminating the Word to God’s people. The Word without the illumination of the Holy Spirit remains a closed book.”

Irreducible Complexity!

Science and the Bible:

Another convincing aspect of the design argument for God’s existence is the irreducible complexity of biological systems. Life did not arise by chance because macro-evolution by natural selection cannot explain the existence of humankind. Who programmed the cell with its digital code? Who gave it the capacity to make copies of itself? The advancement in scientific knowledge in this area is a major reason given by famous philosopher Anthony Flew for abandoning his atheism. Check out the following video on irreducible complexity:

 

All Scripture is Profitable

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV)

Paul clearly had the Old Testament scriptures in view when he spoke of “profitable for teaching” in the above verses. The Old Testament, he said, was “breathed out by God” and would make the man of God “complete, equipped for every good work.” Contrary to many popular, contemporary Christian ideas – the Old Testament will “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The Old Testament (OT), in other words, is a very valuable document authored by God to help us know Jesus Christ and live righteously.

We look to the OT to provide us with understanding of the nature of sin and the fall of man. We find there the ongoing revelation of God’s covenant of redemption and the Messianic prophecies. Only knowledge of the OT can help us understand such New Testament books as Hebrews and Revelation.

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV) Paul has just discussed in the previous verses the fall of Israel in the wilderness. Now he notes that although these things happened to Israel, “they were written down for our instruction”. Think about that. The OT was written for our instruction. Do you complain when your pastor preaches from the OT? When was the last time you read from the OT?

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching. . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV) The Scriptures are not simply the words or thoughts of mere men, but of God who guided men by His Spirit. The Scriptures are truly profitable. A man must know the truth in order to be convinced of his error, and to do what is right.

Is it not wise to be concerned about your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? Look at these verses and be inspired by the Scriptures. Study the Word of God which is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17 ESV)

I cannot remember the source for the following story, but I think it brings us to an appropriate conclusion of this article: There was a great prophet of God who told his disciples that if they studied the Scriptures, the words would be written on their hearts. One day, a disciple asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The prophet thoughtfully replied, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But the careful study and reading of God’s Word can put it on your heart, and then when your heart breaks, the Holy Words will fall inside.”

Christ in the Seat of Cosmic Authority

R.C. Sproul:

“It is a profound political reality that Christ now occupies the supreme seat of cosmic authority. The kings of this world and all secular governments may ignore this reality, but they cannot undo it. The universe is no democracy. It is a monarchy. God himself has appointed his beloved Son as the preeminent King. Jesus does not rule by referendum, but by divine right. In the future every knee will bow before him, either willingly or unwillingly. Those who refuse to do so will have their knees broken with a rod of iron.” (What Is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics)

Erastus

Archaeology and the Bible:

Paul’s reference to Erastus as the treasurer of Corinth (Romans 16:23) was thought to be erroneous, but now has been confirmed by a pavement found in 1929 bearing his name.

In the Beginning. . . .

God created all things, the world, and all the creatures that belong to it. He attributes this work to Himself, as one of the particular glories of His Deity, exclusive of all the creatures. “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself. . . .’” (Isaiah 44:24 ESV) Thomas Boston writes:

The world could not make itself; for that would imply a horrible contradiction, namely, that the world was before it was; for the cause must always be before its effect. That which is not in being can have no production; for nothing can act before it exists. As nothing has no existence, so it has no operation. There must therefore be something which has existence in itself, to give a being to those things that are; and every second cause must be an effect of some other before it is a cause. To be and not to be at the same time is a manifest contradiction, which would infallibly take place if any thing made itself. That which makes is always before that which is made, as is obvious to the most illiterate peasant. If the world were a creator, it must be before itself as a created thing.

The production of the world could not be by chance. It was indeed the extravagant fancy of some ancient philosophers that the origin of the world was from a fortuitous concourse of atoms, which were in perpetual motion in an immense space, till at last a sufficient number of them met in such a happy conjunction as formed the universe in the beautiful order in which we now behold it. But it is amazingly strange how such a wild opinion, which can never be reconciled with reason, could ever find any entertainment in a human mind. Can any man rationally conceive, that a confused jumble of atoms, of diverse natures and forms, and some so far distant from others, should ever meet in such a fortunate manner, as to form an entire world, so vast in extent, so distinct in the order, so united in the diversities of natures, so regular in the variety of changes, and so beautiful in the whole composure? Such an extravagant fancy as this can only possess the thoughts of a disordered brain. (“God Alone Created the World”)

The Hand of God

Loraine Boettner D.D.:

The Reformed theologians logically and consistently applied to the spheres of creation and providence those great principles which were later set forth in the Westminster Standards. They saw the hand of God in every event in all the history of mankind and in all the workings of physical nature so that the world was the complete realization in time of the eternal ideal. The world as a whole and in all its parts and movements and changes was brought into a unity by the governing, all-pervading, all-harmonizing activity of the divine will, and its purpose was to manifest the divine glory. While their conception was that of a divine ordering of the whole course of history to the veriest detail, they were especially concerned with its relation to man’s salvation. Calvin, the brilliant and systematic theologian of the Reformation, put the matter thus:

“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.”

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