I pray this letter finds you well and in the grace of our God. I was glad to receive your response to my last letter as well as your question with regard to the Scriptures, I have chosen to write to you briefly in response.
As Christians, we are followers of the God who has given us revelation regarding Himself; while that revelation has come in a variety of ways in times past, it is in these latter days that He gave His revelation through His sent Son. The Son by which the Spirit is promised and proceeds, the apostles are sent, and in whom the church trusts. As such, the revelation through Christ as the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets as foundation stones, we have an inseparable relationship with the revelation of our God. Though we live far removed from the times of the Christ and his apostles, we must hold the Scriptures in as high esteem as our God who gave them does if we are to know, serve, and belong to Him whose salvation is found therein. The Scriptures are the special way that God has chosen to display himself to us during this present age. Being, thus, receptors of such revelation, we find ourselves in a familiar position that prophets and apostles of all walks have found themselves in before: in receipt of revelation that we did not ask for, nor seek out, but now have possession of. It is this possession of revelation that demands a response from us that is consistent with the revelation itself.
Interaction with the revelation of God is definitional to being His people. As such, I am intending to describe how the revelation of God comes to us, how that changes us, and what we are to do with it.
Who better to start with than Christ? Even as God the Son incarnate He displays for us the nature of the reception of revelation. He, though sinless and in perfection, still never spoke on his own authority but “the Father who sent me has Himself given me a commandment-what to say and what to speak... What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told Me.” Does this not plainly display for us the source of revelation as being outside of ourselves? At home with the Father? Given from Him and then received by those He intends? I remind you that this is the only way revelation may come: as God intends. We do not rise to God, He gifts such revelation. This is true of all parts of Scripture. It is true even of the gospel! No mind of man has come up with such, but it has come by the revelation of God. Even Paul, whom you know to have had no intention of receiving the revelation of God on his travels towards Damascus, found himself in possession of such. He recounts that “the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” There was no asking Paul if he wanted to be in possession of the revealed message, it was simply provided, and he had no alternative but to receive it. This is true also of Peter, who recounts the revelation of God at the transfiguration of Christ, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, the voice was borne to Him by the majestic glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.” He goes on to connect such an experience with Scripture as the “prophetic word, to which [we] will do well to pay attention as to a light shining in a dark place.”
David, God never asked us if we wanted to hear His revelation in the Scriptures. But we, like Paul and Peter have come in contact with God’s very words. Reception of those words is not the question. We possess them. They speak to us regarding our God and His gospel. The most important question becomes one of how we will respond. Will God give us believing ears or will we hear the sound of it, like Paul’s companions, and discern no voice? Either way, we will prove it true in its claims about us.
There is but one right response upon reception of revelation from God: trust. This response, at the base of our being, unseats what we previously concluded about ourselves. No matter our zeal beforehand, no matter our certainty, no matter our obstinance or reticence toward God, when He gifts a living trust in our hearts to take Him at His word we will see with new eyes, praise with new mouths, and “love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since [we] have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” But thanks be to God that this is no one time occurrence! Whenever we run into the revelation of God again it requires of us the same response. Is this not readily evident to us in the life of Peter? Having walked with Christ, seen His miracles, His resurrected body, His ascension, yet he still could not conceive of the mystery of the salvation of the gentiles. As he stayed by the sea, God taught him directly regarding what was already taking place. Imagine how much was in the heart of Peter that resisted this message. But still, upon the knock at the door he arose and went to Cornelius’ house to view the fulfillment of the revelation of God. Believing eyes and ears, my friend. Believing eyes and ears.
What is our response to the Scriptures? We possess them, to be sure. We read them and receive them, yes. But may God continue to grant us deeper faith, deeper trust as we “continue what we’ve learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom we learned it and how from childhood we have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” When God speaks and gives us His words, can we really now, in good conscience, do anything other than submit to those words?
In order to go on, you must know this one reality: the revelation of God carries with it inherent authority. This is due to the authority of the one giving it. For example, imagine two people walk up to your house, one a farmer and the other a structural engineer. The engineer proceeds to warn you regarding the stability of your roof as he has witnessed it beginning to cave in (something you had seen evidences of but didn’t know the full diagnosis). At this point the farmer chimes in and says there isn’t anything to worry about as he has never seen a roof cave in before. Dear sir, who are you going to listen to? The one whose words carry weight because of the identity of the speaker, whose very words are demonstrably true in what they say about your predicament? Or are you going to hear the ones that sound better and promise an outcome that they have no ability to provide?
This is, indeed, quite similar to how we see the Scriptures. The words of God possess the authority of God. It is as simple as that. Look at Christ’s teaching: “They were astonished at his teaching, for his words possessed authority." “I do nothing on my own authority, I speak just as the father taught me.” “And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘what is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” Why should this surprise them? Did they not know that God’s words carried inherent authority? No, they knew this well as they were in possession of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is that they didn’t want to submit to the authority therein. Isn’t that remarkable? Jesus speaks to them and says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. One speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” Even as God incarnate He refused to speak on His own authority. Rather, the words of the Father are sufficient. David, what example is set for us here. To bear the authority, to speak the authority never from our own selves or position but as a relay of the authority inherent. This will take humility, dear friend, and a reliance upon God’s effectual Word as it does its work.
Does that not bring us to the necessary conclusion? Once receiving the revelation of God, submitting to its content and message, carrying it with its authority, ought not the next step be to bring it to bear that others might receive it? Should we carry the light of the gospel and put it under a basket or on a lampstand? Ought the salt stay in the shaker?
Paul learned this well. He could not contain the message given him and it propelled him along his way. He encourages a young pastor to carry on the same: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” This is not an additional step of those in leadership, this is the necessary conclusion of rightly receiving the revelation of God. I ask you to consider Balaam, that foolish prophet, having received the revelation of God was not able to do other than proclaim it. Will space fail me to mention Aaron, Jonah, or Caiaphas? Men whose desire at times was to deliver a message other than what was received only to find themselves unable? We possess the words of God, my friend, and “since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak.” What else can we do? May God strengthen us both to that end as he has done for all those to whom he gives believing ears. I pray I may continue to encourage you in the effort as you proclaim Him who reveals these things, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” May God be glorified in the receiving, submitting to, bearing the authority of, and proclaiming His word to His world.
Rise up O Lord to hear me, for Your silence will not be matched by my own.
Many are the considerations of my soul, You know them well.
Many are the thoughts of my mind, Your attention to them is broad.
Come down, my fear, and listen to the One who made you.
You made us to walk in Your statutes, to worship after You;
That we desire deeply the knowledge of our God.
Yet, in this condition, we can only know so well.
For the sin we hold keeps You veiled.
But, have we sinned more than those of old?
How have you once spoken plainly to your servants
But from us You withhold Your speech?
Have we sinned more than those of old?
For those who despise Your words once spoken,
Who teach others to despise Your commands,
Do I not wish for them failure?
Those who rob us of what words we have from You.
Every word from You proves true
And in the silence, I will recall them
The words You have spoken to me through Your servants
You will make alive in these deafened ears.
The Lord rises, and He has heard my call
For His promise stands in the silent halls:
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them.”
Hear me this day, for I trust in you.
I remember being the perfect father.
I could traverse the labyrinth of parenting with my skill and keen sense of direction. When I corrected my children to the right, taught them respect and honor, gave them a satisfactory foundation to be a contributing member of our family and society, my job was complete. They would rise up as young adults and thank me for the hard times of correction and discipline because it made them the mighty men and women that they would one day be.
And then my first child was born.
As long as I live I will never forget standing in front of the warming table in the birthing suite at Wilson Hospital. My daughter had just taken her first breaths and was trying out her eyes in the new and bright world. Nothing before that day prepared me for the immense weight of inadequacy that fused itself to me in that moment. It was not her preparation for the “real world” that I felt inadequate towards, nor her training in work ethic. It was something else that I had never considered beforehand. “Eighteen years,” I whispered under my breath, “to teach you about the God that gave you to me.” I stopped and watched her wrap her hand around my finger, “How am I supposed to do that?”
To this day I am not certain as to why it was that thought that permeated my thinking, it hadn’t been in my consideration even minutes before. But from that day on it has been a driving force behind many of my questions of how to raise this young girl.
Thinking I would just figure it out, I found myself overwhelmed again in the same manner as my second daughter took her first breaths. It occurred to me, as I looked at her, that I hadn’t answered the question I asked myself eighteen months ago at the same table.
“How does someone like me teach his daughters about God?”
As they began to grow up, I tried the best I could to push this question to the back of my thoughts and just get to raising them the way I set out to. When they were wrong I would correct them. When they were naughty I would discipline them. When they were messy I would make them clean up their own mess. When they were good I was neutral because that was just meeting expectations. In all of this, it was the way I handled discipline that first got to me.
Why was it that I was fine suspending Christian graces when it came to discipline?
Why was the fruit of the Spirit something that I resisted when it came to correcting my children? I argued it was out of love but I did not understand agape love. It certainly was not joyful or peaceful. Patience?! Far from it. Kindness.. Goodness… Faithfulness….. Gentleness…… Self-control? Blow after blow this passage crushed me to inadequacy once again. Where was my grace towards my daughters?
What were they learning about God?
One must wonder if the curiosity buried deep within the mind of man is a remnant of what was lost at the fall.
We once faced God directly; the very source of truth and life was in fellowship with His creatures. What more could be known that ought to have been known? Ever since that fellowship was broken by us, we have been bumping around trying to find that solid ground of Eden again.
Even the very existence of disputable matters of reality and theology ought to hint to us that we have lost something that was once quite dear. What was once a knowledge of God has now become a knowledge of good and evil. This being a foreign knowledge to a created being, it has destroyed us. We no longer look at evil with absolute disgust. No longer look at God with perfect admiration. No longer even look at God.
In desperation, we seek to construct the fullest picture of these less-than-fully-known realities. Perhaps this is part of why Paul warns Christians to avoid quarreling over words and disputable matters. Even to the point of each party being fully convinced in their own mind. That drives me crazy! Just tell us if we ought to observe one day over another! Just tell us who the real followers of Christ are! Eliminate the doubt!
Give us certainty.
For many aspects of practical living and theological disputations the certainty never comes. When we challenge Christ to tell us the Gospel he multiplies bread and heals leprosy; pictures and hints. When we question God’s righteousness in saving some and condemning others He ask us who we think we are to even ask such a question.
Perhaps God is not making a mistake in keeping large swaths of reality away from His creatures in their fallen state. Perhaps we do not realize that the sin that resides in us would cause us to despise Him if we were to gain a full understanding of who He is. Perhaps we are meant to trust the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding.
Perhaps our ignorance teaches us that all the answers lie with Someone other than us.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Mankind has awoken to find himself in a pit.
He looks about, encompassed on all sides by an unscalable wall, there is no way down or around.
He looks up, and in the distance sees a light at the very top, beckoning him, calling to him. Open pastures are above.
He gropes at the wall in hope that by some means he can muster up what it takes to get himself out.
The markings on the sides of the pit tell stories of others who have been there before.
There was one named "Good Works" and he wrote that he had once climbed to a height greater than any other, touching the side of the pit nearly 10' up.
"Philosophy" had boasted that he had looked at the light, all those thousands of feet up, longer than anyone before him
"Wisdom" sketched out how to live productively at the bottom of this pit, and muse about what the significance of the light may be and what its source could be
But there was another pair of markings, ancient, as if as old as the pit itself.
One of these was written by the one called "Law", it spoke of life above, the perfections and the glories; it condemned those in the pit for not being the same. "There is no way one could escape this pit." It claimed, "You may be able to clamor at the sides, but even in your best attempt, you will never get out"
The second, written by one named "Prophet", spoke of a plan of escape. "Not on your own" it began, "will you ever reach the top, but there is One coming who will be able to bring you out." Mankind continued to read, "He will live as those above. Perfect. Holy. He is the Creator of us all, even of the one called 'Law'. He will come down the pit from the land above and live here. A perfect life, His. One that will scale the unscalable wall, one that will climb the impossible. He comes down to do one thing, Mankind, to bring you up from this pit, this inescapable pit, to the glories above."
Mankind stumbled back, shocked to see his name written in the most ancient script. "Who is this 'Prophet', that he knows my name even before I was called it?"
His eye caught the last of the markings on the pit's side. Written low, underneath Prophet's writing so that all could see.
"Apostle is my name," it said, "the one spoken of by Prophet has come. He is the Ruler of the land above. Just as Prophet wrote, He lived a life like no other. He showed us the way out. He showed us the rope in this pit, that rope called 'Faith'. It has been here ever since the beginning, and it is only by this rope that you will be rescued. Leave behind what you learned from Philosophy, he only loves to look at the light. Leave behind what you learned from Wisdom, he only speaks of things he doesn't understand because he doesn't hold the rope. Leave behind what you learned from Good Works, he will only tempt you to let go of the rope to try once again to climb the pit.
"Turn from these, grab the rope, and be pulled to safety."
Whether known to us or not, the question of the nature, efficacy, and sufficiency of the Bible is called into question all the time. It’s reinterpretation and explaining away has found its way into pulpits, seminaries, and even the minds and hearts of Christians all throughout our culture. As the effects of modern naturalistic philosophy works its way through the Christian worldview it sweeps up any semblance of supernatural reality and throws it out under the assumption of its mythical origins.
Worse still is that while the church has been making some headway in wrestling with this issue of modernistic philosophy it has been utterly blindsided by post-modernity; a worldview that we are still not prepared to handle.
We are called to hold to the Scriptures and their certainty, not because they make sense to us, but because of their origin. The Scriptures do indeed make sense, but our concept of that cannot be the basis of our trust in them.
We are called to hold to the Scriptures and their efficacy, not because we have seen them do amazing things in our lives, but because of the God behind them. The Scriptures do indeed work amazing acts in our lives, but our view of this is biased and cannot be the basis of our trust in this ability.
We are called to hold to the Scriptures and their sufficiency because they are the very words of God, who spoke through the mouths of godly men to express His exact mind.
Modern philosophy and Biblical Christianity are incompatible. In modern philosophy, simply put, the individual mind comes out as authoritative. “I exist because I conceptualize such” is not compatible with our Creator saying, “You exist because I made you thus.”
Post-modern Philosophy and Biblical Christianity are incompatible. In Post-modern philosophy, simply put, the individual being within a community of likeminded agreeance comes out as authoritative. “This is our truth” is not compatible with the Lord’s pronouncement, “I am the Lord, I declare what is true.”
The authority of God is expressed to His church, not in what we agree upon theologically (creeds, councils, etc), not in what we have devised based on human cunning and conviction (systematic theology, apologetical prowess), but in the very word of God as has come down to us. If we give up that ground there is no hindrance, no limit, and no correction on the direction our sinful minds, beings, and ‘communities’ will take us. We will soon be thinking of our convictions as authoritative and treat those who disagree with disdain rather than grace. Those who agree with us are our friends and “in” with us, those who disagree with us on disputable matters find themselves “out.”
I say that I hold to Scripture alone as the authority in all things pertaining to life, godliness, worldview, and the faith delivered to the saints; that it is so not because I have made up my mind about it (because my mind is faulty), it is so not because those that surround me agree (because they don’t and their faculties are faulty), it is so because God has spoken and it is apparent in the word of God as the Spirit of God gives eyes to see and ears to hear.
You may wonder if I am presupposing my conclusion. My answer is indeed I am, just as everyone does in these discussions.
If I am a naturalistic materialist I presuppose the validity of my conclusions in logic, ethics, morality, truth, and error; and their consistency with all that surrounds me.
If I am a post-modernistic subjectivist I presuppose the validity of my community in all arenas of life, including: the subjectivity of truth, the inconsequential nature of pure logic or reason, and the morality of tolerance.
However, as a biblical Christian I presuppose the validity of the perception of a Creator who has spoken, and how what He has said is consistent with all that surrounds me.
The Christian can no more remove the Scriptures of our basis of God’s expressed authority than a modernist remove his brain. The Scriptures must remain as they claim to be: the very words of God spoken authoritatively to His people throughout the ages. Any less than this will find us stranded in inconsistency trying to make a patchwork of a worldview hold together.
God has spoken. Do you have ears to hear?
Dr. James R. White
Dealing with the intricacies of one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Christian faith, The Forgotten Trinity is an attempt to clarify, describe, and refute inaccurate claims regarding the triune God. It is aimed to be put forth as a decidedly orthodox book and has no intention of shying away from calling out incorrect views as they are.
I have read this book several times over the years. And while the pages of my copy yellow with age the arguments put forward within are as clear and precise as the day I first opened this book.
Whatever your familiarity (or lack thereof) with the doctrine of the Trinity, this book is easily read and understood.
Like most books I love, this book aims to deal with a very misunderstood topic in the Christian world. He makes specific observation that many Christians may agree with the creedal descriptions of the Trinity, they do not practice or experience anything different as a result. It is obvious from his opening line that he wishes to challenge this in the reader by saying, "I love the Trinity".
All three Persons of the Godhead are defined, described, and expressed in a thoroughly biblical way. You will search in vain for a chapter or section of this book that is not sourced in the Scriptures in a consistent and accurate way.
At the outset, it is clear that in the author's experience many speak of the Trinity in a misleading or misinformed way. This reflects my experience as well; when people have trouble with the Trinity it is almost universally a false concept of the Trinity that they are fighting against known as modalism.
As a theologian and Christian apologist, James White has written clearly, accurately, and authoritatively. He writes it in such a way as to meet the uninitiated where they are at. Never speaking in language to high or distant, it is as though you are having a discussion with a friend. A very, very well-informed friend that knows what the Scriptures teach on this topic.
5 stars, all the way. I have returned to this book many times over the years and will continue to do so. A superb contribution to the history of the church and its discussion on one of the central doctrines that make us what we are: followers of the triune God.
Click here to purchase this book on Amazon
I used to imagine that the grace of God was a fine thing that was necessary for salvation.
I was right.
As I began to grow and learn more about salvation, God, and the way He moved in the world, I started to realize that the grace of God was far more than necessary for salvation. Indeed it was sufficient for salvation. What a glorious thought! That God's grace alone is the source and cause of our salvation. That I need not look for any other cause, any other source, any other solution.
I was more right than I knew.
You see, I have spent many years imagining that I knew all about God's grace. That I could quantify and define it well. That I could express its realities and effects and that by so doing I would grow more thankful for the grace of God in my life.
I was wrong.
There is a wideness to God's grace that I have never known. As I assumed the vast focus of God's grace was exclusively on the glorious act of salvation, I have spent much time overlooking the grace of God in sanctification. Let me see if I can prod you to interact with it as well.
Have you ever desired God to punish you?
Oh, I don't mean expect Him to punish you but want Him to do so? That rather than know His gracious dealings with His beloved, you might be able to feel the scourge of His disapproval? Maybe it is my errant understanding of the "fear of the Lord." Maybe it is my pride wanting to take part in my own atonement so that maybe Christ would not have to suffer so violent a death if I suffer more intense consequences.
The more I grow as a Christian, the more I realize that there are parts of my heart that despise grace. Parts of me that would sooner suffer a thousand lashes of sorrow than the loving look of all-sufficient grace in the face of my Father. I, at times, want Him to look on my sin and deal harshly with me. Not in chastisement but in hatred. At least then I could feel vindicated, having suffered sufficiently to assuage my guilt.
Do I know? Do I even have the faintest inkling of the depths that Christ already suffered to rob me of my guilt? To steal away that precious guilt that pets my heart while singing soft words of hopelessness.
"Those who desire grace and forgiveness are weak," it hums, "but you are strong with me."
What I have learned is that the song is very deceptive and that without pride it would never stand. Because, I am weak but I think myself strong. The guilt that fights the onslaught of grace's siege has but the appearance of strength and can not endure. Eventually the defenses that guilt and pride have built will crumble at the sheer determination and consistency of the grace of God. And, as another section of the defenses fails as the grace of God floods the ramparts, I begin to see that my guilt, my sin, and my pride are no match for the grace of God that defies all measure.
It reminds me of an old hymn:
There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea.
There's a kindness in God's justice, which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth's failings have such kindly judgment given.
For the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful we would gladly trust God's Word,
And our lives reflect thanksgiving for the goodness of our Lord.
May God make me thankful for His grace.
One could imagine that such a basic question does not warrant its own article. It just means 'to believe,' right?
No. No it does not.
When Christians say they are saved by faith in Christ it is not a mere acknowledgement that Christ is real and actually came to live, die and rise from the dead. Those are historically provable facts. It is also not the admission or realization that He is a great Savior. Both of these aspects are necessary to saving faith, but they are not sufficient.
Then what makes saving faith different?
Imagine, if you will, that a ship you were on has just sunk. You have no life jacket, and around you on all sides are bits and pieces of the ship, none of which are of sufficient size to save you. You see people likewise in the water and some of them are placing their faith on planks and random items that are adrift in the water. You witness their struggle and realize that what they are trusting on is not satisfactory.
Then you see in the distance one of the ship's lifeboats. You hear someone next to you call out, "We're saved!" You look over to him, bobbing in and out of the water, and remind him that he is still not in the boat.
"But I know that boat! It's strong and true. It will never sink and those who are near it are safe."
You both begin swimming over to it, driven by the familiarity and promised safety. Arriving to it you place your hands on the side and begin pulling yourself in.
"What are you doing that for?" He asks, "You already know this is the lifeboat, right? What need have you to climb in? If there arises trouble, we are right here with the lifeboat."
"But, are we not in trouble already?" You ask.
He replies, "Well, yes, but that is why we are here at the lifeboat." He knocked on the side of the boat, "Look how solid the craftsmanship is! This really is an amazingly sturdy lifeboat that could hold up to the greatest of storms; there really is no need to look for another lifeboat, this is the only one for me!"
Climbing in, I looked back to him and asked, "Don't you want to get in?"
"No," he said, "I am happy just knowing that I found this lifeboat."
The differences between people's definitions of faith can lead to some of the most destructive heresies in the church. When it comes to definitions, few could ever tell you properly what faith itself is, nor how efficacious faith is contrasted with dead faith.
The illustration above is one that focuses on the two misconceptions of saving faith, and the one example of saving faith.
First, we have the easily dispelled notion of "believe on whatever you want, just be sincere about it" crowd. These are those who, in that shipwreck, placed all their hope and trust (faith) on random pieces of wood that were insufficient to save them. This would be an apt description for anything but Christ.
Second, and much more common among the assembly of saints, are those unsaved who think themselves saved because they admit Christ is the Savior. Good for them, even the demons believe such. This is the man who swims with all his might to the lifeboat, throwing off all other hopes, but instead of getting into it he merely studies it. Appreciates it. Talks about it.
Third, and the rarest of all, is the only saving faith. They will not trust in other things, they learn and admit that Christ is the Savior; and then they trust Him to save them by being "in Christ." In the metaphor of the lifeboat, it is the one who climbed in that actually experienced salvation, not the one who simply admitted the reality of the lifeboat's existence and power.
How quickly are some evangelists satisfied with a mere admission of Christ's ability and power to save!
For salvation, one must place their trust, their hope, their all in Christ.
Recognizing a lifeboat's ability to save while remaining in the water will not save you in the least.
Get in the boat.
“You know,” I started, “I could eat these all day long.”
As I laid back against a large rock, I rolled my eyes back in my head as I bit another piece of fruit.
Sighing contentedly in the dry breeze, I called out, “This world you made has pleasures aplenty! Why suffer needlessly?”
I offered a piece of fruit to him again, as I had so many times in the past weeks. His starving eyes wouldn’t even look at it. I protested in a taunting voice, “It’s the last one.”
He just laid in the dust amidst the rocks on top of this mountain where he had been for the past couple of days, he no longer had the strength to stand on his own.
“You really outdid yourself on them,” I squinted into the glaring sun and pointed to the vultures circling overhead, “They always know before any other animal.”
I looked back down to the failure on the ground before me as I ate the last of the fruit I brought with. “Well, it looks like it won’t be much longer anyway. Aren’t you hungry?”
He nodded slowly.
“You see that rock next to you?” I asked. “Eat it.”
He closed his eyes and shook his head. I jumped down to where he was and walked up to the rock. “I’ve seen you do much greater things than this.” I tapped the rock closer to his face, “Come on. Turn it into bread and eat it. You know how much your body needs it.”
His mouth was moving with hardly any sound coming out. I knew he said something, so I got closer. In a faint whisper between labored breaths, he said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live… by bread alone… but..’” he paused to get his breath, “but by every word that comes from God’s mouth.”
My upper lipped curled in disgust. “You really believe that?”
He nodded slowly and turned his head away from me.
Speaking through my teeth, I said, “Let’s see how much you really believe that.”
I gathered him up and threw him over my shoulder and began walking. I called out to the vultures, “We’ll be back! Stay hungry!”
It took the rest of the day to walk back to the city. In fact, by the time we came to the city gates, it was well into the night.
“It’s funny how protected they think they are with these walls,” I said as I pulled them open. “As if they have any strength against me.”
I carried him up and came to the temple mount. Part of this structure was settled on the edge of the cliff down into the valley below. When we got there I set him on the edge overlooking the valley.
“So, you really believe that you live by every word that comes from the mouth of God?” I asked, “Then jump!”
I waited for him to consider what this would do. What a sign it could be to verify his identity. Everyone would believe him, not just a select few.
“If you are the Son of God, you are certainly in safety to jump. Didn’t God say, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’?”
He languished as he answered, “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
I stood there for a while staring at the valley floor below, desiring to shove him off and be rid of him.
I cannot tell you how wonderful my freedom had been these several thousand years. After being unceremoniously thrown from the garden, I made quite a name for myself. People served me all throughout the world, I even had several of my lieutenants possessing people throughout this little country to show everyone that incarnation is not such a unique feat as they would make it out to be. But in the midst of my freedom I’ve never been able to fully achieve what I set out to get. I wanted to be like God, but there was something missing. There was something missing and I was going to give up everything I had to gain possession of it. This man was here to win back what I took, and I was going to give it all to him for an insignificant recognition.
His voice seemed to hang in the air, “You can’t be serious,” I said.
I picked him back up and slouched his lifeless frame over my shoulder, this time with annoyed force, “Follow me,” I sneered, “and I’ll make you the owner of all men.”
I walked through the night in silence. “Would this work,” I thought to myself, “to give up everything that I have to gain possession of the one thing I’ve always wanted?” To be exalted over the realm of creation is high, to be sure. But what I wanted more than anything in creation was to be like the Most High. The only thing missing is the worship of the Son of God. I craved it. Not because I liked this sack of humanity on my shoulder, but because his exaltation of me would finally make me like God. I knew the power he had in his worship, I have seen it before.
As we approached where we left from the day before, I threw him back down to his favorite spot there in the rocks. The morning sun was coming up and it was already becoming hot.
“I wonder where those vultures went,” I said, squinting into the sun, “they are about to miss breakfast.”
“You know,” I started, “you don’t need to go through all of this to win back the world.” I stopped to let it sink in. “I’ll give it to you right now.”
He didn’t move.
“Countries, kingdoms, fame, people, and worship. It’s all mine now, but it could be yours.”
Again, he didn’t move.
I looked down to him again, “Living on every word from God isn’t so enjoyable in the desert is it?”
Again, he lay there nearly motionless, just a still small breath in him.
“All these I will give to you if you just worship me.”
From his dried and cracked lips, he quietly said, “Get out of here.” Although quiet, his words threw me flat on my back amidst the rocks. As I shook off the daze of confusion, I heard him say, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and only serve him.’”
Hopeless. Utterly hopeless. This man was on the verge of death to worship God. I would have given him the whole world just to redirect his worship of God to me and he won’t take me up on it.
“Fine!” I sneered as I walked away, “Go ahead and die!”
After leaving him I looked back to see angels coming down out of heaven to feed and take care of him. I sat down here and am watching from a distance. If God is not going to let him die here, then I’m going to have to kill him myself. He will die and darkness will cover the land again.
It was a cold morning. I could feel the beading dew running down my scales and dripping to the ground below.
“What a miserable place.” I shivered under my breath, “’Very Good’ indeed.”
As I pushed through the wet leaves of that tree I was only warmed by the glowing resentment for the one who sent me here. All I wanted to do was improve my standing. To be more like the king. Of course, in a sweeping over-reaction to my attempts to raise myself up, he, ever the jealous sort, could not take any competition. In such abuse of power, he threw me out of his house to this unpleasant realm of leaves and sap.
“What hell.” I muttered again.
I was looking. Not for food or home, but for a chance to free more subjects of the king from his oppressive rule.
“I will set them free,” I said to myself, “set them free to choose whether or not they want to serve the king. All that must be done is show them that he has overstepped his authority and is just using fear to control them.”
I pushed aside one last wet leaf out of my face and there she was, the woman. Perfect. Looking to the fruit among the tree I was in, I remembered that they were told not to eat it.
“The king always keeps the best fruit for himself.”
“What was that?” The woman asked.
I said, “Oh, I didn’t see you there!” I stopped for a second to look back at the fruit of the tree, “Did the king actually say that you can’t eat off of any tree in this garden?!”
She looked at the fruit of that tree and clarified, “No.” She said, hesitantly, “We can eat fruit out of any of the trees in the garden except this one. He said that if we even touch it we will die.”
“Die?!” I laughed, “You won’t die!” I grabbed one of the fruits and bit into it with an obvious enjoyment, responding with its juice running out of my mouth, “Quite the opposite, actually, you will never feel more alive than when eating this fruit. The king keeps this for himself and does not allow his subjects to have any of it. He knows that in eating it you will be free, like him. You will know and experience things that only he does.” I swallowed another bite of its sweetness.
There was a long pause as she looked at the fruit. I could tell that she desired to be free from the oppression of the king. The morning light danced off her eyes as she considered the fruit.
“It does look good,” she started, “and why else would he hold us back from this one tree unless he was threatened by it.”
“That’s exactly right.” I seethed, “I’ve been eating it all morning, and look!” I looked up to heaven, “I’m still alive!”
As my eyes fell back to the woman, she already had the first piece of fruit in her mouth. The man was close by and came over to see what was happening. She handed him some of the fruit and he ate as well.
They sat down and leaned against that tree, enjoying the fruit for the rest of the morning. It was a freedom that neither had known, a freedom I was well acquainted with. I knew that rush of liberty, that desire to be wise, that all-consuming fire of independence. They were joining me in it, and I couldn’t have been happier.
After they had had their fill of fruit and enjoyment they looked at one another with a look other than that of enjoyment. I watched intently. It soon came to their realization that they were naked. As I watched this wisdom flood their minds, I whispered to them, “Can you see what was hidden?”
They slowly nodded.
“Let the freedom overcome you.” I coiled tighter around the tree’s branch until I could feel every detail of the bark. “You are becoming like the king,” I seethed, “Just like me.”
The man, obviously panicked, jumped up and started ferociously pulling leaves out of the tree. “We must cover ourselves!” He shouted. They both gathered several leaves and vines together and sewed coverings for themselves as hurriedly as they could.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of!” I said to them, “This is who you are now, it cannot be taken away and it cannot be covered over.”
I reasoned with them about their new freedom for that whole afternoon, but they were incredulous! They couldn’t handle the freedom they now had and yearned to have it taken away again. The fools! How could wisdom be a bad thing? The king’s effect on them was obviously deeper than on me.
As the day came to its close and the cool evening breeze slithered through the trees of that garden, another sound accompanied it. I knew that sound. It was the king, walking through the garden.
The man and woman quickly hid in some low hanging trees several paces away from this tree I was in.
“Where are you?” the king called out.
“I heard you coming, so I hid in fear of you. My covering I made to cover my nakedness is not good enough.”
“Did someone tell you that you were naked?” He pointed to my tree, “Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?”
The man pointed at the woman and said, “You made this woman, you gave her to me, and she gave me the fruit to eat.”
I gave a quick grin at this. The woman was quiet, but the man was standing his ground in his new freedom, even blaming the king for the woman! I beamed with pride.
The king looked intently at the woman and pleaded, “What have you done?”
She pointed right at me, “He tricked me, and I ate.”
I quickly looked around for a hiding place, some hole, some cleft, but there was no place to hide. I looked back up to see the glare of the king staring right at me. He didn’t even ask for my side of the story!
“Cursed are you because of what you have done!” He said, “Cursed above all the beasts of the field!”
He wrenched me out of the tree and pinned me to the ground. “You will now crawl on your belly in the dirt for as long as you live.”
Grabbing my head, he forced me to look at the woman, “There will come hostility between you and her descendants. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.”
He took hold of me and threw me out of the garden into the wilderness to fend for myself. It was, I supposed, the prize of my freedom. I didn’t need the man and the woman anyway. Besides, I knew what the king was like. Someone was going to have to die and I’m sure glad it wasn’t me.
C. F. W. Walther
39 lectures given in 1884 and 1885 on the issue of marking the differences between the message of God's Law and the message of God's Gospel throughout the Scriptures. He makes much of how this affects the preacher and his rightly dividing the Word of truth.
It is fitting that my first book review on this site should be this book.
It stands in my library as one of my five favorite books of all time.
Walther's treatment of this disturbingly misunderstood topic among modern day Christians is a remarkable light in the midst of the dim seated ignorance so many have with regards to this topic. How could one understand the Scriptures and its consistent message without it? How could one understand salvation?
Although heavy in its subject, Walther's treatment is appropriately friendly to the hearer and reader due to the nature of his delivery being close held Friday evening lectures with his students.
His knowledge on the subject is obviously forged in the depths of christian experience. There is simply no denying his stance or his argument as he makes full defense of both. And as is his habitual dedication to precision in areas of theology, he carries the reader to fuller understanding of Scripture with the perspective that this distinction affects every area of theology and biblical interpretation.
I can not recommend this book enough. It changed my entire perspective on Scripture and preaching. I am indebted to the author for this.
Click here to see this book on Amazon
The parable of the ten lepers in Luke 17 gifts us my favorite story regarding a person's response to the Lord's healing them. The way I heard it as a kid was that only one of the lepers was grateful, and so was saved. Well, I heard wrong. Let's check out this parable.
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
What it meant to be a leper in Ancient Israel is all but lost on us in today's healthy society. If you came down with leprosy, you lost your home, your family, and your friends. You were not allowed to be near others, and as such were cast out of town to live with other lepers. It is this situation that Jesus comes across these ten lepers.
Imagine the healing that takes place; it was not simply a restoration of health, but of life, family, society, and worship. Everything once lost was restored. Here's the question: Do you really think that the nine that did not return to say thanks weren't grateful? A man just approached them out of the blue and returned their lives back to them. Of course they were grateful!
The point of this parable has nothing to do with being grateful. It regards what you ought to do with your gratitude.
The one leper left with the others. Then it dawns on him... Maybe I should give credit to whom it is owed. He returns praising God with a loud voice, falls at Jesus' feet and gives Him something. This is the picture I want you to take from this: picture gratitude as a coin. A coin that you may retain possession of, or give away. You see, I am certain that the other nine, who desired to be healed greatly, had gratitude. They possessed the coin that is gratitude. And while this is a good thing, it is not the end of the responsibility of the one healed. The one who returned, took that coin of gratitude and gave it to Jesus. This is what we mean by saying we owe a debt of gratitude.
The awesome part of the story is that the one who returned got a further lesson regarding what healed him. A lesson that the other nine missed out on: "your faith has made you well."
There is a direct correlation between one who does not acknowledge God in all his ways and give Him thanks, and struggling with faith and worry. If we fail to both remember God's faithfulness, or even fail in saying "thank you" for His faithfulness, we will quickly find ourselves loosing sight of what He is doing in the midst of difficulties.
Are you grateful for God's salvation? Are you grateful for His promise to present you faultless before the throne of grace? Are you grateful for good days? Bad days? Are you grateful for His Spirit forming you more and more into the image of Christ?
All the time.
I tell you, truly, there is no more transformative prayer I pray than to give God the thanks I owe Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
~ Happy Thanksgiving to you all! ~
Imagine, for a moment, that you are part of an organization or movement whose vision statement and intention you resonate with very strongly. Imagine also that you are a part of this with others who are likeminded. Isn't it great? Now that you have this in your mind, I have a question for you to ponder:
How do you know that being a part of this is good?
In our world of insanity, we have come to define that that which is popular is right, and that which is common is good. If something or someone is well accepted then it must be the proper response to admire or even respect such. And disagreeing with someone or something that is famous or popular is a very risky move indeed.
"But I've overturned a new leaf!" You say, "I stand up for the bullied, and the underdog; I appreciate niche art and savor the glory that is my snowflake-like fellow man, fingerprints and all." I've got news for you. It is also popular (granted, to a different group of people) to like and support those things that aren't popular. The "new leaf" you've turned over is just a different light on the same leaf that mankind has been revelling in for millennia:
"As the masses go, so I go."
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
How are we to know if the building project was right or good? If there was a newspaper in that day, it would be rife with observations of how well everyone was working on the tower together, how much everyone was getting along, even descriptions of how much was being accomplished! That's a good thing, right? Right? After all, the goal for them was to build a tower, and they were shimmering examples of success! If you weren't a part of what they were doing, you were missing out.
Is knowing what is right and good really a question of agreement between all parties involved? Milestones achieved? Unity of vision? Charismatic leaders?
Where does God fit into this determination?
Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
God had already made it clear to the people what their job was: they were to worship Him and fill the Earth. Instead of that, the people chose self-exaltation and staying where they were.
The sad part of this story of humanity is not so much that this is how the world is, but that the church follows close on its heels. We have been given the gospel and a mission to preach it to a dying world, but so many find that the gospel is not popular in the world and it is quickly pushed aside for less confrontational messages.
How "church" is done begins to reflect this. Rather than the gospel being fully present in the life of the church, there is an emphasis on validating people in their sin, encouraging them with false hopes of God's love and approval. Rather than evangelism unto salvation, there is a focus on community outreach that has everything to do with 'getting them to come to our church.' Anything to swell our numbers, our presence, our selves.
How do we protect our churches from spoiling the gospel with a rotting message that tickles the ears of dead men? How do we know what we are doing is good? Ultimately it is a question of what authority we are appealing to.
Everyone has an authority, who is yours?
If you are a Christian today and you hold to the reliability, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Scriptures, then you are in the extreme minority. The amount of people, seemingly regardless of what poll you look at, that hold to the Bible being somewhat important, though not perfect, far outweighs those who hold to the Scriptures being perfect, preserved, and without error. It has become popular to assert one's opinion and tradition over and above the Scriptures.
Still, others hold that the Bible is simply the thoughts of people that wrote down their opinions with great intention, but that it is not inspired in any way. They take most of the Old Testament with suspicion and distrust, and much of the New Testament is explained away as archaic opinions that should really be rethought.
When it comes to the "fanciful tales" of the Old Testament, ignorant people tend to be quick to dismiss stories about people like Adam, Noah, or Jonah as pure myth. And stories like Sodom and Gomorrah? Just old time bigoted homophobia. Made up to teach a lesson, but should not be taken literally at all.
Let's see what God thinks about all of this.
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
The remarkable bit about this passage is not the proof of the historicity of Adam and Eve (it is there, but this is not my focus), rather it is the very fact that when questioned about a current concern question, Jesus returns back to the authority of the Scriptures to sufficiently answer the question. "Haven't you read the Scriptures?"
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
Did Jesus think these two events, the flood and the destruction of the two cities, actually happen in history? That is a very simple question with a very simple answer, and you would have to do some severe theological gymnastics to get around the underlying assumption of Jesus here:
Genesis is history.
That's what Jesus was assuming. Now, to state the obvious, this makes Him either right or wrong. If He's right then the claim is consistent with His claim to divinity. If He is wrong and simply a well-intentioned but misguided ancient, then His claim to divinity goes out the window with truth. You cannot have it both ways. Either He was right about the factual nature and historicity of the first chapters of the Bible, or He was wrong and is therefore not God.
But this isn't an article about the historicity of the Genesis accounts, it is an article about Jesus' view of the Scriptures. Let's return to the Gospels:
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
"Have you not read what was said to you by God?" After saying this, Jesus quotes from Exodus three. I want those words to sink into your ears. "Have you not read what was said to you by God?" Who was the author of Exodus? And I'm not speaking of the ridiculous JEPD theory, I'm speaking in the ultimate sense. Who does Jesus ascribe the authority behind what is recorded in Exodus' third chapter?
These are merely secondary proofs. Let's go to the primary ones.
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
In directly referring to the retelling and quoting of Exodus 20, Jesus refers to such as "the word of God." It comes from God, with His authority. Men do not have the right to overturn it. Taking it further, Jesus also refers to the commandments of the Scriptures as being the commandments of God Himself:
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
I've saved my favorite for last. As it is one of the strongest exchanges regarding not only the source of the Scriptures, but also their preservation.
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken--do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
"Scripture cannot be broken" Hmm.. Doesn't sound like He distrusts what He is reading. It doesn't sound like He approaches it with suspicion. Maybe (just go with me on this) maybe we should take the view of God incarnate regarding His own Scriptures. Maybe we should not find ourselves disagreeing with Jesus regarding the dependability and perspicuity (clarity) of His Word.
The real problem with having a low view of the Scriptures is not "reason vs. faith". The real problem with having a low view of the Scriptures is assuming God is wrong and we get to determine what is right. The Bible calls this pride.
In a word, it is evil to take a view other than Christ's when it comes to any issue, and certainly when it comes to the nature and reliability of the Scriptures.