Posts for February 2012
5 Posts found

1 John 5.10-13 – Christ as the only means of salvation
(and how that can seem unfair).
Posted: 10 February 2012 in 1 John

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Set out in the above passage is the reason for the early Christians’ driven desire to take the Gospel to the furthest corners of the Roman Empire – quite unlike Judaism, either then or now. And the reason is simply that, without hearing the Gospel, salvation is impossible.

Today when an atheist, or somebody else, wants to make a Christian feel uncomfortable, they will typically pose a question regarding the fate of those who, through no fault of their own, have never heard of Christ. A common response from Christians is to say that God will make special provision for those who do not know of Christ, and judge them upon the basis of the kind of life they have lead. After all, anything else seems distinctly unfair. The problem with that response is that it does not appear to have any scriptural justification. The Bible only says that Christ is the only means of salvation, and there is nothing said about there being any alternative available.

If there is such an alternative, it becomes extremely difficult to understand why Paul, and others, felt so driven to take the message of Christ everywhere they went. There is no evidence that they believed such an alternative to exist, and Jesus’ great commission (Matthew 28.19-20) would have given them no reason to believe it existed. That some should be condemned through no obvious fault of their own may seem unfair, if salvation is viewed as something which we have a right to, rather than as something we have no right to, but which must be received as an unmerited gift.

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Jeremiah 17.19-22 – Prophecy and scripture.
Posted: 9 February 2012 in Jeremiah

Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.

Reading Jeremiah, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder why no prophets are to be heard today, and such “prophets” as there are all sound like self serving conmen. Given the extent to which the modern world has turned away from God, at least in the West, it is not immediately obvious that there is no need for their voice to be heard. The answer, I suppose, is that we today have the Bible, and it is that which we expected to consult if we would hear the voice of God. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus has Abraham say to the rich man:

“If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16.31)”

So it is with us. If we would not listen to the scriptures, which are inspired by God and contain all things necessary for salvation, neither would we listen, even if a new prophet were to appear amongst us.

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Psalm 35 and Matthew 7.1-2 – God’s mercy and our presumption.
Posted: 8 February 2012 in Matthew, Psalms

“Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me….. Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the LORD chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them. For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul. Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall…..”

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

Reading psalm 35 I had the feeling that the psalmist was praying in a way that only Christ had the right to pray, but I was not quite sure why. Then I realised that, as God Incarnate, it was only Christ who had the right to judge his persecutors. He was exercising a right which is God’s alone. In Matthew 7.1-2 (above) we are warned explicity against abbrogating that right to ourselves. Instead we are told to pray for our enemies. Yet, although it is only Christ who has the right to judge his enemies, he is probably also alone in not having exercised that right during his earthly ministry. It is we who seek divine retribution upon our enemies, even though it is also we who (like the psalmist) have no right to do so. In Luke 23.34 it is God Incarnate who is depicted as doing what he commands us to do, in praying for his enemies:

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

How different are God’s attitudes and our attitudes. We have been given an example in Jesus, but still it is we who act as if we had the divine privileges.

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Isaiah 23.6-9, 48.11 – Giving to God the glory which belongs to him alone
Posted: 7 February 2012 in Isaiah

“Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle. Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn. Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth? The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.”

“For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.”

The thrust of these two passages from Isaiah is that we are not, unlike the inhabitants of Tyre, to accrue to ourselves the glory which belongs solely God. If we do so, he will take steps to recover that which rightly belongs to him alone. In particular, this makes illicit the kind of ostentatious piety (or charitable activity) which seeks to draw attention towards itself and away from God. It is for that reason that Jesus told his followers (Matthew 6) not to let their left hand know what their right hand is doing when they give arms, and (later in the same chapter), when they pray, they are to shut themselves away in their closets, so as not to be seen of men. Such activities are virtuous in God’s eyes only if their purpose is not that of self glorification.

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Nehemiah 9.24-28 – Apostacy and Judgment
Posted: 6 February 2012 in Nehemiah

So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards….. and delighted themselves in thy great goodness. Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations. Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they did evil again…..

From biblical times, right up until the presenet day, there seems to have been a recurrent pattern. When things are going well, and people feel prosperous, they soon start to worship their material prosperity, rather than their Creator. When the idol turns out to have feet of clay, as happened in the 2008 credit crunch, church attendance will briefly rise, but when the feared 1920’s style crash fails to materialise (as yet),church attendence soon falls back to what it was. The western world’s favourite idol may be in a poor state of health at the moment, but still people are confident (except possibly in Greece) that it will eventually be fully recovered.

In the Bible apostacy is always, and without exception, followed by judgment. It seems possible that on this occasion, the judgment will take the form of the world economy going into a tailspin; most likely following upon one or more governments defaulting on their debts. Punishment is never for its own sake, of course, and it is always designed to take away our idols; thereby making us once again aware of our dependence upon the one true God.

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