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?”

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.

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)

Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2

This will be another ongoing series of posts – I do not know what number it will reach. Although this was not my intention, initially, the subject matter of the Scriptures of which the initial post treats makes such necessary.

It is hardly an expectation to think that such matters as I am addressing could or would be so addressed within the scope of one posted article, yet I had not thought to go beyond that one article. However, since these things frequently come up in discussions, I thought it might be good to further address them in another passage which treats of them, for the benefit of those who are assisted by a lay-teachers/elders’ handling of such things.

I posted an article exegeting Romans 8:29-30 some time ago, regarding the specifics of God’s calling of His people, regarding the covenant He decreed for man to be saved, which is according to the Triune Covenant of Redemption He decreed in counsel with Himself (Ephesians 1:3), some time back, on a blog I formerly posted articles to; I reposted it on the blog I now share in posting articles with my good brother in the faith, Fernando Cassie Ramirez, and which is also a blog that give information on how to contact us at our present house church location (the information for contact is the email addresses given in the definition of the blog).

It was entitled “Specifics of God’s Calling,” and was somewhat of an exegesis of Romans 8:29-30.

Consequently, because I felt the need to somewhat expand upon this, I am writing this follow up article, but this time, it will deal with a portion of Ephesians 1 as to some of those specifics.

Here is our text:

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

3   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5   he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 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, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 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, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In this text, the reasons for our praise (doxology) to the Father are given in that work of God accomplished in the incarnate and glorified Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. These reasons are: [1]

  1. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (all spiritual blessings) in the heavenly places.
  2. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (v 4[2]).
  3. He predestined us in love for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (v 5).
  4. This is for the purpose of praise towards Him for this glorious grace (v 6).
  5. He blessed us in Christ (the Beloved – v 6).
  6. He gave us redemption through the sacrificial death of Christ (in His blood – v 7a).
  7. This redemption accomplished forgiveness of our trespasses, according to His gracious riches (made in Christ v 7b, c).
  8. He lavished these riches of His grace on us in all wisdom and insight (v 8).
  9. As a consequence of this lavishing of His riches of grace, this wisdom and insight is how we apprehend (making known) the mystery of His will (all these things, again, are given us in Christ), and this is according to His purpose (v 9).
  10. That purpose is set forth in Christ as His plan for the fullness (completion, recapitulation) of times (eschatological terminus of redemptive history) which is shown in the uniting of all things in heaven and earth in Christ (v 10).
  11. Because of His predestination of us, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, we have been given an inheritance (in Christ – v 11).
  12. This is all to the praise of His glory, both for those who were first chosen, and subsequent generations of those who believe according to that predestinating, lavish grace of God in Christ vv 12-14).
  13. This is all proven by the downpayment, or surety, of His Holy Spirit sealing all believers unto that final redemption (vv 13-13)

These propositions could be divided differently, but this is a basic working outline of the passage which shows what God has done for us in Christ, and we need to notice the first thing that especially dominates this passage, which is that God is the subject, and we are the objects of His actions in Christ Jesus. The Father works through the Son to give us the blessings and lavish grace that secure our immediate salvation from the effects of sin and the present power of sin to bring about our present regenerate status, and ultimate glorification in the age to come. All these things are to bring about His glory (our present and future praise of Him) for the reasons listed above.

This will be followed by posts dealing with the specifics, but I did wish to make a start.

Blessing in Christ, to the solo glory of our God – Bill H.

[1] The following is largely dependent upon the excellent exegetical work of Pastor Richard Barcellos on this passage. I do not attempt to handle the technical details of the Greek grammar as he did (nor could I). His article is available in the following book: Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Volume 1, 2012, chapters 5 & 6, An Exegetical Case Study in the Doxological Trajectory of Scripture: Ephesians 1:8-10 in Light of its Immediate, Contextual Meaning and Redemptive-Historical and Canonical Trajectory, Parts 1 & 2

[2] This has rightly been called a statement of eschatological importance, although dealing directly with our salvation. The fact that it refers to that period when God chose us, which was before creation, is the eschatological factor; this also shows us that eschatology, rooted in who God is, precedes revelation.

Meditations and Exposition From the Gospel of John, Chapter 7

John 7:30-36: So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.   You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

That many of the people believed in Him is not necessarily a statement that they believed salvifically, but that they had that momentary belief which is not ongoing. As we have stated many times in this study, John uses the various tenses for belief in a manner that is generally quite consistent. The tense used here is of that faith that believes due to things seen at one point in the past (noting that such a past point of time can be indicated by a present exercise of temporary faith). Like the faith expressed in the crowd of five thousand that went away from our Lord when He spoke of His being the true bread from God, and that those who ate His flesh and drank His blood would be partakers of eternal life (John 6:54), these people are exercising that faith that follows as far as it can see, but will not follow to the cross to die, and be raised in newness of life. Looking for the signs of the Savior, they miss the fact of His work to secure the salvation of His people, and so fail at the point where that which He speaks becomes offensive to either their sensibilities or their temporal practice of religion according to that system which He abolishes in His body being broken (Hebrews 10:1-10).

Such temporary faith is conditioned, in some cases, on the carnal provisions (the eating of the bread and fish in chapter 6), or because of the miracles (as in our present case) without understanding that miracles are always revelatory, and point to the purpose of God by which He intends to communicate His glory. The verb tense of the word appears in our text speaks of that which will happen at some point, and can be used to refer to mere possibility; here, since the Jews believed Messiah would come, we take the former sense, but this also tells us that they are holding that He who is before them is not Messiah. They are believing He is a prophet, at most, holding forth truths of God, without understanding that He IS the truth of God, and the only way to eternally enter the kingdom of the Father (John 14:6) by those things that they should have seen in His doctrine, for the purpose of the miracles is, as we said, to revelational. Basically, we may say that the miracles our Lord wrought, in their primary function, were to act as signs to point to His person as that Messiah they awaited, and open their ears to those great, glorious, gracious and merciful truths He spoke.

However, when men fail to see their salvation in the grace, love and mercy of God, there remains revelational truth of the most dire kind. In this case, it is that where our Lord is going – He who is the firstfruits of those who are to be raised after and in the likeness of His resurrection to glory (1 Corinthians 15:22-23) – these others cannot come, for they lack such ears to hear and eyes to see, given only by that mercy and grace of God. The wrath of God is the flip side of the coin of redemptive revelation, which man, without the working of the Spirit of God to give him the new birth, remains under (John 3:16-21 shows us both sides of this dual purpose of revelational truth, as well as other portions of this gospel, which we will get to in their time).God displays His glory in both instances – the giving of that renewal of the inward man which results in salvation to those who believe, and the damnation of those who do not believe. This is not to equate these as equal acts (fallacy of equal ultimacy), for God, though He hardens those who do not believe, merely confirms them in their unbelief, while the gracious power which raises from spiritual death those who have believed is far more glorious, being equated to the raising of our Lord from the grave to His present session in glory (Ephesians 1:18-23, esp. vv. 18-20).

Soli Deo Gloria – Bill

Meditations and Comentary on John 7:11-13

I have sought, in previous blog articles regarding my study, over the years, on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as written about by His Spirit through the apostle John, to share parts of that study which would be beneficial and therefore “able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32b). That this is according to “God, and the word of His grace” (Acts 20:32a) is my greatest prayer, hope, and desire. With this end in view, I will continue to share tidbits of that study that I have been engaged in for the benefit of the local portion of the catholic body of Christ, of which I am a part, as well as the greater visible church.

I am definitively of the persuasion that the great doctrines in this gospel, and indeed, throughout the Word of our Holy God, who is beyond our reach, yet has deigned to make Himself accessible to those who are His in Christ Jesus, are put forth in this gospel perhaps more than any other. The majesty of our King, Lord, Redeemer and Mediator is so plainly set forth in John’s gospel as to be without dispute, which is in agreement and augmentation of the history of redemption our great God has set forth for the benefit of His people in all the gospel accounts. I pray that these crumbs of knowledge and wisdom He has seen fit to give one who eclipses that claim of the apostle of being “the chief of sinners” are of blessing to my brethren.

John 7:11-13: So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

By “the Jews were seeking Him” we understand, first of all, that this is the religious authorities, the very same ones spoken of in v. 1, where it is said “they were seeking to kill Him,” which is confirmed, as to the general mood of the crowds, in v. 13, where they would not speak openly for fear of these religious leaders. We have discussed our Lord’s wisdom in not placing Himself in harm’s way before the proper time, and how this relates to our own walking in He who loved us and gave Himself for us, as well as how, when it was in the timetable His Father set for Him, He did not hesitate to present Himself among His enemies at the preordained times, and how this should embolden us in our sharing and preaching (for those who preach; all share) of the gospel. We may take it that the Jewish authorities were not inquiring after His presence for purposes of simply knowing His whereabouts, for they were hostile to Him, and this hostility of those recognized as the foremost religious persons in the nation had a strong effect upon the crowds of their fellow countrymen, for they were speaking of Him among one another, but not so that these leaders could overhear them.

Secondly, however, this expression refers to the crowds of His countrymen who were looking for His appearance at this important feast. Of this passage, Calvin remarks, “The Jews therefore sought him. Here we ought to consider what was the condition of the Church. For the Jews, at that time, gaped for the promised redemption like hungry men; yet, when Christ appears to them, they remain in suspense. Hence arose that murmuring and that variety of opinions. That they whisper secretly is an indication of the tyranny which the priests and scribes exercised over them. It is a shocking exhibition, indeed, that this Church, which was at that time the only Church on earth, is here represented to us as a confused and shapeless chaos. They who rule, instead of pastors, hold the people oppressed by fear and terror, and throughout the whole body there is shameful desolation and lamentable disorder. By the Jews he means the common people, who, having been accustomed for two years to hear Christ, inquire about him, because he does not appear according to his custom. For when they say, Where is he? they describe a man whom they knew, and yet that word shows that they had not yet been earnestly moved, and that they always remained in doubt and suspense.”[1]

Mark what is recorded, however, of what the people in the crowds were saying of our Lord, how some said that He was a good man, while others said He was a deceitful man.

Upon what basis did they arrive at such conclusions? All our Lord had ever done was good; indeed, all that He ever did was to preach the truth to those around Him, and work miracles of mercy and provision which pointed to the fact that He was the chosen one, the anointed one of God (Luke 4:18-21; cf. Isaiah 42:1; 61:1-2; Acts 4:26-27; 10:38; Hebrews 6:8-9; cf. Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 61:1, 3), sent to the nation that had so rejected Him throughout their history, to heal them and those others decreed of Him to be saved (Isaiah 2:2-3; 42:6-7; 49:5-6). Indeed, in another place, our Lord quotes Isaiah in response to John the Baptist’s inquiry: “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:15b-16; cf. Isaiah 35:5-6; 8:14-15).

This reasoning of the people in the crowds about who our Lord was, whether a good man or a deceiver, showed that they did not yet see with those eyes given of the Spirit of God, and this is to be a lesson to us as well, for random disputing about the King of glory among His people has never been a good thing, and is a form of breaking the third commandment, for it is a vain thing to discuss who our Lord was, and what He was doing, rather than to recognize Him for who He is, and has always been, as well as His place as the firstborn from all creation, which is to say, the firstfruits of the New Creation (Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:15-19).

The reason many today wish to discuss who our Lord was and what He was doing, in the context of breaking the third commandment, is because of the movement away from the historical doctrines of orthodoxy to a “what does this mean to you” type of individualistic, humanistic, relativistic mindset. This permeates even portions of the church, sadly, but we have the Holy Scriptures as a safeguard against this type of relativistic discussion of that which is plainly set forth of our Lord in Scripture, and we have the historic creeds and confessions which, while not being Scripture, faithfully expound upon the meaning of the great doctrines of the church catholic. Discussion of our Lord should be guided by proper understanding of the passages which speak of Him, according to the tradition of the church, not individual interpretation, for the latter leads to division and heresy, while the former insures that the Word of God is being faithfully understood and represented (2 Thessalonians 2:15; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Peter 1:20). In order to rightly understand the great doctrines of the faith God has given to us, we have the expositions of faithful, gifted men God has given to the church, down through the ages, who follow in the orthodox tradition of the apostles and other New Testament writers; in discussing our Lord, this necessarily limits such discussion to those texts of Scripture wherein He is described and defined to the extent that we can comprehend these things of our finite minds, by the grace and Spirit of our God, and in this manner, we get the most important doctrine of Christology right, rather than empty discussions of who our Lord was and what He was doing (as these men in this passage are involved in doing). In saying this, we must notice that these men had the Holy Scriptures before them, but without the Spirit of God regenerating them, could not understand who it was that actually stood before them on so many occasions, despite the multiple and manifold evidences He gave of Himself and His Father. Let us not fall into similar vain discussions of our blessed Lord, for He has given us to have “the mind of Christ,” which is His Spirit.

[1] Calvin, Commentary on St John (1563)

Concluding Meditations on John Chapter 6

John 6:66-71: After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

As we come to the close of yet another magnificent chapter of this wonderful gospel account by the apostle John, we immediately come face-to-face with what we were maintaining in our comments directly before this portion of our exposition, which is the fact that there are, concerning Christianity, two types of disciples, and that the first type we spoke of – the one who has difficultly with and takes offense at some, or any, of the teachings and sayings of our Lord – will invariably turn back and no longer walk with Him.

The same apostle who wrote this gospel puts this fact in clear words of no ambiguity in his first epistle to the churches in Asia Minor:
1 John 2:18-19: Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

There is something so offensive contained within the words of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, that those who may, at the first, follow after Him – meaning following His pronouncements about mankind without believing in Him, and the necessity of trusting in His redemptive work on their behalf alone, with the accompanying truth He embodies and taught, as also taught throughout the entirely of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments – that, at some point, those who cannot see themselves in the light of God’s revelation, regarding the anthropology (the biblical doctrine of man) of man without Christ, must either corrupt this truth by adding their own works to the order of salvation, or denying the revelation of both the history of salvation and the order of salvation which comes to us only in Christ. These are those whom the apostle mentions as being “against Christ;” antichrist, as it states in that Scripture we just looked at above.

We have noted, above, many things; the feeding of the 5000 (more, including the women and children) was our Lord’s preparatory miracle for both His address to the general audience of Jews in the desolate place where He was ministering (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 19:12-17), and His address to the Jews in the synagogue at Capernaum immediately after that. This miracle set the tone for the words which He then shared with them. These words of our Lord were reminiscent of both the eating of the Pascal Lamb prior to the Exodus from the desolate place of Israel where they were held in physical bondage, and by which they knew that God had passed over them in His judgments upon Egypt, as well as of their exodus from Egypt and their many years of sojourning in the desolate place of the wilderness, in which place God fed them with manna from heaven to sustain them.

In other words, our Lord drew direct parallels between the Passover sacrifice and the divine sustenance in two places of desolation where the Jews dwelt and sojourned, with the attendant imagery of judgment on those who did not believe, and salvation for those who did believe, as well as sustaining of those whom He had called out of the first desolate place by His hand alone. The parallels of deliverance from slavery and sustainment in a place where they had no other option but to trust in the Lord their God is taken to a new height – that of spiritual life without end, which, of necessity, entails freedom from the bondage and dominion of sin, both now, in a temporal sense, and in the resurrected life to come, permanently. Since such new life as will be experienced in the resurrection is connected by allegory to that temporary freedom from the enslavement in Egypt and sustainment in the wilderness, the sign of the passing into that place where the Israelites were sustained is replaced by the greater, permanent sign of passing into the interadvental period of present life for believers by faith in the Son of God as their new Pascal Lamb, and ultimately, that resurrection life without end, suffering, or sin. This is where the connection is seen between both the first Pascal Lamb, which was a shadow of the final and true Pascal Lamb, and the bread of life which sustains believers through the means of grace as they travel through this wilderness of the interadvental life where they are still encompassed in bodies which suffer the ravages and failure of sin, and the resurrection life where all such hindrances will have ceased. Thus, the Lord speaks of eating His body and drinking His blood, both elements of which were part of the Pascal meal of the inauguration of the Sinaitic covenant. The blood was sprinkled on the door posts and lintel of the dwelling place of each Israelite in preparation to their passage into the desolate place of sustainment of the wilderness; they ate the Pascal meal ready to travel (Exodus 12:1-14ff).

New Covenant believers have placed their faith in He who substituted His life for theirs in atoning for their sins and making propitiation of God’s wrath; in this manner, His blood has been sprinkled for them not only over their households, but over all the household of God which is constituted in Christ Jesus’ mediatorial work. It is a new sense of the drinking of His blood is intended, as is the eating of His flesh, for before, there was temporal passage through the land of testing to the land of promise; now, what was intended by the first Pascal meal is superseded by the infinite value of the substitutionary death of the final and only valid Pascal meal.

One breaking point of this language of our Lord that troubled the Jews was that of drinking His blood, for they did not see anything other than a disregard and disobedience of God’s law in so doing (Leviticus 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-14), yet, they should have recognized the use of their own language in poetic manner to signify that which has value and virtue (2 Samuel 23:17), and is symbolic of ultimate victory in the prophets (Ezekiel 39:17ff). Since it takes the work of God to give an unbeliever a heart of belief, even with the references to their own Scriptures before them, they could only concentrate and understand that which pertains to the flesh (1 Corinthians 2:14; cf. John 6:32-58). It takes the work of the Triune God to not only give new life, with attendant faith and repentance, to those whom He willed to give eternal life to, but also to understand the significance of the teaching of our Lord concerning these things, to gain that understanding that this is a spiritual reference to imbibing the life of our Lord’s sacrifice, not a stating of disobedience to one of the commandments encompassing the life which was to typify that obedience to God which was realized in our Lord’s birth, life, and sacrifice; in the former, that disobedience promised being cut off from the national covenant given to the Fathers and their physical offspring, regarding a bountiful living in the land, but in the latter, the promise is that gospel obedience which comes from being united to Christ, and promises the benefits of never being cut off from the New Covenant and the family of God which is in Christ, with the attendant promises contained therein of eternal life and everlasting blessedness which shall never end.

This is a brief summarization of the forgoing study we have done in this chapter of John’s gospel, with some added observations derived from that forgoing study. Hopefully, it will prove helpful.

All of the above, of course, is based in and upon the choice of our Lord of His apostles in founding the church, in which observation we may note that all who are called to that eternal life promised in our Lord, as the apostles were call to their office and functions to teach us of these things, themselves enjoying the benefits of life with Christ immediately and thereafter everlastingly, are so called by the work of God according to His will and choice, as signified in the Lord’s calling of His apostles. We may even observe that those who cause distress and disorder within the gospel community of the local church do so by the fiat of God, wherein His sovereignty is expressed, for the general good of the church, and ultimately, the display of His glory (Romans 8:28ff; cf. John 8:66-71). It is important to note not only the reality of God’s sovereign choice of those He willed to build His church, but those whom He wills to use to continue to build upon that foundation (Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 11:18-19), whether vessels fit for glory or destruction, but all to His glory (Romans 9:22-24). With these observations and summary, we end this sixth chapter of our study in John’s gospel.

SDG – Bill

As A Little Child?

There is a movement in many of today’s churches that takes the tact of being simple in their understanding, thinking that the theology taught in our great God’s Scripture is intended for only those who are pastors, teachers, and theologians (this is said with the understanding that all pastors are teachers, all teachers are pastors, and all pastor-teachers are theologians), and that the language of theology, which has accompanied the growth and expansion of the church throughout redemptive history, is reserved for these individuals alone.

A consequent attitude that accompanies the first is that it is the pastors, teachers and theologians work to make this theology of the Scriptures, as understood and expounded throughout the history of the church to myriads of believers, as simple as possible to understand by those who attend to partake of the means of grace (preaching, teaching, praying, fellowship, and the sacraments as utilized in corporate worship in a local covenant body of believers each Lord’s Day).

Although this is laudable on the surface of the proposition, it belies that which is, in actuality, being expressed: Don’t give us deep theological terminology, that is your purview; give us the watered-down version of what God has been pleased to teach you, that we may understand it!

Texts such as Matthew 18:3 are cited in support of this overriding presupposition:

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (ESVall citations will be from this translation, unless otherwise noted)

Other texts which speak to the maturing of each member of the body of Christ in the knowledge of the Lord will be brought to bear, benefiting our understanding of the verses cited above to show that one must be as a child in their understanding of evil, but in doctrine, which is to say the application of knowledge and wisdom of God’s Word, they must cooperate with our God’s grace, in order to properly live and grow in the Christian faith; that any would think the former meaning (as to being children in regards to evil) is to be understood with regard to doctrine and maturity, is sad, because nothing could be further from the truth of our God’s Scripture!

 For instance, Paul, in writing to the fractious Corinthian church, gave them this gentle, but strong, admonishment:

 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

 At this point, although it would be fruitful to go into the Greek, we will simply look at the words as they occur in the English text, with two helpful exceptions and additions concerning the voice of two words, in the Greek, to emphasize that we are acted upon to initiate and continue the change and progression of that change whereby God makes us His children, and that we cooperate thereafter in this functioning God’s grace; the reason for sticking, in main, to the English, is simple: I once heard a caller call into a show called The Dividing Line, hosted by Dr. James White. They asked what the text meant in the Greek, and much to their disappointment, Dr. White replied, “The same thing it means in the English.” What Dr. White was saying was not that the Greek of the New Testament is not worth studying, but that the good translations we have faithfully translate that language into modern day vernacular that is able to be studied and understood by any believer who has been born again, and so has the regenerate reason, given to each believer via the Holy Spirit in the new birth, that is able to meditate upon the Scriptures and come to the deep truths which God has given us in His Scriptures.

This is also not to say that we should not use study aids (yes, such study aids are not simply reserved for the pastor-teachers and theologians). God has blessed the church with a succession of faithful men who, in turn, have passed on His truth to other faithful men, for the purpose of building up the local and universal body of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:2), and we would be remiss, as believers in Jesus Christ, if we did not take advantage of this vast repository of knowledge. Today, especially, when there are so many free commentaries, systematic theologies, historical theologies, Biblical theologies, church histories, Reformed confessions, audio and video lectures of seminary level, sermons, and various other resources available for free on the Internet, there is really no excuse for any believer in Jesus Christ to not avail themselves of these amazing resources.

I have spoken, on the internet, to many believers in what is termed “emerging nations” (we must be politically correct, mustn’t we?) who are familiar with and use this vast storehouse of wealth available through the Internet, so I tend to turn a deaf ear to those who protest that they have not the resources at hand to study the great doctrines of the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”

So, getting back to 1 Corinthians 14:20, let us look at the meaning the Holy Spirit intended, through the apostle Paul, for us to understand in that text.

In this text, in direct opposition to the widely held belief that the foregoing text in Matthew 18:3 is telling believers to be simple in all that they say or do, the apostle is giving an expansion and exposition upon what our Lord determined us to understand by His words. That is, to turn and become like children is not intended for us to understand that we must be simple in our understanding, but rather, to be simple in our trusting our Lord and God, as the little child who, trusting their parent, might thrown themselves off a porch into the waiting parent’s arms, knowing that they will be caught and suffer no harm. You turn is rendered converted in the NASB and NKJV, and conversion is the process that begins with the new birth and continues throughout the lifetime of each believer, each member of the body of Christ; become is rendered exactly the same in each English version. In the Encarta Dictionary Microsoft makes available (English, North American Version), these various meanings are given for the conversion:

  1. Change something’s character – to change something from one character, form, or function to another, or be changed in character, form or function.
  2. Change something’s function – to change the function or use of something, or be able to change the function or use.
  1. Change somebody’s beliefs – to adopt new opinions or beliefs, especially religious beliefs, or change the opinions of beliefs of somebody.

Become is defined, in this same English dictionary, in the following manner:

  1. To change or develop into something.

For further understanding, we give the definition of the Greek words for converted and become as used in the Matthew passage: to change one’s manner of life, with the implication of turning toward God—“to change one’s ways, to turn to God, to repent;” “unless you change and become like children. [1] It is of interest to note that the voice of this verb converted in the Greek is passive, meaning that the subject is being acted upon by an outside agent, in this address of our Lord, and in the context of our being acted upon in conversion in this manner; the word become is defined “to come to acquire or experience a state—‘to become.’”[2] It is in the middle voice, meaning that the subject is acting upon itself, therefore showing our cooperation with our God in loving, thankful, worshipful obedience in this ongoing process of conversion.

All of the above definitions have application to what happens to a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ when God, by His Holy Spirit, applies the work of His Son on the cross and in resurrection to them. There is first a fundamental change of being that occurs on the spiritual level, which the Scripture defines in this manner:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-6)

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses. (Colossians 2:13)

That which was dead in sins and trespasses, therefore, God has made alive – there is a fundamental change in nature, a vital change in the essence of who we are, that was not there before, and this is wrought by the Spirit of God by applying the redemptive, mediatorial work of our Lord Jesus Christ as He was born, lived, died, and was resurrected to satisfy God’s wrath against us and give us to partake of that resurrected life He was given for the purpose of displaying God’s glory in the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). However, this is but the first part of conversion, that which God has done to us, and it does not end here.

It must be understood, here, that this paper is not an exposition of the ordo salutis (order of salvation), and we are not seeking to define, develop, and illustrate each aspect of that ordo salutis within the confines of this article; rather, we are merely seeking to show that that which traditionally, within the Reformed faith, occurs after regeneration, and the positive outworking of that regeneration in faith and repentance (both the positive and negative sides of belief in our Lord Jesus Christ), which carries on into and through that initial transformation after these things (sanctification), is but a continual process, initiated by God, monergistically, in time and history for each individual believer (regeneration), which consequently carries throughout the Christian life from that moment on and up to glorification (which, despite all our efforts and a loving, thankful, worshipful obedience, which obedience itself is given us to perform by the ongoing grace which saved us, must itself be said to be monergistic – we in no manner affect any aspect of our glorification at the eschaton; our efforts this side of the eternal state only have reference to our present state of holiness before God, none of which we earn, but which we do co-operate in growing in).

Thus, the sense of conversion, as used in this paper, is looking at not only that change wrought to our nature (soul, spirit) at the moment of spiritual conception (regeneration), but as this change affects our lives immediately after, and throughout, our present time of living, prior to the eternal state in which we are perfected by the same grace that saved us; we are looking at the ongoing provision of our God’s grace, during our time before glorification, which enables and empowers us to grow in that grace, knowledge and holiness which are pleasing to our God, and culminates in His changing us to be like He is (cf. 1 John 3:2b; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29).

Hopefully, those who are reading this will understand that we speak of conversion, therefore, as an ongoing process which is more fully defined in considering the other aspects of the ordo salutis, yet does not change the fact that conversion is, in consideration of all these things, wrought by God at the first, carried forth in cooperation with His grace during our lives while still within these tents of corruption housing our regenerate spirits, and finally completed by Him at the time of the redemption of our bodies. This is the reason we gave various English dictionary definitions and the definitions of the words and voice of the words in the New Testament Greek in our Matthew passage. So, this is to say, conversion is initiated by God at the point of regeneration, and we cooperate with His glorious grace thereafter, in this intermediate state, until He completes us in redeeming our bodies to be like that of our glorified Lord’s body; therefore, in this sense, we may truly say, regeneration is the beginning of conversion whereby we are enabled and empowered to live in a progressive manner of godliness and holiness until and up to the time where God resurrects our carnal bodies to that state of perfection wherein we will no longer be subject to the vagaries of sin, sickness and death, but will perfectly worship the Lord in spirit and truth forevermore.

We are told to be renewed in our minds instead of being conformed to our former manner of life, which renewal is ongoing, and affects our behaviors (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:7; cf. Colossians 3:1-17, esp. v. 10). The fundamental change to that essence, or nature, which is our life, is to be used in regenerate reason (discerning what is good and evil, what is perfect and acceptable to our God), and this occurs in our gaining that knowledge that is inherent in the Scriptures (John 17:17), by the working of the indwelling Holy Spirit, in a progressive, or maturing, manner (there are various other Scriptural, theological terms to define the things which occur in ongoing conversions which we are not going into in this paper, as it is beyond the scope of this present writing). Therefore, Paul’s instruction and command to be infants in evil has to do with the manner in which we live, since we have been born again by the grace of God through His Spirit. We are to be as trusting towards God, our heavenly Father (more!) as a child is towards that parent they throw themselves trustingly into the arms of, and to be as children regarding doing and saying what is evil according to our former way of life.

However, Paul also commanded the Corinthians (and us, by extension and use of the sanctifying Word of God) that they not be children in your thinking. We have covered, in large part, what this means in the above portions of this article, but will now take a bit more space to flesh it out somewhat.

A child has a limited view of the world in which they live; while not born innocent of the inherent sin nature all gain through Adam, they are ignorant of much of what goes on around them in the world. They are driven by basic appetites and desires; love, hunger, acceptance, greed, pleasure and so forth.

Who among us has not seen a little child, deprived of that which they want, go into a fit of rage?

As the child grows (but still could be called a child), they form societal bonds with other children and with those in their family that are entirely based upon these needs. Peer pressure comes into play, and a child will do the most outlandish things in order to be accepted among their peer groups. It is in this respect that Paul tells the Corinthian believers do not be children in your thinking, that is, as respects the way you think, do not be guided by desires to be accepted among others who behave in certain manners, or by the desire to show yourself better than the others; in contradistinction, be guided by the Holy Spirit applying the sanctifying influence of the Word of God, since you have been graciously adopted into His family through the work of His Son. This is what Paul means in the terminus of his command to the fractious, peer driven Corinthians when he says do not be children in your thinking… but in your thinking be mature.

To illustrate what maturity is for the believer, we submit it is a growing in the knowledge and grace of our God in the Lord Jesus Christ so as to affect not only their thinking, but their behaviors (speech and actions), effectively causing them conform to the image of He who died for them, then rose in glory (Romans 8:29; cf. Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 6:4-5).

I can think of no better way to show this that the writer of the epistle of Hebrews words to the Jewish Christians at the end chapter 5 and the first two verses of chapter 6:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Notice, here, four things: (1) They have become dull of hearing – their long disuse and ignorance of sound doctrine has, over time, caused their spiritual perception, regarding the things of God, to be so muffled as to make them unable to understand them when they are taught. This takes place over a period of time, and can lead not only to a stunted spiritual growth and understanding of the things of God for the believer, but, for the false professor, can be the beginning of the very real and deadly sin of apostasy (if God does not show mercy and bring them to understand the truth as it is in Christ Jesus – 2 Timothy 2:24-26) (2) They have been instructed of the Word of righteousness enough, by this time, so that they ought to be teachers. This does not have reference to the pastoral gift given in the office of pastor/elder, but to a common understanding of the Word of God that has grown, in maturity (there’s that word again), to the point where the believer is able to instruct a new believer, or one who is less mature in the faith, regarding the things (doctrines) of that faith (“faithhere meaning the body of doctrines of the Christian faith), in these doctrines. (3) They have regressed in their Christian maturity to the point where they are admonished and rebuked: you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (4) This has affected their ability to discern, or distinguish, between good and evil, which is implied as a negative condition by reference to the positive example of those who are called mature and have had their discernment trained by constant practice. They have come to the place, in other words, where they no longer possess the skill to determine the doctrines of the Christian faith which go beyond the basics, and need to attentively listen to one who does have such skill, with humility, in order to come back from their stagnation in the doctrines of God as set forth in Scripture to a place where they are again growing (maturing) in their faith.

The writer to the Hebrews further explains what he means at the beginning of chapter 6:

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2)

Although there is a specific historical context for these words to the Jewish Christians that must be considered in a direct exposition of these verses, we may also broaden them out to gain that exposition which directly relates to the situation of all Christians in all ages of the history of the church.

Elementary doctrine simply means, for our purpose, those beginning teachings which were our introduction into the Christian faith. We are never to forget the great grace God showed us in regenerating us, so that we could confess our sins and place our hope of life eternal in Christ Jesus, but to remain upon these doctrines over and over again, to the exclusion of the further teachings contained in the Scriptures of our God regarding that necessary growth in the Christian life, is to stunt one’s spiritual growth. Therefore, the author of Hebrews goes on to say not laying again a foundation, which is to say that which everything else stands upon, as a house stands upon the foundation laid in order to build the walls, which in turn support the roof, and so forth. The foundation the writer to the Hebrews speaks of is referring to elements contained in Mosaic worship, for he is addressing those who were being enticed and persecuted to turn again to these things, which gives the reason for such strong language in the warning passages in this same epistle (which passages we mention in passing, it not being relevant to our present discourse to expound upon them); for our purposes, we may say that we are not to again lay that foundation of those elementary doctrines which have to do with initial repentance of sins (dead works), for we are saved, or have believed in God through Christ Jesus to save us from our sins, and to have the mind-set that we must again be saved is to deny that glorious work of effectual, eternal grace that our God has worked for us in Christ Jesus. We are also not to again to express such rudimentary faith toward God, meaning that initial belief “that He exists and that He rewards those who seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6b), for believers who have been walking a life of faith well know this as a fundamental truth. Also, instruction about washings referred to certain rites as practiced by the Jews who did not believe in Christ, but for our benefit, we may say it intends that which would positively incur further favor for us with God, based upon our merit of doing such a thing, as at our initial baptism, which, of course, could not be the case in subsequently sought baptisms based on doubt of the foregoing elementary doctrines; the laying on of hands signifies God’s blessing at the time of the believer’s baptism, and is still practiced by some churches at that time, as well as at the ordination of elders and deacons, and at the time of baptism, or of reinstatement of a penitent who had formerly strayed from the communion of the saints (as stated in our Confession of Faith, LBCF 26.9, regarding these officers of the church). It is not necessary that the laying on of hands be done again (except in the case of the penitent, as practiced by various churches) to vouchsafe that blessing of God which was so signified at the believers’ initial baptism – which is to say, when they first believed (for it was common in ancient times, and still is, in churches of Christ which take seriously the commandments contained in the Scripture, that when one has been discipled in the faith to the point where they make such a certain, postive confession, the ordinance was to follow as immediately as possible – Matthew 28:19b; Acts 2:39 &etc.).

This is followed by the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. It should be immediately apparent that these things have reference to that beginning of the Christians’ confession of faith in Christ Jesus, and are not, as some think, to be done over and over again, negating the very promises of our Lord that He will never forsake us or allow us to perish, but that He insures we who are His will have eternal life, be raised in glory on the last day, and persevere until that day by the same grace that saved us and continually upholds us (John 6:37-40; 10:27-29; Matthew 28:20b; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:7-8; cf. 2 Peter 1:1-12 [part. v. 10]; Jude 1:20-21). Eternal judgment, as mentioned here, has to do with that fear which accompanies those who believe they will be subject to it, and such fear is foreign to the child of God, but is certainly a very real thing to one who knows of the things of God yet has not professed faith in Christ, or one who has professed such falsely (1 John 4:18; cf. Hebrews 10:26-27).

Those who have made a genuine confession of faith in Christ should not be in a position of again repenting from dead works, making acknowledgement of faith in the one true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, again be preoccupied with doctrines concerning baptism, the laying on of hands in assurance of God’s pardon during this sacrament, and the resurrection of the dead unto judgment eternal. For those who are in a church where only the basics are taught, over and over, such might be somewhat excusable, and we would hold their elders responsible for stunting and even regressing their growth and maturity in Christ; for those sitting under solid Scriptural teaching, as these Jewish Christians were (which we noted from Hebrews 5:12-14), the blame must rest upon themselves for ignoring and forgetting that which they are being taught, and the reprimand of admonishment is well placed; and you see, the context from 5:12-6:2ff is all of a piece, for both speak of the elemental (or foundational) things of the faith, and the blame is on those who have had solid teaching, because they have become dull of hearing and are, to use the negative sense of the positive from v. 14, feeding on milk (which here intends food for babies, not the pure spiritual sustenance of the Word with solid doctrine, as in 1 Peter 2:2).

Before continuing, it must be understood that we have merely sketched out some general considerations from these texts in Hebrews, especially in the first two verses of the 6th chapter – this is not intended to be an in depth exposition of these verses. For that, I would recommend John Owen’s exegesis of these vv. in his exposition of Hebrews, and for a simpler but very good treatment, Dr. James White’s exposition of the same available on sermonaudio.com.

So, you see, there is a simplicity to trusting God that does not – and according to Scripture, should not and must not – bleed into the continuing growth in the faith (doctrines of God in Christ Jesus), and it is not merely the purview of the pastor-teacher-theologian (again, we insist that the pastor, or elder, is to be all of these); rather, trusting God in all things as a young infant and child trusts his daddy, we are to learn of the things of God. This is what it means to be a disciple. It is not forced upon any; rather, it is learned from the sanctifying influence of the Word of God as given to certain men of God and ministered to the hearers, all by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in conclusion, those who disdain and refuse to learn the theology of God, as taught by faithful men throughout the centuries of the existence of the church, are in direct disobedience to the commandment of God. Theological terminology should be that which is desired by the disciple; it was used by the apostles, and God has seen fit to use such in the ongoing realization of His church, as a preview, in local and world-wide covenant communities, of that which is to come at the eschaton, when we will be blessed to know our Lord as He has known us, and all of the things we have been learning will be made most plain to us, in the most joyous, thankful, worshipful manner that we are yet unable to imagine (but we can study about these things now, and “grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”).

SDG – Bill H.

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains, 41.50 & 31.60 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (509). New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains, 13.48 (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (153). New York: United Bible Societies.

Regarding John 6:60-65 – Commentary and Exposition

John 6:60-65: When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Here, first of all, we learn the truth of the preceding, which is that spiritual things can only be understood by those who discern them by the abiding mind of Christ, which is to say, the indwelling Holy Spirit giving enlightenment to those who are in communion, or union, with the Triune God. Without being born again, none will understand even the more easily comprehended statements of truth contained in Scripture; oh, they may understand the language, and even be able to define the doctrine under consideration, but they will not believe it in a saving (evangelical) manner. Therefore, we have the disciples who have followed Jesus up to this point in His ministry plainly saying that what He has communicated to them is too much for them to accept, which leads us to our next observation.

That next observation is this: One can learn from someone, and follow them, without completely committing themselves to that form of teaching which they are hearing. This is how the term “disciples” is used in v.60, which shows us that there are disciples who follow up to a point, but turn away at the things they do not agree with. In other words, to state the obvious, there are disciples and there are disciples. In the former sense, one could call the demons of James 2:19 disciples, in that they know about God, and have that belief of those things of God revealed to them by His sovereign decree, yet they are without, and indeed, unable to even desire, that knowledge of God which is salvific, and it is because of their nature. They are followers of doctrine without commitment to that doctrine of life, for God has not granted to them that regeneration, faith, repentance and justification which only comes through an active, ongoing belief of the sort that a new nature imparted gives, and we know, all of these things of active faith are given as gifts of God. As such, just like the Jews in this dialog with our Lord; they cannot come to Him, for it has not been granted (them) by the Father. Since, as we have studied in this gospel, regarding regeneration (the first part of salvation applied by the Spirit), as well as the accompanying and subsequently exercised  gifts of faith, repentance, holiness, and all other graces we are imbued with of and by our sovereign God,  it is the Spirit who gives life; no understanding of the flesh (by which we mean the base nature under the fallen headship of Adam), no matter how much knowledge is accumulated, can gain that life that is sovereignly, freely bestowed upon believers by our good and gracious God’s will. The eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood are metaphors of partaking of that spiritual life which is gained through union with Him, and must be understood as such. We must beware of adding or putting a carnal (fleshly) meaning to the words of our God if we find any of them hard to understand, knowing that He will, indeed, give us the understanding of that which He alone owns the rights. This is how the term disciple is used in the positive sense: life has been given, the fear of God is thus inherent, and as a child has the capacity to learn fresh things they have not yet been taught, so we are to humbly sit at the feet of He who is our salvation and our life – indeed, Jesus both admonishes us to be such trusting children before our heavenly Father, and gives thanks to the Father for giving us to be such, that we may learn from our Lord (Matthew  18:1-4; 11:25-30; cf. Luke 10:21-34).

J.C. Ryle gives some great insights for this portion of Scripture:

“It is useless to deny that this verse is full of difficulties. It contains expressions “hard to be understood.” It is far more easy to have a general impression of the meaning of the whole sentence, than to explain it word by word. Some things nevertheless we can see clearly and grasp firmly. Let us consider what they are. Our Lord says, “It is the Spirit who gives life.” By this He means that it is the Holy Spirit who is the special author of spiritual life in man’s soul. By His agency it is first imparted, and afterwards sustained and kept up. If the Jews thought He meant that man could have spiritual life by bodily eating or drinking, they were greatly mistaken. Our Lord says, “The flesh profits nothing.” By this He means that neither His flesh nor any other flesh, literally eaten, can do good to the soul. Spiritual benefit is not to be had through the mouth, but through the heart. The soul is not a material thing, and cannot therefore be nourished by material food. Our Lord says, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” By this He signifies that His words and teachings, applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit, are the true means of producing spiritual influence and conveying spiritual life. By words thoughts are begotten and aroused. By words mind and conscience are stirred. And Christ’s words especially are spirit-stirring and life-giving” (Ryle, J.C. – The Gospel of John – italics in original).

John Calvin notes this important spiritual perception for v. 60:

60. This is a harsh saying. “On the contrary, it was in their hearts, and not in the saying, that the harshness lay. But out of the word of God the reprobate are thus accustomed to form stones to dash themselves upon, and when, by their hardened obstinacy, they rush against Christ, they complain that his saying is harsh, which ought rather to have softened them. For whoever shall submit with true humility to the doctrine of Christ will find nothing in it harsh or disagreeable; but to unbelievers, who oppose themselves with obstinacy, it will be a hammer which breaketh the rocks in pieces, as the Prophet calls it, (Jeremiah 23:29.) But since the same hardness is natural to us all, if we judge of the doctrine of Christ according to our feelings, his words will be just so many strange and incredible statements. All that remains for us, therefore, is, that every one commit himself to the guidance of the Spirit, that he may inscribe on our hearts what otherwise would never have even entered into our ears.” Who can hear it? “Here we see the awful wickedness of unbelief; for they who impiously and basely reject the doctrine of salvation, not satisfied with excusing themselves, have the hardihood to put the Son of God in their room as if he were guilty, and to declare that he is unworthy of being heard… But that which they, through their rage and fury, cannot endure will not only be tolerable to modest and teachable persons, but will support and comfort them. Yet the reprobate, by their obstinate slanders, will do nothing more than bring down on themselves more dreadful condemnation” (Commentary on John – Volume 1, John Calvin, 1509-1564 –italics in original).

A final point to consider is one that we have gone over since our study of chapter 2 of this gospel, which is that our Lord knew in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about Him, which is also augmented by the fact that He knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him. Here, we have again the fact of the divine knowledge, which is not to say that it is simply that knowledge of our Lord He had as the preincarnate Word, but that which was imparted to Him through the ongoing perfect communion He had with the Father through the Holy Spirit; remember, we learned, in chapter three of this study of John’s gospel, that our Lord was given the Holy Spirit by the Father without measure (John 3:34). We also learned that this was a fullness of the presence and companionship of the Comforter and Counselor that Jesus enjoyed that was specific to His ministry as the Messiah, or Christ, which none other had, or will, ever enjoy as fully. Though, as God the Son from everlasting, He had all knowledge of all things, He set aside His prerogative to exercise His divine nature and attributes (Philippians 2:5-8), relying completely upon His close communion with the Spirit, and so the Father through the Spirit, in order to exercise His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; in order to not only be the sacrifice for our sins, but to tell others of the purpose for which He came, and to be that perfect Mediator of the New Covenant by which His people would surely be saved to the uttermost (1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 5:8-9; 7:25; 9:13-15; 10:10, 14). Therefore, we are speaking of the knowledge our Lord acquired as a man offering perfect obedience to the Father (John 5:19-20; 8:29; 15:10b), by the impartation of that knowledge to Him through the Spirit, and in this, He has no need that any man should tell Him aloud whether or not they had great complaints against His doctrine, or even which one it was that would betray Him, for this knowledge was granted to Him by the Father through the Spirit; additionally, we often think this knowledge came to our Lord spontaneously, but we are told that he increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man, which tells us, in addition to the statement from Hebrews that He learned obedience through the things which He suffered, that, as a perfect Man, He was learning from the Scriptures He had, the Scriptures He quoted, which were the Hebrew Scriptures.

This is really getting somewhat into Christology (the doctrine of Christ), which, in this gospel, we can do at any time (it is the most obvious Christocentric gospel of the four gospels), but we do not wish to go that much into this most important doctrine at this particular juncture of our study (Christology is a study unto itself, which we will go into apart from this study of the gospel according to John); what we will say, however, adding to the few short things we have mentioned regarding this important doctrine, is that it should be obvious to us that our Lord often quoted the Scriptures (Matthew 12:3-8; Mark 10-12; 12:26-27), and that, joined with the knowledge that He was asking and answering questions among the teachers in the temple at the young age of 12, He continued His study of the Scriptures all His life, up to the point where He did that which most glorified the Father by His taking the sins of His sheep. So, our Lord did the hard (and in His case, perfect, and supremely joyous work, for such was a part of His doing that which always pleased the Father) work of studying the Scriptures, and in His study, the knowledge imparted to Him was a perfect understanding of His Person and ministry, inclusive of that which would occur during the course of His ministry, such as what people would think and say, by the Holy Spirit imparting such to Him. We are not saying that our Lord had no special revelation imparted to Him about people by the Spirit, but that much of what He knew of them was directly through the Spirit giving Him perfect understanding of the Scriptures He studied.

This brings up a most necessary application: If it was necessary for our Lord to grow in His knowledge of the Scriptures, as a man (without the imposition of an understanding with the limitations of a corrupt nature, or in our case, the remaining corruption of our flesh), how much more necessary is it for us to read, meditate upon and study the Scriptures, that we may learn to walk in the ways that are pleasing to our Lord and Father?

SDG – Bill H.