Should Most Evangelicals Support Women Preachers?

Should Most Evangelicals Support Women Preachers?

Should Most Evangelicals Support Women Preachers?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
20 Aug, 2020

A recent survey conducted in the USA indicated that 7 out of 10 self-identified evangelicals agreed that “women should be allowed to preach on Sunday morning”. The results showed that these figures are not reduced when frequency of attendance and attitude to the Bible are taken into consideration. Three-quarters of those who claimed to believe that the Bible is literally true and attend services multiple times a week agreed with women preaching. Age did not seem to make a significant difference in people’s views either. We do not know what arguments these people consider strongest in favour of this view. Popular arguments are, however, familiar enough from the wider debate on this issue. If we claim to take the Bible as literally true, we must consider what it says on this subject. Whatever most evangelicals support we need to know what the Bible itself supports. Let us consider some of the passages that speak clearly on this matter.

Many books have been written on this subject, but shorter articles can still be useful. It is also helpful to consider how previous generations have understood Scripture in relation to this debate. Did they have clear biblical reasons for their views? It is helpful to do this because sometimes we are especially influenced by being so close to our own cultural perspective and current debates. Some want to claim that the New Testament’s assertions are merely cultural and can be bypassed. Yet who decides what is cultural and how far this approach goes? Others want to redefine what “teaching” means. A technical in-depth refutation of that kind of redefinition can be found in Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 by Andreas Köstenberger and Thomas Schreiner.

The question is not whether men are allowed to preach and teach publicly but women aren’t. The question is rather who is qualified according to Scripture to preach and teach. “Are all teachers?” (1 Corinthians 12:29) asks Paul. Clearly not. Not all men are qualified for office in the church. Only some men and not all are among those qualified and called to preach. This issue does not downgrade the important contribution of woman within the church any more than it downgrades male members who are not in office.

Arguments in favour of women preaching have been made in the past as well as in the present. In the more distant past, those who were promoting this practice were various groups and sects such as the Quakers. John Brown of Wamphray responded to these arguments and the following is an updated extract. Beginning with the passages that deal with this most explicitly he makes the following blunt observation. Some plead for women speaking or preaching in the public assemblies of the Church notwithstanding the fact that Paul has in two distinct places, expressly prohibited it.

1 Corinthians 14:34-38

One passage is 1 Corinthians 14:34 “Let your women keep silence, in the churches”. We might think, that this was indeed enough to satisfy us; but see what the apostle adds further to enforce this, “for it is not permitted unto them to speak”, i.e. in the churches. This is as if he had said “they have no permission to do so”. And as if all this were not enough, he adds all that is permitted to them i.e. to be under obedience as the law requires. By this he wants us to understand that women speaking in the churches is inconsistent with the obedience that the law of God has laid on them. He implies that speaking by teaching in the churches is an authoritative thing, and therefore not allowed to women in any way. Their proper behaviour according to the institution and law of God, is to be under obedience. He will not even permit them so much as to ask questions for the sake of learning in the churches lest this would make way for usurping authority and beginning to speak with authority. He adds in verse 35 that if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home. He adds that it was contrary to that modesty that is the ornament of women in saying that it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

What the apostle adds to confirm this injunction concerning women in the verses that follow  is also notable. They may be considered along with his previous directions which he had given to regulate the abuses of that church. He asks them if the Word of God came out from them or to them alone. In other words, are you the first, last, and only Christians there are? Or must you give laws to all the churches of Christ? And must they all follow you? It is as though no previous church has had the Word of God in relation to this. In verse 37 he goes on to say that if any man thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. Those who defend women preachers must take notice of this. When they contradict this express injunction of the apostle, they declare themselves (whatever they want to say to the contrary) to be neither prophets nor spiritual.

We also see that what Paul spoke concerning this silence of women in the church was the commandment of the Lord. Therefore it is obligatory for all churches who seek to own any relation to Christ as their Lord and Head. Those who reject this commandment of the Lord renounce (in this area) their relation to the Lord as their Head and Lawgiver. The next verse (v38). “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant” also have their own weight. It is as if he had said, if anyone still will not (despite all this) accept this let him do so. No more needs be said to convince him because he is wilfully ignorant and must remain so. Thus, we must say in this particular matter that if people will remain ignorant, we cannot help it. We must follow our rule and declare them unable of being convinced on this and so leave them to it.

1 Timothy 2:11—14

Another explicit passage against women preachers is 1 Timothy 2:11—14. This requires the women to learn in silence with all obedience and not to teach nor to usurp authority over the man. We can see from this that teaching publicly is an act of authority and that inconsistent, with the silence and obedience required from women. The apostle, as a faithful servant of Christ, will not therefore give way to it. He makes this known to Timothy so that he may suppress any such practice where it exists or hinder where people want to establish it. He adds his reasons; saying, for Adam was first formed, then Eve. By this he teaches us that such a practice is contrary to the law of creation, the law written on the Creation, and the way and method of creation which the Lord chose to follow. This made an express declaration of His will to mankind.

The apostle also adds that Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. That is, the woman being immediately and first deceived by Satan was the cause and occasion of Adam’s transgressing. Her submission to the man was further laid on her as a more grievous weight and burden, as a part of her punishment. Those who seek to have women usurping authority and teaching in the church seek to annul the sentence passed on women by the just Lord for Eve’s being the cause of Adam’s sin. Such declare in a way that that sentence was unjust; and that Eve was not the devil’s instrument to cause Adam to sin.

Galatians 3:28

Some say that women can be preachers because male and female are one in Christ. “Seeing” (they say) “God gives His Spirit to one as well as to another, when the Lord moves in women by His Spirit, we do not think it unlawful in any way for them to preach in the meetings of God’s people”.

The following is the answer to this:
(1) There is neither male, nor female just as there is neither Jew nor Greek but all are one in Christ. This is true in reference to the privileges of the Covenant under the present New Testament administration. It is different from what was the case under the Old Testament. This is what Paul is speaking of in Galatians 3:28. But it does not follow from this as a consequence by any clear connection or appearance of reason that women as well as men may therefore preach in the assemblies of the church

(2) That God gives His sanctifying Spirit to women, as well as men, is very true. But that He moves them to preach is not. If the Spirit of God moves in women, He will prompt them to duty i.e. to keep silence in the Church and not teach there or usurp authority. Rather she will learn in obedience, remembering what her sex is called to by the law of God, and that punishment on all women due to Eve’s conduct.

Acts 2:17

Some think the passages we have cited out of Paul’s Epistles do not oppose their practice of women preachers. Yet a more explicit contradiction is not imaginable. They appeal to the fact that women have prophesied in the Church to counter this.
In answer to this, the Lord has indeed made use of women to be prophetesses, He is free to make use of whom He will. His rare and extraordinary acts are no rule to us, however. His Law is our rule, and we must go to the Law and to the Testimony. He is absolute and is not bound by the rules and laws, He prescribes to us,

Some point out that Peter applies Joel’s prophecy in Acts 2:17 which speaks of women prophesying. But how does Peter apply it? Were there any women preachers among the company converted through Peter? During the particular time in which Peter applies Joel’s prophecy we do not hear of the least appearance of any women preachers and this manifestly declares to the contrary.

1 Corinthians 11:5

Some say that Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 11:5 gave rules how women should conduct themselves, in their public preaching and prayers. The problem with this is that makes the apostle contradict himself in the same epistle. Is it not safer for us to say that whatever rules he gave, they were such as must be consistent with the plain, absolute and enforced prohibition of their preaching, teaching, or speaking in the public meetings of the church? But what were the rules he gave concerning women? He said that every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, dishonours her head. Some assume this refers to how they should conduct themselves when prophesying or praying publicly before others in the assembly. But the apostle is only showing what should be the conduct of both men and women when present in the public assemblies at the time of public worship. He shows how they should conduct themselves while the Word was spoken and explained and public prayers was being made, not by themselves but by others appointed for this.

Philippians 4:3

Some appeal to Philippians 4:3 where Paul speaks of women that laboured with him in the gospel. The question is, in what way did they do this? Some imagine it was by public preaching in the assemblies but what grounds are there for this? What hint is given of this? Is there no labouring in the gospel, except by public preaching? Some point out that Philip had four daughters that prophesied (Acts 21:9). But where do we read that they preached in the public assemblies of the church?

Arguing from Experience

Some argue that God has converted many to Himself by the means of women and frequently comforted the minds of His sons. They say that this manifest experience puts the matter to us beyond all controversy. The following answers may, however, be made.

(1) God may make use of women in a private capacity for this effect and has often blessed their honest endeavours to this end. We most willingly acknowledge this, but the question is not about their efforts and labour in private in their particular place and capacities, but about public preaching in open and public assemblies of the church.

(2) If people mean preaching in the public assemblies when they speak about God using women, it is suspect.  Such experiences, being false and falsely founded, can provide no evidence against the standing and binding laws of Christ in His Church. Otherwise we make experience our Bible from which all arguments are brought to defend all erroneous and irregular practices. It is safest to examine experiences by a standing rule; if they do not agree with this they are at best the result and acts of the power of people’s own vain imaginations. If people will steer their course by such a compass, we think it little wonder if they dash on the rocks and make shipwreck of truth.

Conclusion

Other points could be made but this survey of the key passages covers the main points in a concise way. Many of the arguments are not necessarily new, it is just that they are coming from a new source. There are many other treatments of this issue, some of which go into considerable depth. Yet for some the matter is settled by the clear words of Scripture themselves. If these words do not mean what they say they mean then how does that affect other clear passages? If we believe the Spirit is apparently saying something new to us about these verses then why is it so contradictory to what others have believed (1 Corinthians 14:36)? The debate on this question relates to a wider question of whether we accept the plain language of Scripture and its authority. Are we willing to let Scripture have supreme authority or is our submission to it conditional on culture or experience?

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What Does Our Conscience Owe to the Government?

What Does Our Conscience Owe to the Government?

What Does Our Conscience Owe to the Government?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
10 Jul, 2020

Usually, questions about the authority of civil government concerning the church or the individual believer are rather theoretical. In recent months, however, they have become intensely practical for Christians in many countries. We are thankful for the role of government in upholding the good of society. How far, however, does government authority concerning preserving health, security and order extend? How far can they restrict the church and its worship? Is there a way through such dilemmas that keeps our conscience clear? A spectrum of opinion exists, but we need to bring back such questions (intricate as they are) to biblical principle. Our reasoning should come from Scripture rather than the consequences that we anticipate from any particular course of action. We must respect the authority of civil government, but we cannot outsource our conscience to them blindly.

Romans 13:5 is a key verse dealing with conscience and civil government. Paul draws certain conclusions from the reasons given in the preceding verses. He argues that we must be subject to our lawful governing authorities, it is not something optional for us. It is necessary for two reasons: “for wrath” and “for conscience sake”. We must be subject otherwise we expose ourselves to “wrath”, i.e. just punishment by the government. But we must also be subject “for conscience sake” that is, out of conscience to the command of God. Otherwise, we will wound our conscience and expose ourselves to its just condemnation against us. John Brown of Wamphray shows how it is possible to maintain high respect for civil government while keeping our conscience clear.

1. Conscience Must Respect Civil Government

Being subject to civil government is not left up to private citizens as something indifferent. They must “be subject”. They must obey the lawful commands of authority. If the commands of authority are such that they cannot obey in conscience, they must then subject themselves to their censure and punishment.

2. Conscience Must Respect Justice

Civil government may use the sword of justice to lawfully punish those who rebel against them and refuse to be subject to their authority and lawful commands. They must be subject “for wrath’s sake”, to avoid their wrath and displeasure.

3. Conscience Must Distinguish God’s Law

When the laws of civil government are clearly God’s laws, the conscience is bound to obey them. Some laws of civil government have merely human authority because they are simply what they choose to require rather than being derived from God’s law. These do not bind the conscience in and of themselves. Otherwise, they would always bind the conscience even if the magistrate did not command them.

In other lawful things, conscience to the command of God should bind us seeing He has commanded us to obey civil government. We should do so out of respect for the public good and peace which God’s Word commands us to seek (Hebrews 13:14; Romans 12:18; Psalm 34:14).

When their commands are sinful nothing must be done to openly dishonour the government. The law of God binds us not to discredit or insult the government but rather honour and esteem them (1 Peter 2:17; Ecclesiastes 10:20). Even their man-made laws bind the conscience in this respect alone, not to obedience but in patiently suffering punishment.

4. Conscience Relates to Our Duty to Others

God has endowed everyone with a conscience, a beam of light or a delegated authority within the soul which takes notice of all of a person’s actions. This delegated authority has its eye not only on a person’s actions that relate directly to God but also those that relate to others, whether in authority or not. Conscience takes notice of whether people are subject to authority or not. We must be subject “for conscience sake” because conscience will bind this duty on us.

5. Conscience Directs and Condemns

Conscience (when it is not blinded or biased) can direct us to our duty. It has the power to bind a person to do their duty and to trouble them if they go against its directions. We must “be subject” to authority if we want to avoid the stings and condemnations of conscience.

6. Conscience Must Be Informed by God’s Word

We should give weight to the directions given by conscience, seeing it is put into the soul as God’s delegated authority. When it speaks according to God’s Word (which is our only rule) the very instructions of conscience should remind us to be subject.

Conclusion

These are some of the biblical principles that we need to apply concerning conscientious obedience or disobedience to civil government. We still have to do the hard work of applying them in difficult specific situations. We cannot give blind obedience to what the state requires simply because they require it. Only God is Lord of the conscience and our conscience is not bound unless an authority requires something that is required by God. God does require us, however, in the fifth commandment to give due respect to authority and what they command. We need much grace and wisdom to apply the principles of Scripture in every case of conscience.

Political Power and its Limitations

Our ideas of political power and its limitations were significantly shaped by Reformed writers like Samuel Rutherford and his book, Lex, Rex (The Law and the King) The book is a hammer blow against state claims for absolute power and so they had it publicly burned. We live in times when politics is polarising to an extraordinary degree. In many democratic countries there is a drift towards autocracy. On the other hand some want to take us into an anarchy where valued liberties and principles are discarded. What are the lessons we can learn today?

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Why Does Our Behaviour Often Contradict Our Morals?

Why Does Our Behaviour Often Contradict Our Morals?

Why Does Our Behaviour Often Contradict Our Morals?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
6 Dec, 2019

70% UK adults think that it’s important for people to have a moral framework in their lives according to a recent BBC survey. Yet only 29% say “I must live by my values all the time”. Why is that? If my values are only defined by me then they are just personal preference. If morality is not objective, we are not accountable to anyone else when we break our own moral code. The same survey revealed that people’s behaviour often contradicts their supposedly strong morals. Half of those who believed it was never acceptable for them to lie admitted they did. Almost half who believed it was never acceptable for them to take illegal drugs had done this. In the midst of such moral confusion we need an objective God-given standard of right and wrong and analysis of the human heart.

Clearly, this is what we need. Despite the contradictions we have noted, 50% of those responding to the survey believed most people are essentially good, with just 4% disagreeing. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul makes unmistakably clear the sinfulness of the human heart. This is why we sin with our fingers in our ears against an accusing conscience. We need a new heart.

In Romans 7 Paul goes on, however, to show how remaining sin still affects those who have been regenerated. It does this to the extent that they even do that which they hate and condemn (Romans 7:15-16,19). They are not immune from a contradiction between the mind, will and the actions either. This is due to the influence of remaining sin within the heart of the believer. Yet it is a different contradiction to what we see in the life and heart of those who have not been regenerated. There is a renewed part within believers that delights in God’s law as holy, just and good. John Brown of Wamphray explains the nature of this contradiction in the heart of believers.

1. A DIFFERENT CONTRADICTION

Those who are strangers to their own hearts and not acquainted with examining themselves usually have too good thoughts of themselves. Serious and sincere consideration of our own hearts will, however, brings us to a right view of our natural corruption. The unregenerate may gain some distant view of their natural corruption but only grace will give a thorough, clear, heart-affecting and soul-humbling sight of it. Paul does this when he says no good thing dwells in his flesh (his remaining sin).

The ungodly may have some willingness to do that which is morally good. Yet they are altogether averse from any spiritual good or even doing moral good in a spiritual way. This is unique to the child of God, only a good tree brings forth good fruit. The love and desire to what is spiritually good is not counterfeit simply because they cannot accomplish their intentions. They may be a will to do that which is good without being able to carry it out.

Although unregenerate people have enough natural conscience within to oppose them when their lusts are carrying them away headlong, they do not have a renewed spirit in their minds resisting. They may have some shadowy knowledge of the principles of righteousness through what it written on their hearts by nature (Romans 2:15). There may also be many within the visible church who are utter strangers to the work of grace who may still have much knowledge of the law of God. Neither have any heart delight in the holy law of God not welcome it heartily as good when it speaks against their corruptions. This is unique to those regenerated that they “consent unto the law that it is good”. It is not a forced necessity but flows from the heart complying with the things commanded or forbidden by the law.  

2. A CONSTANT CONTRADICTION

Since these principles of grace and sin are contrary to each other in their very natures and can never agree, they aim to clash with one another in every action that the poor believer endeavours. What the one wants to do the other will not have done (Galatians 5:17).

Although grace and corruption are irreconcilable enemies and grace constantly seeks to eat away corruption it will still be present in the best to keep them exercised. Sin does not however, reign in them tyrannising and oppressing them as a constant presence but is like a traveller coming and going.

3. A HUMBLING CONTRADICTION

It is evidence of grace within the soul that we get a right view of the corruption within us. This will keep the soul humble and diligent in seeking to exercise and grow in grace. Grace is a heart-humbling thing: the more the soul has of it, the more they are willing to acknowledge their own shame.

4. A MOTIVATING CONTRADICTION

Believers have no cause to be secure but should rather be on their guard because even at their best times when they seek to good “evil is present” with them. It is useful and necessary to consider frequently this conflict in those who are regenerate. We ought to consider how often the worst side prevails over the better in particular skirmishes. This will keep our spirits humble and drive us nearer to Christ to get more grace to subdue and battle with our corruption. It makes us long for the day when we will be beyond its reach. We should also be thankful for any little victory obtained and take it as a foretaste of the ultimate full and final victory.

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When is Being Debt-Free Absolutely Wrong?

When is Being Debt-Free Absolutely Wrong?

When is Being Debt-Free Absolutely Wrong?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
1 Nov, 2019

We are drowning in personal debt. It’s recognised as a crisis. With growing insecurity one small change can often send individuals and families into tragic unsustainable debt. Overall debt in the UK is expected to reach £2 trillion by 2020. How should we think about debt? When the Apostle Paul says that we are not to owe anyone anything it seems unmistakably clear (Romans 13:8). But then he goes on immediately to make an exception. In fact, he urges us to take on the biggest possible debt: “to love one another”. What are we doing about this personal debt?

In explaining this verse, John Brown of Wamphray emphasises that it is important for Christians to fulfil their obligations. They should be faithful in relation to the agreements and debts they contract. They should not give anyone legitimate reason complain about them. They should seek to manage the little money they receive from God in a wise and careful way so that they can pay off their debts (2 Kings 4:1-3; Proverbs 3:27 and 6:1-3).

The debt they cannot free themselves from but must constantly pay is to love one another. Paul goes on to show that this is what God’s law requires. It is something that we must be reminded about constantly (1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Corinthians 14:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:22).

1. THE DEBT OF LOVE IS REQUIRED FROM EVERYONE

The duty of Christian love is a duty required of every kind of person. It is a mutual Christian duty (John 13:34; John 15:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Colossians 3:14).

2. THE DEBT OF LOVE IS REQUIRED DAILY

This is a debt required of us daily and which we can never be freed from. It must continue (Hebrews 13:1). It is a debt we are constantly obliged to pay to our neighbour.

3. THE DEBT OF LOVE IS REQUIRED FOR EVERYONE

We should desire the best for everyone: eternal life, peace with God etc. This same principle of love ought to extend to everyone whether they are saints (Colossians 1:4) or strangers (Deuteronomy 10:19-20). It includes anyone who is called our neighbour (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19). We are to love one another and our neighbour (Romans 13:8-9; 1 Peter 2:17).

Believers are indeed bound to have a special respect and love for those who are fellow children of grace and children of the same Father (Galatians 6:10). The same has love us and commanded us to do this (1 John 4:11 and 21). This will prove that we do indeed know and love God and He dwells in us (1 John 4:8, 12 and 20). It will show that we are of God, dwell in the light and have passed from death to life (1 John 2:10-11 and 3:10 and 14).

It is of course true that in terms of frequency, effects and degree of delight we may love some more than others. These include those to whom we are related or are friends with or those who have shown us kindness (1 Timothy 5:4; Proverbs 18:24; Galatians 6:6).

4. THE DEBT OF LOVE IS OUR MORAL DUTY

Although believers are out of the reach of the condemnation of the law they are under its direction. The more the law urges a duty the more believers ought to strive to fulfil it. In urging this duty of love Paul says that it summarises the second part of the Ten Commandments. He calls this “the fulfilling of the law” (Matthew 22:39; James 2:8; Galatians 5:14).

5. THE DEBT OF LOVE IS REQUIRED IN EVERYTHING

This love for our neighbours should preserve us from wronging them in terms of their honour, person, reputation and possessions. It would urge us to use all lawful means to secure their spiritual and outward good. In a word, it would keep us from transgressing any commandment of the second part of the Ten Commandments in thought, word or deed (Romans 13:9 see Galatians 5:14; Hebrews 10:24). We must labour in this love (1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 6:10). We ought to serve our neighbour in love (Galatians 5:13).

Where this love is found we do not devise, contrive or seek anything that harms our neighbour. We will not even so much as take up a bad report against our neighbour (Psalm 15:3). Love does not envy but bears long and is not easily provoked (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It does not think any evil but covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

CONCLUSION

Romans 14:8 is simple in its wording but it includes a very great deal indeed. Love for others so motivates a person to obey God’s commandments without even thinking about it. 
When the Christian is changed their behaviour is also changed. This is so much the case that without this love – the Christian with all their knowledge and profession is nothing, it is merely an empty sound (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).

But how do we show that love to all fellow-believers, what is our duty towards them? Any breach in fellowship and the love we ought to have should be truly distressing to us. Christ spoke of how reconciliation ought to take preeminence over other duties such as worship (see Matthew 5:21-26). It is easy to make professions, to parade zeal and orthodoxy but our obedience matters. This is the test of whether our love is genuine (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

We may well have spoken the truth to another person faithfully and without leaving them in any doubt as to where they have gone wrong. But did we speak the truth in love? Or did we give them such a volley of truth as will inoculate them lifelong against the Biblical principles we are defending due to the way in which we have done it? Of course a failure to say or do what is right can also lead others to sin and error. It does not mean that we abandon any truth or principle; it means that we are unwilling to value it above Christian love. We value both love and truth enough to want to lovingly and patiently exhort our fellow Christians to be of one mind with us.

It is often in our use of the tongue and how we speak about other Christians that we fail to fulfil the requirement of love. We should always seek the good and not the harm (even indirectly) of others. 

We need to pray for much grace in order to fulfil this perpetual debt of love.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

No one has written on this subject in a more spiritual, biblical and powerful way than Hugh Binning in his book Christian Love. It is brief but needs much careful pondering and prayerful practice. 

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Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name?

Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name?

Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
23 Mar, 2018

Perhaps many never ask why, though they always do it. Other people resist any formula that they think reflects unthinking ritual. Yet Christ commands this (John 14:13-14). We ought certainly to think about what words we use in prayer. Praying in Christ’s name is important because our prayers must be distinctly Christian. But praying in Christ’s name means vastly more than merely mentioning His name. It’s even possible to say “Lord, Lord” without the heart being yielded to Christ (Matthew 7:21). This is a question that takes us to the heart of true prayer. We can only come to God through Christ as Mediator. We can only ask anything in prayer for Christ’s sake.

It’s interesting that the Westminster Larger Catechism (Q180) asks the question “What is it to pray in the name of Christ?” The answer given is “To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation”. This is a helpful summary. John Brown of Wamphray further develops these themes with practical help as well as a fully biblical explanation.

 

1. What Praying in Christ’s Name Assumes

(a) A Sense of Our Unworthiness

We are convinced our sinfulness, vileness, and distance from God because of sin, wickedness, and rebellion. We cannot think to approach God with acceptance in ourselves. We have nothing to commend ourselves to God who is a consuming fire to all who are lying in their sins and not yet reconciled to Him through the mediator. Without this we and all our acts of worship must be an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 15:8, 29; 21:27; 28:9).  We must renounce everything within ourselves as any grounds of access to God or hope of acceptance.

(b) Faith in Christ as Mediator

We must have knowledge of and faith in Christ as mediator. He alone and none else in heaven or in earth is appointed to this office, or is qualified and equipped for it.

(c) Faith in Christ’s Work

We must know what Christ has done to make peace and to open a door of access to the Father.  We can have boldness and confidence in our access to God and the throne of grace because Christ as a priest has offered a sacrifice of reconciliation to atone and reconcile us to God. He is daily interceding on the satisfaction offered and accepted. He presents Himself in heaven for us to plead and advocate our cause.

(d) Being Reconciled to God through Christ

We must have fled to Him as the only city of refuge and peacemaker and laid hold on Him by faith. We can never make right use of Christ in a particular request if we have not laid the weight of our whole soul on Him.

(e) Asking According to Christ’s Will

Christ will not allow us to take His name in vain but unquestionably we would if we ask anything in His name which He would not approve or is contrary to His law and command.

(e) Believing this is the Only Way of Access

Only through Him and His name will we and our prayers be accepted before God. If our hearts hesitate and doubt concerning this we cannot ask rightly in the name of Christ. This is because we cannot ask with confidence that asking in His name will not be in vain. We must believe firmly that whatever we ask the Father in Christ’s name He will do it (John 14:13 and 16:24).

 

2. What is Involved in Praying in Christ’s Name?

(a) Drawing Encouragement to Pray from Christ

Through Christ the throne of God has become to us a throne of grace and mercy.  We should be encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace for help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14–16). He has reconciled us to the Father by His blood and purchased mercy, pardon, and grace to us by His death and sufferings. He stands before the throne as our intercessor and advocate, there to procure favour for us and to plead our cause and make our prayers acceptable. These things should be our sole ground of encouragement in approaching God.

We see many things, indeed, all things wrong in us, which may discourage or dishearten us from drawing near to God. Yet this glorious name of Christ and His mediatorial office allure and force us forward despite all discouragements.

(b) Drawing Confidence and Boldness in Prayer from Christ

There is a boldness and confidence as opposed to fears, fainting, and doubting. The basis for this is Christ, His name, offices and work. The boldness and confidence with which the apostle would have us approaching (Hebrews 4:16) is the boldness and confidence of a child that comes to the father and tells all that is in his heart, concealing nothing and without fear or shame, whoever be present. And this must be founded on Christ alone and on what He has done to procure this to us. When we base our boldness and confidence in drawing near to God only on Christ, then we ask in the name of Christ.

(c) Drawing Hope of Acceptance from Christ

When we ask in Christ’s name, we must roll ourselves as sinners on Him and come to God in His arms so that He may make us acceptable (for we must be accepted in the beloved). Thus, the enmity and wrath being taken away, our petitions may have free access to the throne of grace.

(d) Drawing Strength in Prayer from Christ

We ask in His name when we draw up our petitions in Him or by His Spirit in us, and when we advance with them in Him, as going to God in the hand of Christ, by the Spirit, and so roll all our difficulties and encumbrances on Him, or whatever stands in our way, either to hinder us from coming or to retard us or discourage us in us going. Then do we pray in His name, when leaning to His promises of strength and through bearing, we adventure over the belly of all discouragements and of felt weakness and unworthiness.

(e) Drawing Our Hope of Acceptance from Christ’s Work

Christ is the one mediator and the only peacemaker. Only He makes us and all our service to be acceptable to the Father. When we ask in His name, we put our petitions in His hand so that He may present them to the Father and offer them up with incense out of His censer (Revelation. 8:3). Our hopes will not fail us, nor will we conclude the matter desperate, even if we discover much guilt and unworthiness in ourselves. These grounds are the same whatever we may be. Christ’s merits abide fresh with the Father, however it may be with us.

(f) Drawing Confidence and Boldness in Prayer from Christ

This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1 John 5:13–14). When we ask in His name, we rest confident that our prayers will go into the throne of grace through Him who is our advocate with the Father. All our hopes lean on Him and here we rest and are quiet.

 

3. How Do We Pray in Christ’s Name?

(a) Consider Our Unworthiness

We must remember constantly what we are by nature – worthless sinners at a distance from God, having nothing to commend us to God except misery and poverty. Nor do we have any grounds in ourselves to expect admission to God or His favour and acceptance.

(b) Consider that Christ’s Work is to Make Us Accepted

Christ’s office and work is to bring sinners to the Father and make them accepted. He presents their requests and cause in heaven. He is appointed by the Father for this and will be faithful to Him that appointed Him. He is a faithful high priest and will faithfully perform His work.

(c) Consider that Christ Delights to Help Us

Jesus Christ has great delight in this as man with the true and tender affections bowels of a man. During His days on earth He was tempted and experienced in Himself the pain, pressure, grief and powerful necessity that we suffer, though without sin. It is like the mother’s affections which cause her to run to help her beloved child in trouble with delight and readiness.

(d) Consider that the Father is Pleased with Christ

The Father, having appointed Him to be high priest, intercessor, and advocate will certainly be well pleased with Him in discharging these offices. He will accept all such as come to Him thus and make them and their supplications welcome. He will prevail at the court of heaven for all He speaks for, and therefore that all the requests which He presents will be heard in due time.

(e) Consider Christ’s Work as Mediator

We should make use of Christ in all His offices. Particularly, as ushering our way to the Father on the ground of what He has done. He has purchased freedom of access to us to approach with confidence as resting on Him and trusting in His merits.

(f) Consider Christ’s Sympathy Towards Us

That we should eye Him as a tenderhearted, compassionate, sympathizing high priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities. And on this ground we should approach with warmed affections, confidence, freedom of spirit, cheerfulness, and alacrity, making all our requests known through Him.

(g) Consider that Christ Will Never Forget to Intercede

Christ will act the part of a tender-hearted, loving, and sympathizing high priest, intercessor, and advocate. He will cheerfully welcome us as though waiting to receive our prayers to put in His censer and to be employed by us in these His offices.

(h) Consider that We Can Always have Confidence in Christ Despite Ourselves

We need not be up or down in our hopes and expectations of acceptance according to our spiritual condition. The ground of our acceptance always remains the same; it is not in ourselves but in Him with whom the Father is well pleased.

(i) Consider Christ Alone

We expect what we desire only on His account who has purchased and procured all to us that we need. We do this despite whatever we may observe in ourselves which would weaken our hope and expectation, or make us despair of receiving a good answer.

(j) Consider the Answer to be Guaranteed

 

Laying our whole weight on Christ and on His merits, we act in faith in the specific matter that we ask. We leave ourselves and our requests wholly on Christ, putting them in His hand and trusting in Him who is a faithful high priest and tender of all the concerns of His people. We wait in confidence and hope for a good return in God’s own time, only in and through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Thus we see that to ask in the name of Christ is something far different that merely to mention His name in prayer, as to say, “Grant us, Lord, this or that for Christ’s sake,”. Many may be satisfied with this and think that when they have barely made mention of His name, they have done enough.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

This blog article is updated and extracted from John Brown of Wamphray’s very full book on prayer called Godly Prayer and its Answers.  The book is available from James Dickson Books in Kilsyth.

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Is Social Media Making Christians Miserable?

Is Social Media Making Christians Miserable?

Is Social Media Making Christians Miserable?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
22 Dec, 2017

Even Facebook themselves now admit that countless studies show social media is bad for us. There’s no doubting its benefit of connecting and sometimes edifying people. The predominant trend of self-advertising, however, fosters discontent with our own lives. It prompts negative self-comparisons. People also find that a virtual community does not replace real community. Online communication may even undermine our face-to-face interactions. Something that brings us together can also create isolation and distance. Edifying one another in the best possible way must not become a casualty of social media excess. Other generations have not faced an identical challenge but Scripture has wisdom for every situation.

Facebook’s former vice-president said recently: “It is at a point where we have created tools which are ripping apart the fabric of how society works – that is truly where we are”. One of the most resonant book titles to summarise our condition is Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. The author Sherry Turkle, maintains that “as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down”.  “On social-networking sites such as Facebook, we think we will be presenting ourselves, but out profile ends up as somebody else—often the fantasy of who we want to be”. That can be true even in the way that people present themselves in terms of the spiritual content they share. It’s much easier too to interact in a remote, digital context that reduces our commitment to another believer. In a telling phrase Turkle observes: “the ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind.”  She identifies the symptoms of the malaise with clarity.

“Teenagers avoid making telephone calls, fearful that they “reveal too much.” They would rather text than talk. Adults, too, choose keyboards over the human voice. It is more efficient, they say. Things that happen in “real time” take too much time. Tethered to technology, we are shaken when that world “unplugged” does not signify, does not satisfy…We build a following on Facebook … and wonder to what degree our followers are friends…suddenly, in the half-light of virtual community, we may feel utterly alone. As we distribute ourselves, we may abandon ourselves. Sometimes people experience no sense of having communicated after hours of connection.

Christian community is in danger of being undermined by such trends. How do we address these challenges positively? Scripture contains a great deal of written communication, indeed it is written communication. Yet, amongst Christians, it ranks face-to-face communication far higher than writing. It is remarkable that the apostle John states this bluntly on several occasions. In 2 John 12 he says that he has many things to write but he does not want to write with “paper and ink”. “ I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full” (3 John 13-14 is very similar).

Writing was limited but unhindered communication would make their joy full. As David Dickson notes, the apostle’s intention was to edify the congregation to whom he was writing. He desired to be present “to instruct and confirm it more fully in the doctrine of faith, that all the faithful…might out of a larger and more fruitful instruction receive more fully of spiritual joy”.

It is a reminder that for all we may read and hear online with spiritual profit, nothing can substitute for someone expounding the Word in our presence. It is also direct counsel that if we want to edify someone as much as we can, we need to see them face to face.

It was the same with the apostle Paul in Romans 1:11-12. “I long to see you” he says. His desire is that they would be together to edify and comfort one another. As John Brown of Wamphray notes, Paul is saying “My love to you is such that I earnestly long to be with you to give you freely of those things which God has given me. Things that may tend to profit and establish you”.

Brown draws out from Paul’s desire important teaching about how Christians need each other and to edify one another in person. Obviously there is also particular teaching for those who have responsibility within the Church for the spiritual wellbeing of Christ’s flock. Paul is seeking actively an opportunity speaking to them face to face to benefit them more than writing. We need to recover this emphasis on the best possible way to edify one another. Giving more time to edifying other Christians in person is essential. Note that it is not merely being together socially but sharing spiritual benefit from our conversation.

 

1. Christian Love Seeks the Best Way of Edifying

Christian love that is strong in itself and arises from a right principle and basis it extends even to those that believers have never seen. It desires to be able to benefit them as much as possible. We can see this in Paul who was most earnestly desirous to see the Romans to be able to do them good

 

2. Every Christian Needs to be Edified

No one is so far advanced in Christianity while they are on this side of the sun that they do not need help and comfort from others. Paul himself confesses that he desired to be comforted or exhorted by the Romans to whom he was writing.

 

3. Christian Fellowship Must Edify

As iron sharpens iron so making right and best use of Christian fellowship rightly is a means by which Christians will be mutually edified and built up. Paul says that his conversing with them would tend towards their mutual comfort.

 

4. How Christian Fellowship Edifies

Christian fellowship is conducted well when it involves declaring mutual evidences of the reality of God’s grace within them. This may involve giving evidence of their knowledge of Christ and faith in Him. They may speak of their mutual experiences of God’s love etc. The mutual faith of both Paul and the Romans was to be known and revealed when they would meet together.

 

5. Every Christian Can Edify

Believers strengthen and comfort one another by means of conversation and other spiritual activities when they meet together. In this they show one another their devotion to and life in Christ. They also admonish and exhort those that are faint and are likely to become weary. The strongest may be profited by the weakest since Paul says that it was by their mutual faith that he would be comforted together with them.

 

Conclusion

We need real and full Christian fellowship and edification and we must not allow other things to inhibit this. We can have true fellowship and edify online but only in a limited way. Social media has its benefits but we need to acknowledge that it cannot substitute for what is real and immediate. We have to learn how to manage its challenges to get best benefit from it. In a dislocated, individualistic world Christians should be able to demonstrate true fellowship that edifies spiritually.

Political Power and its Limitations

Our ideas of political power and its limitations were significantly shaped by Reformed writers like Samuel Rutherford and his book, Lex, Rex (The Law and the King) The book is a hammer blow against state claims for absolute power and so they had it publicly burned. We live in times when politics is polarising to an extraordinary degree. In many democratic countries there is a drift towards autocracy. On the other hand some want to take us into an anarchy where valued liberties and principles are discarded. What are the lessons we can learn today?

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Luther’s Gospel Breakthrough

Luther’s Gospel Breakthrough

Luther’s Gospel Breakthrough
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
2 Nov, 2017

It was not so much the 95 theses as Luther’s later study of Scripture that fully crystallised his understanding of the gospel of grace. He came to the book of Romans but was stopped in his tracks by the word “righteousness” in chapter one. For Luther this meant God’s justice and judgment. “I meditated night and day on those words” he says, until at last, by the mercy of God, I paid attention to their context (i.e. verse 17). He seized upon the words: “The just person lives by faith”. I began to understand that in this verse the justice of God is that by which the just person lives by a gift of God, that is by faith. As he meditated further, the whole gospel of grace was opened to him and the truth that we are justified by faith alone. Let’s take a closer look at the verse that became Luther’s Gospel Breakthrough.

Luther says. “I began to understand that this verse means that the justice of God is revealed through the Gospel, but it is a passive justice, i.e. that by which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: “The just person lives by faith.”

All at once I felt that I had been born again and entered into paradise itself through open gates. Immediately I saw the whole of Scripture in a different light.

“I ran through the Scriptures from memory and found that other terms had analogous meanings, e.g.,the work of God, that is, what God works in us; the power of God, by which he makes us powerful; the wisdom of God, by which he makes us wise; the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God”.

I exalted this sweetest word of mine, “the justice of God,” with as much love as before I had hated it with hate. This phrase of Paul was for me the very gate of paradise.

Luther had long struggled in vain to keep God’s law perfectly in order to be righteous before God. The idea of God’s perfect righteousness as a standard of justice terrified him. He says it “struck my conscience like lightning,” and “was like a thunderbolt in my heart”. But he came to see that the righteousness of God is also spoken of as a gift revealed in the gospel.

This discovery is often called Luther’s “Tower Experience,” because in one of his “table talks” he mentions that he was studying Romans 1:17 in the heated room (his study) of the tower of the Black Cloister in Wittenberg when the light broke upon him. The truth of justification by faith alone was a cornerstone of the Reformation’s recovery of the gospel of grace. 

Despite its significance we do not have much that Luther wrote about this verse. This verse is, however, helpfully expounded by John Brown of Wamphray in his comments on the book of Romans. It is not enough that Luther could see the truth of justification by faith alone in this verse, we need to see it for ourselves too. Brown’s comments help to draw out the truth carefully.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all that believe. This is because in that gospel the righteousness by which we must stand before God’s judgment seat is declared and revealed to believers. This is the righteousness that God reveals, no matter whether their faith is strong or weak; it is “from faith to faith”. The righteousness by which we must be justified is applied by sincere faith which is growing from one degree to another.

We are justified (declared righteous before God) by faith and not by works. Scripture affirms that we are just by faith and that we live by faith, therefore we are justified by faith. Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 “The just shall live by faith” or “The just by faith shall live” (it can be read both ways).

 

1. There is No Salvation Without Righteousness

The Lord has made such a connection between righteousness (as the way) and life salvation (as the end) that no one can expect righteousness without salvation. God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). The “unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Revelation 21:27).

 

2. Saving Righteousness is Only Revealed in the Gospel

The only righteousness by which we attain to salvation cannot be learned by natural knowledge. However sharp-sighted in other things men may be by nature they cannot reach this. It is a matter that must be revealed in the gospel. It cannot be known except through the gospel because in it “is the righteousness of God revealed”.

 

3. We Cannot Earn this Righteousness

By nature we are inclined to obtain happiness through our own works. But the righteousness by which we must stand before God’s judgment seat (revealed and made known in the gospel) is not a righteousness we can purchase, merit or devise. It is a righteousness provided by the infinitely wise God and a righteousness of one who is God. It is therefore called “the righteousness of God” (Philippians 3:9) and the “righteousness which is of God by faith” (Romans 3:21 and 10:3).

 

4. This Righteousness is Received by Faith Alone

This righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is made ours by faith. It is applied by faith laying hold on Jesus and His righteousness. It is revealed “from faith” or by faith.

 

5. The Weakest Faith Receives this Righteousness

The least degree of faith (as long as it is true and sincere) receives this righteousness of God revealed to us in the gospel. It is “from faith to faith”; that is from the smallest degree and measure of faith to the greatest.

 

6. True Faith Continues to Grow

Although Satan uses many means to make true faith fail and die, it continues to grow from one degree and measure to another.

 

7. Justification by Faith is Essential

It is essential that justification by faith is properly understood. This is a truth opposed and obscured by Satan and those whom he uses. We must all understand it clearly and have it confirmed from the Lord’s Word. This is why Paul adds “it is written”.

 

8. Truth May be Established Indirectly

The law and the testimony of Scripture is the means to distinguish light from darkness. This is so full that we may confirm a truth from a verse where that truth is not directly addressed and is not necessarily the main purpose of the verse. The apostle makes use of a verse from Habakkuk here where the prophet is not primarily speaking about how or in what way people are justified before God. Rather, he is speaking about how the godly are supported and have life from faith even in days of trouble. The inference is justified, however. If the righteous have comfort through waiting on God by faith in a time of trouble it must be by faith that they are brought into life and justified.

If it is read alternatively, “The just by faith shall live”, it shows clearly that it is by faith (i.e. laying hold on Christ’s righteousness and blood) that they are just or justified. Great wrong is done to Scripture if we invalidate such inferences clearly deduced from it.

 

9. Justification is an Old Testament Truth

Although justification by faith is not outlined so fully and clearly in the Old as in the New Testament, it is still an Old Testament truth.  The apostle confirms this doctrine from a verse in the Old Testament (Habakkuk 2:4).

 

10. Justification is by Faith Alone

Faith is the only way by which sinners are brought from death to life and justification. Faith heartily embraces Jesus Christ for salvation as He is offered in the gospel. We are just and justified by our leaning on Him; for it is by faith that we are just.

 

11. Justification and Eternal Life Cannot be Separated

There is an inseparable connection between justification and eternal life. Thus, all those that are justified by faith in the blood of Christ, have fled to the city of refuge and sheltered themselves under the wings of Christ may be assured. Just as they are now spiritually alive so they will be carried through all difficulties and trials and at last inherit eternal life: for the just by faith shall live.

 

12. Justifying Faith is Living

Faith not only lays hold on Christ’s righteousness to be justified, it also draws strength from Christ as a root to live the life of grace and holiness. The same faith views God as reconciled in Christ, faithful in all His promises and mindful of the good of their souls in all sad circumstances. They have a life of comfort under the saddest circumstances that can befall them (Galatians 3:11; 2:20; Hebrews 10:38): the just shall live by faith.

 

13. Assurance is by Faith

Faith as God’s appointed means for accepting and embracing Christ and His righteousness justifies. By the same faith (not works), they get new confirmations of pardon; for the just (or he that is already justified) lives (in that justified condition) by faith.

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How Does Faith Justify?

How Does Faith Justify?

How Does Faith Justify?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
20 Oct, 2017

The Scriptural truth of justification by faith alone is the teaching most closely associated with Martin Luther. It was a radical change from the idea that justification would only take place in the future on the day of judgement. Even more radical was the truth that it was by faith alone and not faith formed by acts of charity that would merit eternal life. Luther saw that Scripture teaches that we are not justified by any work that we do but solely on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:21; 4:4-5). No wonder he wrote: “One cannot go soft or give way on this article, for then heaven and earth would fall”.

He also wrote that justification is “the most delightful” doctrine. But he added, that there were “few…who have thought it through well and who teach it aright”. About 150 years later it still needed correct teaching and thinking. John Brown of Wamphray wrote The Life of Justification Opened in order to clarify the doctrine against those who were introducing error. This problem remains today. One of the areas that Brown discusses is how faith justifies:

Faith is looking to Christ, as the stung Israelite in the wilderness looked to the brazen serpent (John 3:14,-15). Faith is saying ‘In the Lord have I righteousness’ (Isaiah 45:24). It is the believer putting on the Lord Jesus, that he may be found in Him and clothed with His righteousness (Philippians 3:9). It is receiving Christ (John 1:12) and receiving the atonement in Him and through Him (Romans 5:11) together with abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17). It is therefore called ‘believing on His name’ (John 1:12; 6:29; 7:35; 17:20; Acts 16:31; 19:25). Because faith has laid hold on this righteousness of Christ, this righteousness is called the ‘righteousness of faith’ (Romans 4:11) and the ‘righteousness which is of faith’ (Romans 9:30). It is that, ‘which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Philippians 3:9). Justifying faith is receiving Christ and His righteousness. It takes the man out of himself so that he may find and partake of that all-sufficient righteousness of Christ. Thus he may stand before God with confidence and expect pardon and acceptance. To say that faith is itself the gospel-righteousness on which they may lean and expect justification would be to destroy the essential work of justifying faith.

Brown emphasises that believers are not justified on account of their faith, as if that constituted their “gospel-righteousness”. Rather they are only justified on account of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith as a mere instrument or means of receiving it. He continues:

Faith, in this matter, is as the eye of the soul, that does not look to itself but looks out to another. All who would live the life of justification must take themselves to Jesus Christ, lean on Him and His righteousness. They must be clothed with the robe of His righteousness alone and found in Christ alone. This is the only basis on which they must think of standing before God, having on Christ’s righteousness which God imputes to believers, and which they receive by faith, in order that they may have justification.

 

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Being Peaceably Principled in a Poisonous World

Being Peaceably Principled in a Poisonous World

Being Peaceably Principled in a Poisonous World
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
11 Nov, 2016

Civility has disappeared from a great deal of public discourse. Words such as “toxic”, “venomous” and “poisonous” are used to describe it. Political discourse seems to major on insults. It is not difficult to see that language can be not only divisive but degrading. In a polarised world, how should we respond to the invective directed against our views? How do we avoid worldly spite infecting our response? Disagreements among Christians also arise. Sometime there are necessary differences for the sake of truth, but is it possible to handle them peaceably?

John Brown of Wamphray gives some answers to these questions in his comments on the wisdom that Paul expresses in Romans 12:17 “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men”.  He notes how helpful it is that Paul goes on to say in verse 18: live peaceably with all men” but qualifies this with “if it be possible”. 

 

1. Christians must expect to be treated badly

A Christian should conduct himself as humbly as possible among his fellow brethren. Nevertheless, such is the strength of corruption in the best and the restless maliciousness of Satan (who is always blowing at the coal of strife and dissension) that they must expect bad treatment even at the hands of their fellow Christians. This is why he adds the following to his former exhortations: “Recompense no man evil for evil”. It supposes that even if the previous exhortations are followed, they will meet with bad treatment.

 

2. Christians must not retaliate in the same way

Whatever evil Christians may experience and whether from friends or foes, they ought to withstand their own heart corruptions (which are ready to seek private revenge) and forbear this unchristian retaliation. Men who are led by an evil spirit may count it their honour not to endure a wrong but to get even with any who injure them. Yet, it is a most unchristian thing and unseemly for the followers of Christ. “Recompense to no man evil for evil (see 1 Peter 3:9; Proverbs 23:2; Matthew 5:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:15).

 

3. Christians must avoid stumbling anyone

Christians ought not to be proud and vain nor scurrilous and dishonourable in their behaviour. Instead they ought to conduct themselves honestly. This means being careful to walk so as we may not stumble any but rather best win them over and in a way best suited to their position and our relation to them. Christians should “provide for things honest” (see 2 Corinthians 8:21).

 

4. Christians must show respect to all

Christian behaviour means not only avoiding stumbling fellow Christians but also having respect to strangers and seeking not to stumble them in outward things. “Provide for things honest in the sight of all men” (see 2 Corinthians 8:21 and Matthew 5:16).

 

5. Christians must seek to live peaceably with all

It is not seemly for Christians to be quarrelsome and keeping up arguments among themselves. It is also not becoming for Christians to be striving and contending with the wicked and those who are strangers to Christ; it creates a stumbling block. They should “live peaceably with all men”.

 

6. Christians will find that peace is impossible with some people

The wicked malicious disposition of some (the seed of the serpent) is so great that they will never allow the godly to live in rest and peace no matter what they may do. The apostle therefore adds this clause: “If it be possible, live peaceably with all men”.

There is great difficulty in conquering our own corruptions in order to join in peace with others. It may also be impossible to achieve peace and quietness with some. Despite this, it is nevertheless, the duty of Christians to be serious and earnest in using all possible or imaginable means to attain peace. They must be gracious in forgiving the injuries they have received and recompensed good for evil (1 Peter 3:9). We must do as much as lies in us to live peaceably with all men (see 1 Peter 3:11; Hebrews 12:14).

 

7. Christians must not pursue peace on sinful terms

In pursuing peace with others, we ought not to descend to sinful, dishonourable or dishonest terms. Even in pursuing peace we should be careful to behave with honesty as befits a Christian. These two duties may and should be aimed at together: “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” and “if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men”.

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What You Must Do When You Feel Spiritually Dead

What You Must Do When You Feel Spiritually Dead

What You Must Do When You Feel Spiritually Dead
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
5 Aug, 2016

Sometimes believers find themselves so weak and feel so dead that they wonder how things will ever change. Spiritual duties are only a matter of form and a reminder of our dry barren condition. Perhaps it has stolen on the soul through careless indifference. A general spiritual laziness and apathy has the upper hand. In other situations it may be that unconfessed sin may be oppressing the conscience. Christ is still the life that the believer’s soul needs. But how do we make use of that life?

John Brown of Wamphray explains that Christ is still life to the deadened soul in the following ways:

1. Christ keeps possession of the soul. The seed remains, the root abides fast in the ground. There is still life at the heart, although the man is motionless. This is like someone in a deep sleep or who has fainted and yet life has not ebbed away from them completely.

2. Christ awakens and rouses the soul in due time. He recovers it from that condition by some means or other. It may be by some alarm of judgment and terror as with David; or mercy and tenderness, as with Peter.

Usually, Christ recovers the soul:

(1.) By revealing something of this condition. He gives them so much awareness and felt sense of it and so much light as will help the soul see that it is not well but it is lifeless.

(2.) By the revealing the dreadfulness of such a condition and how dangerous it is to continue in it.

(3.) By reminding the soul that He is the resurrection and the life. He does this by stirring up grace in the soul and causing it to look to Him for reviving and release.

(4.) By rousing up the soul in due course out of its drowsiness and sluggish folding the hands to sleep. He brings them out of that deep carelessness into a more lively, vigilant, and active condition.

 

How to Make Use of Christ as Our Soul’s Life

1. Look to Christ as the Light of Men Who Makes the Blind to See

Look to Christ in this way in order to get a better and a more thorough revelation of your condition. To be conscious of this disease is half-way to be being restored. The soul that has a sense of this, is half-recovered of this fever and lethargy.

2. Look to Christ as God

As God He is able to cause the dead and dry bones to live (Ezekiel 37). This will keep you from despondency and despair. It will produce hope within the poor believer, when he sees that his physician is God with whom nothing is impossible.

3. Look to Christ as Your Head and Husband

He is life to the poor soul that cleaves to Him. This will strengthen your hope and expectation. You will see that Christ is engaged as a point of honour, to revive a poor dead and lifeless member of His body. The life in the head is for the good of the whole body and every member of the body that is not quite cut off. The good that is in the husband is for the relief of His poor wife, that has not been divorced. Christ being life and the Life, must be appointed for the relief, reviving and recovering from deadness of those given to Him. They will be raised up at the last day; He must present all his members as living in that day.

4. Wait for Christ in His promises

By faith you must wrap yourself up in the promises and lie before this Sun of Righteousness. Lie there until the heat of His beams thaws your frozen heart, and brings warmth into your cold and dead soul. This will renew your hold upon Him, accepting Him as the Life, and as your life. Christ himself tells us in John 11:40, that this is the Father’s will, that sent him, that everyone that sees the Son, and believes on Him, might have everlasting life, and Christ will raise him up at the last day. Faith closing with Christ was the means of life at first, so it will be the means of recovery out of a deadened condition afterwards.

5. Mourn for the Sins which Caused Such Deadness

Repentance and godly sorrow for the evils that have sinned Christ and life away, is a way to bring life back again.

6. Ensure You Harbour No Known Sin in Your Soul

Set yourself against every known evil. Sin is an enemy to the life and recovery which you are seeking.

7. Wait for Christ as Your Life Where He is to be Found

You must wait on Christ as your life in His appointed means. It is the will of the Lord, that Christ should be waited on there and sought for there. There is little hope of recovery for those who neglect the ordinances. The ordinances cannot revive a poor soul without Christ Himself, yet He condescends to come with life to His people in and through the ordinances.

He has appointed us to wait for Him there. We must be willing to accept all His condescensions of love and seek and wait for Him there, where He has said He will be found. [Christ’s appointed ordinances include such things as prayer, the Word of God, meditation as well as public worship and preaching]

8. Beware of Trusting in the Ordinances More than Christ

Beware of putting these ordinances of life in Christ’s place. Beware of thinking that ordinances will do Christ’s work. Some do this ignorantly in thinking that by praying so often a day, and reading so much, and hearing so much, they will recover their lost lively condition, Alas! all the ordinances, without Christ mean nothing. Without Him, they are cold and lifeless and can never bring heat and warmth to a cold soul. We are to seek Him in the ordinances, and life can be expected from Him alone life and none else.

9. Beware of Using the Ordinances Carelessly

While there is no life in the ordinances without Christ and life can only be expected from Him, yet beware of using the ordinances in a careless and superficial way. This would shows little desire for life, and only increases deadness. The ordinances should be used seriously, diligently, and with great carefulness and earnestness.

10. Wait with Patience

Do not quarrel with Christ for delaying to come. Wait with much humility. It is not fitting for he who through his folly sinned life away, to quarrel with God now because He does not restore him again to life at the first asking. He may be glad if after long seeking, waiting and much diligence, God eventually comes and restores to him the joy of salvation. He could have been made to lie bedridden (spiritually) all his days for a lasting monument of his folly in sinning away his life and strength.

11. Beware of Giving Room to Anything that May Increase or Prolong Spiritual Deadness

Beware of carelessness and negligence in your Christian walk. Beware especially not to provoke God by sinning against light [Scripture truth that you know and believe].

12. Beware of Expecting a Set Measure of Life and Strength

Beggars must not be choosers, far less such beggars who through their own folly have sinned away a good portion. It was not for the prodigal to seek a new inheritance after he had squandered the first; it would  be enough to be made as a servant.

13. Use Whatever Measure of Life You Receive for God and His Glory

Make good use of any small measure of life you get for God and His glory. If you get only one talent, use it to make gain by it. Use limbs and have limbs, use strength and have it. This will be the way to get more.

14. Make Vows to be Watchful

Make vows in the Lord to walk more watchfully in the future. Charge your soul not to stir or provoke the Lord to depart further or be prevented from coming to the soul.

 

Further Difficulties

Brown deals with the difficulties of those who still, despite all this, cannot see a change or increased liveliness in their condition.

1. What if I do not feel my deadness and weakness?

Though there may not be any real feeling of this condition, yet there may be a suspicion that all is not right. If this is the case, the soul must look out to Christ for the life of sense and for a sight of the provocations that have brought on that condition. Christ as the Life must recover the very beginnings of life. When the soul attains any real sense of this deadness it must follow the course previously prescribed for recovery.

2. But I cannot exercise faith, how can I come to Christ and make use of Him?

It is true that while the soul is in that condition it cannot act a strong and lively faith. But it can exercise a weak and sickly faith. A weak and sickly faith can lay hold on an enlivening Christ and so bring more strength and life to the soul. If the soul is so weak that it cannot grip, yet it can look to He that can quicken the dead and has helped many poor souls out of a dead condition. If it cannot do so much as look yet it may give a half-look and lie before him who waits to be gracious; and sustain itself with a “maybe He will come” if it can get no more.

3. What can I do if after all this I find no help but deadness remains and may even be increasing?

The soul in that condition must lie at His door waiting for His deliverance, resolving that if there is nothing better even to die at his door. It must leave no approved means or commanded duty neglected in order to recover its former vigour, activity and strength. While the believer is waiting in this way, he is doing his duty. This may give him peace and he may be sure that he shall never be ashamed (Psalm 25:3; Psalm 69:6; Isaiah 1:18).

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When Does Self-Esteem Go Too Far?

When Does Self-Esteem Go Too Far?

When Does Self-Esteem Go Too Far?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
10 Jun, 2016

Much of our culture centres around self-image. From this perspective low self-esteem is both a danger and a tragedy. For several decades psychologists have also believed that low self-esteem was the root cause of many personal and social problems. Popular Christian psychology is influenced by it to a significant extent. Building and maintaining self-esteem is thought to be a key priority. Yet some have called into question the narcissicism this encourages. Certainly, few ever ask what might be the dangers of excessive self-esteem. What does Scripture say?

There is an interesting expression in Romans 12:3 that no one should “think of himself more highly than he ought to think”; but rather “think soberly”. This certainly seems contrary to the self-esteem movement. Some have preferred to think of self-compassion rather than self-esteem. Few think about whether low self-esteem might arise from pride as much as high self-esteem. Thinking “soberly” of ourselves achieves the balance, The puritans spoke of three types of self-love: natural, carnal and gracious. Carnal self-love is excessive indulgence of the natural instinct of self-preservation. Gracious self-love find its happiness and chief good in God.  It seeks its own welfare in pursuing the higher ends of God’s glory rather than merely pleasing ourselves.

John Brown of Wamphray draws many interesting observations (many relating to pride in ministers) from this verse in his exposition of the book of Romans. The following are a selection:

 

1. Self-esteem goes too far when it Hinders Growth in Grace

Pride and conceitedness in the gifts we have received is a major hindrance to growth in grace and in holiness. It provokes God to leave us to ourselves because of the pride of our hearts. He does this so that we may find by experience how little strength we have to acquire anything and may learn to be humble in the future. This is clear from the connection with the former verses, where he had been pressing them to holiness (Romans 12:1-2). He begins verse 3 with the exhortation that they should not think too highly of themselves with the word “for” to make this connection.

 

2. Self-esteem goes too far when it Strengthens Pride

The innate corruption of pride within our heart is so strong that it is hard to root it out once we give room to this evil.  This weed is so natural to us that if we allow it to grow up even in that garden where there are flowers planted by God’s we cannot get rid of it easily. This is clear from the many arguments which the apostle uses to dissuade them from it. “I say” (at the beginning of the verse) is an authoritative way of saying, “I command”.

 

3. Self-esteem goes too far when we Congratulate Ourselves

We have no abilities or gifts except what we have received and must acknowledge God as the giver. Our natural corruption is so great, however, that we are ready to abuse the best gifts of God.  We grow proud of them and boast as if we needed to thank no one except ourselves for them. We are ready to be puffed up as if we had more ability than we have and could do more than we can and as if there were no one like us. We even see this in those in Church office whom Paul rebukes here.

 

4. Self-esteem goes too far when we Think We Have All the Answers

However small God’s gifts may be, we should not undervalue them since we are less than the least of all His mercies. Rather we are to give God due acknowledgement and hearty thanks for them. Thus, it is a heinous sin when those to whom God has given abilities and gifts swell with pride as if there were no one equal to them. This is particularly so when they think that they alone have unique gifts to search out new and strange doctrines and interpretations never heard of before (1 Timothy  6:3-4).They presume to dive into the secrets of the Lord and things that do not tend to edify. They neglect truths that are more necessary and obvious and are diverted from their ordinary calling and employment: This is the sin from which he dissuades them i.e. thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think.

 

5. Self-esteem goes too far when it Prevents True Self-Knowledge

This sin is heinous in making a man a manifest and notorious liar. It also tends to make a man into a fool that does not know himself. He does not know how he ought to behave towards others. This should scare away Christians (especially the servants of the Lord) from this delusional sin of thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to do.

 

6. Self-esteem goes too far when we Fail to Have Modest Thoughts of Ourselves

Whatever gifts or graces the Lord is pleased to bestow on us, we should strive to have low thoughts of ourselves. We must remember our many infirmities and how unworthy we are of God’s gifts. We should be content in our minds with the measure he has given, knowing it is of His mercy and free love that we get any measure at all. We must pursue what tends to humble and edify rather than questions that cause strife. Thus he exhorts them to “think soberly”.

 

7. Self-esteem goes too far when it Implies that God is Unfair

Those who have conceited thoughts of themselves implicitly charge God with injustice in that He has bestowed fewer abilities on them than they believe they deserve. Beside this, they are guilty of heinous ingratitude in not acknowledging God’s goodness but rather are displeased because they have not been given more. The only wise God distributes freely as He pleases not according to what anyone deserves. This should keep people from conceited thoughts of themselves and undervaluing others. To scare them away from this sin he tells them that it is God who distributes to everyone “the measure of faith”. No one can get more than what God is pleased to give.

 

8. Self-esteem goes too far when it Fails to Depend on God

Every good gift comes down from above and is not the fruit of any man’s work or efforts (though God often blesses faithful effort with gifts). Considering this properly should keep us far from boasting and thinking of ourselves beyond what we ought. Failure to look to the original source of those gifts makes men swell with such great conceit of themselves as if there were none equal to them.  Paul reminds them that it is the Lord that these gifts come from. It is called “the measure of faith” or the knowledge of God through faith in Christ. It is the knowledge of the truth revealed by the Spirit in and by the word, and therefore called “the ministration of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7) or “the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). We cannot attain these without help from God.

 

9. Self-esteem goes too far when it Fails to Acknowledge our Shortcomings

No one, however gifted, has achieved perfection in these gifts. However much he has received, he has only received a measure and a certain proportion. Considering this should lay low the peacock feathers of those who are ready to be puffed up with a vain conceit of themselves and their abilities.  Others also have a proportion (not everything) according to “the measure of faith”.

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The Most Shared Bible Verse?

The Most Shared Bible Verse?

The Most Shared Bible Verse?
John Brown of Wamphray (1610-1679) was the Church of Scotland minister of Wamphray near Dumfries. One of the great theological writers in the later period of the Second Reformation, he wrote a large number of books and also pastored the Scots Church at Rotterdam.
27 May, 2016

The Bible verses shared most are not always what you might expect. Recent technology makes it possible to find out which verses are shared most. This may be via email, text and social media using YouVersion (one of the most popular Bible Mobile Apps). We would assume that John 3:16 will be prominent, and it is. The other verses deal with different themes, however. They address fear and anxiety, for instance Philippians 4:6-7 and Joshua 1:9. Others deal with the future events of our lives such as Proverbs 3:5-6. In many western countries for the past few years, Romans 12:2 tops the list of verses that are shared.

Let’s speculate why this might be so. Is it because Christians are feeling greater pressure to conform to the world? It is likely that it arises from the pressures of (often militant) secularisation in western countries. Clearly, the teaching in this verse is essential for life within our cultural climate. But have we meditated on it fully and put it into practice?

John Brown of Wamphray wrote an exposition of the Book of Romans. In this he enlarges on the practical implications of its teaching. These are his reflections and meditations in updated language. He covers each aspect of its meaning carefully. It is very full but we should not despise it for that. We will miss the vital value of this verse for our lives if we skim it and skip onwards. This is a slow reading of the verse, not repetitive–it is exactly what we need for the meaning to sink in.

 

We Must Not be Conformed to the World but Transformed by God’s Will

  1. Believers must not be conformed to the world. They must not walk according to the fashions of the godless, unregenerate part of mankind in the world. These appreciate nothing except this world. It is as though they were entirely composed out of it. They are called “this world” or age because they are subject to change. Before long all their glory and whatever they have will vanish.
  2. Believers must be transformed. This is the opposite of being conformed. They must be thoroughly changed and renewed as new creatures, growing in holiness daily. He shows further:

(a) How we must be transformed. Our mind and intellect must be renewed. It must be supplied with greater spiritual knowledge and sanctified illumination.

(b) Why we must be transformed. The benefit of this renewing is that they prove what God’s will is. This means that they may be acquainted and fall in love with God’s law, make it their rule and walk according to it. It is commended in three ways to persuade believers to be renewed in their spirit which will enable them to walk after God’s will as their rule.

(i) Good:  because it is the mind of a good God and it makes known to us only what is good and for our spiritual advantage;

(ii) Acceptable: because it shows how we will be accepted by God and what is well-pleasing in His eyes; and,

(iii) Perfect: because it is a pure and complete rule without any mixture and any deficiency. It is able to make clear to us the whole will of God and every duty we ought to practice.

 

1. We cannot Serve God and the World

Following the customs and fashions of the men of this world is a great hindrance to Christians. It prevents them from giving themselves and their service to God for His glory. Our God and the god of this world (who works in “the children of disobedience”) are so completely opposed to one another that no one can serve both. When Paul urges them in verse 1 to present themselves to God, he adds “And be not conformed unto this world”. Both must be kept together.

 

2. We must be in the World but not of it

God’s children must live among worldly people or such as have their portion in this world. Because of this they are still in danger of being ensnared by their evil example. The strength of corruption in the behaviour of bad company is so powerful that even the best of God’s children must be wary and walk circumspectly. They are at risk of being drawn aside and tainted by their foul conduct.  All this is implied when he exhorts these believing Romans not to conform themselves to the men of this world.

 

3. Unbelievers are so Identified with the World that they Share its Name

The unregenerate are so closely related to the world that they appreciate and understand nothing except the world.  They have their heart and their eye on it and their portion in it. This is so to such an extent that they borrow their name from it and are fittingly called the world.

 

4. We must Avoid the Empty, Sinful Ways of the World

All God’s children must labour to keep themselves free of the empty, sinful ways of the world.  No matter what apparent beauty their conduct may have, God’s children must not conform themselves to it. The Lord requires that all believers “be not conformed to this world”.

 

5. We cannot Claim to be Renewed if we Conform to the World

Men may foolishly consider themselves happy enough in following the fashion of this world. Whoever is led away and whose walk is no different from the men of this world cannot consider himself anything other than unregenerated and unrenewed. In so far as any are renewed and changed, they have a different walk from the world and are not conformed to it. This is clear from the way that he opposes conforming ourselves to transforming ourselves.

 

6. We Must be Transformed by Renewing Grace

Striving after ever greater renewing grace is the most effective way to be free from being tainted and led away with the enticing conduct of worldlings. We are more and more transformed by this grace.

Only Omnipotence can renew souls. There is nothing in man that can justly claim any share of the glory of this work. Yet when the Lord makes such a change, He deals with souls as rational creatures not mere blocks. They must use the means by which the Lord ordinarily sends down renewing grace.

The Lord works in us by free grace “both to will and to do of his good pleasure”. In this way, the Lord declares our miserable condition by nature. He shows the ability and power we have lost. Despite the powerlessness we have contracted by our own sin, however, our duty remains.

This also shows the way in which God usually achieves this work i.e. by driving us out of ourselves to Him who alone can do it. Thus the apostle urges them to be renewed and transformed – not as if it were in their own power, but to drive them to God. He alone has power to do this. The apostle seeks to rouse them up from being complacent lest they think they ought to do nothing except let the Spirit do everything.

Everyone by nature is in the lamentable condition that the fair image we once had is now lost and gone. That sweet, holy and righteous nature which God bestowed at the beginning is now away.  Everything must be made new again, or renewed: this presupposes things that were once new, but now old.

 

7. We must be Transformed as well as Not Conformed

Hypocrites may deceive themselves by imagining that they have done everything necessary when they are not conformed to the world. That is, they have abstained from the gross corruptions and abominations of the most worldly. Besides not being conformed to the world, true believers must also strive to be transformed and cast in a new mould.  It is not enough, not to be conformed to this world we must also strive to “be transformed”.

 

8. We must be Transformed because We Still Have Remaining Sin

By nature everyone must be changed and transformed or else perish. Thus, the children of God still have the remains of a corrupt nature in them which keeps them continually exercised. It is their duty to wrestle against it daily and strive to have more of this new nature. They must be “transformed”.

 

9. We Must Have Our Mind Renewed

By nature, our minds retain some common ideas about God’s existence and principles of righteousness. Yet, we are blind as regards any saving knowledge or the right way to God. By nature we cannot see the things of God and are full of unbelief, ignorance and confusion. Even the minds of the best, who see only in part, are not fully freed from this disease. Everyone must have their minds renewed.

The Lord usually begins with the mind in effecting this renewing and transformation. He sends the spirit of illumination to remove the natural darkness and confusion that oppresses the soul. By this, a man sees his lost condition and the emptiness and uselessness of  any created thing to help him. He sees where help  and by this the man is brought, through grace, to embrace the One through whom all good comes.  Thus, when Paul urges them to be transformed, he adds, “by the renewing” of the “mind”. This shows that the work must begin and continue by this means.

 

10. We must Know and Embrace God’s Will

Obedience and approving God’s will is a natural result of the new nature which they have received. Renewing and illumination are a direct means towards approving the good will of God. Thus, Paul says be “transformed by the renewing of your minds”, that you may “prove” the “will of God”.

Unregenerate men may pretend to have great love and respect for God’s commands and outwardly conform to them. However much this may be so, none but those that are truly renewed, can or will, truly and cordially approve  and embrace God’s commandments. The more we are illuminated and renewed, the more God’s will prevails with us and we will conform our lives to it. The way to approved God’s will is through renewal and illumination.

It is the duty of all believers to prove God’s will by studying and searching it out. Having come to know it, we must approve, highly esteem and embrace it heartily. All this is included in proving God’s will

 

11. We must Esteem God’s Law as Entirely Good

Only those who strive for a high and spiritual esteem of God’s law as the only rule of their life will be kept from being conformed to this world. This is clear from comparing the words of this verse with the beginning of verse 1.

The law of God is a declaration of God’s will concerning what He will have us to do. This law is good, and contains nothing except what is both good in itself and good for us. Thus, it is called “good”. This is clear when God’s law is search out with a true spiritual understanding.

 

12. We must Obey God’s Will to Please Him

It is impossible to please God unless we take His will as the rule by which we should square our lives. Yet our foolish imaginations are ready to supply many alternatives. It is, therefore called God’s “acceptable” will because it shows what service God is and is not well-pleased with.

 

13. We must Fully Rest on God’s Will and Nothing Else

This will of God is complete and perfect, declaring whatever we need to know for salvation. Thus, we may rest on it and reject whatever is not approved or commanded in general or particular. We need not make new additions to God’s will from any traditions or decrees of men.

 

14. We must Know and Love God’s Will

We must understand that the law of God is good, full, complete and the only way to please the Lord. This knowledge should stir up all God’s people to make conscience of proving and approving this will of God. This why the law is described in this way. It should spur us on to proving and approving God’s will, knowing the difficulties lie in our way but also the benefit that it will be to us.

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