Posts for August 2013
5 Posts found

Jeremiah 51.13-17 – Science and God’s sovereign freedom
Posted: 23 August 2013 in Jeremiah

O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness. The Lord of hosts hath sworn by himself, saying, Surely I will fill thee with men, as with caterpillers; and they shall lift up a shout against thee. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding. When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.

The above passage speaks of God’s absolute control over creation. And yet we know today that the universe is governed by unchanging natural laws, which, amongst other things, allow us to predict the weather and send men to the Moon. Some might argue that the two are easily reconcilable, because God preordains all things, and the inexorable working out of the laws of nature merely brings to pass what he has preordained. However, I would not be overly inclined to buy that, because in the Bible God is depicted as being actively involved in his Creation. When Acts 12.23 says that Herod Agrippa I was struck dead by an angel of the Lord, it means what it says.

Our God is not just one who lit the blue touch paper, and then stood back to watch what he had preordained come to pass (although he did preordain it). So we are left with a paradox where two apparently irreconcilable things must both be held to be true. For the purposes of doing science it must be accepted that the universe is governed by physical laws. But overwhelmingly more important than that, it must also be held that the universe is under God’s absolute and unmediated control, everywhere and at all times. To insist upon anything less than God’s complete and sovereign governance of the universe would both detract from his glory and be untrue. That must never be allowed to happen.

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1 Corinthians 8.1,7,10-11 – The unconditional guilt attaching to sin.
Posted: 22 August 2013 in 1 Corinthians

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth….. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled….. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

From a human perspective, and given the above circumstances, we might imagine that somebody could stand before God at the last judgment, and say, “I am sorry for my sin, but I was misled by people who ate meat which had been offered to idols, and I thought it would be permissible for me to take part in idolatrous worship.” He might have some expectation that God would then say, “Well, given those extenuating circumstances, I can see that it wasn’t altogether your fault, and I will pardon you.”

That seems reasonable from a human point of view, but that is not what the above passage says. It says that the individual concerned will perish – at least if the idolatrous worship becomes habitual. The implication is that all sin against the holy God will be punished without reference to the circumstances. Passages with a similar import can be found scattered throughout the Bible. In Ezekiel, for example, it is said that the people of Judah would perish for their sin, even if the prophet failed to fulfill his commission, and warn them. Admittedly it is also said that Ezekiel would suffer the consequences as well, but that is by the way. The Bible never contradicts itself.

God cannot, and will not, allow his holiness to be besmirched when men do not pay him the fear and reverence which is his to receive, and their duty to give in obedience to him.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3.23)

Consequently salvation is impossible without the sacrifice of Christ, and even then only for those to whom the Lord graciously imputes the righteousness which is Christ’s alone. That one can could atone for the sins of billions of individuals, throughout the centuries, may seem strange, until it is remembered who it was that hung upon the cross. None other than the Second Person of the Trinity.

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1 Timothy 2.1-4 and Romans 9.22-23 – Unconditional Election & God’s desire for all men to be saved
Posted: 21 August 2013 in 1 Timothy, Romans

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,”

The above passage from 1 Timothy is, of course, notorious as being problematic for Calvinist theology, but it seems to me that a resolution of the problem is not that hard to find.

To say that God wills the salvation of all men is effectively just another way of saying that God wills all men to obey him, and, if they did so, they would be saved. That is self evidently true, because, if it were not true, God could hardly hold men responsible for their disobedience and punish them accordingly.

And yet it is also clear from the Bible that only some people have their rebellious hearts reformed through the action of the Holy Spirit. So, in that sense, it is not God’s will that all men should be saved.

The scriptures do not have much to say about God’s motives for withholding his grace from those he chooses to reprobate. The only passage which does hint at a reason seems to be the one quoted above from Romans. The reason given is that, before all else, it is the Lord’s will to glorify himself. This he does by manifesting his justice in the punishment the reprobate, by showing mercy to an elect who would otherwise be equally deserving of punishment. In both cases he also manifests his absolute sovereignty in punishing whom he will, and in saving whom he will.

That seems shocking to modern sensibilities, in fact Paul expected it to be shocking to his contemporaries, but we need to remind ourselves that God created all things for himself. We, his creatures, have no right to expect that the universe should revolve around us, rather than around God and his holy and eternal will.

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1 Corinthians 2.1-6 – Predestination and the wisdom which comes from God alone.
Posted: 3 August 2013 in 1 Corinthians

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

The above passage is as good a statement as any, as to why predestination must be true. Worldly wisdom can indeed not lead us to God. No process of rational deduction can lead somebody into submission to the wisdom which is to be found in the Bible, and which comes from God alone. Furthermore, if no reasoning can lead men to conclude that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then they must be brought to this realisation in some other way. Which is as much to say that they must have their ears opened to an unworldly wisdom through the action of the Holy Spirit.

But it is just a matter of common observation that, whilst some men do have their ears opened by the Holy Spirit, and they do hear a wisdom which no man could discover for himself, it is the good pleasure of God that others do not.

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Ezekiel 46.1-4 and Micah 2.6 – Purpose of the Sabbath Day.
in Ezekiel

Thus saith the Lord God; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened. And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the Lord in the sabbaths and in the new moons. And the burnt offering that the prince shall offer unto the Lord in the sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish. (Ezekiel)

Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame. (Micah)

Sometimes it is said, presumably on the basis of the fourth commandment, that the Bible does not say that we must go to church on the Sabbath Day, but only that it is to be a day of rest. I suppose this is an example of why we are exhorted to take seriously the whole counsel of scripture, and not simply to fix upon the bits we like, and ignore the rest. It is also why we need to immerse ourselves in the scriptures, so that we know what the whole counsel of scripture, in fact, is. In the above passage from Ezekiel, the Lord makes it explicitly clear to the prophet that the seventh day is to be used for the worship of God, and that it is not a day God has set aside merely so that we can indulge ourselves, or do the weekly shopping. To disobey God in this, or any other way, is by definition a sin.

As for the verse from Micah, “Prophesy ye not,” is precisely what somebody is likely to hear, if they do something so unfashionable as to suggest the Sabbath Day be used for its stated purpose. At least, it is very unfashionable in the UK.

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