God’s Ancient Answer to Our 24/7 Anxiety

God’s Ancient Answer to Our 24/7 Anxiety

God’s Ancient Answer to Our 24/7 Anxiety
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
21 Jul, 2021

Our 24/7 world presents new challenges of overwork in blurring the boundaries between work and the rest of life and over exploitation of natural resources. Searching for ultimate meaning in the wrong places “we have turned our work into our identity.” The recent disruption to patterns of work provides an opportunity to review our approach to life, employment and our use of time. A new study is concerned about the potential for the dehumanisation of work. “As the relationship between work, time, and place changes, there is a need to rediscover patterns of rest”. God has already provided the remedy. “The biblical idea of a Sabbath is an ancient answer to a very modern anxiety”. It is a day that “demonstrates for all of us that we are not defined by what we do or what we consume”. As a day of worship it gives us something that rises above and points beyond the daily grind. The need for it is hardwired into our nature from the creation of the world. We neglect it at our peril.

As the report by the thinktank Theos observes, we need to know “not simply how to live, but how to live well.” Citing the fourth commandment, it refers to the maintains that the sabbath shows us God’s way to a more meaningful and balanced life. As a contribution to the public square it points to the general principle but is rather light on detail as to what recovering the sabbath might involve.

Thankfully we have a sure guide to God’s ancient wisdom in the Westminster Shorter Catechism which opens up the biblical meaning of the sabbath principle (see for instance (Exodus 31:13, 16-17; Genesis 2:2-3; Mark 2:27-28; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Isaiah 58:13-14; Leviticus 23:3; Luke 4:16; Matthew 12:1-13; Amos 8:4-6). Our book Bible Truth Explored helps us understand and apply this in our own context. Much more could be said on these points but this is a straightforward introduction.

A day of rest

When God had finished His work of creation He left us an example of how we are to structure our week. We read in Genesis that God rested for one day, taking delight in the very good work which He had completed. He has also
appointed one day in every week to be a day of rest for His creatures. We are to spend the Lord’s day in “holy resting,” finding delight in the very good works which God has done – not only in creation, but also in grace.

Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself. (Shorter Catechism, Q58).

It is a great kindness on the Lord’s part to grant His creatures a day of rest from their ordinary weekly occupations. Since the fall, we get tired and weary and need time to rest, otherwise we will become ill and our work and lives will suffer. We also have to ensure that if we employ other people to work for us, they also get a day of rest. Even animals are allowed one day a week without work. Of course, some things are necessary to be done and some things come into the category of acts of mercy. We don’t take a rest from getting dressed in the morning or eating food, and we have to continue to care for people in need. But whatever works of necessity and mercy we do, it is to be with a view to enabling the Lord’s day to be kept focused on Him and His worship.

Q. Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
A. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath. (Shorter Catechism Q59)

In the Old Testament this day of rest was the seventh day of the week, commemorating the completed work of creation. Following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ the Christian sabbath is held on the first day of the week, the day on which He rose from the grave, to commemorate not only creation but the completed work of redemption (Revelation. 1:10; Acts 20:7; John 20:19, 26).

“It is a great kindness on the Lord’s part to grant His creatures a day of rest from their ordinary weekly occupations.”

A day of work

At the same time as the sabbath is a day of rest, it is also a day of work. This is not a contradiction, because the purpose of resting from our normal weekly work is to free us up to be very busy in a different kind of work — the work of worship. We are not to waste away the sabbath day in idleness. The sabbath is a day for worship and spiritual activity. It is a day when our souls rather than our bodies are especially busy and when the needs of our souls rather than our bodies receive our special attention. The sabbath is a day during which we are to be especially engaged in doing business with heaven and preparing for eternity.

“We are not to waste away the sabbath day in idleness. The sabbath is a day for worship and spiritual activity.”

We should be active in worship all day long, whether in the public, formal assemblies of God’s people or in private, at home by ourselves or with our families. We should not rest content with giving just one little corner of the day to worship — it is meant to be a whole day of spiritual activity.

A day apart

The sabbath is a day set apart from all the others by the Lord. At creation He claimed it for His own, and blessed it (see Genesis 2:3). Amongst other things, this shows that the Lord reserves the right to choose when He wants us to approach Him in worship, and He blesses those who remember His day. He has given precious promises about being present by His Spirit when people gather in church.

The sabbath day is set apart by us from every other day, as the one special occasion during our week when we remember the Lord our Maker and Redeemer. Our focus on this day is to be on the Lord. Instead of focusing on earning our living, or ordinary pastimes, we can devote ourselves to rejoicing in God and finding our satisfaction in Him.

Specifically, we can do this when we assemble with other believers to worship God as His church —

  • By hearing God’s Word preached
  • By joining in public prayers and praises
  • By partaking of the sacraments

We can also do this when we are in private, on our own or in our families —

  • By singing, praying and reading the Word on our own or as a family
  • By catechising each other as a family or examining ourselves on our own
  • By discussing the sermon and other spiritual topics with our families and friends
  • By meditating on the truth of God’s Word
  • By reading edifying books

Q. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy. (Shorter Catechism Q60)

A day remembered

We also set the sabbath day apart by remembering it. For one thing, we should remember that God has kept one day special for Himself from the beginning of time, even before He called Israel to be His people, and redeemed them out of Egypt. We are therefore only following in a long line of obedient worshippers of God when we keep His day holy.

For another thing, we should spend our whole week both remembering that the sabbath has passed (for example, trying to keep in mind whatever truth we heard preached last sabbath) and also remembering that the sabbath is coming up again. We should make arrangements throughout the week to make sure that things won’t be left unfinished to distract us from spiritual things on the Lord’s day, and especially towards the end of each week we should pray for help to spend the whole day in worshipping God and for a blessing when we do so.
We ought to love our neighbour by helping others to remember the sabbath to keep it holy. We should help those for whom we have responsibility to keep it holy. We can also remember and show kindness to those who cannot get out to church due to ill health, old age, or other valid reasons.

A day ahead

The sabbath rest which we enjoy in this world is a foretaste of the rest which God’s people will enjoy in heaven. Heaven is one unending sabbath rest (see Hebrews 4:9). Worship goes on continually in heaven, without interruption, without weariness, and without conclusion. It is the place where our souls and bodies will be completely at rest in God, and where we will join harmoniously with all of God’s people at once in praising
and blessing Him. Our entire focus will be on adoring God for what He has done in creation and salvation.

Something to think about

  • Why do we need a day of rest?
  • While the Old Testament sabbath commemorated creation, the New Testament sabbath commemorates redemption. In what ways is redemption a greater work than creation?
  • What are the similarities and differences between sabbaths on earth and the sabbath rest in heaven?

Personal reflection

  • Do you enjoy the Lord’s day when it comes? Do you look forward to resting from ordinary activities and being busy in spiritual activities?

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Flourishing Despite the Greatest Pressures

Flourishing Despite the Greatest Pressures

Flourishing Despite the Greatest Pressures
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
8 Jul, 2021

Believers, churches and pastors especially have certainly experienced many pressures in recent times. The natural tendency is to be at least worn down by it. It may seem like every grace is tested to its limits by complex challenges, difficult choices, fears and divisions. We learn a great deal about ourselves and others as a consequence. It can be hard to see the spiritual growth despite the weakness in the midst of it all. Yet our growth is God’s purpose in it all. We may shrink from this through fear of a guilt trip about our personal growth but it shows us how to grow despite the greatest pressures. Even if you cannot see it yet, this should inform our prayers.

One picture of such growth is the palm tree: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12). Joseph Caryl speaks of how this growth is despite some of the greatest pressures. When believers meet with the greatest pressures in the world, they thrive and grow heavenward. When the world would crush the righteous and press them down to the earth, like the palm tree, they grow up more and more. Palm trees are top-heavy and endure a lot of pressure from the considerable weight of their leaves and fruit. Some palm trees can grow up to six feet per year in the right conditions despite this. They are more resilient in storms than other trees by bending up to 50 degrees without snapping. Joseph Caryl shows in the following updated extract how this is also true in spiritual terms.

1. Pressures Can Help Spiritual Growth

When Pharaoh put the weights of very heavy oppression on the people of Israel, the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew (Exodus 1:12). Surely we are to understand this, not only of their multiplying in number but of increase in goodness – they were more fruitful in their lives. This has been said of the Church at all times when under pressures and burdens. They were bound, they were beaten, they were burnt, and yet they multiplied and increased. The more persons were added to the Church; and those persons that were added, advanced more in ways of grace and holiness. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.

Those who have a spiritual and holy understanding may indeed fall (Daniel 11:35). But it will try them and purge them, to make them white. It will purge out their corruptions and make their graces very conspicuous. Zechariah 13:9 teaches the same thing: “I will bring the third part through the fire”. Shall they be burnt there? No, “I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: and they shall call on my name, and I will hear them, I will say, it is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” Faith will grow to an assurance.

Paul says that his troubles and afflictions worked out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12). He says that many were willing to speak the gospel without fear (1:14). They grew up like the palm tree; they grew in confidence and boldness. They had not only integrity for Christ, but a great increase of strength for Christ.

In Romans 5 Paul shows that tribulation and trials do not hinder graces but rather further them. Tribulation works patience which works experience, and experience hope. Here is a flourishing, and a growing up in all Graces, even in a time of tribulation. The same thing is in 2 Corinthians 4:17, light afflictions work a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. We grow more up into heaven and glory. Our hope rises up to glory by our affliction. This is flourishing like the palm tree. Afflictions will make us the fitter for heaven: they will make us better than we were, and so fitter for heaven, fitter for glory.

2. Pressures Wean Us From the World

The pressures and weights from the world that are on the righteous wean them from the world. The love of the world, cleaving to the world, and desires going after the world, are great impediments to our growth in grace. In Matthew 13:22 we are told that the cares and pleasures of the world choke the Word and make it altogether unfruitful. Sufferings for Christ which are the weights laid on us for Christ’s sake make us more crucified to the world and the world to us (Galatians 6:14). When the soul is delivered from this evil world, it must flourish upwards towards the other world.

3. Pressures Help Us Grow in Understanding

By the afflictions and troubles we experience in this world we get much light and grow into a clearer knowledge of the things that help us increase heaven-ward. Affliction gives an understanding of:

(a) the vanity and wickedness of the world
(b) the mind of God and the Word of God (Psalm 119:71).
(c) the worth of grace
(d) the excellency of Jesus Christ Himself.

In 2 Peter 3:18, we are told to grow in grace. How does this happen? We must also grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In proportion to our growth in the true knowledge of Christ that comes from experience (not mere brain knowledge) we increase and grow in grace. As we grow in the knowledge of the vanity of the world, the Word of God, the worth of grace and Christ; we must grow in grace.

4. Pressures Draw Us More into Our Own Hearts

The weights and pressures which on these palm-trees, the righteous, draw them more into their own hearts. They commune with their hearts more and are more acquainted with them, they search themselves more. This will make us flourish, and grow upwards. The reason we grow up so little in acquaintance with Christ is that we grow so little in acquaintance with ourselves. In an afflicted condition the soul returns to itself (Lamentations 3:40). They search themselves for their corruptions and lusts in the secret corners of our hearts. They search for grace; what faith we have, what love we have, what patience etc. Afflictions bring believers to assess what condition they are in, how they fare. The troubles we meet with in the world, give us this advantage for spiritual growth, of growing heaven-ward like the palm tree.

5. Pressures Drive Us Nearer to God

These afflictions and pressures we have from the world drive us nearer to God, to more acquaintance with God and more communion with Christ. They force us to Christ. When the world flatters and embraces us we begin to forget and to disregard communion with Jesus Christ. There may be greater communion with God in a time of pressures (Isaiah 26:16). But in times of outward peace, and when all is well, we are very ready to neglect communion with God.

6. Pressures May Bring God’s Presence 

While the righteous are under weights and pressures like a palm tree, they have the special promise of God’s presence with them. This makes them flourish. It is not our being in affliction, which makes us better and grow heaven-ward; but it is Christ being with us in affliction. It is God manifesting Himself to us in affliction which makes us grow, and flourish like a palm tree. There are many such promises (e.g. Isaiah 43:2; 1 Peter 4:14). When the weights are upon us, we have promises of more of the presence of God, and the presence of His Spirit. We shall therefore flourish, flourish spiritually, flourish in our inner man.

Conclusion

This shows us how God is able to make all things work for the good of His people. It should also bring us to praise the power, wisdom and goodness of God who over-rules these things for His people. It should also prompt us to seek how we can flourish under pressure. Afflictions, whether for righteousness sake or fatherly chastisements from the hand of God are for our good. We must submit to the will of God because these things are for our good and growth if we respond to them in the right way (Hebrews 12:10-12). They are ways that we may be made “partakers of the holiness of God”. This does not mean that afflictions bring joy in themselves, they are indeed painful but they can result in the abiding fruit of righteousness. They help us live better and make us more prepared to die and to glorify God both living and dying. This hope can help us “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees”. Rather than discourage us it can encourage us by helping us to see how these things can work for our spiritual growth.

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How Should We Engage Our Hearts in Prayer?

How Should We Engage Our Hearts in Prayer?

How Should We Engage Our Hearts in Prayer?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
30 Jun, 2021

Prayer is no easy thing. Many are ready to grasp hold of another new method in the hope that it will make it easier. Or less intentionally they begin to imitate a particular style or manner. But prayer is not a technique to be mastered. We can also go to the other extreme of letting our words run loose without engaging our thoughts and affections. It is not necessarily more sincere and authentic because it is uncontrolled. Neither is it better because it is longer or more logical. “God looks not at the oratory of your prayers, how elegant they may be; nor at the geometry of your prayers, how long they may be; nor at the arithmetic of your prayers, how many they may be; not at logic of your prayers, how methodical they may be; but the sincerity of them he looks at” (Thomas Brooks). These matters are addressed by Christ in the teaching He gives in relation to prayer.

Christ said there is a twofold danger of “vain repetitions” and “much speaking” (Matthew 6:7-8). We can do this by going over the same things again and again. Or we may use the same words as merely filling a gap or weakly expressing some fervency. This may include unthinkingly uttering many words that have no real significance, worse if it is God’s name that is used in this way. Or perhaps we pray at greater length simply thinking that this is more acceptable or spiritual. In these things the Saviour expands on the teaching we have in Ecclesiastes 5:2.

Thomas Manton (a member of the Westminster Assembly) says that we must avoid the two extremes of having too much to say for the sake of it or having nothing much to say because our hearts are not truly prepared.

He points out that some repetition is not empty. Christ prayed the same words three times in the greatest fervency (Matthew 26:44). Daniel uses God’s name with great weight and reverence over and over again (Daniel 9:17-19). The problem is when we “speak words without need and without affection”. The “general rule is, let your words be concise, but full of affection”.

As Christ says, our wrong approach to prayer can reveal a wrong approach to God. In expounding Christ’s words Thomas Manton shows us what the Saviour requires in terms of our words, thoughts and affections in prayer. This shows us what prayer is and how to pray.

The Larger Catechism Q185 gives emphasis to our thoughts and affections in defining how we are to pray. We need to understand from Scripture how to approach God in prayer with right thoughts and affections.

We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon him, with humble submission to his will.

1. How Should We Engage Our Words in Prayer?

Words are used in prayer, to stir up, convey, and give vent to affection (Hosea 14:2). This is to be considered either when we are alone or in company.

(a) When we are alone. Take the advice of the Holy Spirit (Ecclesiastes 5:2) and let your words be few, How few? Few in weight, conscience, reverence.

Few in weight
Speak substance rather than mere words; concisely and feelingly rather than with intricacy, to express what you have to say to God.

Few in conscience
Superstition is an illegitimate religion and is tyrannous requiring tedious service sometimes beyond our strength. Therefore pray neither too short nor too long; do not merely lengthen out the prayer as counting it the better for being long. The shortness or the length of it must be measured by the fervency of our hearts, the many necessities and as it tends to inflame our zeal. As it can get up the heart, let it still be subservient to that.

Few with reverence
Managed with that gravity, awe, and seriousness as would become an address to God. Abraham had been reasoning with God and continues to do so with reverence (Genesis 18:31).

(b) When we are in company. There our words must be apt and orderly, as moving as possible for the benefit of the hearers. It must be managed with such reverence and seriousness as suits the gravity of the duty. It should not increase but cure the dullness of those with whom we join. We may choose out words to reason with God (Job 9:14) in public, making preparation and thinking a little beforehand so that we may go about the duty with seriousness and not with indigested thoughts.

2. How Should We Engage Our Thoughts in Prayer?

To conceive aright of God in prayer is one of the greatest difficulties in this duty.

(a) Thoughts of the nature and being of God
Everyone that would come to God must fix this in their mind, that God is, and that God is a spirit; and accordingly He must be worshipped as is most fitting (Hebrews 11:6; John 4:24), Oh, then, whenever you come to pray to God, fix these two thoughts, let them be strong in your heart. God is; do not speak to an idol, but to the living God. God is a spirit; and therefore He is not so much pleased with reasoned speech or tuneful cadence of words, as with a right condition of heart. When we come to pray we think little that God is, or what God is. Much of our religion is performed to an unknown God, and, like the Samaritans, we worship we know not what.

It is not speculations about the divine nature, or high-strained conceptions, which fit us for prayer. I do not urge you to use theological terms. What fits us for prayer is such a sight of God as prompts us to worship Him reverently and seriously. We have right notions of God in prayer, when we are affected as Moses was, when God showed him His back-parts and proclaimed his name. “He made haste, bowed his head, and worshipped” Exodus 34:8). When our worship suits the nature of God, it is spiritual and holy, not full of theatrical pomp.

God is
Our worship is right when it proclaims to ourselves and all that observe us that there is a great, an infinite, eternal power, which governs all according to His own pleasure. The worship of many is flat atheism; they say in their hearts either there is no God, or believe there is no God. Therefore, do you worship Him as becomes such a glorious being? Is His mercy seen in your faith and confidence, His majesty in your humility and reverence, His goodness in your soul’s rejoicing, His greatness and justice in your trembling before His throne? The worship must be like the One worshipped, it must have His stamp on it.

God is a spirit
The soul must therefore be the chief agent in the business, not the body, or any member of the body. Spirits converse with spirits. The body must not guide and lead the soul but be led by it. Be sure to have the spirit engaged, otherwise that which is most essential to the worship is lacking. To have nothing employed except the tongue, and the heart engaged about other business, is not to conduct yourselves towards God who is a spirit. Ask yourselves “where is my soul in this worship, and how is it affected towards God?

(b) Thoughts of God’s Fatherly Relation

As there must be thoughts to direct us in God’s being and nature, so also in His relation as a father, as one that is inclined to pardon, pity, and help you. We have the spirit of adoption given us for this very end and purpose, that we may cry, “Abba, Father” through the ministry of the Spirit (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15). We have received the Spirit of adoption, crying, Abba, Father so that we may come to God in a child-like manner, dealing with Him as with a father, acquainting Him with our needs, necessities and burdens, with hope of relief and provision.

(c) Thoughts of God’s attributes

Matthew 6:7-8 offers three aspects of God’s attributes to consider. God’s omniscience, (He knows); His fatherly care (Your Father knows) and His readiness to help, even before we ask (Your Father knows what you need).

All-knowing
He knows us in person and name (John 10:3). He knows our state and condition (Psalm 56:8). He observes us in the very posture when we come to pray, and where. The Lord takes notice, in such a city, in such a street, in such a house, in such a room, and what you are doing when you are praying (Acts 9:11). He sees not only that you pray, but how you pray (Romans 8:27), He can discern between words that are of the flesh and such as are the breathings of the spirit.

Fatherly care
He knows what burdens you. It is not said, that He may care but that He does take care (1 Peter 5:7). God is ahead of us and our anxiousness takes the work out of God’s hand which He is doing already. Our worries are needless, fruitless, burdensome; but His concerns are assiduous, powerful and blessed. A small matter may cause much vexation to us, but to Him all things are easy. Praying for what we need, we should give thanks for what we have (Philippians 4:6; Matthew 6:32). His fatherly love will not allow Him to neglect His children or any of their concerns. Therefore, if you are tempted to anxiety of mind, and do know not how to get out of such a difficulty and conquer such a problem, remember you have a Father to provide for you: this will prevent tormenting anxiety, which is good for nothing but to anticipate your sorrow.

Readiness to help
This should be deeply impressed upon your minds, and you should habituate yourself to these thoughts, how ready God is to help and to run to our cry (Psalm 32:5; Isaiah 65:24; Jeremiah 31:18). He is more ready to give than you to ask. This will help and direct you mightily in the business of prayer. God has a care for His children and is very ready to help the weak, and relieve them in all their troubles.

3. How Should We Engage Our Affections in Prayer?

Three things are required in expressing affection in prayer: fervency, reverence, and confidence.

(a) Fervency
This usually comes from two things, a broken-hearted sense of our needs and a desire for the blessing we need. For the broken-hearted sense of our needs, especially spiritual. Weaknesses afflict the best. All Christians have a continual need to cry to God. We have continual necessities both within and without. Go cry to God your Father without affectation, but not without affection! Seek what you need from Him. The more grace is increased, the more sense of need is increased because sin is more hated, defects are less tolerated. There must be a desire for the blessing, especially spiritual. Our needs must stir up fresh longings and holy desires after God (Mathew 7:7; Luke 11:8). We spend the earnestness of our spirits in other matters, in disputes, contests, earthly pursuits; our importunate earnestness runs in a worldly channel. But there must be sincerity in pouring out our hearts before Him; no sacrifices without fire, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (James 5:16).

(b) Reverence
Reverent, respectful behaviour towards our heavenly Father is essential. There is in God a mixture of majesty and mercy; so there must be in us a mixture of joy and trembling (Psalm 2:11). God’s love does not abase His majesty, nor does His majesty diminish His love. We ought to know our distance from God, and to think of His superiority over us; therefore we must be serious. Remember that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Psalm 89:7).

(c) Confidence
There is boldness in pouring out our requests to God, who will certainly hear us, and grant what is good (Ephesians 3:12). We must rely on His goodness and power in all our necessities. He is so gracious in Christ that He will do that which is best for His glory and our good, and we should not seek it on other terms.

Conclusion

If you would not turn prayer into babbling and much speaking into affectation of words, take heed of how prayer is abused in these ways and strive to bring your hearts to God in this way.

 

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Beginning to Truly Honour Marriage Again

Beginning to Truly Honour Marriage Again

Beginning to Truly Honour Marriage Again
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
29 Jun, 2021

No one it seemed was willing to make the Health Secretary’s adultery a matter of comment or concern. It was his private business and we do not concern ourselves with the marital integrity of our leaders. All that mattered was if he had broken some other rules. Even church leaders seemed content to echo this line. The Bishop of Manchester did not seem to make it a matter of moral concern. “I’m more worried about the fact that he failed to keep the social distancing” he said, “than I am about the fact that here is a middle-aged bloke having a bit of a fling.” After some pressure from the interviewer about the expectation of the church showing moral leadership in this area the bishop admitted that marriage vows were important. But the signal had already been given that they were not very important. It is clear that marriage is a demeaned institution in our culture and that ought to concern us. How do we restore that honour?

The first step towards this would be recognising what is honourable about marriage. We are told it is “honourable in all” (Hebrews 13:4).  William Gouge wrote very extensively on the subject of marriage and in this updated extract he explains what that honour is.

1. What Do We Mean by Honourable?

The Greek word means that which is of high account or esteem. It is attributed sometimes to individuals e.g. Gamaliel was had in reputation (Acts 5:34.) The Greek uses the same word that is here translated honourable. Sometimes also it is attributed to things in terms of their value e.g. the produce of the earth, (James 5:7).  It is also applied to precious stones and other things of great worth (Revelation 18:12). It is attributed to divine promises (2 Peter 2:4) and Christ’s blood (1 Peter 1:19). In all these passages it is translated as precious. This word being thus applied to marriage shows that it is a condition to be highly esteemed and described as honourable.

2. Marriage Was Honourable in its Institution

No ordinance was more honourable in its first institution when we consider the one who instituted it, the time and place where it was instituted, the individuals who were first married and the way they were joined together.

(a) The author and first institutor of marriage was the Lord God. Could anyone greater or more excellent have instituted it?

(b) The place was paradise. The fairest, most glorious, pleasant, honourable and excellent place there ever was in this world. Even though place is but a circumstance, it adds much to the honour of a thing. Solemn ordinances are carried out in honourable places. Thus, marriages are usually solemnized in churches, not in private houses.

(c) The time was the most pure and perfect time there ever was in the world, the time of man’s innocence, when no sin or pollution of man had stained it. Purity adds much to the honour of a thing.

(d) The individuals were the most honourable there ever were; the first father and mother of all mankind. They had an absolute power and dominion over all creatures who were all were subject to them . None except them ever had a true monarchy over the whole world.

(e) The way they were married showed the greatest consideration ever was used in instituting any ordinance. For first the three glorious persons in the Trinity meet to take counsel about it. “The Lord God said.” And to whom should He speak? Not to any creature but to the One begotten of Himself, that Wonderful, Counsellor, etc. In this consultation this ordinance is found to be very necessary. (“It is not good for man to be alone”) it is determined then to make a suitable help for him. For the better effecting of this the Lord proceeds very deliberately, by various steps and degrees (a) all creatures are brought before him (b) all of them are carefully viewed and found unfit (c) woman is made as an excellent creature and presented to man (d) Adam manifesting delight in her she is given to him to be his wife (e) the inviolable law of the near and firm union of man and wife together is enacted.

When we consider carefully everything concerning the first institution of marriage expressly recorded by the Holy Spirit, we will easily see that there is no ordinance now in force among men so honourable in the institution, as this.

3. Marriage is Honourable in its Purposes

There are three main purposes.

(a) That the world might be increased with a legitimate offspring and with distinct families, which are the seminaries of cities and commonwealths. Also that the Church might be preserved and propagated in the world by a holy seed (Malachi 2:15).

(b) To avoid fornication (1 Corinthians 7:2) and possess our vessels in holiness and honour. This adds much to the honour of marriage. It shows that marriage is like a haven to those who are in jeopardy of their salvation through the gusts of temptations to lust. No sin is more hereditary than this lust or more partaken of by the children of Adam.

(c) That man and wife might be a mutual help to one another (Genesis 2:18). A help to bring up as well as bring forth children, to govern a family well as much as to establish it. A help for ordering prosperity well and bearing adversity well. A help in sickness and in health.  A help while both live together, and in the time when one is taken by death from the other. In this respect it is said that they both find a good thing (Proverbs 18:22). There is no help a man can have from any other creature as from a wife, or a woman from a husband.

4. Marriage is Honourable in its Privileges

What is the privilege, advantage, and profit of marriage? I answer, much every way.

(a) By it men and women are made husbands and wives.

(b) It is the only lawful means to make them fathers and mothers.

(c) It is the most effectual means possible of continuing a person’s name and memory in this world. Children are living memorials and representations of their parents.

(d) Many privileges have traditionally been granted to those who are married.

5. Marriage is Honourable in What it Represents

There is a great mystery set forth by marriage, namely the sacred, spiritual, real, and inviolable union between Christ and His Church. This is excellently deciphered in the Song of Solomon and Psalm 45 and expressly noted in Ephesians 5:32.

In this way a man and wife who love one another entirely, as they ought, have an evident demonstration of Christ’s love to them. Just as parents by their affection towards their children may better discern the mind and meaning of God towards them, so married people better know the disposition of Jesus Christ, who is the spouse of every faithful soul.

Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article Can Evangelicals Save Marriage? It explores the impact our culture has had on perceptions of marital union. The key focus is on how to live out Christian character and grace in the context of marriage.

 

 

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How Christ Taught Us to Pray for Reformation

How Christ Taught Us to Pray for Reformation

How Christ Taught Us to Pray for Reformation
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
24 Jun, 2021

To reform is to be shaped by the Word of God into God’s own pattern and design. We need that individually and corporately. We need Christ to rule in our hearts and in His own kingdom. We also want to see Christ’s kingdom extended and grow in stability and purity. In a time of confusion, we need the clarity that comes from the Word. In a time of apostasy, it is far easier to decline and fragment than it is to reform. Ultimately reforming is the work of God’s grace and Spirit. But that only increases our responsibility to pray for it and to search God’s Word to see how we need to change personally and collectively.

Christ has given us a prayer for reformation which is as extensive as possible while also being as brief as possible (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). Simply to pray that His kingdom would come, is to desire that it would come in as many places as possible and in as many ways as possible. The Larger Catechism Q191 indicates something of this fulness.

In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him for ever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

When John Calvin wrote a defence and manifesto of church reformation, he focussed on four main topics which he called the soul and body of the church. The soul of the church is worship and salvation. The body is the sacraments and church government. Any errors had to be removed and a right understanding and practice, according to the Word of God, put in place (see The Necessity of Reforming the Church).

These four topics are at the heart of what it means to pray for reformation. The kingdom comes when the gospel is declared and the external means of establishing this kingdom are in place through mission. These are the ordinances Christ requires, including the Word, sacraments and government or discipline. But even when they are established there can be a temptation to diminish or corrupt them in many ways. And even if this is not the case we need the blessing of the Holy Spirit to make them effectual so that the church is inwardly and spiritually changed and not just outwardly. Indeed, it is a prayer we all need every day, personally as well as collectively.

Henry Scudder (a member of the Westminster Assembly) indicated the same perspective in expounding this part of the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer that “the Holy Spirit of God would effectually accompany the outward means of gathering, and building up the elect, to the enlightening and translating them from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear son. And that they may increase in knowledge and every good grace, according to the mighty working of his glorious power; that the Word, sacraments, and discipline, the weapons of this warfare, may be mighty through God to pull down strongholds, and cast down imaginations and high things which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, and may bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”.

Christ’s kingdom comes the more the means of establishing it increase, especially where the Word of the kingdom is proclaimed (Matthew 12:28; 13:19; Mark 4:15). The more that heart obedience is given and grace increases, the more this kingdom comes (Romans 6:17; Matthew 13:18). The following updated extract is drawn from James Ussher’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer which influenced the Larger Catechism.

1. How is this a Prayer for Reformation?

We pray that:

  • God may reign in our hearts, not sin;
  • the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ both by the inward working of his Spirit, and also by the outward means may be enlarged daily, until it is perfected at the coming of Christ to judgement;
  • the kingdom of sin and Satan being more and more abolished (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13) Christ may now reign in our hearts by grace (Colossians 3:15-16) and we with Him for ever in glory (2 Timothy 2:12);
  • Christ’s government in the Church may be here in this world enlarged;
  • it would please God to gather His elect out of every part of the world.

2. How is this a Prayer for Personal Reformation?

We pray that God would give His Holy Spirit, as the chief and principal means by which our Saviour Christ gathers and rules His Church, conveying His spirit of knowledge and good inclinations into His people. Consequently, we also pray against the influences and temptations of Satan, and of our own flesh.

We are like poor captives who are always creeping up to the prison door and labouring to loose their bolts. Out of a sorrowful felt sense of the spiritual bondage we are in to Satan and sin, we pray that the kingdom of Christ may come and be advanced in every one of our hearts in justice, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). That the Lord by His Word and spirit would rule in the hearts and lives of His Saints (Colossians 3:15-16). Thus, as kings unto God, we may subdue within us all those opinions or affections that rise up and rebel against God.

That it would please God every day more and more to increase the holy gifts and graces of His Holy Spirit in the hearts of those whom He has already called effectually.

3. How is this a Prayer for Church Reformation?

We pray concerning the means by which the Spirit is conveyed; namely, the Word (and the ways it is declared), the sacraments and church discipline.

(a) Word. We pray that as it is the sceptre of Christ’s kingdom (Mark 1:13), the rod and standard of His power (Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 11: 4, 10; Isaiah 44:4, 10) and the Word of the kingdom (Mark 1:13; Matthew 13) it may have
free access everywhere (2 Thessalonians 3:1). That it may be gloriously lifted up and advanced and have sole pre-eminence so that everything that does not agree with it and all traditions and inventions of men may be rejected.

(b) Sacraments. We pray that, as they are the seals of God’s promises and the whole Covenant of grace, they may be both administered and received in the purity and sincerity which is according to His Word, and that all false sacraments rejected.

(c) Church discipline. Our desire is that not only private persons but the whole Church may be ruled by the line of God’s Word. Thus, well doers may be advanced and evil doers censured and corrected, according to the degree of their fault. Also that any tyranny of conscience would be taken away.

We also pray that God would supply His Church with all such office-bearers as He approves. That being endowed with special gifts, they may be both able and willing to carry out their responsibilities diligently and faithfully. That God would gather His elect by raising up faithful and diligent ministers in every part of the world. That all unfaithful and negligent ministers would be
removed (Isaiah 56:10-11) and that faithful and able watchmen may be set over the flock of Christ (Matthew 9:38).  That with sufficient help and protection etc. the Word of God may be freely preached everywhere (2 Thessalonians 3:1). That it would please God, with the blessing of his spirit, to accompany the word, so that it may be of power to convert those that belong unto him.

4. How is this a Prayer for Increasing Church Reformation?

We pray that where these things are only begun, they may be perfected.  That every Church may be polished and garnished, that Sion may appear in her perfect beauty. We pray that the Jews may be called and so many of the Gentiles as belong to Christ, and the enemies of the kingdom may be either converted or confounded.

We desire that the eyes of all, especially governments, would be opened to see the true beauty of pure religion, and of the spouse of Christ (Isaiah 60:3).
We pray that God would banish and root out of His Church all those things which may hinder the advance of His kingdom in the hearts of those that belong to Him.

Finally, we pray that God would finish the kingdom of grace, calling His elect (Romans 9:27), confirming those who stand (2 Thessalonians 2:17), raising the fallen (James 5:15-16), comforting the afflicted (Isaiah 61:3) and hastening the kingdom of glory.

Conclusion

What is the best way to make it our own and not simply think about praying for reformation but actually engage in it? Do we care enough about these concerns to make them the subject of earnest and constant prayer? How can we summarise this expansive prayer for reformation so that we can do this? One way is simply to use the Larger Catechism Q191 as a guide. Another option is to use a slightly fuller summary, drawn from similar thoughts expressed by John Ball (a member of the Westminster Assembly).

(a) Mission. Pray that God would plant His Church inwardly and outwardly in places where it is not established. Pray also that God would send forth His word to those in darkness and powerfully accompany it by His Spirit. That He would give them pastors according to His own heart to feed them with knowledge and understanding. That He would establish His own ordinances, and establish a holy order amongst His people, linking them together in mutual love and holy profession of the faith.

(b) Church Reformation. Pray that God would supply existing Churches with what is lacking and mercifully continue and increase what good they enjoy. Pray also that He would preserve purity of doctrine, as well as the Word being preached purely and freely, with power and authority. We pray for faithful seminaries that train those who will preach the Word.

Our prayer is that the sacraments may be administered purely according to the institution of Christ, that the house of God may be governed according to the heavenly form for governing that kingdom. We pray that comely order may be observed among the saints, each with all diligence, patience, meekness and zeal, doing the duties of their sphere.

We pray that the censures of the Church may be rightly carried out so that the good may be encouraged, the evil shamed and brought to repentance or else cut off from the communion – all to the advancement of the kingdom of Christ Jesus.

Again, we ask that God would supply His Church with office-bearers who might both govern and assist according to His will. We ask for men supplied with wisdom and grace to discharge their duties. Those who have blameless lives and will be examples to their flocks in good works, whose hearts are set on the building of God’s kingdom.

(c) Spiritual Transformation. Pray that the Holy Spirit would work effectually by His outward ordinances, for the building up of those already called and the effectual calling of those who are not. The powerful work of the Spirit in everyone’s soul and conscience is the most evident demonstration of the glorious presence of God. The mighty and wonderful works of the Holy Spirit include: pricking some in the heart, humbling others at the sight of their vileness, converting, quickening, comforting, revealing the thoughts, inflaming with burning zeal, assuring the heart of the truth received. All this is an infallible witness of the most gracious presence of Christ amongst us.

(d) Personal Reformation. We pray also that the graces and fruit of the Spirit may plentifully grow and increase. Our prayer also is that God would bless His people with inward and outward peace and prosperity, that being freed from clashes, contentions, and external persecutions, they may walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit and mutually edify each other in their most holy faith.
We pray that they may live together in love, being of one mind and one judgment, yielding free and willing subjection to the sovereignty of Christ Jesus, accepting the service and labour of His faithful messengers and walking in holiness without offence.

The image of the Reformation wall in Geneva depicts John Knox preaching reformation before the court of Mary Queen of Scots. It also displays the Geneva Bible rendering of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11. The photographer was Rokus Cornelis, more details here.

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What Authority Do Civil Rulers Have in Church Matters?

What Authority Do Civil Rulers Have in Church Matters?

What Authority Do Civil Rulers Have in Church Matters?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
20 May, 2021

Church and state are clearly distinct, but their roles and relationship have not been without controversy down through the years. It is easier to state the distinction sometimes than to apply it. It has often proved to be a thorny and complicated issue. Understandably many people like to avoid dealing with that but failing to think clearly about it has often produced practical problems when situations arise. Ultimately, it is about the glory and the authority of Christ. As Head of the Church, He has provided clear principles to apply so that it can advance His glory in the world.

In this updated extract, some of the members of the Westminster Assembly explain from Scripture how Christ preserves His own authority in His Church. As Mediator, He has given spiritual authority those who exercise government within the church. But He had given no spiritual power at all to civil government or secular institutions in their civil function. It is still necessary to apply these principles in specific contexts but it is vitally important that we establish the core truths from Scripture as to what authority civil rulers have in the spiritual matters of the church, whether preaching and teaching, what we believe, how we worship or decisions about church matters.

1. Christ Never Gave Civil Rulers Any Authority in Church Matters

Whatever proper power of church government Christ gives to any is somewhere to be found in the Old or New Testament. This is because (a) The Scriptures are a perfect rule for all church affairs (2 Timothy 3:16-17). (b) There are places in Scripture where Christ commits authority to His own church officers (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10 etc). But nowhere in all the Old or New Testament does Christ give such power of church government to civil rulers.

2. Christ Only Gave Authority in Church Matters to Church Rulers

Civil rulers as such do not have any office within the church and therefore cannot have authority within the church. It is to church rulers that Christ gave the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” with the actions that belong to that (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:21-23) well as authority for edification of the church (2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10). But no civil ruler as a civil ruler is any of those whom Christ has given office within the church. Civil rulers are never counted in the catalogue, list, or roll of Christ’s church officers in Scripture (Ephesians 4:10-12; 1 Corinthians 12:28, etc.; Romans 12:6–8).

When Christ gave the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He makes no mention at all of civil government directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, as the recipient of them (se Matthew 16:19 and 18:18; John 20:21–23 with Matthew 18:18–20).

In Christ’s giving the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He makes explicit mention of officers belonging to the church, which are really and essentially different from the civil ruler, i.e. Peter in the name of all the rest (Matthew 16:18–19), and of the rest of the apostles receiving the keys with him (Matthew 18:18). All the disciples except Thomas were together when He gave them the same commission in other words (John 20:20–24; Matthew 28:18–20). Now, if Christ had given the keys or any power in relation to them to civil government in so far as it is civil government He must have given them solely to civil government for how could His apostles being officers in the church be really distinct from the civil ruler in that case?

Jesus Christ in giving the “keys of the kingdom,” did not give one sort, act, part or piece of the keys, but the whole power of the keys, all the sorts and acts belonging to them together. Therefore, it is said, “I give the keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:19; John 20:23). It is not merely a “key” that is given here but all the “keys” given at once, i.e.., key of doctrine and the key of discipline; or the key of order, and the key of jurisdiction—not only binding or retaining, but loosing or absolving of sins, i.e.., all acts together conferred with the “keys.” Now, if Christ gave the keys to the civil ruler, then He gave them all the sorts of keys and all acts. If so, civil government may as well preach the Word and dispense the sacraments, as exercise government. (Christ joined them all together in the same commission, and by what authority are they disjoined?). And if that were so, what need would there be of pastors, teachers, etc., in the church? Let the civil ruler do it all.

If we take church government more broadly as containing doctrine, worship, and discipline, it is the whole power of the “keys.” It is not simply discipline otherwise, it would have been said “key,” not “keys”; church government, therefore, is at least part of the power of the “keys.” The word “key,” denotes a stewardly authority (Isaiah 22:22) which includes governing, ordering, and ruling the household, as well as feeding it (see Luke 12:41–49).

3. Civil Government and Church Government are Essentially Different

Church and State are distinct societies.

  • The society of the church is only Christ’s, and not the civil ruler’s. It is His “house,” His “spouse,” His “body,” etc.; and Christ has no vicar under Him.
  • The officers of the church are Christ’s officers, not the civil ruler’s (1 Corinthians 4:1). Christ gave them (Ephesians 4:8–11); God set them in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28).
  • These officers in the church are both elected and ordained by the church, without authority from the civil ruler, by virtue of Christ’s ordinance, and in His name. Thus, the apostles appointed officers: “Whom we may appoint” (Acts 6:3–4). The power of ordination and mission is in the hands of Christ’s officers (cf. Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14 with Acts 13:1–4).
  • The church and the various governing bodies within it do not meet as civil courts for civil acts of government (as making civil statutes, inflicting civil punishments, etc.), but as spiritual assemblies for spiritual acts of government and discipline: such as preaching, baptizing, receiving the Lord’s Supper, prayer, admonition of the disorderly, etc.

4. Civil Government and Church Government are Mutually coordinate not subordinate

Subordinate powers are of the same kind; coordinate powers are of distinct kinds. Now, the fact that the power of the church is coordinate with, and not directly and properly subordinate to the civil power, may be evidenced as follows:

(a) The officers of Christ, as officers, are not subject to the civil power. The apostles and pastors may preach and cast out against the will of the civil ruler, and yet not truly offend civil government; thus, in doing the duty they have directly received from God, they must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19–20). And the apostles and pastors must exercise their office (having received a command from Christ) without attending the command or consent of the civil ruler for the same; as in casting out the incestuous person (1 Corinthians 5:5), telling the church (Matthew 18:17), rejecting a heretic (Titus 3:10).

(b) Any acts of power that civil government cannot do or do not belong within their God given authority rare are not subordinate to it. Thus, the kings of Israel could not burn incense (2 Chronicles 26:18–19). Likewise, none have the power of the “keys,” except those whom Christ has commissioned to go “into all the world and preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19). But Christ did not speak this to civil rulers, only those that are “sent” (Romans 10:14). So those that are church governors are placed by Christ in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28).

(c) The officers of the church can pass church censure on the officers of the state (as individuals not in their office). Officers of the state can inflict civil punishment on the officers of the church, (as individuals not as officers in the church). The church rulers may admonish, excommunicate, etc., the officers of the state, as members of the church, and the officers of the state may punish the officers of the church, as the members of the state.

(d) Those that are not sent by civil government as their deputies are not subordinate in their mission to civil power. But the ministers are not sent as the deputies of civil government but are “set over the flock” by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). They are likewise the “ministry of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:1–2); they are “over you in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:12); and exercise their jurisdiction in His name (1 Corinthians 5:4-5).

(e) If the last appeal in purely ecclesiastical matters is not to civil power, then there is no subordination; but the last appeal properly so taken is not to civil authority. It appears from these considerations:

  • Nothing is appealable to the magistrate, but what is under the power of the sword; but admonition, excommunication, etc., are not under the power of the sword. They are neither matters of dominion nor coercion.
  • If it were so, then it follows that having the sword gives a ruler power to the keys.
  • Then it follows that the officers of the kingdom of heaven are to be judged as such by the officers of the kingdom of this world as such, and then there is no difference between the things of Caesar and the things of God.

(f) The church of Antioch sent to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2). And the synod there, without the authority of civil government, came together (v6) and resolved the controversy with their authority (vv28-29). And we read, the “spirits of the prophets, are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32)—not to the civil government as prophets. So we must “seek knowledge at the priest’s lips,” not at the civil ruler’s (Malachi 2:7). And we read that the people came to the priests in hard controversies, but never that the priests went to the civil power (Deuteronomy 17:8–10).

(g) It makes civil government Christ’s vicar, and so Christ to have a visible head on earth, and the civil ruler is an ecclesiastico-civil pope, and so there would be as many visible heads of Christ’s church as there are civil rulers.
h) Civil and church powers are both directly received from divine authority: one from God the Father, as Creator, the other from Jesus Christ, as Mediator.

CONCLUSION

It is clear from this brief biblical survey that Christ has given His Church distinct and exclusive authority in its own matters. We need wisdom, grace and courage to apply these matters and maintain Christ’s glory and authority.

This has been extracted from a pastoral book on church government called Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici: The Divine Right of Church Government which has recently been republished.

Further Help

To explore these principles further, you may find it helpful to read the article Church Government is All About Christ. Many people neglect or treat church government with contempt. But that is a great mistake because (according to Scripture) it is essentially all about Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Social Stability is Not to be Taken for Granted

Social Stability is Not to be Taken for Granted

Social Stability is Not to be Taken for Granted
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
6 May, 2021

Social Stability means the extent to which a society and its infrastructure, including its institutions are able remain reliable and predicable. Much of everyday life runs smoothly with a great deal happening that we do not see. Fair elections, medical care, stable government, economic stability, public services, transport and infrastructure, law and order, community relations and much more are things we can take for granted. But they are easily challenged as events of the past year have reminded us. We do not know what the future holds in relation to them. These outward necessities are blessings from God and while spiritual concerns are our key priority, we ought to be thankful for the outward benefits of this life. It is part of God’s providential care and we must not take it for granted. That is why Christ teaches us to make it a matter of daily prayer.

If we are thankful for these things, we will express that in prayer and if we feel our need these things, we must also bring that to the throne of grace. When we ask for “our daily bread” we are not just thinking about the food on our tables but also everything that makes that possible. We ought to be mindful of all the benefits we are daily loaded with. This is why the Larger Catechism widens the scope to “all the outward blessings of this life”.

It says “we pray for ourselves and others, that both they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day in the use of lawful means, may, of his free gift, and as to his fatherly wisdom shall seem best, enjoy a competent portion of them; and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them, and contentment in them; and be kept from all things that are contrary to our temporal support and comfort” (Q193).

In this updated extract, Henry Scudder, a member of the Westminster Assembly, explains further how “our daily bread” includes all the blessings of this life.

1. Social Stability and our Daily Bread

Bread in Scripture refers to all kinds of food (Psalm 147:9; Job 23:12 and Proverbs 30:8) whether food or drink. In James 2:15. the words translated daily food are the same in meaning with daily bread and are expounded by James in the sixteenth verse as things necessary for the body. It also relates to whatever is necessary for preservation of life, such as clothes, houses etc. It also means the causes and effects of bread e.g. fruitful seasons, good temperature of air, health and cheerfulness (Acts 14:17).

In a word, it refers to all things which may preserve life, or restore health, such as medicine and skilful and faithful doctors. It also includes peace and good order, and all good means to maintain it: as a wise and courageous government, a strong, populous, loyal, and loving people. Anything contrary to this such as famine, disease, wars, sickness, pain etc are prayed against when we ask for our daily bread.

Our needs require that we should have supplies for this life, that we may have a right mind in a sound body. Otherwise, we can neither enjoy anything nor do good to our neighbour, nor do the service and works which the Lord appoints. We cannot benefit others nor serve God. It is hard for those who are have problems of mental health or who are dumb and deaf to help others compared to those who have the full health or mind and body.

We need are healthy air, food, drink, clothing, houses and whatever will keep from bodily infection and afflictions. They may serve to quench thirst, or satisfy hunger, or preserve from extremities of heat and cold, or to restore defects in nature.

These things cannot be had unless the Lord gives fruitful seasons and causes the earth to be fruitful. We must request these things from the Lord to satisfy human necessities. Yet when all these things are granted, such is human frailty that if we are not willing or able to make use of corn, wool, medicine etc we will be destitute of their use. Therefore, we seek that God would give gifts and skill to men for that purpose.

We may have all this but if we are exposed to the fury of enemies our life and welfare cannot be sustained. A good commonwealth, consisting of wise, just, and valiant governors, and of numerous, peaceable, loyal, and courageous subjects, is to be desired and everything contrary to all these prayed against.

2. Social Stability is the Gift of God

Having and being able to enjoy all the necessary things of this life, is the free gift of God (Job 36:32; Psalm 104:28; Psalm 145:15; 1 Chronicles 29:14). The earth is the Lord’s (1 Corinthians 10:26) and although he made it for our use, we have it only as stewards, who are accountable to Him as their master. We are merely tenants. The Lord must give us the things of this life to have and to hold, else they cannot rightfully be held by anyone.

We may have everything necessary as the rich fool did but not have the blessing of continued life to enjoy it (Luke 12:20). We may taste, and eat, and put on clothes, and yet be neither warm nor satisfied. They can do us no good without God’s blessing. This is why we must be exhorted and persuaded to ask them of God, whose gift they are. When they have received and enjoyed, we must acknowledge this as God’s gift with all thankfulness.

3. Social Stability and the Glory of God

Christ first taught His disciples to ask for the things that concerned God’s glory in the three first petitions. He then instructs them to ask for the things that concern their own good in three further petitions. When anyone has unfeignedly desired and sought the things which pertain to God’s honour and glory they may then with good warrant pray for and expect all good things both for body and soul (Matthew 6:33).

God has promised to give all good things to all such. God has promised to give to His children temporal good things as well as spiritual. Godliness has the promise of the present life (1 Timothy 4:6). A good condition of body and soul is a good means to encourage and a person to still glorify God. But it is presumption to think that God will bless us if we do not glorify His name in doing His will.

We may lawfully desire the things of this life. We must therefore pray and use all good and lawful means to live in this world. But this must be done after we have sought God’s glory. Also, it must be considered from whom, by what means, for whom, for what time, in what right, and in what measure and how we would have our needs supplied. And we must always remember that we asked for these things as far as they are consistent with God’s good will.

4. Social Stability and Intercession

Every Christian should desire and procure the bodily welfare of their neighbour. The law of charity binds us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Therefore, we must pray for them and procure their good, as we do our own. It is not “every man for himself” but “every man for his neighbour as for himself”.
This should move everyone to commend the condition others to God in prayer. And distribute and to those that need, giving more or less, according as God has made them able, and as their brethren’s necessities require. Humanity and Christianity both call for mercy from us. Doing good to our brethren, is only lending to the Lord and He will repay with advantage.

5. Social Stability and Contentment

This is no prayer for abundance, but for daily bread: neither too much nor too little, but according to need. The desires of the things of this life, must be moderate. The quality and quantity of things desired, must be only such, and so much, as is convenient for our person and condition. We are to be content with food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:8). Our life does not consist in the abundance of what we possess (Luke 12:13). Abundance is dangerous both to soul and body; it can lead to disregard of God and His works and even denying Him (Proverbs 30:9).

It is not a sin to have abundance; for Abraham, Job, David, and Solomon abounded in riches: but it is a sin to desire to be rich and If riches increase, we must not set our heart on them. We must not be high minded or trust in them.

6. Social Stability is Not the Primary Concern

In the Lord’s Prayer there is only one short petition for the things that concern natural life but two larger petitions that concern spiritual life. Though God allows His children to ask first for earthly things, yet He wills them to seek chiefly for heavenly things (Matthew 6:33). The desires of Christians should therefore, be fewer, and less vehement for the things of this life, and their principal concern is to be how their sins may be forgiven and the strength of sin diminished as the two petitions that follow emphasise.

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How Far Should Love Go With the Sixth Commandment?

How Far Should Love Go With the Sixth Commandment?

How Far Should Love Go With the Sixth Commandment?
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
29 Mar, 2021

This is not about what you might expect. We have heard so much about the sixth commandment and preserving life over the past year—a very necessary emphasis. But there are other dimensions to the commandment as well. Showing love for our neighbour through this command is not simply about what we do or do not do. Scripture shows us that it reaches to our hearts also (1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:22). Our heart attitude and thoughts are expressed in our words and behaviour towards others. If there is an attitude of animosity in the heart or abusive words are used, we are not preserving the spirit of this commandment. It is a constant issue but perhaps more obvious in a time when there may be many conflicting opinions. How do we respond to others, especially when we disagree or feel they have failed us in some way? The natural tendency is to let our irritation show. It is easy to bottle up resentment as well as erupt when provoked. What sort of words should we use if we need to point out where they have gone wrong? How do we avoid responses that cause lasting spiritual damage in our zeal for the truth? We need to positively cultivate and put on the graces of love, humility, patience and forbearance to do this. And if we think this is a good message for someone else, we probably need it more than we realise.

The Larger Catechism draws on the rest of Scripture to help us understand this aspect of the sixth commandment. If we are to put off anger then part of doing this involves putting on patience, kindness and forgiveness. The Larger Catechism shows that we pursue “lawful endeavours to preserve the life of ourselves, and others, by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any…by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness, peaceable, mild, and courteous speeches and behaviour, forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil, comforting and succouring the distressed” (Q135). So also, this command forbids “sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge, all excessive passions…provoking words, oppressing, quarrelling” (Q136). Some Bible passages which support this are as follows.  The sixth commandment requires us to:

  • subdue passions which tend towards unjust destruction of life (Ephesians 4:26-27)
  • avoid all temptations which tend towards unjust destruction of life (Matthew 4:6-7; Proverbs 1:10-16)
  • maintain a serene mental attitude and cheerful spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 1 Peter 3:3-4; Psalm 37:8-11; Proverbs 17:22)  
  • show kindness and love in thought, word and deed (1 Samuel 19:4-5; 22:13-14; Romans 13:10; Luke 10:33-34; Colossians 3:12-13; James 3:17; 1 Peter 3:8-11; Proverbs 15:1; Judges 8:1-3).

It is possible to have a holy zeal and yet think, speak and act charitably. This means having compassion for others, grieving over where they have erred and seeking the best and most effective way to have them restored or for them to be saved. Holy zeal will focus itself against what is wrong rather than the person who has done what is wrong (Psalm 101:3). It is not focused on how we have been harmed or wronged personally but on whether God has been dishonoured. It is motivated by the honour of God not our own pride.

Righteous anger without sinning is certainly possible but all too rare (Ephesians 4:26). But we must be very careful as to whether this it truly has this holy zeal. If we are not careful our sinful anger will give room for the devil to exploit any conflict (Ephesians 4:27). He will use it to stir up sinful attitudes and responses in ourselves and others. He will also use it to make us unfit for spiritual activities and so rob us of the benefit (Matthew 5:23-24).

We can have the best of intentions, but we all know how difficult it is to keep our cool when we encounter an irascible hot-headed person.  We resent unfair implied accusations and are ready to show it. How do we respond to words and behaviour that only seems to rile us up? There is no easy answer that is quickly learned. It requires great wisdom (Proverbs 14:29; 17:27; 19:11). We are battling the most powerful of enemies (Proverbs 16:32). We need to avoid being quick to speak if we are going to be slow to become angry (James 1:19). We need much patience and grace to turn away wrath with a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1).

These thoughts have been helped by Thomas Ridgeley’s commentary on the Larger Catechism. One of the books that influenced the Larger Catechism was A Body of Divinity by James Ussher. The following updated extract is drawn from his treatment of the sixth commandment. In a helpful question and answer format he shows how the commandment requires a loving spirit.

1. What inward duties do we owe to our neighbour?

To love our neighbours as ourselves, to think well of them, to be charitably affected towards them, and to strive to do them good. We are all the creatures of one God, and the natural children of Adam. For this reason, we are to cherish all good affections in our hearts.

2. What good affections are required?

(a) Humility and kindness, proceeding from a loving heart to a fellow human being because they are human (Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:32).

(b) Contentment to see our brother pass and exceed us in any outward or inward gifts or graces and giving thanks to God for endowing him with such gifts.

(c) Compassion and fellow-feeling of their good and evil (Romans 12:15-16; Hebrews 13:3).

(d) Humility.

(e) Meekness.

(f) Patience, long-suffering and slowness to anger (Ephesians 4:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).

(g) Easiness to be reconciled and to forget wrongs done to us (Ephesians 4:32).

(h) A peaceable mind, careful to preserve and make peace (Romans 12:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Matthew 5:9).

3. What is required for the preservation of peace?

(a) Care to avoid offences.

(b) Construing things in the best sense (1 Corinthians 13:7).

(c) Giving up our own rights sometimes (Genesis 13:8-9).

(d) Passing by offences and suffering injuries patiently lest they break out into greater mischief.

4. What inward sins are condemned?

Consenting in heart to do our neighbour harm together with all passions of the mind, which are contrary to the love we owe to him.

(a) Anger when it is either rash or without cause; or when it is excessive in a just cause (Matthew 5:21-22; Ephesians 4:26, 31).

(b) Hatred and malice, which is murder in the mind (1 John 3:15).

(c) Envy, by which one hates his brother as Cain the murderer did, for some good that is in him (James 3:14; Proverbs 14:30; 1 John 3:12).

(d) Grudging and repining against our brother, which is a branch of envy (1 Timothy 2:8).

(e) Unmercifulness and lack of compassion (Romans 1:31; Amos 6:6).

(f) Desire for revenge (Romans 12:19).

(g) Cruelty (Psalm 5:6; Genesis 49:5, 7).

(h) Pride, which is the mother of all contention (Proverbs 13:10).

(i) Uncharitable suspicions (1 Corinthians 13:5, 7; 1 Samuel 1:13-14) yet godly jealousy over another is good if it is for a good cause.

(j) Stubbornness and not being easily intreated (Romans 1:31).

5. How should we resist these?

We should kill such affections at their first rising and pray to God against them.

6. What are the outward duties we owe to our neighbour?

They respect the soul principally, or the whole man, and the body more especially.

7. What duties are required of us for the preservation of the souls of our neighbour?

(a) Ministering the food of spiritual life (Isaiah 62:6; 1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28).

(b) Giving good counsel and encouraging to well-doing (Hebrews 10:24-25).

(c) Walking without offence. This is required of rulers and ministers as well as everyone else in their calling. The apostle’s rule reaches everyone, give no offence neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32).

(d) Giving good example, and thereby provoking one another to love good works, (Matthew 5:16; 2 Corinthians 9:2; Hebrews 10:24).

(e) Reproving our brother’s sins by timely admonition (Leviticus 19:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Psalm 141:5).

(f) Comforting the feeble minded and supporting the weak (1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:14).

8. What is forbidden in our words?

(a) Speaking evil of someone, even although the matter is not in itself false is still wrong if it is not done with a right purpose or in a right manner and at the right time. False accusations are also condemned (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:5).

(b) Bitter and angry words or speech uttered in wrath or using evil or vile terms (Matthew 5:22) are condemned by this commandment.

(c) Mocking in general is sinful (Psalm 22:7-8; John 19:3). Mockery of a disability (Leviticus 19:14) or especially mocking others for godly behaviour (2 Samuel 6:20) are condemned. Sometimes, however, God’s children may use mocking in a godly manner as Elijah did to the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:27).5. When we complain about one another and grumble with malice (James 5:9).

(c) Brawling and angry shouting are sinful (Titus 3:9; Ephesians 4:31). Threatening, insulting and provocative speech is also condemned (1 Peter 3:9; 2 Samuel 16:5,7; 2 Kings 2:23-24;1 Corinthians 5:11 Psalm 57:4 Psalm 52:2 Psalm 64:3-4 Psalm 140:3)

(d) Spiteful, disdainful and harsh words are sinful, especially when they are uttered contemptuously (Proverbs 12:8; Proverbs 15:1).

9. What is required in our words?

That we greet our neighbour gently, speak kindly, and use courteous amiable speeches; which according to the Hebrew phrase is called, speaking to the heart of another (Ephesians 4:32; Ruth 2:13).

According to Paul’s counsel we should see that edifying words rather than “corrupt communication” are found in our mouths (Ephesians 4:29. Our speech should be always seasoned with the saltiness of grace so that we know how to answer every one in the right way (Colossians 4:6). If meat is not sprinkled with salt, it will smell. It will be so with those who do not have their hearts seasoned with the word of truth.

If we are not careful the words proceeding from our mouths will be angry, wrathful, and loathsome speech against our brother. Scripture compares such words to juniper coals which burn most fiercely (Psalm 120:4) or to a sword or razor cutting most sharply (Proverbs 12:18; Psalm 52:2). James therefore says that the tongue is an unruly evil, set on fire by hell (James 3:6, 8). We ought therefore to govern our tongues by the Word of God and beware of vile speech.

Further Help

To explore these reflections further, you may find it helpful to read the article The Mark of the Christian. Christ’s disciples are to be recognised by their love for one another. What does that look like and what if it’s not there?

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Being Salt and Light in a Culture of Self-Idolatry

Being Salt and Light in a Culture of Self-Idolatry

Being Salt and Light in a Culture of Self-Idolatry
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
18 Mar, 2021

Expressive individualism drives our culture. This is the idea that we find our ultimate meaning only when we express our own feelings and desires. We are thought to be most authentically ourselves when we perform outwardly what we are feeling inwardly. Anything that restrains or restricts our ability to do this is seen as the great enemy. The very idea of moral authority denying what we choose for our happiness and freedom is viewed as repressive, even morally wrong. If self and personal fulfilment are the ultimate-if they are sacred, then the very idea of self-denial is utter heresy. Yet it is exactly what Christ calls His disciples to. We cannot avoid it simply because it goes against the grain of our culture. If we really want to be salt and light, we need to take self-denial seriously, however uncomfortable it may be. What do we mean by self-denial and how do we pursue it?

Nothing could be more counter-cultural than living in a way that is God-centred. Manifesting obedience to God, rather than the great idol of self, displays our real purpose. It shows others what we were meant to be. Our culture says that the ultimate failure and sin is not to be true to yourself. But the gospel shows us that sin has corrupted our view of what we are meant to be, and grace enables us through union with Christ to live as we were designed to. When we speak of self-denial it does not mean that enjoyment is rejected as sinful, rather we are able to enjoy God Himself as all that will truly satisfy. Our culture is pursuing happiness and purpose in that which will never satisfy. That is why we must turn from the false god of self to the only true and living God. It is only in this way that we can find that happiness and purpose, indeed have our self renewed and restored. Thomas Manton (who had an important role at the Westminster Assembly) explains much of what Christ’s call to self-denial means in this updated extract.

1. What Do We Mean by Self?

In the original the words have the emphasis “let him utterly deny himself.” Whatever is ours, so far as it stands in opposition to God or comes into competition with Him must be denied. This can include all our lusts, all our interests and relations. Life and all the appendages of life aggregated together are called self in Scripture. In short, whatever is of himself, in himself, belonging to himself, as a corrupt or carnal man, all that is to be denied.

Some aspects of self are absolutely evil, and must be denied without limitation such as lusts and carnal affections (Titus 2.12). They are called “members” (Colossians 3:5) that must be put to death. Sin is riveted in the soul, and it is as irksome to a natural heart, to part with any lust, as with a member or joint of the body.

Other aspects of self are only evil as far as they prove to be idols or snares to us. Life and all its benefits, comforts and conveniences – liberty, honours, wealth, friends, health – these are all called self.

Self is a bundle of idols. Since God was laid aside, self seized the crown – everything that we call our own. Everything before which we may put that possessive “ours” may be abused and set up as a snare, all the excellences and comforts of human life, both inward and outward.

That self which we must hate or deny is that self which stands in opposition to God or competition with him, and so competes with him for the throne. Self is the great idol of the world, ever since the fall, when men took the boldness to depose and lay aside God, as it were, self took the throne.

2. How Far Does Self-Denial Go?

All people are to do this in all things, at all times, and with all their hearts.

(a) All people. Everyone is required to do this, all kinds of people (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8.34). There is no calling, no sex, no age, no duty, no condition of life excluded. One way or another, self-denial is an obligation.

No one can exempt themselves. No Christian went out of this world without God at some point or other trying them in some prominent aspect of self-denial (Genesis 22:1).

(b) In all things. It must not be partial. Many can deny themselves in many things, but they are loath to give up everything to God without reservation. Herod denied himself in many things, but could not part with his Herodias.

(c) At all times. It must not be temporary; in a good mood we can give up and renounce everything and be humble. Ahab humbled himself for a few days. It is not enough to deny ourselves in those things that we do not take any pleasure in. We must have this as a constant duty.

(d) With all our heart. It must be out of a principle of grace and out of love to Christ not mere constraint. Self-denial must not be self-seeking, that is abominable to God.
We must deny ourselves what we desire as well as what we enjoy (Titus 2.12). All sin is rooted in a love of pleasure more than of God; we sin, because of the contentment we imagine to be in sin, that draws the heart to practice it. But if we cannot deny ourselves and rule our spirits in this, we are nothing (Proverbs 25:28).

3. Why is Self-Denial Necessary?

(a) God must have our dependence and trust. Man wants independence, to be a god to himself, sufficient for his own happiness (Genesis 3:5). Nothing can be more hateful to God. Self-denial takes us off other things we depend on to trust in God alone.

(b) God must have the highest esteem. When anything is honoured above God, or made equal with God, or indulged against the will of God, Dagon is set up, and the ark is made to fall.

(c) God must be our law-giver. Self is not to interpose and give laws to us, only God’s will must stand. The great contest is, whose will shall stand, God’s will or ours? Self-will is betrayed by murmuring against God’s providence, rebellion against His laws, and obstinate obedience to self (Jeremiah 18:12; Jeremiah 44:17).

(d) God must be our highest purpose (Proverbs 16:4). But the unrenewed person sets up self as the purpose for every action and pushed God out. All the actions of life are only a kind of homage to the idol of self, if they eat and drink, it is to nourish self, a meat-offering and drink-offering to appetite. If they pray or praise, it is but to worship self, to advance the reputation of self; the crown is taken from God’s head, He is not made the highest purpose.

4. How Does Self-Denial Make Us Salt and Light?

(a) It makes us Christ-like. We cannot be conformed to our great Master without this. Jesus Christ came from heaven with the purpose of teaching us the lesson of self-denial. His birth, life, death were a pattern of self-denial (Romans 15:3). It is ridiculous to profess Jesus Christ to be our master, and not be conformed to His example. What is our self to Christ’s self? The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord (Mark 10:25).

(b) It makes us like the disciples. Christ set the example and all the saints have followed after it, some better, some worse (Romans 14:7).

(c) It shows our devotion to Christ. All respect shown to what is regarded as divine in any kind of religion is marked by self-denial. Worldly people can deny themselves to achieve their ends (Psalm 127:2; Ecclesiastes 4:8). A covetous person shames many a godly person. Will lust do more with them than the love of Christ with you? Certainly, we should have a stronger impulse, for we have a better reward; we are influence by a mightier spirit. In reality is not self-denial in worldly people so much as the obstinacy of self-will. The kingdom of Satan is divided; self-will is set up against self-delight or ease. People can deny themselves for their pleasure, they sacrifice their reputation, possessions, conscience and all to that great idol.

(d) It shows we are not our own but the Lord’s (Romans 14:6). Our will should not be our own law, nor our profit our aim, because we are not our own. We cannot say that our tongues are our own, to speak what we please, nor our works our own, nor our interests our own.

5. What Does Self-Denial Look Like?

(a) When every purpose and choice is swayed by reasons of conscience rather than by reasons of interest. When we are content to be anything, so long as it serves for God’s glory and Jesus Christ may be all in all (Philippians 1:23). A child of God does not consider what will most gratify the flesh but how they may do most work and service and glorify God on earth.

(b) Humble submission to God’s will (2 Samuel 15:25-26; 1 Samuel 3:18). The children of God consent to give up their souls, possessions and friends if providence so orders it (Job 1:21). They can see as much reason to bless God, when He impoverishes them as when He enriches them. This is being like the great example Christ Himself who said, “Not my will”.

(c) When a person is vile in his own eyes because of their sins. None pass a severer sentence than the children of God do upon themselves when they have sinned against God. They need no other judge than their own consciences to pass a sentence upon them. By nature we are apt to favour ourselves and censure others more than humble ourselves. But God’s children are different (1 Timothy 1:15; Proverbs 30:2; Psalm 73:23). If these things are truly spoken out of a deep felt sense, it is an encouraging sign that self is dethroned in you.

6. How Do We Engage in Self-Denial?

(a) Reduce your esteem and affection for worldly things. If you would deny yourself for Christ, you must prize the worst of Christ before the best of the world. Moses could deny himself because he “esteemed the reproach of Christ to be greater riches, than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:25). Moses’ had his esteem right.

The greater our affection for something the greater our trouble when we have to part with it. When this is so with the things of the world, it troubles us to part with them for Christ’s sake. When anything begins to sit too close and too near the heart, it is good for a Christian to be wary, and ask how will I deny this for God so that we are not brought under its power (1 Corinthians 6:12). What you possess is not who you are (Luke 12:15). You can say of anything, “I can still be happy without this.”

(b) Seek self in God. There is a lawful self-seeking when we seek it in God (John 5:44). If you desire pleasure, remember, there are no pleasures like to the delights you can enjoy by communion with God, the pleasures which are at His right hand for evermore. If you desire riches, turn your heart towards the good treasure God has opened in the covenant, to be rich in grace, rich towards God.

(c) Be resolved to experience the worst, to please God even though you may experience the displeasure of the whole world. A person never comes to Christ in the right way, unless they give up everything and allow Christ to take it all.

(d) Do not confine your wellbeing to outward things, beware of binding up you life and contentment with created things (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Your happiness does not lie within yourselves, nor in any other created thing, but only in God.

(e) Exercise faith often. A person will leave what they have on earth more easily when they have strong expectations of heaven (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16).

(f) In all conflicts of conscience and self-interest, observe God’s special providence to you. Ask yourself where did you receive the thing from that you are so unwilling to part with if not from the Lord? Distrust is the basis of self-seeking. We find it hard to deny ourselves because we do not consider the providence of God to us and that all things are in His hands (2 Chronicles 25:9

(g) God has a right to all that is yours. He made it and He gave it to you. You have given yourself and all you have to God (Romans 12:1).

(h) Understand what sins you are particularly tempted to more than others so as to deny that sin (Psalm 18:23).

(i) Consider the times in which you live and how they call for self-denial. If they are times of affliction we must seek to sit looser to the things of this world (Jeremiah 45:4-5). When we are likely to put a stumbling-block in the way of a new convert (2 Kings 5:26). In prosperous times we must deny ourselves in charity (Mark 10:31). A persons needs to fear their heart more in prosperous times than in times of persecution lest they are only lovers of themselves with a mere “form of godliness” ( 2 Timothy 3:1).

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Sometimes You Need to Stand Still

Sometimes You Need to Stand Still

Sometimes You Need to Stand Still
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
10 Mar, 2021

Standing still may not sound right when we are used to throwing ourselves into a whirlwind of activity and our desire is to make progress. Of course, standing still in spiritual things in the sense of indolence or complacency is not healthy. But there are times when God in His providence forces us to stand still. We cannot move forward due to the circumstances no matter how much we wish to. We are not to make haste (Isaiah 28:16; Ruth 3:18). Our strength is to sit still and wait on God as an act of obedience (Isaiah 30:15). Being still and waiting on God brings hope and strength to us (Psalm 27:14; Psalm 62:1,5). The Israelites were like this when they were hemmed in at the Red Sea, they were told to stand still and see the Lord’s deliverance (Exodus 14:13). It is a lesson we still need to learn.

While we are in a great tumult or fear or outrage, we cannot see things as we ought. We cannot see our duty; our minds are clouded by emotion. This is why we need to be still and depend on the Lord. We need to lift our minds away from the troubles to focus on Him and receive what we need from Him. In the following updated extract Jeremiah Burroughs applies the lessons we can learn from the counsel of Moses to Israel in Exodus 14.

1. Standing Still is Necessary for Troubled Minds

God’s people may be greatly troubled in their difficulties. It was so here in Exodus, in every predicament they grumbled and were disquieted; this was especially so at this time. Stand still (says Moses). They were all in a state of confusion and trouble. This is also the case many times for many of God’s saints. It was so for Heman who wrote Psalm 88. You will find in that psalm that he was disquieted and in woeful perplexity when he was brought into troubles.

Many of God’s saints, whom He has delivered in a most glorious way in the past, will find that at other times they have been so complacent that their hearts have been in complete confusion and they were not able to stand before the difficulties they met with. This was so with Elijah in 1 Kings 19 despite the spirit he had and what he experienced in the 18th chapter. And yet, in the 19th chapter, Jezebel merely threatens Elijah, and he takes to his heels and runs away at her threat — even though he had such a brave spirit in the previous chapter. So it is, truly, with many that sometimes their courage makes their adversaries afraid, and at other times, their cowardice makes their friends ashamed. Many have been so; they have been a terror to their adversaries one day, and a shame to their friends another day.

2. Standing Still is Necessary Because of Our Weakness

We still have a great deal of the flesh in the best of us and are greatly led by our feelings. We are not thoroughly skilful in the ways of God because the fear of God is so weak in us. This is why the fear of man is so strong, and we know so little of God’s secrets. The secrets of God are with those who fear Him. If we feared God more, we would know His secret ways, and not be troubled so much. There is also a great deal of guilt in the best. This will make anyone afraid. Great guilt in the heart is exceedingly troublesome to the soul.

3. Standing Still is Necessary Because of Our Self-Confidence

We are far too confident in ourselves. This is why God withdraws Himself from us and why when we are afraid we cannot trust God. David was able to say, however, that whenever he was afraid, he would trust in God (Psalm 56:3). Many think they can trust in God at present but when the time comes that they are afraid they cannot do it. When anger is stirred up you make no use of your faith to trust in God. Many a man or woman can be meek and quiet, until they are tempted. But when your anger is stirred up, can you be meek then, and rise and beat it down with the contrary grace? So, when the emotions caused by your fears and troubles rise up, can you then trust in God?

Because we trust so much in ourselves, when the time comes that we should trust in Him, God withdraws Himself from us, and we are most afraid. It is true, God’s people may be so, and you are so; and therefore, be ashamed of it, and labour to prepare for such times. If you have been disquieted in times of trouble, store up something that may help in those times. A great deal must be laid up for times of extremity. You must (a) store up encouraging promises; (b) store up encouraging experiences, that may help you against such times of fainting and trouble.

4. Standing Still is Necessary to Quieten our Spirits

As the Israelites were to be delivered out of this Egyptian bondage in that way, so they were to be delivered out of the Babylonian bondage in the same way. See what God says for that deliverance. He tells them plainly in Isaiah 30.15, “in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength”. Yet they would not follow this way. So, when you come to many people who are in great extremities, to some women and others — when they’re wringing their hands and hanging about their husbands’ necks — tell them their confidence must be in quietness, and they will be ready to throw you off a cliff.

5. Standing Still is Necessary No Matter How Great the Trouble

So too, we read in Isaiah 30.7, “their strength is to sit still.” After we have used all the means we can, we are to sit still, and look up to God for salvation. It was their great fault, that they did not do so in their deliverance out of their captivity (Jeremiah 31:21-22). Perhaps you will say, “There was never a crisis like the one we are in.” Well, God has such mercy as He never showed the likes of before. Many cry out “O my affliction, and my trouble is such as there never was before in the world!” Yet, is there no comfort for them, to support them? Yes, Isaiah 64.4 says that it was never known since the beginning of the world, what God has laid up for those who wait for Him. Only wait for Him, and there was never such mercy shown in the world as God has laid up for you.

6. Standing Still Focuses Us on God

It makes us ready to look to the wisdom, faithfulness, and power of God. We are not able to see God’s wisdom, faithfulness, and power, nor to make use of them unless we get our spirits to be quiet. First, get them quiet, and then we can look up to God. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). There is a God in heaven who can help and succour us in time of great troubles and extremities. But for all this, people are in a hurly burly; their spirits are disturbed, and they are wringing their hands, and crying. They cannot know that God is God, they can have no use of all the power, and goodness, and faithfulness, and mercy of God. First get your hearts still and quiet in your families, and in your own spirits, and then you will know that God is God. God will not appear until you are first still.

7. Standing Still Enables Us to Exercise Grace

We are not able to make use of our own graces, until we are quiet and still. If God had bestowed graces when we are in a hurly burly, we have no use for them at all. Therefore, it says in Psalm 4:4 that we are to be still and commune with our own hearts. Commune with your own hearts: you have something in your own hearts, perhaps, that may quiet you. You are not fit to commune with your own heart until you get it quiet. Many of you are stirred up to anger at all other times; and that is the reason that in such great extremities, you are so overruled with it. You are so overruled with your passion of anger at other times and so you are overruled with the passion of fear now. But if at other times you would strive to rein in your spirits, God would help you now.

8. Standing Still Enables Us to Submit to God in Reverence

Without this stillness, and quietness, we cannot manifest that subjection to God that we owe to Him. There is still a great deal of sin and pride against God without this. Our reverence towards God also depends on being still. If your hearts were possessed with the fear of God, you would not be in the great stir you are in times of great danger. We are to sanctify God in our hearts (Isaiah 8:12; 1 Peter 3:15).

9. Standing Still Enables Us to Listen to God

Fear and trouble makes people unfit to listen to anything that is spoken to them. Let anything be spoken to them that is of use, and they cannot hear it or make use of it. When Moses came to tell them of their deliverance, the people of Israel would not listen because of their “anguish of spirit” (Exodus 6:9). How many in trouble of conscience and in other times of extremity, have their spirits in such anguish that they never listen to anything that is delivered to them? This is why they come up with the same objections over and over again.

10. Standing Still Helps us to Help Others

Without this quietness of spirit, you will greatly hinder others. You will discourage the hearts of others. Many times, the cause does not succeed merely because of the unquietness of the hearts of men and women in times of danger. You must be quiet and look up to God for salvation. Faith is able to bring life out of death, light out of darkness. Genuine faith has a mighty power in times of extremity, to behold God’s salvation, and make use of it. When David fled from Saul and was in the cave, he says he is trusting in the shadow of God’s wings (Psalm 57:11). Poor David had got into the shadow of the cave and the sun did not shine on him; but he looked at himself in the cave, as being under the shadow of God’s wings. If you are godly, you too are under God’s wings by faith.

11. Standing Still Demonstrates Faith

There is a great deal of talk of faith in the world at present; let us see what it can do. The proof of genuine love is when I can love God for Himself without His gifts. When I can trust God merely on His word, I show the excellence of my faith. When Christians must have outward helps and former experiences, they call to God for guarantees as if they would not trust God on His mere word.

Conclusion

Standing still in times of trouble has great benefit. As Burroughs points out we must stand still in order to stand fast and strong (Philippians 1:27; Ephesians 6:13). He notes that we are called to stand four different times in Ephesians 6 and the exhortation is when you have done all, stand. We live in times when many things are turned upside down and there may be many difficulties currently and feared for the future. Yet in standing still and looking to God in faith there is great strength to sustain us through all that we may experience.

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What It Means To Be In The World But Not Of It

What It Means To Be In The World But Not Of It

What It Means To Be In The World But Not Of It
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
4 Feb, 2021

The words are simple in themselves but it still seems hard for many Christians to understand how their daily lives should be “in the world but not of it.” They have heard the phrase so often and on face value it seems simple. But how does it apply in practice? Many seem genuinely confused by the constant dilemma between engaging with the world and fleeing from it. They have a calling to follow in this world in which they can glorify God and this means they cannot retreat from life. They need to be distinctively salt and light. Although the words are simple it is difficult and so some want to limit its impact. They try to reinterpret it or define only specific things as “of the world.” The phrase belongs to Christ and in using it He shows us we have to imitate Him in applying it (John 17:14). Let us find out how.

Much could be and needs to be said about how to apply this truth but first of all we need to have a better grasp of its meaning. We need to have a deeper sense of the spiritual principle being revealed in these words before we start putting them into practice. There is an attitude here that we need to embrace before we can start thinking about what it means in the details of life. Anthony Burgess helps us understand what this phrase means in the following updated extract.

He defines what “of the world” means. It means to partake of the life and lifestyle of the world, to have the spirit of the world in us as opposed to the Spirit of God and heavenly things. If we are of the world both the inward inclination and outward behaviour are wholly worldly. As Christ says, those who are of the earth are earthly (John 3:31). A soul that is controlled by worldly principles sets it mind only on earthly things (Philippians 3:19). To be in the world is a different thing to being of it. Christ and the disciples were in the world, but not of it. Burgess illustrates it like this, a person may be in the water for a good reason, but fish are properly of the water because that is their element. Having considered this we can address what it is not to be of the world.

1. Those Who are Not of the World Believe Heavenly Truths

Those who are not of the world receive those heavenly truths that the world cannot grasp but rather scorns and derides. Peter had not received the truth about Christ from flesh and blood but from heaven (Matthew 16:16-17). There is a worldly religion and worldly doctrines which are suited to the principles and interests of the world and these are readily embraced. The world loves such preachers and doctrines, those who are of the world hear them (1 John 4:6). The Spirit of the world and the Spirit of God are completely opposed, it is only by the Holy Spirit we come to know the things that God has given us (1 Corinthians 2:12). When God enlightens our minds by faith to assuredly believe those truths God has revealed in His Word we are clearly not of the world. We are so persuaded that neither corrupt reason nor the opinions of the greatest number or the greatest influence will make us go against it. It is because people are so worldly in their understanding that their lives are also so worldly. When this is the case they receive their religion not as it is revealed by God, but so far as they can use it for their corrupt objectives.

2. Those Who are Not of the World Have Been Born Again

We must have another nature (qualitatively) than that with which we come into the world (1 Peter 1:4). A person must be born again, or from above, and made a new creature, old things have passed away (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17). This is to be above the world, not of the world, and indeed seeing the soul is not naturally of the world but created by God, why willingly debase it to serve every worldly object? Why love the world, delight in it and be ensnared by it? Pray for this new nature and regeneration, otherwise you are as earthly as a worm because your love, heart and thoughts, and you all is nothing but earth.

3. Those Who are Not of the World Have Their Hearts in Heaven

You are to live as one whose heart is with Christ already in heaven. It is not enough to be born again, the progress of our lives must be spent on heavenly motives and considerations. The birds of the air light on the ground to eat their food, but immediately fly up again. Thus, it is with the godly, although they take the lawful comforts of this world, yet their hearts are presently off ascending to God (Philippians 3:20). Because we are risen with Christ, we set our affections on things above (Colossians 3:1–2). Christ was not of the world and He showed that by the way He lived, it was His food and drink to do His Father’s will. He was always either praying to God or preaching to the people? Although you are in your family, in your employment and calling, yet do not be of the world. They best part of yourself is from God. Say, what are all these things compared to the favour of God?

4. Those Who are Not of the World Have Other Joys

They have other comforts than the world knows about and other joys. Therefore, it has not even entered into the heart of man to conceive of this (1 Corinthians 2:9). It is called “joy unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8). David acknowledged that God had put more joy in his heart than worldly men could have in all their abundance (Psalm 4:7). What is carnal joy and delight compared to that admirable and unspeakable joy which the godly find in God? This is a joy that will continue in trials and death itself, when in such a drought the wicked man’s stream is completely dried up.

5. Those Who are Not of the World Have a Different Lifestyle

They are not conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). They go in opposite directions. Their words and language are different, their actions are contrary. What the righteous love, the wicked abominate, and what the wicked loves the godly abhors. The godly move quickly towards heaven, while the wicked make as much haste to hell.

6. Those Who are Not of the World Have Their Treasure in Heaven

Remember you are not of the world, therefore beware of worldly affections and worldly hearts, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If it is in God and heaven your heart will be there, if in earth and earthly things it will be there it will be. If you are not of the world, the troubles of the world cannot hurt you, the losses of the world will not grieve you, the vexations of the world will not disquiet you. But because part of us (remaining sin) is still of the world, we are not completely and perfectly free from disquiet and so we remain in the midst of combat and conflict so that heaven may be the sweeter.

7. Those Who are Not of the World are Christlike

They are not of the world as He is not. He who is the God of all the earth, and has all things at His command, came to be in the world to be hated, scorned, and at last crucified. Christ adds “as I am not of the world.” He does this to forewarn us that we will experience from the world the same hatred, misery, and trouble He grappled with. It also brings much comfort that it however bad it is with us, it was worse with Christ.

We must imitate Christ and resemble Him in our lives. We must endeavour to live as He lived. It is impossible for us to do what He did as God, yet in those things which He did as being under the law, we are to be conformed to His example. We are to be humble , meek, and patient as He was. We are to do God’s will and to seek God’s glory as He did (Philippians 2:5). Paul urges them to be followers of him as he was of Christ (Philippians 3:17). Stop yourself when you are impatient, discontented and grumbling at what you suffer and say, “did Christ do this?”
It was necessary for Christ to suffer and then enter into glory. It is necessary for every godly person to into the kingdom of heaven through many tribulations. As Christ had a crown of thorns before a crown of glory, as He had to drink of the brook, and then lift up His head, so it must be with all His disciples. This should bring us comfort even though it is grievous to flesh and blood.

We may be loved of God, even though we are greatly afflicted in this world. Christ (though dearly beloved of His Father) was still delivered up to the cruel mocking and rage of men? We read of only one son of God who was without sin, but we do not read of any who are without chastisement, even Christ Himself drank deep of that cup. Christ was a man of sorrows, and yet God from heaven said, “This is my well beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”

No trial will separate God and us, for Christ has undergone these conflicts as our head. He has taken the sting out of all of them. They are not judgments to destroy, He was afflicted and troubled to sanctify these things to us. If no troubles or afflictions could overcome Him, neither can they overcome us. He is able to help and pity us (Hebrews 4:15). Consider it an honour to be made like Christ in His sufferings. Be like Christ in His graces as you are like Him in His trials and you will be like Him in glory.

Conclusion

Perhaps we can see that not being of the world goes deeper than avoiding certain practices, it reaches into our attitudes, goals, thoughts and words. How far are we influenced by the world in these things and how far are we in conformity with Christ? 

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Amen Has a Meaning

Amen Has a Meaning

Amen Has a Meaning
The Westminster Assembly was an advisory body of theologians to the English Parliament which met at Westminster from 1643 to 1648. It produced a new range of standards for church order and government, worship and doctrine for the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland that have been used ever since by Presbyterian churches across the world.
7 Jan, 2021

As many are aware, a Democratic congressman in the USA ended an opening prayer to “the monotheistic God” on the first day of the new Congress by saying not simply “amen” but “amen and a-woman.” The phrase of course is a Hebrew word with no connotations of gender. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a United Methodist minister, responded by saying that it was intended to be “a light-hearted pun in recognition of the record number of women” serving in Congress. Clearly it was a mockery of a prayer. But it certainly got people reaching for the definition of Amen as “so be it”. Yet few perhaps realised just how far it cheapened such a vital word. There is far more meaning to the word than we may realise. Since we use the word so often, ought we not to know something more of its fuller significance?

The Shorter Catechism crisply summarises aspects of the significance when it says “in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen” (Question 107). As Thomas Manton (member of the Westminster Assembly) observes, it is a word that functions like a seal on our requests. It is “an expression of our faith and hope” as well as “the strength of our desire”. “There is the Amen of faith, and the Amen of hearty desire.” These are the two key things required in prayer. The word can mean “so let it be, or so it shall be”. Sometimes it affirms the truth of something and other times it expresses a hearty desire that something will be so. When we use it in prayer it expresses both “our hearty desire that it may be so; and our faith, that is, our acquiescence in the mercy and power and wisdom of God concerning the event.” Another member of the Westminster Assembly, William Gouge explains further the fulness of what this word means in this updated extract.

1. How is Amen Used in Scripture?

It was usual for the apostles to add Amen when they made a prayer, or gave thanks, or pronounced a blessing (Romans 16:24,27; 1 Corinthians 16:24; 2 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Peter 5:14; 1 John 5:21; Jude 25). It was usual for the people of God also to say Amen when they heard this, whether it was only one (1 Kings 1:36) or many together (Nehemiah 5:13). There are many are kinds of speech to which Amen is added in Scripture.

  • Petitions. (Romans 15:33)
  • Benedictions and Praise (Nehemiah 8:6)
  • Curses (Nehemiah 5:13)
  • Exhortations to Duties (1 John 5:21)
  • Declarations and Promises (Revelation 22:20)
  • Denunciations of Judgment (Revelation 1:17)

2. What Does Amen Imply in Scripture?

(a) True assent. The apostle directs the Church to pray, read and preach in a known tongue so that even the unlearned hearer may say Amen, that is, give assent to what he hears with understanding (1 Corinthians 14:16).

(b) Earnest desire. When the prophet Jeremiah heard the prophecy of Hananiah concerning the return of the king of Judah to his kingdom, and the other captives to their land, and of the vessels that were taken away to the temple, he knew it to be a false prophecy. Yet to show how earnestly he desired that it might be so (Jeremiah 28:6), he says Amen. And fully to declare what he meant by that, he adds, “The Lord do so.”

(c) Steadfast faith. Where Christ give a promise of his second coming, saying, ‘Surely I come quickly’: the Church, to show her steadfast faith in that promise, says, Amen, which implies, ‘Lord, I believe this: Even so, come Lord Jesus’ (see Revelation 22:20).

The proper reason for saying Amen is to manifest assent, desire and faith. Whoever says Amen, must understand what he says Amen to. In this case, two things must be understood: the words that are uttered and the meaning of those words (1 Corinthians 14:9).

3. Why is Amen Used in Scripture?

(a) Although the apostles wrote and spoke in Greek, they used this Hebrew word (Romans 1:15). We, therefore, have a clear justification for retaining this word in another language even though Hebrew is not spoken and understood.
(b) Continual use has made this word familiar to all persons, of all languages, in all nations. It is everywhere like a vernacular word. Similarly, these two titles Jesus Christ, though one is Hebrew, and the other Greek, have become so familiar, that they are retained in all languages.
(c) No other single word is so fitting for this purpose as Amen and no other language can invent such a word. It is not therefore without reason and just cause that it has been included as a word in all languages. It comprises under it whatsoever is expressed or understood in and by the speech to which it is added. The people were to add their Amen to the full extent of the law and the curses for not keeping it (Deuteronomy 27:26).

4. What Does Amen Require Of Us?

(a) As speakers it requires us to:

  • speak intelligibly in a known tongue (1 Corinthians 14:2)
  • speak audibly, so that those who are to say Amen may hear what is said
  • speak distinctly, so that those hearing may observe every petition and every particular point for which thanks is given. If prayer or thanksgiving is uttered too fast hearers cannot properly observe the several parts and their Amen cannot be to all that is said but only some parts.

(b) As those who hear it requires us to

  • listen diligently to that which is uttered. The people that said Amen to Ezra’s blessing stood up while he spoke, a gesture that implies diligent attention. If our minds are wandering, and not attentive to that which is uttered, what assent, what desire, what faith can there be? And if there is none of these, why is Amen said? Surely it is a plain mockery of God.
  • to give assent. If there is no assent in the heart it is hypocritical to say Amen. The apostle implies assent is essential when he asks how we can say Amen if we do not understand (see 1 Corinthians 14:16).
    to manifest assent. Such a sound of Amens from the congregation would enliven a minister’s spirits, and put a kind of heavenly life into the people themselves.

(c) As speakers and hearers it requires us to

  • know that all that is uttered is grounded on God’s Word and agreeable to His will. This is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He will hear us (1 John 5:14).
  • have the mind fixed. All must hold their mind steady on what is said or else they will be as those who “draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me (Isaiah 29:13). This is an abomination to God.
  • retain, as well as we can, in our memory all that is uttered because Amen applies to all that is said. That which is forgotten is as though it was not heard, understood, or given attention to.
  • be affected by the prayer. This will make men double their Amen, as the Jews did when Ezra “blessed the Lord. All the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands” (Nehemiah 8:6). Their speech and gesture both declared great affection of heart. Without this inward affection Amen will only be uttered coldly.
  • believe God’s gracious acceptance of the prayer. Amen ratifies all that has been previously uttered. But how can the heart ratify what it does not believe (Matthew 11:24)? As the apostle says concerning prayer, “Let him ask in faith” (James 1:6).

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