Numbers 6.6-11 – The nature of sin
Posted: 1 July 2010 in Numbers

All the days that he [a Nazarite] separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD. And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it. And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.

Although this passage refers to the consecration of a Nazarite, and there are not too many of them around nowadays, there is something here which may be of more general applicability.

It is common to think of sin in terms of moral failure. In the above passage, however, there is no suggestion that a Nazarite, who accidentally defiles his consecration, is thereby guilty of any deliberate wrong doing, or even of carelessness. And yet he is still required to offer an atonement for sin. There would seem to be here a conception of sin as something objective, which adversely impacts upon the divine/human relationship, quite independently of any moral failure.

If that is what sin is, then it may help to explain why, quite independently of any actual sins, original sin puts members of the human race in need of salvation. There has been a rupture in the divine/human relationship, whose ontological dimensions mean that it can only be put right by God himself.

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Colossians 2.20-23 – Being in Control
Posted: 30 June 2010 in Colossians

Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

That question of Paul’s is easily answered. If justification is by works, then we are effectively put in control. As long as we clock up enough brownie points in this life, we earn our ticket into heaven, and there is nothing left for God to do, except honour his side of the bargain. If, however, salvation is through God’s grace alone, then that puts God in control, and we are much less keen on that.

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Daniel 4.33-35, Acts 15.18
Petitionary Prayer and Divine Sovereignty
Posted: 29 June 2010 in Acts, Daniel

The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

As Nebuchadnezzar is here reminded, God’s rule is absolute, and he rules with the intention of bringing his plans for the universe to fulfillment. Furthermore, Acts 15.18 is a reminder that God’s will is unchanging, and that it has not changed since the foundation of the world.

This clearly has implications for petitionary prayer. We cannot expect that our prayer will cause God to amend the plans he has had in place since the beginning of creation. Although petitionary prayer is different in form from those acts of devotion which are more explicitly worship and praise, that is, in fact, what it must be: i.e. worship with an unspoken, “Thy will be done,” as the subtext. Thy will be done is, in fact, the only form of petitionary prayer which is always sure to be answered in the affirmative. We can perhaps expect to receive some comfort from a merciful God if the fulfillment of his will is going to bring us pain, but for the rest we must be prepared to wait upon his will.

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John 3.2-6, 8 – Children of God
Posted: 28 June 2010 in John, Scripture

“Jesus answered [Nicodemus] and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Natural birth brings forth people who are tainted with original sin, and who, for thar reason, already stand condemned before God’s throne. Children of God are those who are born by him, and who are thereby enabled to hear and respond to the words of Jesus. Spiritual rebirth is not a one off event, which has some people rolling about on the floor. It is an ongoing ontological status, whereby the spiritually reborn are empowered to discern and obey God’s will. Without this very great grace, we cannot be saved.

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Nevertheless, being born of God is not merely a matter of receiving a privilege, great though that privilege may be. It brings with it an obligation to serve God, and to serve him unconditionally – going wherever his Spirit my blow and take us.

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John 1.43 – God’s call
Posted: 25 June 2010 in John

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

The noticeable thing in the New Testament, is that Jesus never invites people to follow him; it is always a commandment. We have no reason to suppose God has changed his way in the last 2,000 years, and that today it is only an invitation when he calls people to serve him.

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