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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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WHAT IS STRONG FAITH?

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5 ESV)

I think it is interesting to note here that Jesus responds to the statement above by telling His apostles they need faith “like a grain of mustard seed.” Jesus makes the point that even a small amount of faith may accomplish wonderful things if it is placed in God. One of the most important things we learn is that what we place our faith in matters most.

Continue reading

THE ONLY TRUE STANDARD

John CalvinJohn Calvin:

God’s Word is the only true standard we have a divine mandate to conform to, and it is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged. Success or failure in ministry therefore cannot be evaluated by numerical statistics, financial figures, popularity polls, public opinion, or any of the other factors the world typically associates with success. The only real triumph in ministry is to hear Christ say, “Well done.”

COMMANDMENTS, COMMUNION, AND FEELINGS

. . . do not inquire about their [other nation’s] gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. (Deuteronomy 12:30-32 ESV)

Samuel A CainThere is a particular mindset in this age which makes “truth” the product of a popularity contest. If a celebrity, voices an opinion – then it must be true. Right? If someone from your political party says something negative about the opposition party, it must be true. Right? If you read it on Twitter or Facebook, it’s the absolute truth. Right? Many people today think that if they believe something to be true because many other people believe it, it must be true. This attitude has also crept into the church.

Suppose you attend church one Sunday and the pastor announces that the church leadership team has voted to change future communion services. After a lot of thought, discussion, and a sample polling of the congregation – the leadership decided that chocolate cake and Pepsi Cola will be substituted for the bread and wine (or grape juice) during communion. This announcement is welcomed with a warm round of applause from most of the congregation. How would this announcement concern you? Does this manner of communion honor God according to the Bible? Continue reading

CONCERNING THE WORD PREACHED

Thomas WatsonThomas Watson:

“Do we prize it (the Word preached) in our judgments? Do we receive it into our hearts? Do we fear the loss of the Word preached more than the loss of peace and trade? Is it the removal of the ark that troubles us? Again, do we attend to the Word with reverential devotion? When the judge is giving the charge on the bench, all attend. When the Word is preached, the great God is giving us His charge. Do we listen to it as to a matter of life and death? This is a good sign that we love the Word.”

Spirituality in Action

sailing-shipFor this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labor in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. Continue reading

James Montgomery Boice On Inerrancy

James M. Boice

Do you believe that the Bible is true? Do you believe there are no errors in the Scriptures? Do you believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God? What difference do the answers to these questions make to preachers and congregations? James Montgomery Boice addresses the problems connected with the questions above:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

It is often said by those who adhere to inerrancy that a departure from the orthodox view of the Scripture at this point inevitably leads to a decline in adherence to orthodox views in other areas. This would no doubt be true if all deviators were consistent, but it is hard to demonstrate that this is always true, since one individual is not always as rigorous in carrying out the full implications of a position as another. It is enough to say that this has happened enough times with those who have entered the ministry to concern deeply anyone who sincerely desires the stability and growth of evangelicals and evangelical institutions.

On the other hand, and this is perhaps even more significant, many of those who have wrestled through the problem of the Bible’s inerrancy or noninerrancy and have come down on the inerrancy side, testify to this as the turning point in their ministries, as that step without which they would not have been able to preach with the measure of power and success granted to them by the ministration of the Holy Spirit. I can testify that this has been true in my own experience. As pastor of a church that has seen many hundreds of young men go into the ministry through years of seminary training, I can testify that this has been the turning point for the majority of them as well. It is sometimes said by those who take another position that inerrantists have just not faced the facts about the biblical material. This is not true. These men have faced them. But they are convinced that in spite of those things that they themselves may not fully understand or that seem to be errors according to the present state of our understanding, the Bible is nevertheless the inerrant Word of God, simply because it is the Word of God, and that it is only when it is proclaimed as such that it brings the fullest measure of spiritual blessing.

May God raise up many in our time who believe this and are committed to the full authority of the Word of God, whatever the consequences. In desiring that “Thus saith the Lord” be the basis for the authority of our message, the seminaries, whether liberal or conservative, are right. But we will never be able to say this truthfully or effectively unless we speak on the basis of an inerrant Scripture. We are not in the same category as the prophets. God has not granted us a primary revelation. We speak only because others, moved uniquely by the Holy Spirit, have spoken. But because of this we do speak, and we speak with authority to the degree that we hold to what Charles Haddon Spurgeon called “the ipsissima verba, the very words of the Holy Ghost.”

We need a host of those who have heard that Word and who are not afraid to proclaim it to a needy but rebellious generation. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. Pp.123-143)

James Montgomery Boice On The Working Of God’s Saving Grace

James M. Boice

I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I also believe that it is only when it is preached and taught as the Word of God will it bring the fullness of spiritual blessing. James Montgomery Boice discusses this in relationship to salvation:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

There are many moving images for the Word of God in the Bible. We are told in the Psalms that the Bible is “a lamp” to our feet and “a light” to our path (Ps. 1 19:l05).Jeremiah compares it to “a fire” and to “a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces” Jer. 23:29). It is “milk” to the one who is yet an infant in Christ (1 Peter 2:2) as well as “solid food” to the one who is more mature (Heb. 5:11-14). The Bible is a “sword” (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17), a “mirror” (1 Cor. 13:12; James 1:23), a “custodian” (Gal. 3:24), a “branch” grafted into our bodies (James 1:21). . . .

In the first chapter Peter has been talking about the means by which a person enters the family of God. First, he has discussed the theme objectively, saying that it is on the basis of Christ’s vicarious death that we are redeemed. “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (vv. 18, 19). Second, he has discussed the theme subjectively, pointing out that it is through faith that the objective work of Christ is applied to us personally. “Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (v. 21). Finally, having mentioned these truths, Peter goes on to discuss the new birth in terms of God’s sovereign grace in election, this time showing that we are born again by means of the Word of God. . . .

What does this teach about the way in which a man or woman becomes a child of God? It teaches that God is responsible for the new birth and that the means by which he accomplishes this is his living and abiding Word. We might even say that God does a work prior to this, for he first sends the ovum of saving faith into the heart. Even faith is not of ourselves, it is the “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Afterward, when the sperm of the Word is sent to penetrate the ovum of saving faith, there is a spiritual conception.

The same ideas are in view in James 1:18, which says, “Of his own will he brought us forth [‘begot he us,’ KJV] by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

The point of these verses is that it is by means of the very words of God recorded in the Scriptures and communicated to the individual heart by the Holy Spirit that God saves the individual. It is as Calvin says, in speaking of faith:

Faith needs the Word as much as fruit needs the living root of a tree. For no others, as David witnesses, can hope in God but those who know his name (Ps. 9:10)…. This knowledge does not arise out of anyone’s imagination, but only so far as God himself is witness to his goodness. This the prophet confirms in another place: “Thy salvation [is] according to thy word” (Ps. 119:41). Likewise, “I have hoped in thy word; make me safe” (Ps. 119:4,40, 94). Here we must first note the relation of faith to the Word, then its consequence, salvation.

Is it really the Word that God uses in the salvation of the individual? If it is, if God chooses so to operate, then the preacher can hardly fail to give the words of God the fullest measure of prominence in his preaching. He will revere them as that super natural gift without which nothing that he desires to see happen within the life of the individual will happen.

We conclude that the texts of the Bible should be preached as the very (and therefore inerrant) Word of God if for no other reason than that they are the means God uses in the spiritual rebirth of those who thereby become his children. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123 -143)

The Man God Speaks Through

Martin Luther

Over the years, I have seen Christians run to and fro from one part of the nation to another part and from one church to another seeking to follow the “movement” of the Holy Spirit or to hear some new revelation of God’s Word as preached by the “anointed” man of the hour. People are constantly looking to find the man who is speaking for God. Quite often, however, I get the feeling that Christians are looking for a preacher who resembles closely a character who might be the product of a movie by Cecil B. DeMille. How are we to find the man who speaks for God? Martin Luther offers us some wise advice:

Would to God that we could gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king. . . .

If someone announced: “I know of a place in the world where God speaks and anyone can hear God there”; if I had gone there and seen and heard a poor pastor baptizing and preaching, and if I had been assured: “This is the place; here God is speaking through the voice of the preacher who brings God’s Word”–I would have said: “Well, I have been duped! I see only a pastor. . . .

In fact, we do not enjoy listening to any preacher unless he is gifted with a good and clear voice. If you look more at the pastor than at God; if you do not see God’s person but merely gape to see whether the pastor is learned and skilled . . . then you have already become half a Jacob. For a poor speaker may speak the Word of God just as well as he who is endowed with eloquence. A father speaks the Word of God as well as God does, and your neighbor speaks it as well as the angel Gabriel. There is no difference between the Word when uttered by a schoolboy and when uttered by the angel Gabriel; they vary only in rhetorical ability. It matters not that dishes are made of different material. . . . The same food may be prepared in silver as in dishes of tin. Venison, properly seasoned and prepared, tastes just as good in a wooden dish as in one of silver. . . .

People, however, do not recognize the person of God but only stare at the person of man. This is like a tired and hungry man who would refuse to eat unless the food is served on a silver platter. Such is the attitude that motivates many preachers today. Many, on the other hand, are forced to quit their office, are driven out and expelled.

That is done by those who do not know this gift, who assume that it is a mere man speaking to them, although, as a matter of fact, it is even more than an angel, namely, your dear God. (Martin Luther, preaching on John 4:10, in Luther’s Works, 44:526-29)

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