Posts for August 2011
5 Posts found

Exodus 10.1-2 and Matthew 13.10-11 – The Chosen of God.
Posted: 15 August 2011 in Exodus, Matthew

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”

The Bible has much to say about the mercy of God, but something which doesn’t very often get a mention is that the Bible also seems to imply that God’s mercy is reserved for those he chooses to have mercy upon. The above passage makes clear, yet again, that God’s primary concern is to glorify himself. To that end he settled upon Israel as the special recipients of his mercy, but his attitude to the Egyptians was clearly not so merciful. The hearts of Pharaoh and his servants were hardened, and although Pharaoh would doubtless have been unaware of God’s activity in hardening his heart, thinking himself to be acting in accordance with his own free will, neverthless we are made aware of the fact that God’s providence was at work.

Fast forward to the New Testament, and it is the Church which is fulfilling Israel’s role, and those outside of the Church who are fulfilling the Egyptian’s role. All four gospels have Jesus making a remark to the effect that only to some is it given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and to others it is not so given. It is very easy to start trying to rationalise this, and to look for reasons why God should choose some and not others, but the fact is that the Bible gives no reason; it simply states it as a fact. Furthermore, if God does not reveal his reasons to us, it is perhaps the case that we shouldn’t indulge in vain speculation. We must simply submit ourselves to what has been revealed.

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Matthew 8.23-27 – The manifestation of divine power
Posted: 12 August 2011 in Matthew

And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

There is not enough room to reproduce the entire chapter here of course, but the whole of Matthew 8 is a hymn to the manifestation of God’s power and glory in the person of Jesus. In this chapter Jesus heals the sick, casts out demons and, in the passage quoted, tames the forces of nature through the mere power of his word. This is the same word that brought all things into existence at the beginning of time.

Given all of the above you might imagine that we would be pleased to have God’s power present amongst us, but the chapter ends with Jesus healing two demoniacs, and as a result being asked to leave the district in which he had performed that miracle. The problem with demonstrations of the divine power and glory is, of course, that it undercuts our pretentions to self sufficiency, and to the quasi-divine status we award ourselves. Human beings would prefer to be left to their delusions, rather than have God, with his power to heal, dwell amongst them.

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1 Corinthians 12.4-11;28-30 – Gifts of the Spirit
Posted: 11 August 2011 in 1 Corinthians

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

The thrust of the above two paragraphs is that God is not an equal opportunities employer. He distributes his gifts to whomsoever he will, for whatever purposes he will, and we must be content with the roles assigned to us. The twin dangers here are obviously pride amongst those with the “best” gifts and resentment amongst those with lesser gifts. More than once in the Pentateuch, Moses has his authority challenged for precisely those reasons. Avoidance of these twin dangers requires humility amongst the first group, submission to the will of God amongst the latter group, and preparation of the heart by God himself in all groups. This remaking of the heart by God is the central reality in conversion. Therefore the extent to which we are submissive to God’s will is the extent to which we can lay claim to a true conversion.

And of course, conversion and humility are themselves gifts of the Spirit. All things come from God.

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Hebrews 4.9-11, John 6.29 – Resting in Christ
Posted: 8 August 2011 in Hebrews, John

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”

“Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”

I suppose the rest being referred to in Hebrews is the rest which follows when we cease from the attempt to establish our own righteousness, and rest instead in the righteousness of Christ. At least, that is what John 6.29 would seem to suggest. Of course resting in Christ does not mean that we should lose sight of our status as servants, and unprofitable servants at that (Luke 17.20). Insofar as in us lies, we must labour to see God’s will done, and we must labour in the manner that he appoints.

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Acts 20.17-32 – The faith once revealed to the saints.
Posted: 5 August 2011 in Acts

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said….. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

I can think of at least four passages in the New Testament where we are warned that we must earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1.3). I suppose that makes it all the more lamentable that there are theologians today who feel able to sit lightly to biblical revelation. Anything contrary to the spirit of the age, such as the exclusive claims of Christianity, can (so far as they are concerned) be safely set aside. I am not saying that we can ignore the way in which the biblical writers were necessarily influenced by their cultural context. For example, slavery is today totally unacceptable, but it was acceptable to Paul.

Nevertheless, after due allowance has been made for cultural conditioning, the Bible speaks with the absolute authority of God. One of the mistakes liberal theologians make is try and substitute the cultural mores of the twenty first century for those of the first century. Again as an example, the language which represents God as being analogous to an absolute monarch probably doesn’t go down well in today’s democratic age, but that does not make the analogy is wrong. God is the absolute Lord of the universe, and the sentient beings he has created have a duty to worship him.

Similarly unpopular today is the God who places obligations upon his creatures, and who calls them to account when the fail to obey him – with hell awaiting those individuals not chosen for eternal salvation. And yet that is the God the Bible sets before us. Definitely not to be found in the Bible is a god (lower case intended) who saves everybody. We might not like that, but it is a fact, and such a god can only be believed in if the very words of Jesus himself are ignored.

So we have a faith which was once delivered to the saints, and the content of that faith is now recorded in the Bible. The God revealed therein is the one we must love and obey – and not a present day idol.

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