John 14.6 and Acts 4.12 – Christ, the only means of salvation
Posted: 24 February 2011 in Acts, John

“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

I think I have commented on both of these verses before, but John 14.6, in particular, is probably famous enough, to bear being commented upon again.

It is very easy to empathise with people of other faiths, and feel that they too must be capable of salvation, if they remain faithful followers of their religions. That is, perhaps, especially true of those who belong to the Jewish faith, because we share three fourths of our scriptures with them. Nevertheless, we are bound by what we find in the God inspired scriptures, and there it is said, unequivocally, that salvation is through Christ alone.

We must respect God’s sovereignty, and submit to his word, without necessarily expecting to understand his motives. Even so, on this occasion the reason for what may (superficially) appear arbtitrary, may not be that hard to find. The Incarnation was only necessary in the first place because sinful man is incapable of reaching up to God. Instead, if we are to be saved, God must reach down to us. That he did, once for all, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Consequently, anybody who would come to the Father must now do so through Jesus Christ.

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2 Chronicles 15.1-8
God’s absence from the collective consciousness of society today
Posted: 23 February 2011 in 2 Chronicles

And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law. But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries. And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity. Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.

This is another of those passages which makes it clear that, in biblical times, the knowledge and proper worship of God was conceived of as being, not merely a religious duty, but something central to the health of the nation. The same idea echoes throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets. How different is that to anything which crosses the minds of today’s politicians? For them religion is a personal little eccentricity, harmless in its way, but of no great importance to the nation at large.

It must be admitted that politicians today would have greater trouble than the absolute monarchies of ancient Israel in ensuring their populations were religiously literate. For one thing, it is not common in western democracies for there to be only one religion to which the entire population, at least in theory, subscribes. For another thing, they would probably also not helped (especially in America) if they had pastors telling their congregations that modern scientific theories were the work of the Devil.

Nevertheless, we live in a society which seems to think it can get by without any reference to God, and we have no reason to suppose that we will escape the consequences of that idolatry.

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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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