Grace & Law (What Have These To Do With Us?)

Grace & Law (What have these to do with us?)

 

Romans 6:14:  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

It is greatly to be feared today that a believer – any believer in the free, unmerited grace of God through the payment of our sin, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account and standing before God – may well be unaware that God’s grace and moral law are not antithetical to one another, but rather, stand together as friends. Many who come to know God’s grace in Christ Jesus have a truncated understanding of what part God’s moral law plays in their lives. They suppose that, having died to the law by burial with their Lord and Savior, they now have no part of that law as a part of their lives, although they may well feel some compunction to “live well” before their God. Such a compunction – a rather nebulous yet anxious feeling that they must do what Jesus did (which has its own inherent problems), may be applauded, as far as it goes, yet it does not go far enough, and it goes too far, at one and the same time. Continue reading “Grace & Law (What Have These To Do With Us?)”

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WHAT IS SUBMISSION?

What Is Submission?

(This is a sermon I preached a couple of months ago to our congregation at On The Way Reformed Baptist Church, Oak Hills, CAI asked input from my brethren on whether I should post it as a blog article, and the consensus was overwhelmingly “yes,” much to my surprise. Here it is, therefore – I pray it is of use to the body catholic, as it was to my brethren as the local covenant community).

Ephesians 5:21: submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This verse, when exposited, gives us practical implications to better help us in learning how we are to submit to God and one another, and shows that submission takes place in a hierarchy, or a hierarchal order. That order is prevalent throughout Special Revelation (Scripture), and always begins with the creature submitting to the Creator. While the Creator/creature distinction exists, the need to recognize that distinction exists, and it works out, practically, down through the created order. Continue reading “WHAT IS SUBMISSION?”

God Exists Outside of Creation

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Our Title is somewhat misleading, but this will become apparent within the context of our article (note that the article is from the manuscript of a sermon that was preached at our church).

Note also, these articles from sermons are largely based in what I have learned by reading various classical works regarding Classical Theism, as well as various contemporary works treating of this most foundational doctrine. Of all these works, the one I recommend to our readers of this blog would be Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility, available here: (Reformed Baptist Academic Press) – to my mind, this is at least the most important theological book to come out in the last 50 years, if not longer. Continue reading “God Exists Outside of Creation”

Half baked food for thought on fasting

This post is not an instructional presentation on how to fast, when to fast, how often to fast, or on the efficacy of fasting.  The purpose of this article is to describe a typological view of fasting by first establishing a biblically founded understanding of food, eating and sacrifice, and then from that extrapolating what its denial would illustrate.  This article is an expurgated version of my thoughts on this matter.  It is not meant to be a fully comprehensive treaty on the subject, but merely point out a few connections that should spur on individual study.  I may at some point expand the scope of relevant passages, tighten up and more fully develop the connections that paint this illustration and write a book.  If I ever find the time and desire to go back to school I could seriously see this as being a focus of my study and research.

Gen. 9:1: And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6  “Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

Couched in between the command of God to fill the earth with His image, albeit one marred and corrupted by sin, we are told that the animals are given to us as food.  There is a prohibition stated with the explanation of the connection and correlation of life to blood.  From that the movement turns back as the reason for the application of justice for the shedding of man’s blood, who God created in His own image; the image of God that man is to fill the earth with.  These verses (Gen 9:1-7) should bring to our memory Gen 1:26-31; Gen 2:7-17; Gen 4:1-15.  We should note the continuity in these passages as well as the drastic changes and see why the differences are there.

Adam, our federal head, was created in the unblemished image of God and placed in the garden, the temple of the living God.  He is commanded to subdue the earth, expand the bounds of this temple and fill it with the uncorrupted image of God (sinless image bearers of God would produce more sinless image bearers of God).  During this probationary time plant life was given as food for Adam as well as to all the animals that have the breath of life.(Gen 1:29-30).

His failure to attain the glory of God by his sin corrupted the image of God that we in turn bear (sinful image bearers of God produce more sinful image bearers of God Gen 5:1-3) and plunged all of his posterity under condemnation and in need of the second Adam; the promised seed of the woman; the Christ who would succeed in every way that Adam failed.  His seed would be clothed in His righteousness, and conformed to His image (Christ being God/The exact imprint of His nature), filling His kingdom with the cleansed image bearers of God.  His seed here would be the temple of the living God.  The new earth and the new city would have no temple because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.

The first recorded sin after the fall and expulsion from the garden is the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, and his blood cries out to God for justice.  This crime while manifested horizontally (man against man) its essence is vertical.  The seditious nature of the crime is against God Himself.  The intent of Cain in his hatred and hostility toward God, is to kill God and take his throne, by eliminating His image that He has put on man.  The blood of Abel cries out, but it is God that deserves and demands perfect justice; it is God that will exact judgment and vengeance in perfection.  It is not until after the judgment of God wiping out life on the world that we come to Gen 9:1-7 where God now gives animals that have the breath of life in them as food, with the prohibition of blood.  We see the same prohibition, the connection of blood to life, and its correlation to justice and atonement found in Lev 17:10-16.  Keep in mind the connection to the priests as far as the ceremonial aspect of sacrifice and the food that they consume (Deut 18:1-3).

Deut 18 “The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them. 3 And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach.

Lev 17:10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.

13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

There are a few things we can take away from laying out these passages and examining the connections.  First is that there is a very real function that food plays in the physical context of lives of man.  God is the provider of our food source; He has given us animals to eat.  One of the ways God sustains our lives is through the killing and eating of animals.  The physical sustenance of our lives in one sense depends upon the death of another life.  It is interesting to note the warning in the Lev 17 passage for eating that which dies itself or what is torn by beasts and not go through the physical cleansing process.  While health and disease may be part of the reason, I would assert that what is being pictured here is specifically is hunting or the act of killing; Taking life to sustain your life.  This is a concept that our western culture has sanitized when it comes to food.  Gratitude to God for providing food in the form of life that we must take and consume in order to live.  The two other aspects that go beyond the purview of this article but that are tangentially related to this portion directly are clothing and shelter.

God intends in this physical context to illustrate a truth far greater; one with eternal consequences; one of a spiritual nature.  The reality of physical death points us to that of spiritual estrangement from any grace of God, eternal torment for our treason and rebellion against a pure and holy God.  The wages of sin is death.  Our good God being just must adjudicate these capital crimes against His sovereign rule and reign.  The life/blood of man must be shed as a requirement to His perfect justice.  The God-Man Christ Jesus stood in place of judgment propitiating the full measure of God’s wrath and vengeance, a reckoning for the life of man.  The spiritual sustenance of our lives depends upon the death of another life, that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God here is the provider of this spiritual food (Gen 22).  We consume His life of perfect obedience lived in our place and death in our place.  More on this double imputation in a bit.

All of the elements discussed so far come together in the Passover narrative, as the physical seed of Abraham are removed from their slavery and bondage to go worship God, pointing to the reality of the spiritual seed of Abraham being removed from their bondage and slavery to sin and its consequences to worship God who delivered them.  Take a look and recognize in this passage everything mentioned thus far, noting the very real physical parts that illustrate the spiritual, focusing on the consumption of the Paschal Lamb and what that represents.

Exodus 12:1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

In Luke 22 Jesus is making covenantal distinctions between the Old and the New covenants, rooted in the covenant of redemption.  Here He is connecting Himself to the Passover, its observance for the physical seed of Abraham and the institution of the LORDS supper for the spiritual seed. It is in the LORDS supper that we actively participate with Christ in His life, death and resurrection.  It is more than a memory, and is a means of grace.  We remember Him as we consume the bread and wine a picture of His body and blood.  Christ is the reality that the Passover pointed the physical seed of Abraham towards, the reality of the New Covenant in His blood.  An interesting item to note is the stark change now in place concerning the consumption of blood as compared to the Passover feast, and Levitical practices, and prohibitions laid out in Genesis and Leveticus as well as the prohibition not to eat what dies of itself.  We see more of the details of the picture to fill in as we turn our attention to the connection that Christ makes of Himself, to the historical narrative concerning God’s provision in physical food to His physical seed illustrating His provision of spiritual food to His spiritual seed in the Son in John 6:25-59.

John 6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

As pertaining to food, Jesus here is pointing us back to passages like Exodus 16.  While there is no talking of life to sustain life, the point of this passage is to show the supernatural provision of God to sustain His physical people and connect that provision of food with the Sabbath.  Jesus relates Himself here as the supernatural provision of God in sustaining the spiritual life of His spiritual people.  In verses 51-59 moves the discussion of  being the living bread that comes down from heaven to the feeding on His flesh and drinking of His blood, bringing the life for life reckoning back to the discussion.  Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2), entered God’s rest and has also rested from His works as God did from His.  His work is the supernatural provision of God to give life by the laying down of His; His active obedience (His perfect life of righteousness that He lives in our place because we don’t) and passive obedience (His suffering and dying the death that we deserve).  This is His righteousness imputed to us and our sin to Him.  When we take all of these passages together we see God’s intention in showing us various pictures of the gospel message in the simple act of eating; how He is just to justify sinners in active rebellion against Him and reconcile them to Himself.

As we read these final verses in the passage from John 6 again our minds should be drawn to the LORDS supper.  We see our communion with Him; abiding in Him and Him in us; the life we have in Him; the participation in His life, death and resurrection.

This brings us to the idea of fasting, and by this I mean a deliberate and often prolonged abstinence from food and sometimes drink.  Fasting was commanded for the Day of Atonement.   It was seen and used at times to be a sign of penitence, humility and repentance.  A cursory look through biblical passages that deal with fasting provides a glimpse at several reoccurring themes that coincide with this practice.  They are mourning, tearing of clothing, sackcloth and ashes, all of which are expressions of grief and associated with death.

All those who by the atoning work of Christ have been reconciled to God, have also united with Christ, life death and resurrection.  We have died to sin; to our old self, to a life lived for ourselves, and have risen to walk in the newness of life in Christ.  Our old self enslaved to sin was crucified with Christ.  This is the picture of repentance, of turning away from our rebellion and the life of sin that leads to death and turning to God and eternal life in His Son.  We no longer live for ourselves but for Him who for our sake died and rose again.

Luke 9:23-24; John 12:23-26; Romans 6:1-23; Romans 8:1-11; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:1-21; Galatians 2:19-21; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:17-5:13; Philippians 2:1-11; Philippians 3:7-11; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Peter 4:1-6.

It is the death of our old self that we affirm with fasting; in the denial of the life sustaining food. We are looking past the temporal physical promises of this life to the greater spiritual eternal promises that they represent (Hebrews 11). Only we don’t mourn or grieve like the hypocrites but rejoice in the granted repentance and newness of life.  There is an interesting flow that happens in the sermon on the mount.

Mat 6:16“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Fruits Keeping With Repentance

Luke 3:8-9:  Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Which of you has not “born fruit” that is not “in keeping with repentance?

I daresay, if that is you, you have not “tasted, and seen that the Lord, He is Good.

For who has kept this way, that has fully encompassed that which is “in keeping with repentance?

You? Oh do not be so deluded, my brethren, my flesh of the flesh. “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham,” and are you those stones, more righteous than the crowds of righteous ones who were being addressed by that righteous preacher John, who spoke of the coming of the only righteous One?

Gather for yourselves those “fruits in keeping with repentance.”

Who is He who has fulfilled all the law; nay, has paid all its penalties?

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

THERE is your “fruit in keeping with repentance.THERE is your becoming a child of faith after the father who first trusted in Christ, with less witness than you have in God’s written word.

Galatians 3:16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:11-19)

Abraham, and all these others of the Christian faith, saw that which looked forward to the Promised Land of eternal rest, not as having seen it in actuality, but having apprehended it through faith. They saw Christ, the only Mediator between God and man, who Himself bore our sins and gave us His righteousness, not because of any foreseen merit in ourselves but of His merit alone.

HE bore fruit meet with repentance, not of His sin (for He had none) but for ours.

You who profess Him, is His bearing of sin the grounds of your righteousness, which righteousness is of Him alone, as our sin was imputed to Him alone?

Think upon these things.

 

 

 

Specifics of God’s Calling 2 (Conclusion)

This will be another rather long article, as it contains the remaining considerations of the particular pericope we are examining from Ephesians 1 (for the entirety of the pericope, please see the short entries Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2and Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2) for context).


Even as begins the next verse, and refers back to that which began in the first verse. It was due to our being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that we have been blessed in Christ Jesus with all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. God’s purposes are one, as He is, but our experience of His eternal purposes are finite and diversified, in this age, giving us a glimpse of that which is to come. Even as He blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ as purposed in Him before the creation of the world, we gain that knowledge of these things in temporal fashion, even those spiritual blessings which shall attend us into everlasting.

The next phrase is quite daunting: that we should be holy and blameless before Him. I say daunting, because it speaks of a perfection that we know is of God, because it proceeds from God, who alone is good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19).

Goodness, as a perfection that is unchangeable, infinite and eternal, exists in God alone; in fact, when our Lord said that God alone is good, He did not speak of something God has, but of that which He is, for as many orthodox theologians have well noted “whatever is in God is God.” [1] That is, God is His goodness, and His goodness is God, just as God is love, and love is God. What we call attributes of God are really not composite, or separate parts, but we speak of them separated the better to consider them.

Getting back to our passage, we are told the purpose of God choosing us in His Son and blessing us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies is that we may be perfect before Him, which were impossible, if we were not comprehended in Christ, with whom our life is hidden in God (Colossians 3:3). Even were we perfect such as Adam prior to the fall, we would still not be in a state that is acceptable to God, for the mutability that gave rise to Adam’s fall would still be ours, and none could rightly hold that they would keep themselves. That takes the power of God, which He gives to us via His Spirit communicating the perfections of the unique God-man, Jesus Christ, to us. He, alone, is the Beloved, therefore, to be holy and blameless before God, even when we reach our eternal standing, we are comprehended in He who is holy and blameless. This fact changes what would otherwise be overwhelmingly discouraging into yet another reason for us to give praise to God.

Because of what God purposed for us in Christ, we were predestined to adoption as sons. In Him, we have been granted entrance into the family of God, and this was predetermined according to God’s will, which is to say, as part of His eternal and unchangeable purpose. Paul, in this passage, sets immovable bookends around the fact of God’s will bringing about all His purpose, and each reason for giving praise to Him leads inexorably back to who He is. This adoption is not a one-on-one comparison to what we think of when we hear the word “adoption,” for it is sealed of God Himself in the giving of the merits of His Son. These merits – both the negative penalty of death for sinning against God, and the positive reward of having His righteousness contrariwise attributed to us, resulting in our being considered sinless and perfect before God, were predetermined from everlasting. God’s purpose is as timeless and unchangeable as He is, so that which resulted from it is without termination, and beneficial to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom (except for His gracious condescension is communicating both the benefits and the means by which we apprehend those benefits via His special revelation). Making this even more certain (from our perspective), all these were given to us in His Son. God intersected the time He alone created for the creatures He alone eternally decreed should be His children by sending His Son to die for, then live for them (Titus 2:11, 3:4-5; Galatians 4:4-7). This adoption is as sure as God Himself, without end.

To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

This phrase is a pivot in the middle of the particular pericope we are considering – it states the focus of God’s glory in His grace, as given and displayed in Christ, which permeates every other aspect of these reasons we are considering that cause us to give praise to Him. It further qualifies that which has preceded and that which comes after, therefore it is, in this sense, parenthetical. Everything which we are considering is based on that which God has decreed to manifest and magnify of His glory through the gracious display of it in Christ Jesus our Lord, and the subsequent results, which we have noted are called “blessings in the heavenlies,” by which that grace is given to us now and forever.

In Him we have redemption through his bloodaccording to the riches of his grace,

This is the continuation of definition of how we have those great spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, and expressly, the canceling out of the debt of our sin by His expiating sacrifice (Colossians 2:14).

In looking at these various aspects of God’s blessings to us “in Christ” (which statement is synonymous with being “blessed in the heavenlies”), we are always brought back to the consideration of where these blessings are – that is, the center of where they exist. We are also always brought back to how these blessings are expressed, and the results of our expression to God for His gracious giving to us to understand these things. “In Him” is another synonymous expression of the location of these blessings, and comprehends both our temporal experience of these things now, and the eschatological culmination of them, realizing that in our Lord’s expiation of these things by His sacrifice, we derive eternal benefit which is temporally experienced now, and leads to the end of that experience, or the terminus. By stating it as the end or terminus, we do not intend that it ceases, but at that point, the everlasting culmination of all these blessings is realized.

The frequent use of pronouns throughout this pericope stresses the recipients of these blessings. Ten times such pronouns are used in the pericope we are considering, and each time these pronouns speak of the recipients of God’s gracious blessings in Christ Jesus, by that exact phrase, or the use of synonymous phrases. It is impossible to emphasize the corporate meaning to the exclusion of the individual meaning throughout the periscope; indeed, the two must always be considered together. Corporately, all members of the church are considered as receiving individually these many blessings “in Him,” so that the stress of such elective grace as expressed in the first phrase we considered is cumulative of the overall blessings to each member, resulting in the benefit to the church as our Lord’s body, both in localized churches and universally.

In the phrase immediately under consideration, the blessing considered is the forgiveness of our sins by the atoning death of Christ. In His receiving the punishment due us, we are counted as having gained that which He alone so dearly paid for with His own life. It is an unequal exchange that He took the penalty for our sins and we received the virtue which was His, but this is the manner God made it possible for us to be considered His children. This is the operation of God’s grace in dealing with His only beloved Son in the manner that all sinners, outside of that grace, must be dealt with, which is receiving the fullness of God’s wrath against sin in eternal measure.

…which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

This phrase brings into consideration that it is only of God’s mere good and beneficent pleasure, grounded in His infinite, eternal and unchangeable knowledge, or wisdom and insight, by which all these many blessings were given to us. Connected with the previous phrase, it speaks to the forgiveness of our sins, and how this was His everlasting purpose in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. This knowledge of God speaks of that eternal counsel within Himself that determined to send the Son to inhabit flesh, live perfectly, then offer Himself as sacrifice for those whom the Father was pleased to give Him according to the covenant of peace (Isaiah 53:10-12, 8:16; cf. Hebrews 2:13; John 17:6, 15).

However, the prepositional phrase has to do with how God lavished upon believers that grace by which they were forgiven and saved eternally. We do not gain all the wisdom and insight which are God’s, for such would be impossible; we do gain that knowledge and discretion into these blessings of God in Christ given us, to the degree we are able to understand them accurately, to the blessing of our souls. The word “lavished” is rather the key word in view in the phrase, constituting, as it does, the magnificent bounty of God’s grace in bestowing these blessings upon those He chose from eternity to be His in Christ.

I do not think it does any harm to consider that the wisdom and insight are God’s in this passage, but the stress laid down here must be considered as that unrestrained blessing of God giving us knowledge into the mystery of His will towards us, so that the wisdom and insight so named are a part of that which we receive. It is “all,” in that we now have everything we need to adequately comprehend that which He willed to give, and the means by which He willed to give it, which is further reflected in the fact that He has “revealed to us the mystery of His will” (v. 9). This mystery is the gospel, but in the pericope under consideration, we are looking at those blessings with which the gospel supplies us by God’s decree, and in the phrase under immediate consideration is the extravagance of these blessings He has poured out upon us. Colossians 1:9b is a parallel passage to consider with this one:  That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We take it that this is what God is doing here in this instance, in giving us without reserve that knowledge and discernment of His blessings contained in the gospel, and so we go on to consider our next phrase.

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

As above considered, this mystery is the gospel, and it is spoken of as a mystery because it was not formerly known. However, God has here remedied that condition, for we are expressly told that He has made “known to us the mystery of his will,” and that it was according to the aforementioned covenant of peace, or as it is more commonly known, Covenant of Redemption. In giving us the lavish riches of the gospel we receive, in this passage, the knowledge of those blessings in the heavenlies which impacts us here and now. It may truly be said that we are experiencing, to the degree God has willed to reveal these things, a bit of “heaven on earth.”  This is expressly God’s purpose, which ties back into vv. 3 and 4 of this passage. That which was predetermined by the eternal will and counsel of God has come to pass, and we are the recipients of such blessings by our joint union with one another “in Christ.”

A side note that must be mentioned (because of the importance of these things) is that this experience of a bit of “heaven on earth” is not a solitary thing. As this epistle is directed to the church in Ephesus, and other churches that will read the cyclical letter from the apostle, [2] it speaks of members in the plural. Most especially, this has to do with corporate existence and interaction “in Christ,” and that is where our fullest experience of the heavenly blessings comes to us. It must also be remembered that the body of Christ locally meeting on the Sabbath most fully experiences the covenant, corporate result of these blessings as they are here set forth.

as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

This speaks to the eschatological fruition of God’s purpose for His creation, which He determined from everlasting to everlasting to be culminated “in Christ.” Our praise and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us is seen to have more reasons than our own, personal redemption, just as our worship of Him is done in a corporate manner. That which takes place in myriads of local bodies in churches throughout all of history in the world is but a bit of that which will take place perfectly in our completed redemption with the entirety of all the saved in eternity to come. This is God’s plan, and has always been His plan. We see that not only our personal redemption, but our corporate redemption, is tied to that of the entire creation (Romans 8:18-24a), or conversely, the redemption of the entirety of God’s creation is tied to that of the completed redemption of all His elect. The realization of our hope is in a fully redeemed creation which will reveal the fullness of God’s glory, and this is revealed to us now, in Holy Writ, that we may praise God for such magnificent bounty of His grace.

It should be noticed, up to this point, that we are speaking of the results of our being chosen individually for the corporate worship of God, with the blessings obtained for us by Christ being set forth in a manner that continues to draw out reasons for our praise of God. Although the specifics of our being called and ultimately having our salvation are contained in this particular pericope, the thrust is doxological. In other words, the reason God has communicated these great truths of His gospel in Christ Jesus to us here is not only to show forth His glory, but to receive glory (praise and thanks) from those He has mercifully saved. The pulling back the curtain, as it were, from that which has taken place, is taking place, and will ultimately take place, should bring paeans of praise and thanksgiving from us on a continual basis, as we behold the wonder of His purpose in Christ Jesus, our Lord, being established throughout redemptive history to the point of its culmination. In other words, here, in this phrase, not only is personal redemption mentioned as that which has been accomplished, but the complete redemption of the old creation into the new creation. The ultimate judgment of the first creation is put forth, with the ultimate redemption of that first creation seen to come about from the judgment of it, to the glory of God in Christ Jesus. Such knowledge facilitates our understanding of the Lord’s ultimate purpose for both the old and the new creation, and admonishes and provides us with the impetus of godly living now, to reflect our doxological praise and thanksgiving of He who subjected all things in the Son, that He may be seen to be all in all (2 Peter 3; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). This shows that doxology has as its object the inimitable God of glory, through the work He has done and will accomplish through His Son’s cross work and mediation.

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…

 This is the promise to us, and the sureness of that promise. We praise God because in Christ Jesus, His Son, our Lord and Savior, our standing before God for all eternity was determined beforehand, according to that great love and mercy that are God’s, not as some emotions that are short lived, but as His essence. In Christ, we have this standing before God – it is said here we have obtained an inheritance. This is not something we strive to obtain, but realize we already have it. In Colossians 3, we are told that we are raised in Christ, and so share in his resurrection and ascension in and to glory, as well as that when He died, we also died with Him, so that our lives, presently and continuously, are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

Rather than such predetermining of our standing before God being something which is reason to say we need do nothing, we are told, in v.1 of that same chapter of the epistle of Colossians, to seek those things which are above, because we have our lives hidden in Christ, therefore we are seated at the right hand of the Father with Him. This harkens back to v. 3 of the epistle and pericope we are considering, where we give praise to God because of what He has done in Christ Jesus our Lord, giving us all spiritual blessings in Him, of which we are setting forth some at this point. A sure promise based on the determination of God before time began assures us of these things now, and when time ends, we will receive the finished work of our Lord on the regenerated, restored New Earth, giving still more reasons to praise Him. That this is the purpose of God, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, is still another reason for our thanksgiving and praise – these things are as sure as God is unchanging, as certain as He is faithful, all based in His glorification of Himself in our Lord Jesus Christ. Another way of translating this is suggested by Harold W. Hoehner in his commentary on Ephesians in the Cornerstone Commentary, which is “for his unchanging plan is the working out of all things just as he decided long ago.”[3] This emphasizes that our standing before God in Christ is the outworking of God’s unchangeable will, not as a decision, but as the redemptive-historical effects in time which give us to see that one act, which we call God’s decree, here called His counsel, or the counsel of his will. This refers back to v. 4 of our chapter of this epistle of Ephesians, for which exposition, please see above.

so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

This has direct reference to the first of those who believed in God through our Lord Jesus Christ – it speaks precisely to the fact of the believers of the primitive church, beginning with the 120 at Pentecost in Acts 2, those who believed through their message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those immediately after them (which included, but was not limited to, the apostle Paul). It is not that those things which have heretofore been spoken of do not have to do with all believers, but rather, that the fact of those who were the first to hope in Christ are not only to the praise of his glory, but a visible witness to those who hear the gospel message as ordained of God and, believing, are also to that worshipful thanksgiving and praise. This is a plain indication that the faithful lives (and byliveswe mean speech and actions) of those who believe in Christ are used of God as secondary means to promote His glory among future generations of believers, and so it is yet another reason for us to give God the praise and thanksgiving that are His due alone, for the continuation of His magnificent work in redemptive-history, showing His faithfulness in bringing all those He has predestined from before the creation of the world to that standing in and before Him which is of Him alone. Appropriately, then, we may state that all glory is to God alone through Christ alone, as our Christian heritage always rightly observes.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

This is again speaking of Christ and faith in Him, but the focus has shifted from the first believers to those who believed after them, so there is the understanding of those who believed later, which has connotations for all subsequent believers. It would also be true that those who believed first has such a connection, which has been noted in the commentary on the former verse, but this is more directly related to those who followed in belief because of the faith of the first believers.

The first reason to give praise and thanks to God in this is due to that testimony of those who went before us, for as we said, God uses means to convey His gospel of grace, and without these initial believers, we would not have the New Testament Scriptures, for the ones whom God chose to give us the body of the New Testament writings were the necessary means by which we gained His direct revelation of His working in His Son to bring about the gospel of grace in every respect. Although all the glory is of, to and for God, there is an indebtedness to those He first willed to use that we do well to remember in our thanks and praise to Him. The next reason is that we heard that which is directly from God, which is the word of truth. This came about by those first believers being moved along by the Spirit of God to write it for us, that we might hear God directly, as it were, and having been regenerated by that same Spirit of God, we believed in all the work of Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the repentance that leads to life. Finally, in this verse, that which was preordained, which is to say all of our salvation, is also said to be “sealed,” with the result that we are assured of that which we have been promised. Thus, we have another score of reasons to give our God and Savior that glory that is rightly due to Him alone, as we continue to see His primary decree and the secondary means He utilizes to bring about our salvation – the salvation we could never earn or keep, but which is as certain and unchanging as the God who set it forth from eternity.

who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

And finally, we come to the end of this particular pericope, which comes full circle, so to speak. In the first verse we considered, God was recognized to be blessed in and of Himself, not simply because of, or as a result of all the blessings which He has vouchsafed for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. In fact, we saw that nothing done for us adds to that inherent blessedness that is God’s enjoyment in perfect, eternal, infinite unchangeable being in and of Himself. In the following verses, we have seen that what we owe Him is because of who He is, for the outpouring of the blessings we owe Him praise and thanksgiving for come from that which God is. It is appropriate also, then, that we are given this one last promise of guarantee of that which our God has promised us in His promise to His Son (Psalm 2:8) for what He was willing to do in taking on flesh, living among those He created to teach them of Himself and His Father, showing that everlasting love the Father and Son both divinely have within the divine essence, which, as we have seen throughout this section of Scripture, God had deigned to share with those who would otherwise hate Him, and not have Him to reign over them.

This is, indeed, to the praise of His glorious grace, which is but another way to say to the praise of His glory. Because of who God is, nothing can come between His love which He has condescended to show us in the Beloved. Our possession at the end of time, where true life, that began when we were born again from above in redemptive history, will finally be ours forever, dwelling with He who gave it to us, and the phrasing in this last verse rings with the triumphant song of those redeemed: We are His, and He is our God. Let us give praises and thanks to Him now, and forever more. Amen.

[1] This is in so many of the old Reformed divines writings, and those of contemporary Reformed theologians, that we simply refer the reader to the aforementioned book by Samuel Renihan, God Without Passions, again, in the Introduction, pg. 36

[2] See Ephesians, Introduction, Argument and Outline, by Daniel B. Wallace, PhD., Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Section Destination, regarding the likelihood that this was a circular letter to the churches of Asia Minor

[3] Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 16: Ephesians-Harold W. Hoehner

Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2)

Thus, the beginning of our text, “Blessed be God…” runs through the entirety of the passage, and is the underpinning for all the reasons to give Him such praise. Without this theme being noticed, the meaning of the pericope loses coherence, for what God works to our benefit is always to show that which He is, that being not merely the source of all that is good and holy in the unique manner that belongs only to God, but to express His inexpressible, self-contained, infinite, eternal and unchanging essence in a manner that elicits wonder, and the expression of that wonder resulting in paeans of thankful praise from those creatures He deigned to create to show that which is true of Him alone.

This is the expression of the first point: “Blessed be God.” This is not a suggestion of happiness based on interaction with anything, but an expression of that state in which God alone exists. While we are told, by our Lord, that we shall be blessed for various reasons (cf. Matthew 5:3-11), God, in Himself, is always blessed, which is to say in a state of perfection that has no need for any interaction with any but Himself. ([1]This goes into theology proper [the Doctrine of God]; however, we will not belabor the point here.) We must note that God did not need to create, but in our passage, that which is true of Him is observed and stated, for the purpose of bringing about that praise of Him which is due His inestimable, glorious holiness, and that by His creatures – not because He needs such to prove that which He is, but because it pleased Him, in His perfection, to decree such to come about.

The expression of the second point is clearly perceived in the words set forth in Holy Writ as well: “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

As has been stated, this is not of a need for our Great God to do such, but of His good pleasure. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (in the realms of the heavenlies) by His beneficent fiat, not due to our being owed such blessing.

If we are to ask, what blessings has God given to us, regarding that which pertains to such that we might be assured of His divine pleasure in both this life, and the life that is to come, it is simply answered: “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What greater blessing is there in this life that we can be assured of, or what better proof of that greater blessing which is to be given us in the age to come, than to surely know that we have these blessings now, at this time, here, for our benefit, to the praise of the glory of His grace in Christ Jesus?

This, alone, is cause to worship, and by worship, I do not intend merely acknowledgement of the greatness of our God, but of that which He has deigned to do. The worship intended here is that of thanksgiving for His glorious condescension to those creatures, such as you and I, whom He had no need to create in the first place!

If you think yourself worthy of such interaction and communication with our God, think again! He had no need of you, and He gains no glory through you, yet He has willed to receive that acknowledgement of who He is; you add nothing to His glory, yet He has willed to receive such paltry thanks and worship of Himself by that which He has done in His Son, and furthermore, He has revealed that unto you!

Do you give Him such thankful, worshipful praise? Do you render Him the praise that is due Him because of what He did for you in Christ, apart from any perceived merit on your part?  The particular merit belongs to Jesus Christ alone, whom God set forth as a propitiation for the sins of His people – this is both the fountain of and the reason for both our works and praise (see 1 John 2:2; 4:10 with Romans 3:21-31; Ephesians 2:10; Luke 7:7-10; etc.).

The remaining texts in our pericope simply add to the reasons for our doxological expression of thanksgiving towards our great and glorious God.

We will be given to worship Him in this continuing doxology as we consider the remainder of the particular portion of this Scritpure.

[1] See London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 (hereafter LCF) Chapter 2.2; Also, God Without Passions: A Reader, edited by Samuel Renihan, 2015 – Reformed Baptist Academic Press (RBAP – http://www.rbap.net)

THE COMFORT OF GOD’S UNCHANGING LOVE

As the conversations regarding Theology Proper (the doctrine of God) are coming more to the fore, it occurs to me what comfort that which is the classical doctrine of God (classical theism, or orthodox theism), gives to the believer.

I recently posted a comment to a dialog that was on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog. The Original Posted Article was by Pastor Jim Butler, of Free Grace Baptist Church of Chilliwack. The article by Pastor Butler, may be found here, entitled A BRIEF STATEMENT ON DIVINE IMPASSIBILITY. I highly recommend not only reading the article, but the comments which follow, which will show certain things that are coming to light in this present age.

What is inherent in the discussion is that God has perfections, not passions or emotions. God’s perfections are that by which we derive our great comfort, and I find that which most greatly comforts me is that, in His eternal, infinite, unchanging being, He gives to us a love which is based in His love of Himself. We have no fear, because that which is of God cannot ever change.

1 John 4:18-19: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

The love with which we love Him is based upon, grounded in, and derived from the love which He first loved us with. Since that love is His love of His Son, we are given to not have fear of circumstances in this life, or of eternal judgment, and His love is being perfected in us. Because God is pure act (Exodus 3:14), all that He is continues from “everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). His love continues because “God is love,” and that not as an addition or mood, but part and parcel with His essence and being, which cannot change. This is the love with which He first loved us – Himself. God is not love as a component of His being, but in His being “God is love.”

No mistake should be made, or is here intended, as to that which I am stating about our God. I am not saying that all that God is, is love alone. Indeed, Scripture gives us the truth that our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), jealous (Exodus 20:5), righteous (2 Chronicles 12:6; Psalm 7:11; 11:7) and many other things which are but a definition of that way we perceive Him, for He is all of those things, all at once, without addition or subtraction or change, infinitely.

Therefore, while we speak of God, we can never completely properly portray Him, even with the words He has condescended to give us those views of Himself in His revelation. He not only is love, but is also defined by Himself in myriad other ways which accommodate our understanding, but do not give us that full knowledge of Him which is only His (1 Corinthians 2:11; cf. Romans 11:33). When we grasp that which He has given us to know about Him, we must say “these are but the outskirts of His ways” (Job 26:14). Regarding these different expressions which sound like human emotions to us, we must always keep in mind, as with all those passions expressed and experienced by mankind, that these things which are temporally felt, suffered, and expressed by and to us, are but the shadow of a shadow of that which is true of our God in unchangeable, infinite, eternal, uncreated manner.

God is indeed jealous of that which is true of Him, and He will – in fact does – consume those who hate Him, according to the unchanging good and righteousness which He is, yet this in no way detracts from that love He has everlastingly decreed to express towards those who are encompassed within His decree of election in Christ Jesus. He is jealous as an outworking of His righteous perfection of good as opposed to anything that is not perfect and good as He is, yet we must not suppose this is jealous (nor that we are consumed by Him in the same way as we think of our being consumed by the passion of jealously) in the manner of men, but rather, that these finite expressions are accommodated to our understanding as those He created, that we may indeed stand at the outskirts of the interminable reaches approaching who He is to gain that merciful and loving understanding of Him He has allowed (indeed, the usage of such language as “allow” is, itself, a proof of accommodation, for God does not “allow” one thing and not “allow” another – as the apostle wrote, “we speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh”). We may not know Him exhaustively, but we may know Him as He has revealed Himself, which is yet such a broad range of knowledge of Him that we can say we have been granted to know Him who is unknowable in a manner suited to our comprehension (and this is only true of those He has given His Spirit to abide in to understand these things1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

This is reason for great hope, for our God cannot be affected by the pallium of human investiture.  Regardless of how we see or perceive Him, He remains as He is: most serene, most blessed in and of Himself, and it is of that unchanging blessedness which He has deigned to give to us, those whom He created, as He wills.

The first thing, then – indeed the chief thing – to remember in addressing this most foundational doctrine of our faith is this: We are out of our dept. That which may be comprehended about God is given of God to us, but of all that He has entrusted us to know of Him, primarily in special revelation (Scripture), and secondarily through natural, or general revelation, the thing He drives home, time and again, is that we cannot know Him exhaustively. He is infinite and eternal, the only being of which it can be said that never did He have a beginning, nor will He have an end, or experience change. When He describes Himself to us in His Scripture, He is giving us brief glimpses, as of catching a view of a distant sun, thousands – no, billions and billions – of universes removed, through the most monstrous telescope which could ever be made, with atmospheric disturbances in our field of vision each microscopic measurement  of the way.

When we think of His glory, we must understand we are seeing that which we cannot approach in fractions of fractions of reflections. As the apostle Paul spoke of “in a glass darkly,” and made comparison to the eternal state with God as “then face to face,” He nevertheless did not contradict what he states elsewhere of the inability of man, whether perfected of God or before, to truly know God (1 Corinthians 13:12; cf. Romans 11:33; 1 Timothy 6:13-16).

The breakdown which has often – too often – come to the fore in the current discussions among modern Reformed and orthodox evangelical theologians is that of analogical predication, which is language, such as we use, to describe God. In other words, God uses the language He gave to man to define Himself to man, and He does this in two ways: 1) By descriptions of Himself, and 2) by descriptions of what He does in the world (and this is very simplistically put). It should be obvious that passages which speak of who God is – that is, as to His essence and being – necessarily establish the meaning of passages speaking of that which God does.

As a for-instance, God tells us, in Psalm 90:2, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. This is God giving us information about His essence and being through Moses’ prayer. He is not one who came into existence, nor is His existence, essence and being limited by that which He created. He has always been, and will always be, the great I AM THAT I AM. In light of this fact, anything God does within His creation which has temporal results that are now, then pass away, must not be thought of as referring to that which He essentially is. Also, such effects are outside of God’s essence and being, which is to say, though He causes them to come about, and so affects that which exists within His creation, He is not, in turn, in any manner affected by these changes. His love is a perfection, as is His righteousness and other attributes, so that He is these things unchangeably, eternally and infinitely, all at once. Nothing He does changes Him, and nothing done by those whom He created affects Him to bring about change in Him.

It is precisely because of who He is that His love is able to interact with that which He created without, in turn, causing Him to respond to those things which His creatures undergo. Since God is pure act, His love never had a beginning, cannot grow, and will never end. It is perfect in the quality and quantity (if we may use such a term of He who cannot be measured) that God is perfect, which is why, when the theologians of the church throughout history speak of those emotive passages in Scripture which would be passions for us, they call them perfections when referring to God. That which is perfect has no need of anything to be added to it to become more perfect (realizing the expression “more perfect” is an oxy-moron), and so it is with God in all that He is. He is perfectly merciful, therefore there is no need that He respond to the sufferings of His creatures with any further mercy elicited by their sufferings.

It is precisely here that some modern theologians, trying to explain the language of emotion predicated of God in Scripture, go astray. They cannot imagine a God who did not suffer with His people, therefore they base their observations and expositions of those passages which show us that analogous relationship between the Creator and His creatures in backwards fashion. Where they should allow the passages which speak of the being and essence of God to determine the meaning of the passages which speak of His interaction with His creatures, they reverse this order, and in doing so, predicate change of God based on a univocal (one-to-one) relationship of the Creator with those He created. Instead of a God who tells us He cannot change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), and instead of taking comfort in the God who perfectly loves and is perfectly merciful at all times, they attribute the malleable nature of the creature to Him, in order to bring Him down to a level they can understand (but God cannot be understood as a man understands another man Psalm 50:21).

Instead of the comfort of a perfection of love, righteousness and mercy that is beyond the ability of man to comprehend, they posit these traits in the One who created them to be responsive, when God has no need to respond, since He is already perfect in all these things all at once, forever.

If we were to take all the human miseries of all time and bundle them together, God’s love and compassion would be more than enough to encompass these without His need to react to them, because for God, where all these are perfect, He cannot become more complete in them. It is because He is perfect that we take comfort. A God who could change would not be the God of Scripture, nor would He be able to offer us that solace that comes from knowing that He is the most loving, most compassionate, most just God, for there are none like Him. He is the Creator, who was perfect in all these things at one and the same time, without beginning or end, before ever He created, and He cannot become more perfect in any of them. His perfections are at one with who He is, which is to say, His essence.

This is our comfort in the love of God. Perfect love does, indeed, cast out fear.

This is intended to be a brief meditation on the comfort of our everlastingly, infinite, unchanging God for the purpose of our comfort in and of Him, so I will end it with the apostle’s benediction:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

SDG – Bill

EDIT – Upon a brief interaction with a beloved brother in the Lord, I want to say that I do affirm that God has emotions, but not as we think of them. Emotions, as God has them, being pure unchangeable act in infinite and eternal being and essence as He is, are not unstable, or brought upon Him where He now feels love, now feels mercy, now feels hatred, or wrath, etc.

Rather, God is, in Himself, most pure and complete in a manner we cannot conceive of for ourselves. He is unique, with none to compare with Him. It is precisely because of the constancy of His emotions, which I have called “perfections” in the article above (along with other theologians of the past among the Reformed and earlier), that I choose that terminology.

A Few Words on Revelatory Gifts

Introduction

There have been a number of scholarly treatments of the so-called “debate” over whether the apostolic or revelatory gifts have ceased or are in effect at this present date.

I do not suppose this will be added to that list of fine articles and books, and I do not think there truly needs to be anything added to that list. The purpose of this short article is to merely give an oft neglected part of the argument to the interaction.

First of all, let me preface the article by saying that I do not suppose there actually is a viable debate. I realize that this may sound insulting to those who wish to believe that all things are open for discussion, as well as the fact that well intended men from both sides of this particular divide have actually participated in the interchange. I do not intend insult, so if anybody reads this in that manner, such understanding will be a drawing of a conclusion that was not determined or intended by me, although I suppose that is a desire that may prove somewhat futile.

What I mean is that the side that has Scripture on it is so overwhelmingly verifiable, that the other side must operate on conjecture grounded in faulty hermeneutics. Such is the case with a number of settled theological doctrines, such as the Doctrine of God (Theology Proper), the Doctrine of the Atonement, the Doctrine of Christology, the Doctrine of Man (Anthropology), etc. In fact, I would say that the primary premise of those who affirm the continuation of the revelatory gifts, whether in practice or by not denying the cessation of them, errs in the doctrines of Bibliology, Theology Proper, Pneumatology, and Anthropology, for they must have an imperfect view of God, an imperfect view of Sola Scriptura, an imperfect view of the working of the Holy Spirit, and an improper view of man in order to propagate even a cautious affirmation of the continuance of the revelatory gifts.

To further clarify: Just because a doctrine is argued about does not mean that is has not long been settled by Christian orthodoxy. That is simply the plain fact of the matter with the examples listed. I propose such is exactly the case with the doctrine of the revelatory gifts, as well.

What Are Revelatory Gifts?

It is the contention of this writer that the revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit, often called the “miraculous gifts,” are for the purpose of pointing to the veracity of the one performing those miraculous works of God. It is furthermore my contention that in validating the messenger as being of God, the ministry and message of that messenger are validated; i.e., that which the messenger is proclaiming is shown to be true, and the words which that messenger speaks and writes are shown to be true.

Now, please note, that all those prophets and apostles used of God to write the New Testament epistolatory literature performed these special, or revelatory miracles at some point in their ministry (with the possible exception of the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews and the epistles of James and Jude). Since the purpose of the miraculous/revelatory gifts pointed to the veracity of the messenger and his message as being from God, they are also often called “sign gifts.” This is definitive of function, for a sign points one to something, or tells one to do or not do something (think of traffic signs). Therefore, these special revelatory gifts pointed to He who gave the power of those gifts for the purpose of validating both those who gave the message, and the message itself, as being from Him. This is what revelatory gifts are, and what they do, or did, rather.

What Revelatory Gifts Are Not

The doctrine of the revelatory gifts is often confused or conflated with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. That is, there are some who say if the Spirit of God is always the same, being God (and He is), to suppose that He has ceased to work in the way He worked in the New Testament (and other periods where special revelatory gifts were used) would be akin to stating that God changes. However, such is faulty thinking, for a number of reasons. Therefore, what revelatory gifts are not is the normative manner of God working throughout redemptive history, both prior to, and subsequent to the ministry of our Lord in His first advent, and that of the apostles subsequent to His ministry. This will be dealt with in three reasons listed below, followed by a conclusion.

Three Reasons to Affirm the Above

Reason number one is that such thinking supposes that God has always worked by way of giving special revelation through particular revelatory gifts to individuals throughout redemptive history. This is faulty because exactly the opposite is proven to be true when we read Scripture. There are a few periods in redemptive history where God used men to reveal Himself through the miraculous, or revelatory gifts, but on the whole, the history of the people of God is one in which ordinary people are called to obey the revealed, written Word of God that is extant in their time, without more being added to that revealed written Word. If we were to keep all the pages of Scripture that show us special, revelatory gifts working through chosen men of God in redemptive history, and subtract from all the pages where such things are not occurring, we would not have much of Scripture left. Subtract all the passages except where Moses was used of God to work miracles, Elijah and Elisha, our Lord during His ministry, and the apostles during theirs, and we are left with very few pages of Scripture to deal with. This is not a matter of dispute, for any fair reading of the Scriptures will readily reveal the truth of this statement, and I invite the reader to do such, if they are in doubt. This is also not taking into account God speaking to various of the prophets, but of them all, only Elisha and Elijah did actual miracles after Moses – the rest received revelation which was subsequently written down for our instruction, but they did not do miracles.

The second reason follows hard upon the first, and it is this: As our understanding of God, and His purposes for man, both saved and unsaved, is founded upon Scripture – which is to say, upon special revelation – so was the understanding of God’s purposes for His people, and those who were not His people, gained by those of old. Although special revelation gave us the Scriptures, much of that special revelation was given through the meditation, by men of God, upon that which was previously revealed. Nothing new was added; these men of God simply meditated and were given understanding of that which they meditated upon by God. The distinction is this: these men were infallibly informed of God, by His Spirit, as to that which was true, regarding that which had been written, and it was that which was proven true already which they exposited, not any new truths they received.

As I said at the outset of this article, I do not propose to add much of a polemic to the body of literature already extant on these things, therefore, I appeal to those reading to make their studies of the Scriptures to see whether these things be true or not, as indeed, the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures as the apostle Paul exposited them, did (Acts 17:1-12). And please note, they searched the Scriptures, not looked to signs. This is normative, not the performance of miracles, and this is the established pattern in Scripture. In fact, miracles are generally – and oftentimes specifically – given as a sign of judgment, not blessing.

The third point of this article, is that because the first two points are true (which the reader may determine by the use of the analogy of the faith and the analogy of Scripture, which is to say, reading all the Scripture relevant to these matters [1]), therefore, they comprise that which is called the harmony of the Scriptures. The “harmony of the Scriptures” is inclusive of both these two principals of interpreting the Scriptures, and is not only those interpretive principles which were used by those men of God moved by the Holy Spirit to give us further revelation, but those who used the same principles in those times sparse or devoid of such direct communication of God, knowing that the Word of the living God was enough to understand the purposes of the living God. Types and shadows have been defined and expounded upon for us, by God’s fiat, and the mysteries of the gospel and redemptive history have been fully disclosed (I do not cite Scripture here, supposing that the reader will readily understand these terms and the concepts within them), therefore, God, in His sovereign decree, has willed that these former manners of disclosure of His will to His people are past, and we are to appeal only to His written Word to determine that which He requires of us [2]

The outcome of the first three points brings us to the final point of this article, and that it is a point that is most always ignored, which is the fact of the great silence of any mention of the revelatory gifts in both former Scripture, but especially, subsequent Scripture as it is given us in the expounding of the work of God in Christ Jesus, by the Spirit, through those parts of the New Testament (the document of the New Covenant) we call the epistles.

When Is An Invalid Form of Argumentation of Valid Use?

Now I know there are those who will immediately toss out the proverb, “An argument from silence is no argument at all!”

To these, I must give a rational answer. My first answer would be a rhetorical question: “Sir, have you experienced a gunshot wound today, or in your entire life, for that matter?” (“Gunshot woundcould be substituted with any number of things, such as being carried away by a tornado, hit by a train, etc.) If the answer is “no,” I would venture onto the next part of the question: “Sir, do you know of any who have?” If the answer were no, I would venture onto the next part of the question: “Sir, how possible is it, considering the amount of those you know, and your own experience, that you shall sustain a gunshot wound at any time in the future? Bear in mind, sir, that the news sources are unashamedly absent of accounts of most of the populace of the world sustaining gunshot wounds prior to the demise of most of those people, and that your own experience substantiates that lack of reporting of gunshot wounds to the general populace of the world, as well as the experience of most of the population of the world.”

Of course, the reason the media, worldwide, is absent of most of the people of the world sustaining gunshot wounds is that they do not, indeed, sustain such.  A person arguing for the possibility of each person experiencing such a thing, based upon the fact that a small percentage have, and do, indeed sustain such things, would be to engage in hyperbolic fantasy of the most extreme kind.

Now, we go to the extremity of the argument, which is simply this: Just because it does not happen generally does not mean it will not happen occasionally.

This is true, per our example (you might sustain a gunshot wound), but at this point, we must bring in the divine will. To put it briefly, if God willed that you never sustained a gunshot wound, speculation about whether you would or not is vain. Likewise, if God ordained that you, as a non-combatant, living in suburban luxury and safety, sustain a gunshot wound, you will.

This extremely ridiculous faux example has a point, however, and that point is set forth below in somewhat syllogistic manner.

The gist is this: What God has willed comes to pass.

The crux is this: God has not willed for revelatory gifts to continue.

The proof is this: The overwhelming majority of the epistolatory literature in the New Testament (the corpus document of the New Covenant) not only does not mention these revelatory gifts as ongoing, but specifically omits them as necessary, in light of the completed revelation that forms the apostolic, reformed doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

While an argument from silence can be, and often is, fallacious, in various contexts of discussion of many historical works, in the discussion of the revelatory gifts (as that discussion pertains to the Scriptures), and most especially the guidelines for how the visible church is to live, relating to each member and the interaction among members in local covenant communities who are in formal fellowship with one another, it must be considered that God gave us that document for our faith and practice. This is to say that, while there are guidelines in the gospels and the book of Acts for how believers are to live with one another and as members of the body of Christ, the final instructions our Lord ordained we follow came about in the Spirit giving the epistolatory literature. If the silence on the continuing use of the revelatory gifts is, therefore, a part of that special revelation on how the church is to both hold and practice its faith in regards to God and  one another, both in a corporate worship setting, and outside that setting, it is a very loud silence that speaks directly to the fact of whether such revelatory gifts are to continue, or whether, in fact, they have ceased with the cessation of special revelation as given through the New Testament prophets and apostles (those men of God moved by the Holy Spirit to pen the guidelines by which the church is to live in ongoing manner). This is in keeping with the Regulative Principle of Worship, as well.[3]

Outside the chapters of 1 Corinthians 12-14, and a brief mention which is given in Galatians 3:5, there is not another mention of the revelatory gifts of the Spirit in the epistolatory literature. Rather than being insignificant, this silence is of God, and has as much significance, in that respect, with the 400 years of silence between the last Old Testament prophet and the ministry of John the Baptist (and if we are to consider revelatory gifts, between the last Old Testament prophet and the ministry of our Lord during His first advent). None would be so foolish as to suggest that the silence between the last Old Testament prophet and our Lord’s first advent was not normative for those years, yet when it comes to these years after the last apostle has passed to glory, many will insist that what was normative during the ministry of our Lord, and progressively diminishing during the ministry of His apostles (more in the early years, dwindling to all but a trickle, if not completely ceased, towards the end of their ministry), is now supposed to be the normative experience of the church until Christ returns.

In such a use of Acts (which shows the diminishing nature of the apostles use of revelatory gifts) and 1 Corinthians 12-14, with the dash of Galatians 3:5 thrown in for good measure, these portions of the New Testament are used as the presuppositional rubric for the entirety of the New Testament epistles, which, to put it mildly, is not the way we do hermeneutics.

The normative manner of doing hermeneutics insists that those portions that consistently speak of how a believer is to live and act among other believers is so well laid out in the rest of the epistles, that by using the two hermeneutical principles we set forth (see footnote one), it is quite easy to see that by not reiterating, over and over again, the use of the revelatory gifts, and actually, laying out the spiritual fruits which have to do with being conformed to the image of Christ, we have the manner of our faith and practice given to us in such plain terms, that it takes imposing the few upon the many to change that which is so clear throughout the epistles. Since it is the rule that seemingly contradictory passages are explained by the context not only within which they are, but by comparison of passages which teach the manner in which our faith and practice is to be worked out – in this case, that means the entirety of the New Testament epistolatory corpus – we are not left in the dark as to how to conduct our Christian lives in all ages until our Lord comes again.

In that corpus, we are told to “walk in a manner worthy (“worthyhere carries the meaning of consistency, not merit [4]) of the calling with which we have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1b-3) There is a positive lists of characteristics which are derivative of (finitely) the character of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a negative set of things we are not to do that run through this chapter (in fact, the practical application of the first portions of his epistles often runs through the latter chapters of those letter of the apostle Paul to the churches).

Likewise, in Philippians 2, we read of the manner in which Christ came into this world and served in His humiliation, and are exhorted to “have this mind in yourselves,” after listing how we are to interrelate among one another in covenant community, which is based on our being in covenant with God through Jesus Christ. There is also a set of positive and negative commands and exhortations running through this chapter, and continuing through the epistle to the end.

We could find similar lists in Romans, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, the pastoral epistles, James, Hebrews, Peter and Paul; what we could not find, however – what is absolutely, glaringly absent from any of these epistles – are commands, admonishments, instructions or exhortations to seek any of the revelatory gifts, much less how to exercise them. Besides the chapters mentioned above in 1 Corinthians, and the one verse in Galatians 3, they are not only conspicuously absent, but (it is my contention) purposely so. Throughout the corpus of the New Testament epistles, we are told to “walk in the Spirit,” that we are to live “in Christ,” and that we must manifest the “fruits of the Spirit,” which is simply another way to list the characteristics that found their full and faultless expression in Christ Jesus. We are not told to “seek spiritual gifts” outside the one epistle, in one chapter of that epistle (and the translation of that passage is disputed [5]), and those chapters sandwich “the better way” which does not address the use of spiritual gifts, much less revelatory gifts, at all.

A few comments should be made concerning 1 Corinthians 12 & 14, and the mention of revelatory gifts in Galatians 3:5. The fact is, the first epistle to the Corinthians is largely corrective, as they were a church in disorder. Paul addressed several doctrinal and moral issues throughout the epistle, and there is no reason to suppose he deviates from this pattern in the Corinthians seeking of revelatory gifts. In fact, it is highly probable, from the mention of tongues and the word [6] used for those, that Paul was addressing the matter of the Corinthians carrying over the ecstatic utterances that took place within the pagan religions that they were formerly a part of before coming to believe in Christ. In their zeal to seek the gifts of the Spirit, they had carried over that which was supposedly proof of the interaction of deity, in their former pagan worship, into their Christian experience; wrongly so, as they had done with many other practices and doctrines which the apostle addresses throughout the epistle. In seeking to be spiritual, they had placed experience over and against doctrine, defining the latter by the former, which is precisely why the apostle addresses these things and sandwiches the “better way” of chapter 13 between his treatment of them.

In the Galatians 3 reference, there simply is no reason to assume that the apostle is speaking of anything other than the fact that the Spirit worked miracles among the Galatian churches during his ministry among them, as recorded in Acts 16 and 18. In fact, the rest of the epistle not only makes no mention of these things, but sets out that which was normative to Christian living in both prohibitive and positive language (Galatians 5:19-23).

Conclusion

There is a purpose to the special revelation that God has given to His church. Within that purpose, there is contained how we are to view God, how we are to view mankind, and how we are to view one another who are “in Christ.” The last contains direct prohibitions on how we are not to act, and prescribed commands on how we are to act, both towards the world in general, and fellow believers specifically. The dearth of information or directives concerning seeking revelatory gifts within the body of the epistolatory literature is a telling absence, and this silence on these matters has a reason: we are not to seek those things which were peculiar to the particular time of the fledgling church as normative; rather, we are to seek, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to conduct our manner of lives according to sound doctrine, for it is by this sound doctrine that we are informed of the moral living which is commanded and demanded of God’s covenant people, and which they haltingly, imperfectly, live, by the power of Christ through His Spirit dwelling in them.

An unhealthy and disproportionate seeking after signs which were for the purpose of revelation in the formative period of the church has led to all sorts of confusion, wrong living, and wrong doctrine – even heresy of the worse sort. Instead of placing a few portions of Scripture over the rest of Scripture, we are to read those portions for the purpose they were intended, which was not to give a pattern for the lives of believers throughout the ages of the church, but to show that those whom God used to give us the balancing directions on how to view and live with one another were genuine, as was their message. That time has passed (Hebrews 1:1-2), and is not being repeated over and over again. To take a “soft” position on this matter is as much a promotion of the errors contained in certain quarters of the church as is the active promotion of them. Where such errors concerning these things have been proven, time and again, to lead people astray throughout the history of the church, the warning is clear: do not seek that which God intended only for the formative period of His church, and has now abrogated.

God has spoken, and what He did not see fit to speak has as much to say to us as that which He did. We do not call down plagues or fire on cities or peoples, we do not raise people from the dead, and we do not receive new revelation. We do not seek the revelatory gifts, or place experience over reasoned understanding of doctrine which the Holy Spirit used to conform us into the image of our Lord and Savior. When the majority of the directives to the church, contained in the epistolary corpus, has, as its focus, how to live in the sphere of the power of the Holy Spirit to bring forth those characteristics of Christ that He showed to us perfectly, we are not to seek those gifts that were given to special men – the New Testament prophets and apostles – upon whom the foundation of the church was laid (Ephesians 2:19-22). We are not the foundation, but that which has been, and is being built upon that foundation. Let us pay particular attention to being led by the Spirit to walk in Christ, as we are being conformed to His image, and not be led astray by an unhealthy obsession with those things which were foundational. Let us note the absence of teaching on these things as even being peripheral, and concentrate on those things which run throughout the epistles. It is by this proper concentration of those things that pertain to godliness and holy living wherein we find the balance of the Christian life, not transitory things magnified above them.

SDG – Bill H

[1] analogia fides: the analogy of faith; the use of a general sense of the meaning of Scripture, constructed from the clear or unambiguous loci (q.v., locus), as the basis for interpreting unclear or ambiguous texts. As distinct from the more basic analogia Scripturae (q.v.), the analogia fidei presupposes a sense of the theological meaning of Scripture.  – analogia Scripturae: analogy of Scripture; the interpretation of unclear, difficult, or ambiguous passages of Scripture by comparison with clear and unambiguous passages that refer to the same teaching or event. SEE analogia fides – Richard A. Muller. Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Kindle Locations 325-328). Kindle Edition.

[2] 1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of The Holy Scriptures – 1. The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14,15; Psalms 19:1-3; Hebrews 1:1; Proverbs 22:19-21; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19,20) MY NOTE: I add Hebrews 1:2 to the Hebrew 1:1 Scripture citation

[3] For a Reformed Baptist position paper on the Regulative Principle of Worship, please go to The American Reformed Baptist Church Association Website and read – http://s3.amazonaws.com/churchplantmedia-cms/arbca_carlisle_pa/regulative-principle.pdf

[4] 66.6 ἄξιοςb, α, ον; ἀξίωςb: pertaining to being fitting or proper in corresponding to what should be expected—‘proper, properly, fitting, worthy of, correspond to.’ Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 627). New York: United Bible Societies.

[5] earnestly desire – In context, this could not mean that believers should desire the more prominent gifts, when the whole chapter has just been confronting the fact that they have sinfully been doing just that. Desiring a gift for selfish reasons is wrong, since they are sovereignly given by God as he wills (vv. 7, 11, 18, 28). Therefore, this must be rendered not as an imperative (command), but, as the verb form allows, as an indicative (statement of fact), “You are desiring the showy gifts, wrongly.” The real imperative is to stop doing that and learn the “more excellent way,” the way of love, which Paul will explain in ch. 13. –  John MacArthur Study Bible Notes on 1 Corinthians 12:31 – MY NOTE: I have also verified this rendering of the Greek from other sources, and am convinced of its verity.

[6] 33.3 γλῶσσαc, ης f: an utterance having the form of language but requiring an inspired interpreter for an understanding of the content—‘ecstatic language, tongue, ecstatic speech.’ ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ ‘he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God’ 1 Cor 14:2. Most scholars assume that the phenomena described in Ac 2:4 (see 33.2) and in 1 Cor 14:2 are significantly different in that in one instance people understood in their own regional language or dialect and in the other instance an interpreter was required. It is for that reason that many interpret γλῶσσα in 1 Cor 14:2 as ecstatic speech, which was also an element in Hellenistic religions and constituted a symbol of divine inspiration. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 387–389). New York: United Bible Societies.

A Message From My Brother Stephen Wilcox * With An Additional Note From Me

The following is a verbatim quote of my brother Stephen Wilcox from a Facebook post he shared with me, with a NOTE after the quote that is from me:

“Brothers and Sisters,

If you are afflicted, squirming in agony at the end of your rope and drowning in the sum of your fears, please prayerfully read this:

“Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Have you been there? Are you there now? Even Jesus Himself cried out: “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?”

No mortal has the power within to endure the unendurable. Who but God Himself can rescue you from sitting in your own waste, scrapping off blisters with a broken bottle? I don’t know. Even best friends wax eloquent with sympathy, but bring empty cold comfort only, and change nothing.

Have you ever been so low that Satan sends a messenger, usually a loved one, to tempt you? They scream: “Curse God and Die! Have you ever walked through the dark valley of death in despair and dread of the trap you have fallen into? Right now are you alone and terrified of the future and helpless?

In the same way Job gasped: “I will not give up (my integrity),” we must not turn our back on He who owns our lives. He can spend us, or save us as He wills, according to His purpose. Our years are not ours. If we steal what is His, we will be judged as the wicked servant who buried his talent to avoid risk.

Just like John the Baptist in prison while Jesus is going from victory to victory, or Paul in chains and filth while others sell the gospel on their terms, we must carry our own cross. Crawling up that hill we join untold millions of saints crucified for Christ long before us, and most likely after us.

Remember, God has promised that He will not lay upon us more than we can carry. He will be with us each step of the way. So, we might as well put our back into it, for everyone will carry a cross one way or another, either for Him, or against Him. All die without remedy, and after that comes the judgment.

We all know that calm comes after the storm, and day starts when the sun finally shows up. The Book is filled with promises of redemption, so whatever happens, it will be worth it all. I know that. You know that. We all do. God will be there for us, one way or another, when the fullness of His time has come.

However, that is then, and this is now…

Today, if you are stuck on a stinking heap with a bloody piece of Coke bottle in your hand, please listen to the link below and be encouraged to cry out to God. Believe Him! Trust Him! Reach out for His hand!

Also, please remember to pray for each other and be there when, where and how it counts the most by doing unto them as you would have them do unto you. There lies the way, the truth, and the life…

Be blessed I pray!

Chaplain Stephen Wilcox
Theological Foundations Ministries”

* NOTE: I am not seeking to share theological precision by sharing Stephen Wilcox’s post. I did not include the link that my brother Stephen alludes too. You may access that link on his Facebook page.

What follows, in my NOTE to my beloved brother’s post and thoughts, are those his post engendered in me, by God’s providential will.

Perhaps some will care to dissect my brother’s  comments according to proper doctrine, but that is not what my brother Seven Wilcox’s post, or the words of His post, are about.

What they ARE about, however, is that every person must realize that they must come to the end of their own self reliance, and cast themselves upon the God of all Creation, who so loved those He died to save, that He came, in the Person of His Son, to take upon Himself that which we could never pay, to give unto us that which we could never procure for ourselves.

If you take away anything from this post, take away that there is nothing you can do which will cause God to accept you, but that He will accept you in His Son.

Christ endured more than most can imagine, physically; however, there have been those in God’s redemptive history that have endured more torture than He did (as controversial as that statement is, there are those who have endured more physical torture than that which our Lord endured).

What Job signifies, and what we must take away from this post of my beloved brother Stephen Wilcox, is that the Lord took upon Himself that which we cannot endure: The infinite, eternal, displeasure of God expressed in His wrath upon His Son.

None have endured that wrath of God but Jesus. None can endure that wrath of God other than Jesus, because only He was sinless, and only in His infinite capacity as the Blessed One of God, the God-Man who alone could take away the sins of those He died for, could that wrath be endured.

Yet, if one does not gain from God that regeneration which leads to conversion, they will, indeed, experience that wrath of God which is meet to the end to which it is set, for infinite, eternal holiness engenders a like similitude of such characteristics in the one who would approach God, and be accepted of Him as His child

This means, necessarily, that eternal punishment awaits those who reject the wrath of God which was eternally, infinitely, satisfied in His only Beloved Son alone.

Only our Lord Jesus Christ was given the affirmation of “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am pleased.”

Dare we to be outside such pleasure of the Father given to the only Righteous Man who ever lived, and which the Father is pleased to give to us on His behalf?

We cannot know the agonies of separation our Lord went through when He cried, “My God, My God. why have you forsaken me,” for we never had that fellowship eternal with the Father that the eternal Son enjoyed.

Yet He gives to us that which we cannot attain to – that same eternal link to the Father – and more: He gives us, by His propitiating sacrifice, and imputed righteousness, that state of being with the Father in an eternal state, which we could never have attained unto.

Sinner, if you are joined to Christ, you know this foreign righteousness which Luther spoke of; if you are not, God grant you the grace to know the Second Person of the everlasting Godhead gained for you, if you are one of those He alone died for.

Job expressed it well: “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”

Hope in Him who saves your eternal soul, sinner. Hope in Him who took upon Himself the eternal punishment you were due.

God grant you the mercy and grace to know that, in this world, and that which is to come, “Yahweh saves, and He alone saves.”

Thank you for your words, my brother Stephen Wilcox.

SDG – Bill