Posts for February 2011
5 Posts found

Hebrews 13.7-9 and Jude 1.3 – God’s eternally valid revelation
Posted: 22 February 2011 in Hebrews, Jude

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

In the world that we live in, everything is in a constant state of flux – that which today is, tomorrow will not be. Only one thing is unchanging, and that thing is God and his word. After due allowance has been made for what is culturally conditioned (for instance, slavery is no longer considered acceptable) that which the Bible has to tell us about God, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning, remains as valid today as it was the day it was written, and as it will be a thousand years from now (if we survive that long).

I recently had an email exchange with somebody, and I will quote just one sentence from it:

Oh wait, never mind. That’s beastly. So why can’t we have a God in the middle?

The point is that this person did not much care for the God who reveals himself in the Bible, so he wanted to ditch it, and have a “God in the middle” instead. In my understanding it was precisely to teach us, and to forestall that kind of subjectivism, that God’s eternal and unchanging word was given to us.

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Matthew 3.7-12 – John the Baptist’s warning
Posted: 21 February 2011 in Matthew

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

It is common to contrast the God of wrath in the Old Testament with the God of love in the New Testament, but here John the Baptist is warning the religious elite of his day that there is only one God, and that he never changes. God’s wrath awaits those who try to rely on their own self righteousness, refuse to repent in the face of God’s absolute righteousness, and who then disdain the means of salvation which he is about to proffer.

Even in this most Jewish of the four Gospels, John also tells his hearers that they cannot rely upon their status as God’s chosen people, and that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul tells his readers that God will be calling the Gentiles to fulfill his will, and to be grafted into the vine which was old Israel (to use Paul’s metaphor from Romans 11.16ff).

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1 Kings 14.1-12 – Sin & its consequences.
Posted: 19 February 2011 in 1 Kings

At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people…. he shall tell thee what shall become of the child…. And the LORD said unto Ahijah, Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman. And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments…. But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam…. Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it. Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.

For Christians salvation is through grace, and it is not something which can be earned by leading a sinless life (which is impossible). Nevertheless, the above passage makes it clear that sin has its consequences. God will not give his glory to another, and he will not permit idolatry to go unchallenged. It must be remembered that the God of the Old Testament, who made his displeasure known to Jeroboam, is not a different God to the one who became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. Christians, who belong to a religion where the emphasis is rightly upon God’s grace, can sometimes, for that very reason, find themselves talking as though the God of the New Testament, and the God of the Old Testament, were two different Gods.

Salvation is by grace through faith, but as Paul made clear to his readers, that does not give us a licence to sin. God is unchanging, and he views sin or idolatry with the same disfavour today, as he did when he removed Jeroboam and his family from the throne of Israel.

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1 Kings 13.11-22 – Sin as an objective reality
Posted: 18 February 2011 in 1 Kings

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am. Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, but camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.

If I remember rightly, I made a comment similar to this one some months ago. On that occasion the thought was sparked by a passage in Numbers. A few verses prior to the passage quoted above, the man of God is invited by King Jeroboam to eat and drink with him, and he refuses on the grounds that God has explicitly forbidden him to eat or drink until he has fulfilled his mission. In the passage above it is the old prophet who makes the invitation, and again he refuses, and gives the same reason for doing so.

So the man of God apparently does not sit lightly to God’s commandments. But in the second case, the old prophet lies to him, and tells the man of God that he has received a revelation from God, and that they ought to eat and drink together. So the man of God goes off to share the prophet’s hospitality, presumably with a clear conscience.

I suppose most people would be inclined to think that the old prophet had committed a morally culpable act in lying, and that the man of God was guilty of no intentional misconduct; especially in the light of his earlier insistence that he must abide by the will of God. What actually happens, however, is that the old prophet suffers no comeback for his deliberate lie, whereas the man of God is told that he will die because he has disobeyed God.

So the message here would seem to be that God regards sin as something objectively real, and that our culpability for it is not dependent upon the state of our conscience. In God’s eyes, we can be judged guilty of sin even when we have no sinful intention – we have besmirched our Lord’s holiness, and that is sufficient. It must be remembered that nobody can say to God, “What doest thou?” He has the absolute right to judge us in whatever manner he pleases.

Another quote from scripture which may make sobering reading in the light of 1 Kings 13 is:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 55.8)

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Predestination in John’s Gospel
Posted: 17 February 2011 in John

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1.12-13)

“And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6.42-44)

“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” (John 10.2-5)

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” (John 17.9)

That there is some definite group of people who will respond positively to Jesus, and it is only members of that group who will respond positively, seems to be a theme which runs throughout John’s Gospel. In the first of the passages quoted above, those who will receive Jesus are identified with those who have been born of the will of God. In the second passage it is only those who have been given him by the Father who will come to Jesus. In the third passage people do not become members of Jesus’ flock by following him; instead they follow him because they are already members of his flock and recognise his voice. In the last passage it is again only those who have been given him by the Father that Jesus prays for.

It is easy to understand why the last of those four passages, in particular, should disturb people. Nevertheless, when I hear people saying that predestination is not biblical, I cannot help but wonder whether they are reading the same Bible as me.

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