How Should Christians Respond to a Hostile Culture?

How Should Christians Respond to a Hostile Culture?

How Should Christians Respond to a Hostile Culture?
Alexander Nisbet (1623-69) was a Covenanting minister and Bible expositor in and around Irvine in Ayrshire. He was ordained in 1646 and was removed from his church in 1662 for refusing to comply with the re-establishment of Episcopacy.
6 Aug, 2020

The recent public burning of a stack of Bibles in Portland, Oregon indicates an increased degree of hostility to Christianity. Cultural change is accelerating. Surveys show that the majority of those who want to own the Bible’s authority consider their beliefs are now in conflict with mainstream culture. We are also all too conscious of ways in which the Christian voice and Christian values are being forced out of the public square. Christians may be tempted to respond by retreating; whether that is diluting their message or seeking to hide. Yet we still need to be salt and light in such a culture and to hold out the gospel of hope. How do we do this? What does it mean for our everyday lives? What hope can encourage us in such times?

Living in such a culture is not new for Christians, it is often the norm. It was the context of the New Testament. In Philippians 1:27-28, Paul counsels Christians not to be intimidated into withdrawing. They should not become less steadfast or bold in their zeal for truth. They should not be divided but stand fast together for the gospel. Rather they should live lives that adorn the gospel and testify courageously to the truth of God’s Word.

Peter also speaks to Christians about how they could suffer for doing good (1 Peter 2:20) be exposed to abuse and insult (1 Peter 4:4 and 14). They must respond by living such lives that glorify God and may even bring others to glorify Him. In this updated extract Alexander Nisbet shows how 1 Peter 2:12 can encourage us to live for Christ in a hostile culture. Peter stresses the importance of holiness in our outward living despite those who may want to slander them as evildoers. This may not just silence them but even result in their conversion, and consequently bring much glory to God.

1. The More Holy Our Life, the More Real Our Profession

To the extent that the power of sin is weakened in the heart, there will be beauty and loveliness in our outward life. The apostle has said they must abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11) and now speaks of honourable conduct before the Gentiles. Christians proclaim the praises of God by this more than by a fair profession or good expressions.

Such honest or honourable conduct is made beautiful and lovely (as the word literally means) to on-lookers. It is made beautiful by the right ordering of all aspects of it in duties to God and others (Psalm 50:23). It is also beautified by showing wisdom and meekness (James 3:13) in these things but especially by faithfully discharging the duties of our particular calling and relations (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; Titus 2:9-10). The apostle brings in this as a means to attain to manifest the praises of God as he had urged previously (1 Peter 2:9).

2. The More Unholy Society Becomes, the More Holy Believers Must Become

The more wicked the society with whom believers must interact, the more should they be stirred up to the pursuit of honourable conduct either to win or convict others. The apostle urges these Christian Hebrews living among heathen people to pursue holiness of life. Sadly, many nominal Christians resemble such Gentiles in living without respect to the law of God (Romans 2:14) and pursuing strongly their idols like heathen people (1 Corinthians 12:2). They are as unacquainted with the privileges and duties of the covenant of grace as heathens are (Ephesians 2:11). They are also like the heathen often ready to persecute all that do run to excess in the way that they do (1 Peter 4:3).

4. The World is Unworthy of Those It Thinks Unworthy of Living In It

Those of whom the world is unworthy are often characterised to the world as unworthy to live in it, by those whose dishonourable ways are reproved by their honourable conduct. Although these believers are a chosen generation and a royal priesthood etc they are spoken against as evildoers.

Those that are without God in the world are often enemies to and slanderers of those who will not run to the same excess with them. This is how the Gentiles are described here.

5. Untrue Slander is Best Silenced by Unblemished Living

Honourable conduct is the best way for Christians to stop the mouths of slanderers. Without this any other means will prove ineffectual for maintaining their reputation. The apostle prescribed a holy walk to Christians as a means to put their very enemies to activity inconsistent with slandering the godly. Although they speak against them as evildoers they may by beholding their good works, glorify God.

6. Unblemished Living May Convert the Unregenerate

The Word accompanied by the powerful blessing of God is the principal means of converting sinners (Romans 10: 15 and 17). The Lord may, however, make use of the very conduct and visible actions of His people to draw wicked men to fall in love with God’s ways. Such conduct includes integrity in their dealings (even with their enemies), patiently bearing wrongs and continuing to express love and respect to their enemies despite such treatment.

Wicked men may be brought to give Him the glory that He ever sent and blessed to them such a means for reclaiming them from the way of perdition. It is God’s work to visit them in His power (Psalm 110:3) and love to make the change (Ezekiel 16:8). In order for such a change there must be a “day of visitation”, a visitation in special mercy that brings sinners to glorify God (1 Peter 2:12). Our chief motive is not glory to ourselves but glory to God (1 Samuel 2:30), that others might be moved to glorify God in the day of visitation.

7. Undiminished Hope for the Greatest Enemies

The Lord’s children should lose neither hope nor endeavours of winning to Christ the greatest enemies (whether to God or themselves) among whom they live. They have hope when they consider how soon and how easily the Lord can change them. The apostle urges them to consider those who were speaking against them as evildoers as such whom God might visit in mercy. They might even be instrumental in their conversion.

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What Happens When Christ Opens Doors for the Gospel?

What Happens When Christ Opens Doors for the Gospel?

What Happens When Christ Opens Doors for the Gospel?
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
7 May, 2020

Has the coronavirus prompted more concern about spiritual things? To some extent, yes. Google searches on prayer for 95 countries during this crisis have increased to the highest level ever recorded. The Danish author of the study, Jeanet Sinding Bentzen said she found that “search intensity for ‘prayer’ doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.” The Pew Research Center also reported increased prayer in the USA. 44% of Americans have also said that the COVID-19 coronavirus is a “wake-up call for us to turn back to faith in God.” One of the UK’s largest online Christian bookstores, Eden, has seen physical Bible sales rise by 55 per cent in April. It is too early to say how significant this is or how the impact of this will be sustained or if it is a window that is already closing. But it should spur us to prayer ourselves. Perhaps you have heard of other indications of increased interest. Whether or not this is a window of opportunity for the gospel, it is helpful to consider what Christ means by an open door and its relevance to us. In these days of disruption for churches there is tremendous encouragement in it.

Scripture speaks about an open door in a number of places but especially in Revelation 3:7-8. It gives the encouragement that Christ is Head over His Church and opens doors that no one can shut. He has all power and authority in relation to His Church. It uses the language of Isaiah 22:20–22 and the authority given to Eliakim. As James Durham points out in the following updated extract, we can draw great reassurance from this.

It encourages us that Christ Jesus, as Mediator, has special oversight and government of the church He is completely sovereign so that when He shuts no one can open and vice versa. None of His orders can be obstructed, He has an exalted name above every other (Philippians 2:9) and no one can compete with His authority. He is holy and true (v7) and therefore cannot wrong any, nor fail in fulfilling His promises.

Ministers and churches can (like the church in Philadelphia) wrestle with great difficulties, weaknesses and distresses and these reassurances are given to encourage them. It shows them that Christ will support and comfort them in their trials. An open door is God giving opportunity to do good by the gospel (1 Corinthians 16:9; It is not only freedom to preach the gospel, but also God’s blessing on it (2 Corinthians 2:12).

It is as if Christ says the following to the minister of the church in Philadelphia who is said to have only “a little strength” (v8). “It is not for nothing that I have the key of the house of David, and open and no man shuts. I have given you commission to preach My gospel, and given you access to labour in My work of the ministry with some measure of success for doing good to souls.”

By assuring him that no one can shut this door, it is as though Christ is saying the following. “No one will hinder My work in your hands; no enemies or difficulties that you can meet with shall stop you. I have sent the gospel among you and given you ability to preach and the people ability to benefit. As I have sent the gospel among you, I will keep it among you, so long as I think good; no matter who may oppose it.”

1. What is an open door?

By an open door, Scripture usually means the Lord making way for the beneficial preaching of the gospel. This does not mainly consist in having ability and freedom, without any external restraint, to preach the gospel. It especially refers to God giving inward liberty to the preacher His blessing the Word, making it effectual and successful on the hearts of hearers. This is called, a door of utterance in Colossians 4:3, when a minister is not restrained in preaching the gospel, but as it were, the door is thrown open to him. In 2 Corinthians 2:12 it indicates God sending him in a special way and removing difficulties out of the way to make his ministry successful there. In 1 Corinthians 16:9 an effectual door is opened even where there is much opposition.
2. What does an open door imply?
It implies several things

(a) Ministers have their limitations
That there is a limitation in ministers who cannot make the gospel as productive as it ought to be. They cannot make the gospel as effective as it will be when the Lord sends forth the Spirit and enlarges a man to speak it with boldness. In this respect a door of utterance is opened to him, as clear from Colossians 4:3.

(b) Congregations have their limitations
That there is a further hindrance in that the ears and hearts of hearers are so locked up that the Word has no entrance but is repelled. The Lord opens this door, when by the work of His Spirit on hearts (like Lydia, Acts 16:4) He makes the Word to be received and admitted. Thus, Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, urges them to pray that the Word may have free course, that is, that there be no shut doors to hinder its progress. Both liberty for the minister to speak and blessing and success among the people are meant here.

(c) Providence maintains the Word
An open door also includes God’s providence in keeping the Word ministered and ordinances in a place with liberty in preaching and hearing. This may be despite many malicious opponents. No one can shut it.

3. Why does Christ open the door at certain times?

Christ is supreme and sovereign in giving gifts to men as well as liberty and inward freedom to make best use of them He also gives a blessing on them in making them successful. Gifts will not make a man able to preach unless the Lord gives a door of utterance. Even the great apostle Paul needs this (Colossians 4:3). Merely having utterance will not produce fruit among the people if the Lord does not open an effectual door and give the Word free course among them. Where there is most of the gift of utterance, there may be less success than where there are fewer gifts. This is because He whose privilege it is to set doors open, opens the door of utterance more fully to one, and the effectual door to the other, and does not open both equally to all.

4. What happens when Christ opens a door?

When Christ opens the door in this way, success cannot but follow necessarily and inevitably. No person or devil can shut out or impede it when He pleases to bless His ministers and commend the Word to the hearts of hearers. The meaning particular for the angel or minister here is. “I have called you to this ministry, and have given you some measure of utterance, though you do not have much ability. I have especially ordered matters so as the Word from you will have free course and success. No matter who rages against it, this will not be obstructed.”

This shows us that gifts and success in the ministry are different things. There is a little strength here (in relation to gifts) yet an open door (in respect of success). We find throughout Paul’s Epistles that a distinction is made between his liberty to preach on the one hand, and God’s opening an effectual door to him on the other.
Christ makes the Word successful, He gives both the gifts and the success. Not everyone experiences the same blessing. An open door is set before some more than before others or not at all before others. This is clear from comparing this and other epistles together.

5. How do we recognise an open door?

An open door cannot be discerned from a man’s gift alone. A door may be shut where there are great gifts. Paul did not always have this door open to him, at least it was more in one place than another. We cannot conclude there is an open door from a man’s freedom from external afflictions in a place, or the great following he may have. There may sometimes be many adversaries where this effectual door is opened (1 Corinthians 16:9) which is not the case where there is great peace and praise. Here are some ways in which it can be discerned.

(a) When a minister gets the door of utterance opened and the ears of the people are opened to it which is not a flesh pleasing desire to have ears tickled but with someone’s gifts but a simple, diligent love to be edified and receive good.
(b) Where there is real change and much solid work; the people are made humble, serious, spiritual sensitive, fruitful, etc. rather than merely opinionated
(c) When the devil attacks and opposes the ministry of one more than of many others.
(d) When the devil and ungodliness are defeated in a place by the preaching of the Word.
(e) Where there are new converts.

6. How should we make best use of an open door?

(a) Diligently, as a man that is to reap corn that is already ripe.
(b) Humbly, with self-denial, lest his pride robs the Master of His glory with dire consequences for himself.
(c) Watchfully. He should make use of it with fear, lest he or any other bring about a miscarriage in this birth because of unskillfulness. He should also proceed with watchfulness, lest the devil sow tares while he is sleeping, and it prove to be false without reality in many hearers. This is Paul’s concern; he was conscious of his own and their weaknesses (1 Corinthians 2:3).
(d) Zealously, so that the authority of Christ may appear in His ordinances both to adversaries and friends.
(e) Solidly, by making the foundation sure and giving solid food to souls such as the substantial gospel truths and the plain duties of holiness. It is dangerous to bring such a people too soon to the new wine of the most sublime things in doctrine, or the highest practices of mature Christians. It is better that they are fed on milk and what is healthy and nourishing than to please their appetites by diverting them with useless questions.
(f) Dependently, God is the Master and He has appointed a great Steward over the house, who has the keys laid upon His shoulder. The minister has no inherent right to such blessing but is subject to the Master’s good pleasure. Christ must be acknowledged in every step of the
work as it is has been done, or is being done.
(g) Single mindedly, this is the great aim of all preaching in public and private i.e. the edification and salvation of the people, and forming Christ in them by travailing, as it were, in birth for that purpose.

Conclusion

Here is some helpful biblical insight in discerning true opportunities and blessing provided by Christ. We can identify when Christ is at work by His Spirit in a more extraordinary way. If we feel discouraged about the prospects of the gospel and preaching being blessed, we can see that Christ can work in the most unlikely of circumstances. He can make use of anyone who is serious and faithful in serving Him and who does not seek to take the glory to themselves.

This is an encouragement to those ministers who feel that their gifts are nothing special compared to others. They may actually witness greater blessing than others. It is also an encouragement to congregations to be faithful to their minister whether or not they think that he has the gifts of a more prominent preacher. They should greatly value the preaching they hear if it is faithful to Christ and His Word. If Christ chooses to bless it, the more humble ministry may possibly be more fruitful. be more blessed. Christ shows both ministers and people that as mere men they are insufficient for any such thing, they must look to Him. It is not gifts that commend a minister to Christ, but faithfulness in making best use of what he has received (Matthew 25:14–30; Luke 19:11–27).

It should encourage us to pray for the success of the gospel and the ministry of the Word. May the Lord open many such doors in our generation.

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This updated extract has been taken from the first volume of James Durham's exposition of the book of Revelation covering the first three chapters. It has now been republished. It also includes many valuable essays offering unique insights. The text has been collated with a 1653 manuscript and an appendix contains texts and full lectures that are significantly different than the published edition of 1658.

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Why Western Culture is Having an Existential Crisis

Why Western Culture is Having an Existential Crisis

Why Western Culture is Having an Existential Crisis
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
13 Dec, 2019

“Existential” is the word of the year according to Dictionary.com. Apparently “it speaks to this sense of grappling with our survival, both literally and figuratively, that defined so much of the discourse.” It is frequently accompanied by the word crisis especially when connected with Oxford dictionary’s word of 2019 “climate emergency”. Aside from panic about threats of doom we are also in existential crisis about identity. The singular pronoun “they” was selected as Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. It is used to describe those who consider themselves neither he nor she, opening up a linguistic as well as identity crisis. It is a crisis of confusion within western culture about who we are and where we are going. How did we get here?

From a biblical perspective existential angst is the inevitable consequence of shutting God out of our minds and lives. Our culture has denied what the light of nature clearly teaches us about God’s being and existence and refused to glorify Him as God. The consequence of this is a darkness of heart that makes us fools, however much we may claim to be wise (Romans 1:20-21). We have imagined that we are progressing to new heights of knowledge when it is in fact empty delusion. This imagined progress is in fact a progressive decline. When shut out what the light of nature teaches about God, we start to shut out what it teaches about ourselves.

The apostle Paul returns to this theme in Ephesians 4:17-18. He shows the extent of the impact of rejecting God. He calls the mind of the unrenewed vain because it is empty of the knowledge of God in Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14). The knowledge it has of God, or right and wrong, is nothing but empty notions (Romans 1:21).

Rejecting God has an inward effect on the understanding and affections and impacts outwardly on life and conduct. The understanding and ability to reason are entirely blind and darkened in relation to God and heaven (1 Corinthians 1:21). This leads to a deeper darkness in the understanding than even what they have by nature.

This ignorance flows from a blindness or hardness of heart, whereby their heart obstinately refuses the light of God offered to them. They become wilfully hardened by themselves (Exodus 8:15). In the following updated extract, James Fergusson reflects on how this unspeakably sad and solemn process takes place.

1. THOSE WHO REJECT GOD’S KNOWLEDGE LIVE WITHOUT PURPOSE

The way of life of all unrenewed people is empty and fruitless. They are spending their money for that which is not bread and their labour for that which does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:2). Paul says that all the unconverted Gentiles “walk in vanity”.

2. THOSE WHO REJECT GOD’S KNOWLEDGE LIVE CORRUPTED LIVES

Whatever vanity or wickedness is in the outward life of an unregenerate person flows entirely from the vanity of their mind and understanding. As the mind is, so will be the conduct. Even the mind itself, the primary place of reason, is corrupted and vain. It is so vain that corruption and vanity flow from it to the person.

The way the Gentiles walked in this world was the result of the vanity of their mind. It is the root of everything else in every unrenewed person (1 Corinthians 2:14). Every such person is increasing towards all the wickedness described and would reach the utmost height of it if restraining grace did not hinder him (Genesis 20:6).

3. THOSE WHO REJECT GOD’S KNOWLEDGE LIVE WITH DIMINISHING KNOWLEDGE

Everyone by nature is entirely unskilful in being able to discern the things of God. They cannot make best use of the principles of the knowledge of God and right and wrong that have remained after the fall (Romans 1:20). They cannot draw solid conclusions from them for rules to direct them in relation to worship and the way to salvation.

This unskilfulness and darkness increase daily. The longer they live and only use the direction and guidance of natural light, the further they are from the mark. Paul speaks of a further darkening of their understanding, than what they had by nature. Their understanding is darkened due to the ignorance that is in them.

The longer they live in their unrenewed state, the more they are estranged from right knowledge. Every sin they commit makes them less capable of knowing it. They become still further from the life of God, than they were by nature. This comes from their ignorance and hardness of heart.

4. THOSE WHO REJECT GOD’S KNOWLEDGE LIVE WITH HARDENED HEARTS

Hardness of heart is a terrible evil and the source of several other evils. When someone obstinately refuses light and walks contrary to it in hardening their heart to commit sin, they provoke the Lord to give them over to ignorance. They will then lose the small measure of knowledge they formerly had (Romans 1:28).

Hardness is the cause of ignorance. Being thus both hardened in heart and blinded in mind, they are further removed and estranged from the life of God (the saving knowledge of God in Christ, John 17:3). Their understanding and reason become more unskilful in discerning between what is truth or error, right or wrong. The common principles remaining in them after the fall concerning such things have been almost completely obliterated by continuing obstinately in sin. Blindness or hardness of their hearts is mentioned as the cause of the ignorance which was in them. Both hardness and ignorance are the cause of their alienation from the life of God, and the darkening of their understanding.

CONCLUSION

The sin of rejecting God and His truth is the existential threat to our culture. We are descending into further confusion and bewilderment as we continue in this sin. The existential crisis is an inability to define ourselves and our purpose in a meaningful way. We are being abandoned to further futility of thinking and living. The singular pronoun “they” has only been in prominence for a matter of a couple of months. This shows that we are diminishing in our ability to know basic realities on a weekly basis.

The priceless alternative that the apostle Paul points us to is, however, to learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20). To be delivered from the darkening influence of sin in the understanding, we need a saving knowledge of Christ. We need the life of God within. This is what the gospel offers to us.

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When the Gospel Goes, What Else Goes?

When the Gospel Goes, What Else Goes?

When the Gospel Goes, What Else Goes?
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 Nov, 2019

Atheists like Richard Dawkins have come round to the idea that getting rid of Christianity is a bad idea. It would “give people a license to do really bad things”. In other words, secularism fails to provide a coherent moral framework for good and evil. Douglas Murray recently admitted that the idea of human rights cannot long survive being cut off from its Christian roots. Western society has been living on the inheritance of a Christian heritage but now the capital is running out. This is what Murray describes in his book The Strange Death of Europe. These benefits derive not just from Christian influence but from the gospel itself. The Bible warns that when a people send the gospel into exile, it will not be long before their own exile follows.

Thomas Brooks drew attention to this at a time when he along with thousands of other gospel preachers were being silenced by the state. He asks the question: “When the gospel goes from a people, what goes?” He also helps us to go beyond the bleak reality of answering that question. He highlights both encouragements and challenges that arise from this. It should make the gospel even more valuable to us. We also need courage and zeal to proclaim the gospel faithfully in the face of opposition.

1. PROSPERITY GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

In the northern kingdom of Israel, they were without the law and the true God. They had no teaching priests, only Jeroboam’s false priests (compare 2 Chronicles 15:3 with 2 Chronicles 13:9). The following verses go on to show that there was no peace in the nation but rather disorder, destruction and adversity (2 Chronicles 15:5 and 6).

2. SAFETY GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the Ark was taken away, their strength and safety was gone (2 Chronicles 15:6). When the Jews rejected the gospel, the Romans came and took away both their place and nation. About forty years after Christ’s crucifixion, Titus and Vespasian took away the Jews’ city. They had cried, if we do not deal with this man [Jesus] the Romans will take away our nation (John 11:48). But to do so was the quickest way to bring the Romans on them.

3. CIVIL LIBERTY GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the Jews slighted the gospel and turned their backs on it, they quickly became bond slaves to the Romans.

4. NATIONAL HONOUR GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the gospel goes, the honour, glory, splendour and beauty of a nation go. It is the gospel that is the honour and beauty of a nation. When that goes, all the glory goes. When the Ark was taken away, the glory was departed from Israel (1 Samuel 4:22). When a people exchange the true worship of God for things that do not profit (the traditions of men) they abandon their glory (Jeremiah 2:11-13).

What is it that lifts up one nation above another, but the gospel? Our nation has been lifted up to heaven above all nations of the earth because of it.

5. TRUE HAPPINESS GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the gospel goes, all soul-happiness and blessedness go. The gospel is the means appointed by God to bring souls to acquaintance with Christ, to acceptance of Christ, to a claim to Christ, to assurance that He is theirs and they are His. Now when this goes, all soul-happiness and blessedness go.

6. GOD’S SPECIAL PRESENCE GOES WHEN THE GOSPEL GOES

When the gospel goes, the spiritual presence of God goes, for that always goes with the gospel. There is a general presence of God which the Psalmist speaks of (Psalm 139:7-8). This presence of God reaches from heaven to hell; in that sense God is included in no place, nor excluded out of any place. But what is the benefit of this general presence when the gospel goes? When it goes, the special presence of God goes.

THE GOSPEL HAS NOT GONE YET

(a) The Gospel cannot be taken out of our hearts.

It is in the understanding, affections and consciences of sinners as well as saints. It has got so deep a root in the hearts of many thousands that it is beyond the power of hell to pull it out.

(b) The Gospel still has preachers.

There are many of God’s servants in this nation to preach the everlasting gospel. They would be glad to preach it on the hardest terms. They will keep God and a good conscience to preach it freely as the apostles did. God has deposited this treasure for a purpose.

(c) The Gospel has not been destroyed.

All previous attempts to destroy the gospel have been ineffective. They have only helped the gospel to advance, flourish and spread.

(d) The Gospel does not go till a people reject it.

God never takes the gospel away from a people until the body of that people have thrust the everlasting gospel away from them. Although God’s messengers were abused, He continued to provide the Jews with the everlasting gospel until they thrust it away from them (2 Chronicles 36:15-23; Jeremiah 25:1-14 and Acts 13:45-47).

(e) The Gospel is promised to the children of believers.

Will God not fulfil His engagements to them (Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalm 112:2)?

THE GOSPEL MUST BE PERSONAL

(a) Make sure of your salvation.

Make it your great business, your work, your heaven to make your claim to salvation in Christ sure and secure. This is not an age or hour for someone to be between fears and hopes, to be between doubting and believing. Do not depend on outward practices or privileges. Make Christ and Scripture the only foundation for your souls and faith to build on (1 Corinthians 3:11; Isaiah 28:16).

(b) Rejoice in the Gospel.

Rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11). Rejoice that God has done your souls good by the everlasting gospel. Rejoice that He did not leave you until He brought you to accept it and to commit your souls to Christ. Rejoice that you have had the everlasting gospel in so much light, purity, power and glory as you had had. Rejoice in the riches of grace that has brought it to you in such a way. But weep that you have provoked God to take away the gospel and that you have not made best use of it

THE GOSPEL FACES OPPOSITION

Brooks also addresses the issue of why there is such opposition to the gospel that people want rid of it. People hate plain, powerful and faithful preaching of the gospel. This is because it shows up the nature of their lives. They hate the light and do not want to come towards it because their sinful actions and lifestyle will be exposed (John 3:20). Sinners also hate the gospel because their sin is restrained where the gospel shines in power and glory.

The gospel also requires things that sinners consider too hard. They must abandon darling sins to live according to it. This is hard for them even to hear (John 6:60).

The effect of the gospel is different. It softens one and hardens another sitting right beside them. It wins one and enrages the other. It is like the sun which has different effects on the things on which it shines (living things flourish, corrupt things increase in corruption).

Opposition to the gospel ultimately comes from Satan himself. He knows that the tendency of the gospel is to shake his kingdom. Thus, he and those of his kingdom do all they can to oppose and show their hatred against the everlasting gospel. This makes them to be in such a rage against the gospel.

CONCLUSION

This brings an implicit challenge to us. Is the gospel we proclaim faithful enough to stir up inevitable opposition? Or have we toned down the aspects that stir up such antagonism? Are we in danger of helping those who want rid of the gospel because we do not present it fully? Have we prized the gospel or just taken it for granted? Is it so personal for us that we rejoice in it and live in the light of it?

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Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
27 Sep, 2018

You can protect your children with the best intellectual arguments and the strictest controls on unhealthy influences. Yet the all-important matter is a life that matches up to what we profess. Scripture tells us this (Proverbs 22:6; Genesis 18:19). Recent research confirms this (for what it may be worth).  One study concludes that the degree to which parents consistently live out their professed convictions has a strong impact on when and whether their children become atheists. Of course such research leaves no room for the grace of God. Yet we know from Scripture that example can have a powerful impact through God’s grace (Matthew 5:16; 1 Timothy 4:12; Philippians 3:17). What does our life say about what we believe?​

It’s a huge responsibility. We are so imperfect. But we need to use this too to show our children that we (like them) are sinners in need of grace. How can we be more real? We can only be the best example we can be if we follow the best example ourselves. The Apostle Paul underlines the importance of parental example when he commands us to be “followers of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). We are to show mutual kindness and mercy in forgiving one another, because of Gods example in forgiving them for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32). They are to be followers of God in showing kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Following God in these things is commanded in Matthew 5:44-45 and Luke 6:35. In 1 Peter 1:16 it relates to all the virtues that we can display in following God.

Paul gives a reason why they should imitate God in this way. It is because they were His children by adoption. They are not only children, but dear children and dearly beloved by God their Father. They are therefore to imitate Him in displaying those virtues that would evidence themselves to be of His children.

 

1. We Have God’s Example

God’s works of mercy towards believers not only free them from sin and misery but also given them a motive to show mercy to others.  God in forgiving them has created a pattern to be followed by believers in forgiving one another and be “followers of God”.

2. We Must Follow God’s Example as Far as We Can

We neither ought nor can imitate God in His works of creation and providence (Isaiah 14:13-14). Neither can we presume to imitate Him in anything beyond His revealed will prescribes as our duty, (Isaiah 8:20). We should, however, look at whether there is any resemblance between any of His attributes or actions and any virtue or duty prescribed for us. We ought to look on it as a pattern for us to follow. He says “followers of God” in relation to His forgiving them for Christ’s sake.

3. We Must Follow God’s Example in How as Well as What He Does

It is not enough to do to others the same things which God has done to us.  We must also seek to follow Him in the way in which He does them. This will mean we do not do them from any base motive or wrong objective but rather from a desire to be conformed to Him and what He requires of us in His Word. Following God implies an endeavour to conform ourselves to Him.

4. We Have No Excuse for Not Following God’s Example

God’s example (in the things where we can follow it) is the only unerring pattern to be absolutely followed without any reserve. Anyone else’s practice is only to be followed as far as their example co-oincides with God’s Word and practice. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul commands them to follow him with an express qualification, as far as he was a follower of Christ. Here his command is absolute and unlimited: be followers of God.

5. We Have the Strongest Motives to Follow God’s Example

The Lord enters into the most intimate friendship and relationship with those whose sins He pardons. He not only frees them from deserved wrath but places them among the children and makes them His adopted sons and daughters. He calls them here God’s dear children, of whom He said in chapter 4:32 that God had forgiven them for Christ’s sake.

All those who are dear children to God by adoption should consider their highest privileges as the strongest motives for duty. In particular they must set themselves to imitate Him in showing mercy, kindness, forgiveness the other duties that He has made lovely by His own example. Paul makes their privileges a motive to imitate God and be followers of God as dear children.

6. We Must Follow God’s Example Lovingly

We must not only seek to imitate God, but also do it as dear children. This means following Him humbly (Matthew 18:2-3). It also means natural affection (children love to imitate and so please their parents) not being compelled as servants and slaves. He says “as dear children” pointing out not only why but how, they should follow Him.

Conclusion

“Do as I say, not as I do”, is not a good enough maxim for Christians or for Christian parents. A great deal depends not only on what parents say to their children but whether they themselves do as they say. Thomas Gouge (1605-1681) wrote a lot about how life in the home should be shaped by God’s Word. He says that when children follow the good example of their parents in spiritual things and upright living it preserves their influence even after their death. He points to how Scripture stresses that the good kings of Judah were following David’s example (1 Kings 3:3; 2 Kings 22:2). Yet it is solemn to think that the reverse influence may also continue from the example of parents (Genesis 12:10-20; 26:7-11).

In what we have considered we have great encouragement to seek to have the image of God more and more renewed in us. Although we fail frequently, we have the resources of grace to be the example we ought to our children. The mercy of God in forgiving is held out to us as an encouragement to followers of Him and provide an example to all around us.

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6 Ways the Gospel Calls for Holiness

6 Ways the Gospel Calls for Holiness

6 Ways the Gospel Calls for Holiness
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
31 Aug, 2018

If you are interested in the gospel, then you should be interested in holiness. But, you may ask, isn’t it “a holier than thou” attitude that turns people off the gospel? Perhaps, but real biblical holiness is all about the gospel. It is meant to be something that both attracts people to the gospel and is an expression of the reality of the gospel in our lives. If people notice the difference it may well make them uncomfortable but that is as Christ intended. Salt and light often have this effect (Matthew 5:13–14). But that holiness is meant to lead those who notice to give glory to God (Matthew 5:16). Christ is saying that if our lives are no different to those around us they won’t notice the difference and understand the reality of the gospel. Christ’s mission and our mission are all about holiness (John 17:16-19). Peter tells us that if we have been called by grace with a holy calling then we will be striving to be holy in all that we do (1 Peter 1:15).

The danger comes when we make our attempts to look holy in outward things the grounds of our confidence for salvation. Gospel holiness arises from valuing union with Christ and living out His resources of grace in obedience to His revealed will. It is not our own resources. This is what the puritan John Owen meant when he said, “As God gave us our beings, so he gives us our holiness. It is not by nature but by grace that we are made holy”. As we have received Christ we are to walk in Him (Colossians 2:6). Those who preach the gospel have two tasks: to persuade sinners to receive Christ and then to urge them to walk worthy of Him. In other words, as Owen also put it: “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing and realising of the gospel in our souls.” The gospel is the truth which is according to godliness (Titus 1:1).

Holiness is a gospel priority; it is (as Paul puts it) a gospel-shaped life (Philippians 1:27). James Durham explains this verse in the following way. “You are privileged with the gospel and have embraced it. Your profession of the gospel is outstanding. I beg you, therefore, that your life may correspond to it”. Paul begins the word “only”, because it is so necessary and of such great concern that it was the one thing they had to do. Comparatively speaking they had nothing else to do. The gospel calls for holiness in six ways. To fail or be defective in any of them makes our life to that extent to be unfitting the gospel.

 

1. The Gospel Calls for Holiness in All Kinds of Duties

The gospel calls for holiness in respect of all sorts of duties. It says be holy as God is holy in all manner of living (1 Peter 1:15). We are to be holy in prosperity and adversity, in religious, moral and in natural actions.

 

2. The Gospel Calls for Holiness in Everything

This extends entirely to all individual duties and actions in particular of all those sorts of duties. It reacheth all aspects of our conduct. The divinely inspired Scriptures instruct the man of God how he may be made perfect in every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Any failing in thought, word or deed is unbecoming to the gospel.

 

3. The Gospel Calls for Holiness in Our Whole Being

It also extends throughout the whole person. The gospel urges us to be sanctified throughout (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The promises of the gospel press us to cleanse ourselves “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:10). It requires that the understanding is kept soundly so that no error or untruth is admitted. It demands that the mind is sober and free from any sinful disorder and the affections do not overflow in sin. The will must be kept straight in line with the straight rule of obedience. The conscience is to be kept tender, neither darkened nor impure. We are to yield the members of the body as instruments to righteousness.

 

4. The Gospel Calls for Holiness in All Our Relationships

This holiness is to be followed in all capacities, callings, positions and relations. It is for husbands and wives, masters and servants and for parents and children. The apostle Paul urges this heartily and frequently in his letters (see Colossians 3 and 4; Ephesians 5 and 6). In Titus Chapter 2 he urges similar duties and uses this motive for servants: that the doctrine of God may be adorned in all things. For wives he has the motive, that the doctrines of God may not be blasphemed. To all believers he uses the motive that this is why the grace of God has appeared in the gospel.

 

5. The Gospel Calls for Holiness in All Times and Places

We are commanded to abound always in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57).  In the whole course of our conduct: at home and out of doors, in secret and public, in prosperity and adversity.

 

6. The Gospel Calls for Holiness in the Highest Degree

The gospel calls for perfect holiness, holiness in the highest degrees. Thus Christ urges us to be “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Believers are to be holy in all kinds of conduct as God who calls us is holy (1 Peter 1:15). This exact holiness is perfect in the degree of designe, desire and endeavour. This is “purifying ourselves even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3); that is to have Him as our pattern.

 

But isn’t this Like the Law Rather than the Gospel?

Someone may object against considering the gospel in this way (outlining a Christian’s duty and walk so precisely to this extent and degree). They may object that it makes it appear to be very strict and to differ little or nothing from the law. But we need to understand the similarities and differences between the law and gospel.

The law does not require more than the gospel. (a) The gospel requires holiness to the same extent as the law. Any sin against the law is also a sin against the gospel. Christ did not come to abolish but rather to fulfil the law; (b) both require holiness to the same degree. The gospel commands us to be holy as God is holy and perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. It does not dispense with any sin, degree of sin, or the least omission of any duty and more than the law; (c) The authority and obligation that requires holiness is no less in the gospel than it is in the law. In actual fact we may say, that the obligation is in some respects greater.

But the law and gospel differ in these three ways: (a) the gospel accepts the penitent even though he has not been perfect and exact in obedience. It gives him pardon through Christ, which the law does not; (b) the gospel calls for duty in the strength of Christ and supplies strength for duty. But the law supplies no strength, it only assumes it. It only gives the word of command, requiring to walk in the strength which we once had in Adam. Even though the authority and obligation are the same, the approach is not. If there is any breach or failure, the law says we will certainly die. But the gospel allows repentance and fleeing to Jesus Christ, who took the curse of the law; (c) The law only accepts duties that have been performed perfectly. But the gospel accepts imperfect duty, as long as there is sincerity. It accepts the believer Christ’s account according to that which Christ has, if there is a willing mind. So then, when you are called to walk as befits the gospel you are not to dispense with any duty that the law calls for. The gospel indeed calls for it in a sweeter way through peace and righteousness: The gospel calls for the same kind, extent and degree of holiness as the law. The great difference is the way in which it calls for it.

The gospel gives: (a) a new purpose: to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31); (b) a new motive: love to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14); (c) a new obedience: not in our own strength but Christ’s (John 15:5); (d) a new spirit: a reverential fear (Luke 1:74); (e) a new attitude to the commandments: they are not found grievous but easy and light (1 John 5:3; Matthew 11:30); (f) a new attitude to self: denying our own righteousness and attainments.

 

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The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries

The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries

The Complete Remedy for Human Miseries
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
3 Aug, 2018

​It’s common to make light of “first world problems”. These are the trivial frustrations that vex only those in wealthy countries: lack of wifi, battery charge or milk in the fridge.  A little perspective shows that they are nothing compared to the real human misery experienced across most of the planet. Yet those in the first world also experience the real miseries of this life: affliction, sickness and deep sorrow. But still we know nothing of the disease, war, displacement, oppression and general suffering of many nations. We must add to all this the spiritual misery of sin itself as well as its consequences and the condemnation that sin brings. Is it really possible that there can be a complete and perfect remedy for human misery? Does this claim too much?

There is a full and complete remedy for all human misery. It may not be an immediately entire eradication of misery but it does begin to remove it immediately in a real sense. Ultimately, that full eradication of misery will happen.

 

1. Human Misery is Comprised of Three Things

Hugh Binning observes that there are three things which coincide to make people miserable: sin, condemnation and affliction. Everyone may observe that “man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” that his days here are few and evil. He possesses “months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed” for him (Job 5:6-7; 7:3). He “is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

The pagan philosophers meditated a great deal on the misery of human life. In this they outstripped most Christians. We only include certain afflictions and troubles such as poverty, sickness, reproach, banishment, and such like amongst our miseries. The philosophers included even natural necessities amongst our miseries. This included the constant revolution of the circle of eating, drinking, and sleeping. What a burden to an immortal spirit to roll about that wheel perpetually. We make more of the body than of the soul. They counted the body a burden to the soul. They placed posterity, honour, pleasure and such things, on which men pour out their souls amongst our greatest miseries. They saw them as vanity in themselves, and vexation, both in enjoying and losing them. But they did not recognise the fountain of all this misery—sin. Nor did they acknowledge the consummation of this misery—condemnation.

They thought trouble came out of the ground and dust either by natural necessity or by chance.  But the Word of God shows us its beginning and end. Its beginning was man’s defection from God and walking according to the flesh. All the calamities and streams of miseries in the world have this as their source. It has even extended to the whole creation and subjected it to vanity (Romans 8:20). Not only would man eat in sorrow but the curse is also on the ground. Man who was immortal will return to that dust which he magnifies more than the soul, (Genesis 3:17).

The beginning had all the evil of sin in it and the end has all the evil of punishment in it. The streams of this life’s misery run into an infinite, boundless and bottomless ocean of eternal wrath. If you live according to the flesh you will die. It is not only death here but eternal death after this. The miseries of this present life are not a proportionate punishment of sin. They are merely a downpayment of that great sum which is to be paid on the day of accounting. This is condemnation, “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

 

2. The Complete Remedy for Human Misery

As the law reveals the perfect misery of mankind, so the gospel has brought to light a perfect remedy of all this misery. Jesus Christ was manifested to take away sin, His name is Jesus, “for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Judgment was by one unto condemnation of all. But now there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Thus, these two evils are removed, which indeed have all evil in them. He takes away the curse of the law (being made under it) and then He takes away the sin against the law by His Holy Spirit. He has a twofold power, for He came by blood and water (1 John 5:6-7). By blood, to cleanse away the guilt of sin, and by water to purify us from sin itself.

But in the meantime, there are many of the afflictions and miseries common to mankind on us. Why are these not removed by Christ? The evil of them is taken away, though they themselves remain. Death is not taken away but the sting of death is removed. Death, afflictions and all are overcome by Jesus Christ, and so made His servants to do us good. The evil of them is God’s wrath and sin; these are removed by Jesus Christ. They would be taken away entirely if it was not for our good they remained, for “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

Thus, we have a most complete deliverance in extent but not in degree. Sin remains in us but not in dominion and power. Wrath sometimes kindles because of sin but it cannot increase to everlasting burnings. Afflictions and miseries may change their name and be called instructions and trials; good and not evil. But Christ has reserved the full and perfect deliverance until another day. It is therefore called the day of complete redemption (Romans 8:23). All sin, all wrath, all misery will then have an end and be swallowed up of life and immortality” (2 Corinthians 5:4).

This is the summary of the gospel. There is a threefold consolation which corresponds to our threefold evils (sin, affliction and condemnation). There is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ.” Here is a blessed message to condemned lost sinners who have that sentence of condemnation within (Romans 8:1). This was the purpose for Christ’s coming and dying. It was that He might deliver us from sin as well as death and the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.

He has therefore given the Holy Spirit (and dwells in us by the Spirit) to quicken us who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). O what consolation this will be to souls that consider the body of death within them to be the greatest misery. They groan with Paul “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24).

But because there are many grounds of heaviness and sadness in this world, therefore the gospel opposes unto all these, both our expectation which we have of that blessed hope to come, whereof we are so sure, that nothing can frustrate us of it, and also the help we get in the meantime of the Spirit to hear our infirmities, and to bring all things about for good to us (Romans 8:28).

And from all this the believer in Jesus Christ has reasons for triumph and boasting before the perfect victory—even as Paul does in the name of believers in Romans 8:31 to the end. Not long ago he cried out, “O wretched man, who shall deliver me?” Now he cries out, “who shall condemn me?” The distressed wrestler becomes a victorious triumpher; the beaten soldier becomes more than a conqueror. O that your hearts could be persuaded to listen to this joyful sound—to embrace Jesus Christ for grace and salvation! How quickly would a song of triumph in Him swallow up all your present complaints and lamentations!

All the complaints amongst men may be reduced to one of these three. I hear most people bemoaning things in this way. Alas, for the miseries of this life, this evil world! Alas for poverty, for contempt, for sickness! Oh! miserable man that I am, who will take this disease away? Who will show me any good thing (Psalm 4:6); any temporal good? But if you knew and considered your latter end, you would cry out more. You would refuse to be comforted even though these miseries were taken away.

But I hear some bemoaning still more sadly—they have heard the law and the sentence of condemnation is within them. The law has entered and killed them. Oh! “what shall I do to be saved?” Who will deliver me from the wrath to come? What are all present afflictions and miseries in respect of eternity? Yet there is one moan and lamentation beyond all these, when the soul finds the sentence of absolution in Jesus Christ. Then it gets its eyes opened to see that body of death and sin within, that complete man of sin diffused throughout all the members. Then it bemoans itself with Paul, “O wretched man—who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). I am delivered from the condemnation of the law, but what comfort is it as long as sin is so powerful in me? Indeed, this makes me often suspect my deliverance from wrath and the curse, seeing sin itself is not taken away.

Now, if you could be persuaded to listen to Jesus Christ and embrace this gospel, O what abundant consolation you would have! What a perfect answer to all your complaints! They would be swallowed up in such triumph as Paul has here. This would reveal such a perfect remedy of sin and misery that you would not complain any more. Or at least, not as those without hope. You will never have a remedy for your temporal miseries unless you begin in relation to your eternal miseries, in seeking to prevent them. “Seek first the kingdom of God,” and all other things “shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Seek first to flee from the wrath to come and you will escape it and then afflictions (the evils of this life) will be removed. First remove the greatest complaints of sin and condemnation. How easy then it is to answer all the lamentations of this life, and make you rejoice in the midst of them!

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Your Best Excuses Against Personal Witnessing Answered

Your Best Excuses Against Personal Witnessing Answered

Your Best Excuses Against Personal Witnessing Answered
Alexander Nisbet (1623-69) was a Covenanting minister and Bible expositor in and around Irvine in Ayrshire. He was ordained in 1646 and was removed from his church in 1662 for refusing to comply with the re-establishment of Episcopacy.
15 Sep, 2017

It’s not difficult to make believers feel guilty as soon as certain subjects are raised. Personal witnessing and private prayer are perhaps the most obvious examples. It’s not uncommon for people to find it difficult contemplating sharing their faith. From one point of view, this is not surprising as it certainly takes us out of our comfort zone. Very few people find it easy to speak with people about their eternal destiny and the truths of God. Yet these are the things that matter most. We have friends, neighbours, relatives, co-workers not to mention strangers that we encounter in providence and we fail to speak to them about their soul. If we don’t who will? This does not mean abusing relationships but it does mean praying for opportunities to arise and being ready to take them when they do. Let’s consider some of the excuses we have against this.

In all honesty, a lot of what holds us back from witnessing is related to self. It may be our pride (in relation to how others perceive us). Perhaps we are simply absorbed in our own lives and interests (we fail to take to heart those perishing around us). We may also be retained by unbelief (we refuse to think that God could or would use us). There may be other difficulties more personal to our situation, we have to speak in general about the issue. Scripture understands our fears and meets these with valuable counsel.

Alexander Nisbet provides some useful comments on 1 Peter 3:15 that can be connected with such excuses. This verse says that must always be ready to answer everyone that asks us to give a reason for the hope we have. We have real hope and reason for real hope; they do not. We have to do this not with arrogance and superiority, but “with meekness and fear”. Something else we must do is “sanctify the Lord God” in our hearts, this will help us to speak to others faithfully and with humility.

The context of the verse relates to the trials and persecution these believers were enduring. Peter is counselling them about the right spirit and conduct they ought to have in their sufferings. The fear and reality of persecution was not a valid reason to hold back from answering everyone that asked them to give a reason for their hope. We must prepare ourselves beforehand with clear knowledge of the truth. We should be able to show from the Word of God reasons for what they believe. Their testimony for the truth was to be seasoned with meekness even towards persecutors and opponents. It was right that they should have in their hearts a holy fear of giving that testimony in a wrong way.

1. It might invite trouble

In the midst of their troubles, these believers were to maintain in their hearts a felt sense and acknowledgment of God’s holiness. God is matchless in holiness (1 Samuel 2:2). He can have nothing added to that or any other of His infinite perfections by any creature (Romans 11:35-36). Nevertheless, He esteems Himself sanctified in His people’s hearts when they (in view of His holiness) submit to the hardest of ways in which He orders their experience (Psalm 22:3). They are afraid to offend so holy a majesty (Isaiah 29:23). They are strengthened by this to believe that He will fulfil all His promises (Psalm 111:9) and His threatenings against His enemies (Habakkuk 1:12).

In such circumstances of trial God’s children may be perturbed in spirit. They may be in great danger of forgetting God’s sovereignty over them (Isaiah 51:12-13). He can use them as He pleases for His own glory. They are in danger of having thoughts in their hearts inconsistent with the holiness and purity of His nature. The apostle says: “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”.

2. I couldn’t do that on my own

The godly ought not to be anxious about knowing what to say in a time of trial (Matthew 10:19). Nevertheless, they ought not to neglect ordinary means of preparing for trials. Such means of preparation include drinking in the solid and clear knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 6:19). They must maintain the presence of that Spirit who reveals truths yet unknown and brings known truths to remembrance when it is necessary (John 14:26). In this way, they may be able to defend the truth by holy reason drawn from the Scripture. They can make a defence or apology for it (as the word means here), Thus they can answer objections that may be made against it (Proverbs 15:28). They are to be always ready to answer everyone that asks them for a reason for the hope that is in them.

3. I don’t know the right words to say at the time

There are circumstances where the Lord’s children may safely answer their adversaries with silence. For instance, when they have testified sufficiently and frequently to such truths before (Matthew 27:12,14). Sometimes questions are only put to them by wicked men out of scorn (Proverbs 26:5) or idle curiosity (Luke 23:8,9,11). Perhaps the questions they face are intended to ensnare the godly (Isaiah 36:21).

Even still, they ought to keep themselves ready to defend the truth and give a reason of what they hold. They need to be prepared for occasions when the glory of God and edifying others requires it. God makes known the time and way of doing this to every humble believer that waits on Him (Luke 12:11,12 and 21:14,15; Habakkuk 2:1). The apostle does not direct them here to answer always everyone that asks them but to be ready always to answer everyone that asks a reason.

4. I might get a question I can’t answer

The Lord’s children ought not to satisfy themselves with any confidence or persuasion concerning the truths of the gospel which is not clearly and reasonably grounded on the Word. They must have the kind of persuasion that may not only convince themselves but others also when they called to give them a reason. They are to be ready to give “a reason” to everyone that asks.

5. I don’t have the right temperament for it

Every testimony that God’s people give to His truth before those who oppose it ought to be seasoned with meekness of spirit. This should be evidenced in their conduct toward their persecutors by avoiding all signs of carnal passion and revenge against them (1 Thessalonians 5:15). They must use respectful and sober language towards them (Acts 26:25). This may be blessed by God to reduce their troubles (Proverbs 15:1).  The wicked may be convicted of the just character of the cause that they persecute. The  following verse shows this. They must be ready to give a testimony to the truth “with meekness”.

6. I’m scared

The fear of man mars confidence and peace in the heart. It is contrary to the spirit we ought to have (the fear of God) which is “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”. We may have, however, a holy fear that we will fail to act aright in trials and difficulties by denying or concealing any necessary truth. We may have a fear of speaking necessary truth at the wrong time or mixing our own passions with our testimony to the truth. This holy fear is a prime qualification of a right witness for Christ and His truth. This verse says that we should be ready to bear testimony to the truth “with fear”.

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All Things to All Men: What Does it Really Mean?

All Things to All Men: What Does it Really Mean?

All Things to All Men: What Does it Really Mean?
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
9 Jun, 2017

How much should churches change their message and methods to suit the culture around them? Some believe that whatever methods will connect with people are justified. The gospel must be “contextualised” they say. This means that we must adapt everything but the core message to suit the culture. The main Bible verse that they use to support this idea is when Paul speaks of being all things to all men in order to save them. Does that mean that we must adopt the culture around us and everything we do must be changed? How should we understand this verse?

Reaching back beyond current debates and controversies to learn from the way that others in the past have understood this passage is particularly helpful. It brings a different perspective that help us to see things in a clearer way. We are not the only generation to seek to understand the Scriptures and if we are prepared to learn from other Christians in our own day then why not from the past too? The following is therefore drawn from the way that David Dickson and James Durham understood 1 Corinthians 9:22. In this verse Paul says “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”. We need to understand these words in their context, not just repeat them as a slogan.

 

1. Paul is speaking about his personal conduct

Paul has been speaking about financial support for the ministry in verses 7-14. He then speaks about his own practice amongst the Corinthians in verses 17-18. If my preaching is “voluntary, it shall have a reward” he says “but if against my will, I must still discharge it, because of the dispensation committed to me by the command of God” (Dickson). Paul contrasts this with those who “unwillingly preach the gospel” and “exercise their ministry, not out of any love to God and desire of converting souls but for filthy lucre’s sake or out of vain-glory” (Dickson). But Paul chose to deny himself what he was entitled to by not seeking financial support for his ministry in this context. He chose to “make the gospel of Christ without charge” (v18).  If he had sought financial support, those who opposed him would have used it against him and he would have “abused the gospel” (v18) and “abused his liberty” (Dickson).

James Durham says that Paul’s taking wages in Corinth would have harmed the edification of the Corinthians because it would have given confirmed the suspicion that he was self-seeking. It would only strengthen the slanders he received from his opponents. It would have been unedifying for Paul to accept financial support because it would have stirred up groundless suspicion. The spiritual edification of our brother is of more value than our temporal rights. Thus we may have to forbear lawful things that we are inclined to do if doing it would harm the edification of others.

Paul has a liberty (v19) but he is willing to give up his personal benefit if it will get in the way of spiritual service to others. He is willing to do this in “all sorts of things that are indifferent” so as not to serve “himself but rather others so that he might gain them” (Dickson). There are three ways in which he gave up his entitlements in this way (verses 20-22).

  • Jews. He conformed himself to the Jews who considered themselves bound to keep the ceremonial law. If necessary in particular times and places, he was willing to observe the ceremonies appointed under Moses. He did this as though he was under the yoke of ceremonies. He did this according to the verdict of the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22-29) which left the Jews (such as Paul) who had been born under that yoke free to use the ceremonies for a time. In no way was this the case for the Gentiles (Acts 21:21, 25).
  • Gentiles. When amongst the Gentiles who were without obligation to the ceremonial law, he laid aside the use of such ceremonies, as though he was without obligation to that law. He makes it clear, however, that he did not mean the moral law or the law of love. This is the perpetual law of God and Christ, from which he could not be freed. He was indeed he freed from the ceremonial law so that he might freely, for the advantage of the gospel, either use of abstain from using such ceremonies.
  • Weak Believers. Paul conformed himself to those who doubted whether they were free to abstain from lawful things.

It should be clear that Paul is not speaking about a positive requirement to adopt a culture but rather in relation to whether certain practices are positively commanded by God or indifferent. He is speaking about personal conduct rather than providing a full-blown missionary strategy or church planting methodology.

 

2. Paul is speaking about things that are indifferent

It is important to see that Paul is not talking about being free from the moral law. He emphasises in verse 21 “being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ”. This means that all things to all men certainly does not mean engaging in anything that would be contrary to what God has required or forbidden. In verse 27 Paul speaks about his personal need of constant spiritual and moral discipline. Paul is rather speaking about how “he accommodates himself to all men in all things that are indifferent” (Dickson). He does this for three reasons.

    1. That he might gain as many as possible, or at least some (v22).
    2. That the teaching of the gospel might be better esteemed amongst all by moderating himself in this way (v23).
    3. That serving the advantages of the gospel and that he might be saved, being made partaker of the gospel with other believers (v23).

 

3. Paul is speaking about edification

It is clear that Paul is speaking about edification when we compare what he says in the next chapter when returning to the subject. In 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 he sets out the requirement that “in all our actions (and therefore in eating and drinking) we must endeavour that God may be glorified. This is not done when we eat with offence to others” (Dickson). Offence in Scripture means being a stumbling stone to someone else and harming their spiritual edification. It is important to understand the contrast with the modern idea of offence as hurt feelings or being exposed to an opinion with which you disagree. For more on this vital subject read 7 Reasons to Avoid Stumbling Others.

In 1 Corinthians 10:32 Paul goes on to say that we “must give offence to no one, whether they profess the true religion or not” (Dickson). We should even deny ourselves the liberty of being free to eat anything if we are going to cause someone else to stumble by eating something. In verse 33 Paul returns to his own example in a way that brings out the meaning of “all things to all men”. He says that he pleases “all men in all things; not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved”. Dickson draws from this that all believers “are bound to imitate the apostle’s example in all things that are indifferent. He did not seek to serve his own temporal profit, but rather the eternal salvation of others. He would not eat in such cases therefore, and so are all bound not to eat this or that food where it would stumble another”.

James Durham makes frequent references to 1 Corinthians 9:22 in a classic book that deals with the danger of stumbling others and harming their spiritual edification. He shows that when we stumble others it is because we are seeking to please ourselves rather than love our neighbour as ourselves. He says that we must “bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves, but rather our neighbour for his good to edification, even as Christ pleased not himself, (Romans 15:1-3)”.

Durham notes that this was Paul’s practice in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. He became all things to all men for their edification. He pursued the edification of others in his use of indifferent things and denied himself in relation to what would please him personally.Paul prevented offence, when by becoming all things to all, he made way for his being acceptable in his station.  Durham says that this not simply about avoiding things that may harm edification.

Durham says that such stumbling takes place in confusing people in the truth or practices of religion so that they are made doubtful whether such things are duties and truths, or not. In this way they may be diverted from some of the more necessary practices of religion. This is the purpose of Romans chapter 14 and similar parts of Scripture. For instance he guards against doubtful disputations which are not profitable (Hebrews 13:9). This is not only in writing and reasoning for what is not truth, but writing and speaking of truth in a new manner with new expressions, or doing it contentiously.

Durham goes on to say that what is not actually edifying stumbles others. It is for this reason that Paul becomes all things to all, that he may gain some. For instance, he has Timothy circumcised so that he might have access to edify the Jews. Not striving to please others in indifferent things hindered them from being edified by us. It gives them prejudice at the way of the gospel so that their edification is obstructed and they offended.

Durham speaks of denying ourselves in things that are indifferent in themselves such as eating or not eating such a food for such a time. Paul was even willing never to eat meat again if it would harm the edification of another (1 Corinthians 8:13). This is to become all things to all men in order to gain them (1 Corinthians 9:22). It is when our practice in such things is conformed not to our own inclination but so as to edify others. It cannot stop us from doing our duty as commanded by God yet even in commanded duties we need to consider the appropriate time and circumstances.

Durham observes that all things to all men means equal respect to all kind of persons in relation to edification. We to avoid stumbling weak as well as strong, the ungodly as well as the gracious. The command is general: 1 Corinthians 10:32 uses three categories to include all sorts of persons. Just as we ought not to sin in reference to any person, so we ought not to give to any of them an occasion of sinning, because that is never good. Paul would not give the false teachers of Corinth grounds to be stumbled any more than the Church-members.  In this respect we are debtors both to the Jews and Greeks, to the unwise as to the wise (Romans 1:14). In indifferent things we are to become all things to all men, even to those that are weak and without law (though still we are to be under the law) that more may be gained (1 Corinthians 9:20-23).

 

Conclusion

David Dickson and James Durham have taken us deeply into the meaning and context of 1 Corinthians 9:22. It is not a passage requiring evangelists to adopt a culture in order to engage people with the gospel.  It does not support the popular idea that we must secularise our language and use methods that trivialise the message. This may actually harm people in their spiritual edification if it makes the gospel message superficial and trivial, with less of the authority of heaven and the sense of eternity. This would in fact achieve the opposite of what Paul means in being all things to all men.

Culture is not entirely neutral and the medium affects the message. Paul could have used other means such as drama to promote his message. They would have been more cultural and respected. But God chose “the foolishness of preaching to save some” (1 Corinthians 1:21).  Paul was concerned with what God had commanded.

1 Corinthians 9:22 is speaking about pursuing the spiritual edification of others, within and outside the Church. It is highly challenging on a personal level. Are we dedicated to seeking the maximum edification of all others? Are there aspects of our behaviour and speech that are hindering edification? What is not actually edifying stumbles others.

One application of the passage would be that anything unnecessary or indifferent in itself that might harm edification should be removed. We should seek to avoid unnecessary offence or prejudice. It is not about jettisoning aspects of vital biblical principle. Could the movement to effect wholesale change in the worship and practice of churches actually be harming the spiritual edification of others contrary to 1 Corinthians 9:22? Seeking the spiritual good of others means teaching them to observe all things that Christ commands (Matthew 28:20).

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God’s Hearty Invitation to Sinners

God’s Hearty Invitation to Sinners

God’s Hearty Invitation to Sinners
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
16 Sep, 2016

Someone has estimated that God gives an invitation with the word “come” 642 times in the Bible. Whether or not that is the case, they are certainly frequent. Some of the most attractive invitations are found in Isaiah chapter 55. It was often a passage children were given to memorise for this very reason. The offers made in this passage are based on the everlasting mercies of a covenant God.

William Guthrie said that Isaiah 55 proclaims a market such as was never heard of before. It is the most attractive, important and glorious market that there ever was. The most glorious and precious wares are on sale.  They were bought at the dearest price but now sold more cheaply than any wares ever were. “Here we have the most free and lawful invitation to all sorts of persons to come and have them. They shall get them and pay nothing for them”.

Another attractive exposition of this chapter is contained in The Sum of Saving Knowledge. This document was written by James Durham and David Dickson during the time of the Second Reformation in Scotland. The Sum had a prominent place in Scotland in previous generations as a way of expressing saving truth.  Many have found it helpful in gaining personal assurance of salvation. The following has been extracted and updated from a document called The Sum of Saving Knowledge.

Isaiah chapters 53 and 54 relate the precious ransom of our redemption by the sufferings of Christ, together with the rich blessings it has purchased to us.  In chapter 55 the Lord offers Christ and his grace openly. In free grace He proclaims a market of righteousness and salvation to be obtained through Christ. This is for every soul, without exception, that truly desires to be saved from sin and wrath.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth”, He says. He invites all sinners that for any reason stand at a distance from God to come and take from him riches of grace which run in Christ as a river, in order to wash away sin and to extinguish wrath. “Come ye to the waters,” he says. Lest any should stand back conscious of his own sinfulness or unworthiness, and inability to do any good, the Lord especially calls upon such saying, “He that hath no money, come.”

 

1. God’s Free Riches

He desires nothing more of the buyer, but that he should be pleased with the wares offered; which are grace, and more grace. That he should also give hearty consent in embracing this offer of grace, so that he may conclude the deal and make a formal covenant with God. “Come, buy without money, (He says) come, eat”. This means agree to have and take for yourself all saving graces; make the wares your own, possess them, and make use of all blessings in Christ. Use and enjoy freely whatsoever makes for your spiritual life and comfort, without paying any thing for it: “Come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price,” He says.

The Lord knows how much we are inclined to seek righteousness and life by our own achievements and presumed ability to pay; to have righteousness and life as it were by our works. He knows how unwilling we are to embrace Christ Jesus and to take life by free grace through Jesus Christ on the terms in which it is offered to us. The Lord, therefore, lovingly calls us away from our unlawful and doomed way with a gentle and timely admonition, making us understand that our labour will be lost. “Wherefore do ye spend your money (he says) for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?”

The Lord promises to us solid satisfaction (true contentment and fulness of spiritual pleasure) through taking ourselves to the grace of Christ. He says, “Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”

 

2. God’s Everlasting Covenant

Because faith comes by hearing, he calls for us to listen to the explanation of the offer and for us to believe and hasten towards the truth, which is able to produce the application of saving faith, and to draw the soul to trust in God. “Incline your ear, and come unto me,” He says.

The Lord promises that this offer being received shall make alive the dead sinner. He will conclude an unbreakable covenant of perpetual reconciliation and peace with the man that consents to it and welcomes this offer: “Hearken, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” He declares that this covenant will in substance assign and make over all the saving graces which David (who is Jesus Christ – see Acts 13:34) has bought for us in the covenant of redemption: “I will make a covenant with you, (he says) even the “sure mercies of David.” By sure mercies, he means saving graces. These include righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost, adoption, sanctification, and glorification and whatever belongs to godliness and eternal life.

 

3. God’s Gift of the Son

The Father has made a fourfold gift of his eternal and only begotten Son in order to confirm and assure us of the real grant of these saving mercies, and also to persuade us of the reality of the covenant between God and those who believe:

1. He has given him to be incarnate and born for our sake, of the seed of David. David was a type of Christ and this is why the Lord is called David, the true and everlasting King of Israel, here and in Acts 13:34. This is the great gift of God to man (John 4:10). And here God says, “I have given him to be David (or born of David) to the people”.

2. He has given Christ to be a witness to the people of the sure and saving mercies granted to the redeemed in the covenant of redemption. He also bears witness of the Father’s willingness and purpose to apply these mercies, and to make them firm in the covenant of grace and reconciliation made with those who embrace the offer: “I have given him (says the Lord here) to be a witness to the people.” Christ is a truly sufficient witness in this matter in many respects, because:

  • He is one of the blessed Trinity, and contractor for us, in the covenant of redemption, before the world was.
  • He is, as the Mediator also the Messenger of the Covenant and has been commissioned to reveal it.
  • He began to reveal it in Eden, where he promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
  • He revealed before His coming in the sacrifices and ceremonies types and figures of his own death and sufferings, and the great benefits that should come to us by that.
  • He gave more and more light about this covenant, speaking by His Spirit, from age to age, in the holy prophets.
  • He came Himself, in the fulness of time, and bore witness of everything belonging to this covenant, and of God’s willing mind to take believers into it. He did this partly, by uniting our nature in one person with the divine nature; partly, by preaching the good tidings of the covenant with his own mouth; partly, by paying the price of redemption on the cross; and partly, by dealing still with the people, from the beginning to this day, to draw and keep in the redeemed within this covenant.

3. God has made a gift of Christ, as a leader to the people, to bring us through all difficulties, all afflictions and temptations, unto life, by this covenant. It is he indeed, and no other, who leads his own to the covenant and, in the covenant, all the way unto salvation:

  • By the direction of his word and Spirit.
  • By the example of his own life, in faith and obedience, even to the death of the cross.
  • By his powerful working, bearing his redeemed ones in his arms, and causing them to lean on him, while they go up through the wilderness.

4. God has given Christ to his people, as a commander. He faithfully exercises this office, by giving to his Church and people laws and ordinances, pastors and governors, and all necessary officers. He also maintains courts and assemblies among them in order to see that his laws are obeyed. He subdues his people’s corruptions by his word, Spirit, and discipline, and guards them by his wisdom and power against all of their enemies of whatever kind.

 

4. The Sinner’s Believing Conclusion

The weak believer can strengthen his faith, by reasoning in this way:

Anyone that heartily receives the offer of free grace made to sinners, thirsting for righteousness and salvation has Christ, the true David, with all his sure and saving mercies by an everlasting covenant.

But (the weak believer can say):

do heartily receive the offer of free grace made here to sinners, thirsting for righteousness and salvation:

Therefore, Christ Jesus with all his sure and saving mercies belongs unto me by an everlasting covenant.

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Reasons to Trust Christ

Reasons to Trust Christ

Reasons to Trust Christ
George Gillespie (1613 – 1648) ministered in Fife and Edinburgh and was one of the main Scottish theologians at the Westminster Assembly. He wrote several important publications in support of Presbyterian church government.
2 Sep, 2016

We don’t just need the gospel once in our lives: we need it every day. Fellowship with God, assurance and holiness all derive from salvation in Christ. The glorious gospel of the blessed God gives meaning even to the practical realities and duties of life. In the face of constant spiritual onslaught against our souls, we need daily strength and refreshment from this fountain of life.

Everything we need for salvation depends on Christ. Reminding ourselves daily of the reasons for trusting Christ helps maintain our grip on this reality. In the following updated extract, George Gillespie outlines the “true and safe grounds of encouragement to believe in Christ”.  These simple truths ought to be stored in the memory for ready and fresh access. They are of particular help for those that struggle with assurance of faith.

1. Christ is an Entirely Sufficient Saviour

Christ is all-sufficient. If He will He can. He is able to save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). Are you a sinner to the uttermost? His plaster is broad enough to cover the broadest sore. Christ’s merit is as infinite as God’s mercy because the blood He shed is the blood of God as well as of man (Acts 20:28).

This is a good, strong foundation of comfort for a soul, convinced of its own sinful condition and the emptiness of comfort in any creature. It must fix its thoughts on Christ to the extent that He is the only Saviour and therefore an all-sufficient Saviour. The sinner is so far encouraged (it is no small encouragement) as to resolve: “There is power enough in the blood of Christ to cleanse my crimson sins, even mine. There is no help for me out of Christ, but in Him there is help for all that come unto God by him”.

 

The great quality of true faith is believing that Christ is able and all-sufficient. Therefore He Himself said to the blind men: “Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:28- 29). The man in Matthew 8:2-3 was not rejected as an unbeliever but got a good answer from Christ. Every poor sinner that comes to Christ as sufficient, and believes that Christ, and Christ only, can cleanse him from all sin and save his soul, has a true, though imperfect faith and is in a fair way for salvation.

There is many a true believer whose faith cannot as yet rise so high as to stay and rest upon the good-will and love of Jesus Christ to him in particular. Yet the soul believes the all-sufficiency of Christ, and that He only is the Saviour. Thus he comes and draws near to God, by and in Christ as the greatest good that he values above all things. Although his faith has not yet attained to rest on the love of Christ to him in particular; it is true faith and Christ will not despise it.

2. Christ Died for All Kinds of Sinners

Christ died for all kinds of sinners in the world. Every poor sinner may therefore think to himself: “Thus, Christ died for my kind of sinner”. Here is a universal encouragement to all from a true and real ground. It is drawn from the will and intention, as well as from the power and all-sufficiency of Christ. Scripture teaches that He has died for all sorts of persons; there is no condition excluded. 1 Timothy 2:6 says: “Who gave himself a ransom for all” and verse 4, “who will have all men to be saved.” The meaning must be all kinds, not all persons. The Apostle’s all can be no more than Christ’s many: “The Son of man came…to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). If we look at the context of 1 Timothy 2:6 we find abundant light on its meaning. Verse 1 gives an exhortation to pray “for all men”.  The very next words explain this: “for kings and for all in authority.” He does not say for “all kings” but he will not have us exclude kings or queens, as such, from our prayers, or any other subordinate rulers. When he says “all that are in authority,” he means any kind of lawful authority. 

 

3. Christ Died for All Kinds of Sins

Jesus Christ has died not only for all kinds of sinners but to expiate all kinds of sins.  He has assured us plainly that “all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men” (Matthew 12:13). There is only one exception: the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:13). Since this is the only exception, it makes the general promise even more sure. It is not some kinds of sins only but all kinds of sin and blasphemies. These not only can, but will be “forgiven unto men”.

The promise of mercy and free grace comes home not only to your nation and to individuals of your outward condition, state and class, indeed to your family. But it also comes to your condition in respect of sin, it comes fully home to sinners of your kind or condition; it offers Christ even to such a sinner as you are.

 

4. Christ Receives All Who Come to Him

Christ receives all who come unto Him and excludes none except those that exclude themselves by their unbelief (John 6:37).

 

5. We are Commanded to Believe

The command to believe is an encouragement to believe. “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23). Notice that the same authority that commands us to love one another also requires that we believe on Christ.

 

6. God is the Giver of Faith

Someone might say: “I cannot believe, I have no strength or grace to believe”. I answer: “God describes Himself as the giver of faith (Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29)”.  “He also describes His Son as “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

If someone objects: “I know that this is so. But God only works faith in the elect, and I do not know whether or not I am elect”. I answer, “you are discharged (in this case) from running back to election (which is God’s secret). You are required to obey the revealed command: “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but these things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Since you are commanded to believe in God and hear that He is the Author and Finisher of faith, say with the disciples, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5) and cry “help…mine unbelief” (Mark 9:94). Ask Him who has promised to give the spirit of grace and supplications so that you may look on Him whom you have pierced (Zechariah 12:10). Pray for Him to lighten your eyes, lest you sleep unto death (Psalm 13:3) . This looking on Christ (promised in Zechariah) is nothing else than believing on Him (see John 3:14-15).

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