1 Chronicles 13.4-9 – Rebellion against the will of God.
Posted: 20 March 2013 in 1 Chronicles

And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel; Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord. And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them. And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David; and ye be a great multitude, and there are with your golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods. Have ye not cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods.

After the northern tribes had split from the southern kingdom of Judah, they no longer had easy access to the temple in Jerusalem, and so Jeroboam created his own shrines, complete with idolatrous images, in Dan and Bethel. The author of 1 Kings clearly disapproved of this, and his reasons for doing so may have been partly political.

Nevertheless, viewed as divine revelation, the passage makes clear that men have no right to try and arrange things after their own heart (Psalm 81.11-13) and still less do they have the right to substitute idolatrous worship for the worship (free of images) which has been appointed for them by God. The universe revolves around the will of God, not the will of man, and under all circumstances, to place the latter above the former is sin. It may be no conincidence that, during the centuries which followed, the northern kingdom was almost uniquely unstable politically.

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Deuteronomy 11.1-4 – Divine foreordination and worship in heaven
Posted: 19 March 2013 in Deuteronomy

Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway. And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm, And his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land; And what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the Lord hath destroyed them unto this day;

I suppose one reaction to the above passage might be that God’s dealings with the Egyptians was a bit tough on the Egyptians, wasn’t it? On the other hand, a theme which runs throughout the entire Bible is that God has his chosen people, whom he will bring to salvation, and there are others, whom he chooses not to. It is said a couple of chapters earlier that there was nothing in the Israelites which earned them the privelege of being God’s chosen people:

Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deut 9.5)

Had there been anything in the Israelites which earned them the status of being God’s elect, then I suppose there would have been an irresistable temptation for them to go around, preening themselves on their righteousness. Which would have been a bit ironic, given their subsequent hisory – and the prophets’ constant protest against their sin and idolatry.

And that might be why God preordained the fall. Nothing happens by accident in God’s creation, and least of all a catastrophe like that. To suppose that it could have happened without divine intention is to postulate a fairly in competent god – in lower case because such a god is certainly not the God of the Bible. God had (and has) no wish to be surrounded in eternity by creatures who think that God owed them their salvation; instead of them owing him absolutely everything – even their very lives – and owing him an infinite debt, which they cannot repay. Thereby is God, in his absolute majesty, and sovereign freedom, to be worshipped and glorified forever.

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Ezekiel 3.17-19 – Christ the only means of salvation, and our duty to preach the Gospel
Posted: 18 March 2013 in Ezekiel

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Implicit in the above passage is a statement to the fact that it is not necessary for a prophet, or the Church, to be remiss in warning people of the consequences of their sin before they stand condemned before God. The sin itself is enough, and consequent upon that fact is the further fact that people who have never had the Gospel preached to them will still be guilty before God, if (as will necessarily be the case) they lack faith in Christ.

Were it the case that people could be saved, even though (through no fault of their own) they lacked the means of salvation, then the New Testament would seem to be something of a sham. After all, if some can be saved without explicit faith in Christ, why not everybody? – and why would the death and ressurection of Christ have been necessary in the first place? God was not being frivolous when he gave us his only begotten Son. The Bible is not there primarily to teach us morality, in spite of the nonsense which is sometimes heard. It is primarily there to teach us about our plight in the light of the fall, and about the only means of salvation.

But, on the other hand, Ezekiel receives a blunt warning that, although the Israelites will reap the consequences of their sin if he does not warn them, he too will reap the consequences of his disobedience, if he disobeys God, and does not warn them. By extension, the Church also stand condemned before God if we do not obey the explicit commandment (Matt 28.19) to preach the Gospel to all nations. If they do not have at least the possibility of responding to the divine invitation to repent, they will suffer the consequences of their sin, but their blood will be required of our hands.

The problem with theology is the ease with which it allows people to substitute what they would like to be true for what actually is true – especially today when even people professing themselves to be “Bible believers” think that they can sit light to the explicit words of the Bible. The only motive we can have for ignoring the Bible’s very explicit statement that there is no other means of salvation – with that warning on one occasion being uttered by Jesus himself – is to make ourselves feel better about the fate of those the Church has failed to evangelise.
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Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4.12)

There are no exceptions mentioned there.

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Colossians 2.3-10 – True knowledge and false.
Posted: 6 February 2013 in Colossians

In whom [Christ] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

Elsewhere Paul sums up this passage with the sentence, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Cor 3.19). The only wisdom worthy of the name is to know God and to obey him. There is nothing substantive which the world can add to that knowledge of God which is to be got exclusively from the divinely inspired scriptures. Everything purporting to be a true statement concerning God must be measured against that standard, and it must be rejected if it cannot reasonably be inferred from the scriptures. Even if some way out speculation should, by pure chance, have some baring upon the truth, and of course we could never know that it did, it would not be part of that body of knowledge which the Lord has revealed to us, We would have no business prying into the secret things of God, which he has reserved unto himself.

It is very easy to imagine atheists snorting at the very idea that any knowledge of God can come only from him, but even people professing themselves to be Christians can today be found preferring their own ideas to the Bible’s teaching. Those ideas are often so far off the scale of Christian orthodoxy that they can only be called heretical. Denying the doctrine of the Trinity is one increasingly common example. Ours seems to be the age of designer religion, where it matters little what the truth is, and the only thing which does matter is whether or not something makes me feel good, or whether or not I find it agreeable.

That there is a God who promises judgment at the end of time, with the promise of heaven for some, and the threat of hell for others, might not be an idea congenial to this present age, where even some Christians want to do their own thing and have their own DIY theology. But if we accept that there is a God who judges according to his own standards, and not ours, we will have a knowledge of the one true God, and, when it finds a humble heart and listening ear, the Holy Spirit will be able to increase our knowledge.

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. (Psalm 25.5)

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Mark 7.24-27 and Acts 13.46 – Salvation is of the Jews
Posted: 5 February 2013 in Acts, Mark

“And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.”

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”

The above passages is a theme which recurs on at least four occasions in the New Testament – namely that salvation must first of all be offered to the Jews, and only after they had failed to recognise their Messiah might it be offered to the Gentiles. A similar thought is to be found in Romans 11. Mark, when he wrote his gospel, was writing primarily for a Gentile audience, but even so he clearly felt unable to supress a saying of Jesus that might have put Gentile noses out of joint. If nothing else, this consistency testifies against the often heard claim that the Bible contradicts itself.

An incautious reader might find in these passages the suggestion that God had first chosen a people to worship and serve him (ancient Israel), and only after they had failed to fulfill the commission given them did he had to turn th the Gentiles in desperation. And that, of course, would be nonsense. Nothing comes as a surprise to God and his plans never fail. So the failure of most Jews to recognise Jesus as their Messiah, and SWon of God, must have been part of his plan since before the beginning of time. Not that the Gentiles did much better, as the riot at Ephesus, instigated by the worshippers of a pagan god, testifies (Acts 19.23ff). They too were blinded by original sin.

It could be asked why it was necessary for the Jews first to fail in their vocation, and only then could salvation come to the Gentiles. There is no clear answer to that. Possibly the number of people chosen for salvation needed (in some sense) to have their number made up following the Jews’ failure.

The title of this post is another quote from Jesus (John 4.22). Much about God’s working must remain mysterious to us, and we can know only that which he reveals to us, but accepting what the Bible has to say about the primary role of Jews in God’s plan of salvation must, for us Gentiles, be an exercise in humility.

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