Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Mothers In Christ’s Genealogy - Chosen Not Because They Were Choice

The Mothers In Christ’s Genealogy - 

Chosen Not Because They Were Choice, But Choice Because They Were Chosen - To The Glory of God

The following is not meant to be misogynistic - nor to abscond the responsibility of the men in this narrative. 

It is to reveal the omnipotent grace of God and to give hope and courage to us in our frailty. For it is out of obscurity that the Father draws those who will be seated at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. 

In Matthew’s account of the genealogy of Jesus who is called Christ there are four mothers noted - besides the Blessed Mary. 

TAMAR

The first is Tamar: “and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar,” Matthew 1:3

The fathers here are Judah from whence the Messianic tribe receives its name and his son Perez. 

Most commentators ignore Tamar and concentrate on the men, but there is one significant exception that bears quoting here: ‘she was as one who, at the risk of shame, and, it might be, death, had preserved the line of Judah from destruction, and "therefore was counted worthy to be the mother of kings and prophets." ‘

How did she accomplish this feat? She posed as a wayside prostitute and seduced her father-in-law Judah resulting in the birth of Perez. She had been the wife of his firstborn son who was slain by God for his evil doing and then given to the second son who was also killed by God for her would not fulfill his sacred duty to his brother’s wife.

When Tamar saw that she would not be given to the third son she took off her widow’s garments and donned those of a cult prostitute. Knowing that Judah’s wife had died and that he would consider himself in need of comfort, she positioned herself by the road awaiting his passage. Her subterfuge was successful - although adultery and immorality were part of its components. 

Without going into further detail here once Judah became aware of the enormity of what had happened he proclaimed: ‘"She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah." And he did not have relations with her again.’ Genesis 38:26. God had chosen her and by His finger He placed eternity in her heart - and in her womb.  He would not be hindered in His purpose for He had spoken prophetically by Israel in his old age: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Genesis 49:10 

RAHAB

The second mother is Rahab: “and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab,”

This Rahab is none other than the prostitute of Jericho fame. It is thought by many that Salmon may have been one of the two spies sent into Jericho by Joshua. As with Tamar there is no record of an actual marriage between Rahab and Salmon.  

There was also the glowing ember of eternity in her heart for she proclaimed: “for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” Joshua 2:11.  This is attested to later in the New Testament she being only one of two mothers noted by name in the pantheon of faith: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Hebrews 11:31.  The other being Sarah. She is also in the book of James: “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” 2:25 

The red cord may very well have been emblematic of her profession. Not to sound crude, but by conjecture may the spies have done more than a just lodge in her household?  Even when she is mentioned in the New Testament, she is still referred to as a prostitute. Also, she was not of the Hebrew nation.

RUTH

“and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” Matthew 1:5-6

There is only one generating between Rahab and Ruth.

Ruth was a Moabite - the product of a drunken incestuous relationship. The intoxicated Lot had impregnated his own daughter although his stupor made him unaware. Her only connection to Israel was through her mother-in-law Naomi.

With Naomi’s complicity Ruth entered into a bit of chicanery. For she instructed Ruth in the dark of the night to lay herself at the feet of Boaz. “Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes.” Ruth 3:3.  It should also be noted that Boaz “was in good spirits.”  One commentator has noted that she would not have done this “unless she had been sure that the thrills that vibrated within her own heart were responsive to subtle touches, on his part, of spirit with spirit.”  

(With astonishment) He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative." Ruth 3:9.  An ancient symbol of marriage. This act was a bit of a seduction although not apparently consummated at that time - only later once they were actually married. And after he had become her kinsman redeemer. 

The wedding blessing over Boaz and Ruth harkened back to Judah and Tamar. “Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.” Ruth 4:12

Naomi herself was recognized in the fertile blessing: “A son has been born to Naomi!” So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”

THE WIFE OF URIAH

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, Matthew 1:6.  Most translations do not mention her by name, but of course we know her as Bathsheba. This may be the most familiar account of the four.

Could we not surmise that she knew she was bathing in full view of David the King? It was the custom of the day to take a siesta and then stroll around on the roof of the dwelling. Even if so, she must be the least complicit of the other mothers for the King sent for her and laid with her. Yet, the deed was still adulterous and unclean: “and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.”  2 Samuel 11:4

The child of this encounter did not survive. After David’s murderous dealing with Uriah he then married Bathsheba and it is written: “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him.” 2 Samuel 12:24

MARY

And then there is Mary - pregnant outside the covenant bond of marriage. Yet also chosen of God; for the testimony of her mothers - for she was of the tribe of Judah - is summed up in her.  ‘The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.“‘ Luke 1:35 The Father’s elect vessel to carry and to bring forth His Son. 

The Virgin was choice as a result of having been chosen for the angel’s first words to her were: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Luke 1:28

None of the above is intended to besmirch the testimony of these mothers in Zion - but only to give glory to God for His eternal plan of redemption. These women were obedient to the heavenly calling although the path did take some curious turns. As the angel also said to Mary: “For no word from God will ever fail." Luke 1:37 NIV 

All of this happened to abundantly demonstrate that our salvation is - from beginning to end - owing nothing to the agency of man. We must agree with John: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13.  And also Peter: “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:23 

Yet the greater testimony must be that of God who “has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28.  And such as are we - choice, not because of our choosing, but choice having been chosen by Him to glorify His Son.

In the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham God has chosen women - in those days the least - to reveal the Glory of His Grace.

“For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
Luke 1:48-49 The Magnificat 




Monday, November 6, 2017

Free Indeed!

Free Indeed!  Freed to obey...

How often do we glibly hear, “We are all created with a free will.” And that with the subsequent conclusion - to do whatever we will to do reaping the consequences. Nothing could be further from Biblical truth.

As we now live on the post side of the Quincentennial of the Reformation we turn to Martin Luther who saw the human will enslaved by sin and Satan. We think we are free, he contended, but we only reinforce our bondage by indulging in sin. Grace releases us from this enslaving illusion and leads us into “the glorious liberty of the children of God.” God wants us to love him freely. But that is only possible when we have been freed from captivity to Satan and self. 

As Paul so succinctly writes, there is nothing but slavery until we have been claimed by the Gospel. “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.” Romans 6:17 NIV

Amazing News

As the contemporary song so forthrightly proclaims:

The amazing news of the Gospel
Is not that we can receive Jesus into our lives
But that He's already received us
Into His.

The 19th Century preacher, pastor and hymnist Horatius Bonar writes:

There’s nothing that my hands can do
To save my guilty soul
I cannot cleanse my filthy stains
Or make my spirit whole
For nothing but the blood of Christ
Can all my sins erase

Obedience is vital - yet it is the fruit and not the root. It is the visible evidence of an inward transformation - the divine alchemy that turns a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. That which is vile becomes precious and acceptable in the sight of God.  This is His sole work alone. As they say in the Black Church, “He is God all by Himself.” “That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus,...” 1 Corinthians 1:29-30 KJV 

Free To Obey

Freedom unto obedience. To the natural mind this is a conundrum - can freedom and obedience coexist within the same sphere or are they worlds apart? Yet for the believer this is our great hope for there is no possibility of freedom until one has been set free by the Son.

"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

From Pastor Bonar again:

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

There is an everyday axiom that goes like this, “Where there is a will there is a way.” Yet this is only a half-truth - to bring it to completion we must add, “Only when it is God’s way.”  “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Ephesians 2:13 

The will of God is accessible only to those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13.  We are not born again by the exercise of the freedom of our own will but by the exercise of His will. And what He begins by the fiat of His own will, He carries through unto completion. “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,...” Ephesians 1:5.  And in Romans, “Therefore it is not by means of him who wills, neither by means of him who runs, but in the hand of God, the merciful.” 9:16 Aramaic

Free Will?

Are we created with a free will as so many thoughtlessly ascertain?  In Adam yes, but since the fall all are born into the bondage of sin - in desperate need of a kinsman redeemer. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13.  Until we are set free by the Son, we all lie within the realm of darkness - totally incapable of independent individual volition. There is no intermediate state.  It is either one or the other.

As the hymnist Isaac Watts writes:

How sad our state by nature is!
Our sin, how deep it stains!
And Satan binds our captive souls
Fast in his slavish chains.

In a vain attempt of the finite mind of man to grasp the infinite wisdom of God as revealed by divine choice the statement is often made, “Well, that would just make us automatons - or puppets on a string.”  Nothing could be further from the revealed truth - for as a result of His electing love we become children of God. And as it is written of the Firstborn Son,  “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:7-8.  So it is also true of those that have been eternally and immutably set free by the Son. Obedience is not a burden, but a delight.

From the Quill of the Bard:

Blessed are the, souls that trust Him,  
And in Him, alone rejoice;  
His commandments, His commandments, His commandments 
Then become their happy choice.

Glorious liberty is the sole privilege of the children of God! Only those who have been set free from the law of sin and death through the Spirit of Sonship are capable of filial obedience. “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15-16 NIV

As a precursor to the Reformation which would require a millennium’s gestation Augustine of Hippo wrote, “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” His assertion was that there was no inherent righteousness within mankind as a result of The Fall. Obedience, therefore, was not possible until the soul was moved by the finger of God. And what God initiates He is more than able to fulfill that which He has begun in us.

Centuries later the Augustinian monk Martin Luther would rejoice at this truth as found in Romans 1:17 "The righteous will live by faith." He exclaimed, “When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.” 

Sola Fide 

As we live on from the 500th Anniversary of The Reformation this truth is known to us as Sola fide (Latin: by faith alone), also known as justification by faith alone,... For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed--a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,... “the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20b ISV 

It is not possible to present this great truth anymore succinctly than does the one who has been referred to as “The Apostle of the Heart Set Free!”: “having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:18 

In Christ - while yet a slave we are also a freedman. “For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave.” 1 Corinthians 7:22

Having been set free from the slavery of sin we are now free to present our members - spirit, soul and body - as bond slaves to the One who is the author and perfecter of all faith resulting in sanctification. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1.  The freedom we enjoy in Christ does not absolve us of the obligation of responsibility.

Our apogee might very well be found in John’s First Epistle, “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” 1 John 5:18 NAS

Icing

And here is delectable icing to the confection of His all-sufficient grace.

“so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  Romans 8:4

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3

For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:7-8 

How many things does He work according to His purpose and will - all! In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-12 

Once more from Pastor Bonar:

I dare not claim my righteousness
But hide within His grace
‘Tis Christ who saved me from the depths
God’s pardon I’ve received
I’m washed within His precious blood
My heart is sprinkled clean.

And Isaac Watts:

A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
Into Thy hands I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
My Savior, and my all.

From the Fifth Sola of the Reformation: “soli Deo gloria!” “To the Glory of God alone!” 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Heaven Is Where I Belong - Right Now!?

The song begins with an upbeat tune and a vigorous clapping of hands - but when I hear it start I cannot get to the radio fast enough to turn it off or change channels. I do not want the message to sear my conscience. 

In order to avoid copyright infringement I will only say that its content is something like this: This world is not what it was intended to be, so I want to get out of here as fast as possible and go to heaven. He goes on to say that this is not where he belongs and that his home is in heaven. Then something about golden streets, etc.

What an abdication of responsibility! This song is more of a dirge than anything else. Yes, we have a hope for heaven, but our hope also is a present reality for the love of God has been poured forth into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit - it is incapable of disappointment (Romans 5:5). 

Father’s Business

When Joseph and Mary found the child Jesus after a long search his reply to their admonishment was: “Did you not know that I must be doing the works of my Father?"  (wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? KJV) Other translations say: “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" 

He had not been lost as His earthly parents rightly thought for He had been about His Father’s business - He was at home with His Father. On this side of heaven, we too are not lost looking for home. If we are about our Father’s business we are at home - just as He was.

But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." John 5:17 This was His full purpose - he did not want to be somewhere else.


Father’s Will

When His disciples asked Him how they should pray His reply was: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.’”

Yes, this world is not what it was meant to be. But, I wish someone would help me to understand why Christ instructed as to pray that the Father’s will would be done on the earth just like it is being done in heaven - if our only hope is to escape the Father’s creation.  Especially when He initially looked at it and saw that it was good.  Could we possibly believe that what ensued in the garden caught Him by surprise - or that He is not able to complete that which He has begun.

If we are praying for the will of God to be done - then that is where our home is. My relationship with my wife is such that where she is that is where my home is - might it be even more so with our Heavenly Father. While He is at work in and through us that is where our home is - until our course is finished at the appointed time. 

Father’s House

One of the most egregious misapplications of a passage of scripture - in my opinion - is John 14:2. The KJV has it like this: “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” That is an abysmal interpretation and leads to many unfortunate misunderstandings.  Something more akin to the intended truth would be: “There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home.” This is about relationship - not real-estate. This verse - kept in context - has nothing to do with rooms, walls, much less mansions - over there somewhere. The root word is used in only one other place in the New testament and it is in this same chapter: Jesus replied, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.”  The noun home is derived from a verb which means to abide. This home is not constrained by time or space. He says He will come to us, not that we will go to Him. Oh, how we have missed this present reality.

If abdication of our responsibility seems to be our only recourse than why do the Scriptures declare?:

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17 NIV  
“The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” Psalm 24:1-2

We must expunge these passages and a plethora of others just like them if heaven is home where I belong right now.

Father’s Creation

The final disposition of this world is not one of annihilation - but transformation. Such is the state of each of the redeemed: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 When Christ comes to dwell in us we are not annihilated, but transformed. 

As it is with the ransomed creature - His elect, so shall it be for all of creation. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:19-21 Could the sovereign plan of the Father be made any more plain including our place in it? 

Bishop N.T. Wright says: “God, After all, is the creator; he has no interest in leaving earth to rot and making do for all eternity with only half of the original creation. God intends to flood the whole cosmos, heaven and earth together, with his presence and grace, and when that happens the new world that results, in which Jesus himself will be the central figure, is to be the ‘inheritance’ for which Jesus’ people are longing.”1

Father’s Intent

The apogee of the Father’s intent must be: “And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.”  Psalm 72:19 

At this point credit must be given as an epilogue to other contemporary Christian artists who have been gripped by a vision greater than abdication.

And I will live, to carry your compassion
to love a world that's broken
to be your hands and feet

and I will give, with the life that I've been given
to go beyond religion to see the world be changed, by the power of your name.

And:

Listening to these words right now from 1806:

Oft in danger, oft in woe,
onward, Christians, onward go;
bear the toil, maintain the strife,
strengthened with the bread of life.

Onward, Christians, onward go,
join the war, and face the foe;
will ye flee in danger's hour?
Know ye not your Captain's power?

Be assured fellow believer that in this present state you are secure in the faithfulness of the Son of God. And with the Psalmists we may say: “Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.” 


1 Wright, Tom, Paul for Everyone, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002, p. 12



Monday, June 12, 2017

What Is Greatness?

Pastor Jack Maxwell and I were on our way to our Thursday morning Bible study when our conversation turned toward the subject of baptism. He said that he had been baptized in the Jordan River and went on to note that this stream - saturated with Biblical significance - was really not much more than a rivulet.

That immediately started me thinking for our discussion topic that morning was the calling of the Twelve as recounted in Mark’s Gospel. Men of whom it would be said “they have turned the world upside down.” Yet at their calling not one of them was of any particular significance - actually quite the opposite. 

Many are the appellations of the Jordan River as a mighty torrent on par with the River Nile. Yet in reality it is only a meandering stream. The reason we regard it in overflowing terms is that it serves the purpose of God. “And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” Joshua 3:17  It was the door - opened by the Lord -  into the covenanted promised land. 

Another geographical feature replete with Biblical import is Mount Zion. What makes Zion great? “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King.” Psalm 48:2  Geographically speaking Zion is no great lofty mountain - but only a small hill within the confines of Jerusalem. What makes it great is the purpose of God - elect and chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. 

The Die of God

So it is with the called people of God. Great men of God or men of a Great God?  It is when a man or woman is struck by the sovereign die of God that they become great for the indelible image that is now impressed on them is that of the person of the Firstborn of many brethren. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of His power.” Hebrews 1:3 

The chosen of God are perpetually upheld by the word of His power! As Charles Spurgeon writes: “He bought us, sought us, brought us in, and has so far wrought us to His image that we shall be fought for by Him with all of His might.”

Returning to our discussion passage for the morning: “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.” Mark 3:13.  There was no hesitation for the call was irresistible - even on the one who “is a devil.” 

Notice the efficacy of the call . . .   “not according to their will, works and merits, but according to the sovereign will and grace of Christ, who chose them, and not they him:” John Gill.  From John’s Gospel: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13 KJV  It is the sovereign will of God that does prevail against all of the tests of time - an immutable rock: “For their rock is not as our Rock,...” 

I Chose You!

Looking again to John: "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:16  Relationship with God the Father is initiated by the Son - it is sustained by Him - and it culminates in Him. No other foundation exists for lasting fruitfulness. 

He doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29  From Paul’s bequeathment to his young disciple: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,...” 2 Timothy 1:9 (12)  

The Reformed Evangelical theologian D. A. Carson writes: We are not chosen because we are choice - we become choice once we have been chosen.  “For we are his workmanship (God's masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 Once this revelation dawns in our hearts, purpose becomes birthed in us.

Toby Mack has written in his testimony song: 

When love broke through
You found me in the darkness...
My chains are broken 
And it all began with You 

The Son prays to His Father: “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” John 17:12 In making sure that all of His elect were secure His intercession continues: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;” 17:20 

Soli Deo Gloria

As we draw to a summation, we see that the object of all of this is Soli Deo Gloria - To the Glory of God Alone. For the sound of the will of man - the hammer, chisel or any other iron tool - cannot be heard at the site of the building of the Temple of God: “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5 ESV 

Paul dashes all possibility of pretense with these words: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”  1 Corinthians 1:26-29 KJV

It has been said of Paul that he “descended into greatness.” From the dust of the Damascus road God would lift Him up as His herald: ‘But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”’ Acts 9:15 

For a postscript: 

Even the lowly ass (donkey) becomes mighty when the Lord chooses to speak through it. “But (Balaam) was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” 2 Peter 2:16 KJV  “And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam,...” Numbers 22:28 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

For He Must Reign...! (The Eschatology of the Reformers)

Recently - not sure of the process - I was arrested by these for words: “For He must reign.” I then found myself in the grip of knowing I must delve into the anticipatory laps of eternity’s great flood tide. 

“For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” 1 Corinthians 15:25

The culmination of this covenant promise is expressed no where more fully than in Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome. “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:19-21

In Hope

Let us be assured by that two word clause in the midst of this passage: “in hope.” “The one thing which takes out the sting from this impoverished and degraded condition is Hope.” Charles Ellicott 

Some versions use the word earnest instead of anxious - for an earnest has been given as a pledge that futility has not the last word. “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5 

The Reformers

In 2017 we stand on the eve of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Reformed Theology is also know as Covenant Theology. When God Himself makes a promise - a covenant - it remains inviolate until it is fully accomplished. 

A theological word for what we are dealing with here is eschatology which could be defined as a perspective on last things.  Yet, we cannot look toward last things without looking back to first things - else we lose our bearings. 

Concerning the eschatology of the Reformers one author notes: “The eternal purpose of God concerning all things is viewed in connection with God's eternal covenant of grace with His people in Christ, a covenant that embraces all of creation too. Christ, the Head of the church and creation and the Mediator of the covenant, is at the center of God's eternal purpose with all things. All that God has done in the past, is doing in the world now, and will do yet in the future is for the realizing of His covenant plan in Christ. The end (goal) to which all things are leading is the realization of God's gracious covenant of redemption in Christ. When the end comes in the return of Christ, God's covenant will be complete.” We might add, this is the consummation or the summing up of all things in Christ. 

The Reformers knew nothing of our current late great fascination with a left behind escapist mentality. This schema has its roots in the 19th century - far removed from the robust eschatology of the 16th or even the glorious vision of the 4th century’s Augustine of Hippo. Indeed, the contrast is stark. 

Covenant Promise

There is nothing that has happened in the eons of time that has abrogated the covenant promise for His creation - although the attempts have been frequent and legend. Not even the capitulation of the first couple to the wiles of the serpent - for with the resultant consequences also came the eternal hope into which Paul was surely gazing: “He will crush your head,.”   

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Genesis 1:31 It is not possible for the creature to eternally corrupt the creation of the Incorruptible. For what God witnessed, he witnessed to Himself - for man created from the dust of the earth had not yet received the breath of life. “...since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself,...” Hebrews 6:13b Thus the promise is unconditional for it is grounded on the faithfulness of God alone - the believer’s confident perseverance begins and ends here.

Not Annihilation 

His plan for all of creation is not annihilation but transformation. “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”  Genesis 9:16-17 An everlasting covenant initiated and maintained by God Himself remains eternally immutable - impervious to prevarication. 

This is the blessed hope and the singular purpose of the church. “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:22-23

There can be no greater motivation than to be incorporated into God’s purpose by the means of Sovereign Grace. And with that comes an incumbent responsibility to husband all of God’s creation - not to disdain it. An erroneous view of eschatology may cause us to abdicate our God ordained responsibility and thus invalidate the legitimacy of our witness. 

White-Hot Passion

The fire of God is His white-hot passion for His bride - the wife of the Lamb. One whom Christ will present to Himself without spot or wrinkle. Metaphorically speaking it is heat and pressure that serves to accomplish this glorious transformation.

His plan is one of purification not destruction. For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.”  Malachi 3:2-3 everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean,  Numbers 31:23 

The purpose of the bow is for God to remind Himself of the covenant His has established on behalf of His creation. “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Genesis 9:14-15

All Things New 

Grounded in the perspective of the beginning of time we gaze forward to the culmination: And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  Revelation 21:5-6

When the Sovereign Lord says, “It is done.” we may rest in the assurance that it is done indeed. His eternal covenantal plan stands the tests of time only becoming more exquisite to the praise of His glory and grace.  

“Creation longs for His return, 
When Christ shall reign upon the earth; 
The bitter wars that rage 
Are birth pains of a coming age. 
When He renews the land and sky, 
All heav’n will sing and earth reply 
With one resplendent theme: The glories of our God and King!”1

From the Fifth Sola of the Reformation: 

“Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone!”


1 Keith and Kristyn Getty with Stuart Townend - “Creation Sings The Father’s Song.”  These modern hymnists compose from the  theological foundation of the Reformers.  


Friday, November 4, 2016

Innocent blood cries out!

“They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.” Psalm 106:38

Matthew Henry: “Our case is awful when the outward church is considered. When nations professing Christianity, are so guilty as we are, no wonder if the Lord brings them low for their sins. Unless there is general and deep repentance, there can be no prospect but of increasing calamities. The psalm concludes with prayer for completing the deliverance of God's people, and praise for the beginning and progress of it. May all the people of the earth, ere long, add their Amen.” 

For a person who desires to be the Chief Executive of our nation and at the same time declares, “An unborn person has no rights” is nothing less than reprehensible.  No greater violence can be imagined then the ripping of a living conscious innocent human being from the supposed safety and security of his or her mother’s womb.  When I contemplate such a heinous atrocity, the only way I can describe the feeling is one of sheer anguish.  

John Calvin writes: “For the fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.”

I have no doubt that at the moment of conception, that my children, although lovingly nourished and protected by the body of their Mom, possessed a body of their own. Every fiber of her being desired to protect that virtuous body being formed within her own - and could not conceive of doing violence to that precious child.  The prophet speaks, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you;...” Jeremiah 1:5 

From a letter published within the last few days by a coalition of Black Pastors concerning the upcoming presidential election: “Particularly relevant is the innocence of the unborn child. The Bible places an extremely high value on human life and particularly on the lives of the innocent who are under the special protection of God. Those who take the life of the innocent violate a key biblical principle as well as a fundamental principle of natural justice.”

Can any nation - even this nation - who may by a majority vote give acquiescence to this dreadful crime, escape the fate of ancient Judah who were carried away into captivity because the walls of Jerusalem were filled with the shedding of innocent blood?

For innocent blood cries out to the Lord for vengeance. “The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.” 

I will lay it waste;
            It will not be pruned or hoed,
            But briars and thorns will come up.
            I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”

      For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel
            And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
            Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
            For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
Isaiah 5:6-7 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Can that which is lost find itself?



"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

How often we glibly remark something such as this, “He found God.” The last time I checked God wasn’t lost. “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:11 

Must it be said that even while we were not looking for Him He found us? “For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God.” Psalm 86:10  From my friends in the African-American Church I often hear this declaration: “He is God all by Himself!”

The prophet announces this all-consuming passion of the Father for His chosen ones. "As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.”  Ezekiel 34:12

What role does the lost coin have in being returned to the purse? It must be sought by the One longing for its return, fetched from its forlorn place of estrangement and deposited securely in the pouch which is so near His bosom.  

Paul, who was not only not looking for the Savior, but was violently opposing Him {“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”} later writes. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13 The commentator Charles Ellicott expounds: “Delivered” is “rescued,” properly applied to dragging [italics added] a person out of battle or the jaws of danger.”

This deliverance is with, by and through the sole prerogative of God alone in the Son of His love. He is able to deliver those who have no power to deliver themselves.  “For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6  Who determines the time but the Father in Christ our Lord alone? 

“In Him we were also chosen as God's own, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything by the counsel of His will,...” Ephesians 1:11 

For another metaphor:

Is it possible to birth yourself? Or even cooperate in the process? It does not depend on the will of the child - nor even that of the mother. There is something - or in the spiritual Someone - that transcends all of human frailty. Concerning the children of God: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13 “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth,...” James 1:18 

And we might add - once the process is initiated, can it be aborted?  “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

In this truth lies our confidence and our supreme motivation to love and good deeds. “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful. Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works,...” Hebrews 10:23-24 

And from a modern hymn:

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.”

Solus Christus - In Christ Alone