God’s Will

I was reading God’s word and stumbled across this passage again:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

It hit me that very few things are as sure as this. You can say we have God’s word on it.

All that’s left for us is to discern His will. Impossible you say? Well not for the things He has revealed to us. For other things, He has promised He, Himself, will intercede for us.

Now, what kinds of things are His will?

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God [bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God], just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, 7-8 (ESV)

Here we have our first example of His will; that we walk so as to please God (bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,) that we be sanctified. Note, here, that the Apostle uses ‘moral purity’ vice ‘set apart’ which he exemplifies by ‘sexual immorality.’ It’s as prevalent now as then. Fruit is grown in us by His agency and though our submission to His will.

What else is explicitly His will that we may ask for it and be confident that we will receive it? In our churches, we should:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

Be at peace among yourselves.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-21 (ESV)

Pray that you do these things.

But, what else? In society we should:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Honor everyone.

Love the brotherhood.

Fear God.

Honor the emperor.

1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)

At our work places, we should:

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Ephesians 6:5-9 (ESV)

And, to sum up, we should be good stewards of God’s grace:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

1 Peter 4:1-3 (ESV)

Each of us, then, praying that we submit to His will and bear these fruits, open ourselves to the following glorious promise:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV)

Resolve, then, to pray for God’s will to be done in our lives from this point on.

Why Don’t Christians Care That They Sin? Ligonier Ministries, Published on Jan 17, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and prayers, once a common expression of sympathy, now vilified as “not enough.” And, in one sense, these words aren’t enough. However, it isn’t the words that have power, but the One who listens to and answers them.

The Second Book of Kings contains a startling passage that illustrates some of the hidden reality behind our prayers:

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city.

And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”

So, the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.”

So, He struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.

And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.

2 Kings 6:15-19 English Standard Version (ESV)

At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Thursday evening, November 5, 1874, C. H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon titled: “Eyes Opened” (No. 3117) In it, he drew lessons for his congregation (and us) from the text in Second Kings.

Spurgeon’s first observation was: “The natural eyes are blind to heavenly things.”

Man boasts that he can see, but he cannot. He sees natural things and he often sees them very clearly.

…For natural things, the natural eyes are sufficient but, as the natural man understands not the things of the Spirit of God, seeing that they are spiritual and must be spiritually discerned, so the natural eyes discern not spiritual things.

…The natural man can go through the world and not see God at all. Yes, and he will even have the audacity to deny that God is there! And he may go further, still, and say that there is no God at all! David says that such a man is a fool, but the modern name for him is, “philosopher.”

…So blind is man that in addition to not seeing his God, he does not see the Law of God…The great reason why men do not comprehend the high spirituality of the Law, its exceeding breadth and wondrous severity, is because they are blind.

Being thus blind to God and to His Law, they are also blind to their own condition. He who has his eyes opened but for a moment will perceive that his soul is as full of sin… He sees that every action he performs is stained with sin and that he is so guilty before God that condemnation has already passed upon him—so guilty that he can never make any atonement for the past and that nothing he can do or suffer can ever save him!

He must feel, if once his eyes have been opened, that he is lost, ruined and undone by nature and by practice, too—and that only a supernatural act of Divine Grace can deliver him from the danger into which he has brought himself and the guilt into which he has plunged himself!

…In-as-much as men are not able to see their sin, and to see their danger, therefore they do not see the way of salvation. They…will not understand it unless their eyes are opened by a miracle which only the Holy Spirit can work. …[They are] not in a position to see the wondrous scheme by which [they are] delivered from that danger through the Grace of God, by the atoning Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the effectual working of the ever-blessed Spirit!

The next Truth of God is: “God alone can open men’s eyes.”

We may lead blind men to Jesus, but we cannot open their eyes. We can, in a measure, indicate to them what spiritual sight is and we may explain to them what their own sad condition is—but we cannot open their eyes! Neither can anyone, but God alone, open their eyes…

Why [is it] that God alone can open men’s eyes? It is because to open the eyes of blind souls is an act of creation. The faculty to see is gone from the fallen spirit—the eyes have perished—the optical nerve has died out through sin. God will not merely clean the dust out of old eyes or take cataracts away from them—but old things must pass away and all things must become new! He gives new eyes to those who have totally lost all power of sight. The act of creating a soul anew is as much a work of God’s Omnipotence as the making of a world!

…We must remember, too, that man is willfully blind. Our old proverb says, “There are none so deaf as those that won’t hear, and none so blind as those that won’t see.” It is not merely that man cannot come to Christ, but he will not come to Christ that he may have life! It is not merely that he cannot see the Truth of God, but that he loves darkness rather than light and does not want to see! You cannot convince a man who is resolved not to be convinced. If sinners were only willing to see, they would soon see, but their will itself is in bondage and utterly estranged from God. And, therefore, it is that only a Divine Power—the will of God—can overcome the desperately wicked will of man!

Thirdly, Spurgeon said, “Though we cannot open the eyes of the blind, we can pray for them that their eyes may be opened.”

This is what Elisha did for his servant. The young man could not see the horses and chariots of fire and Elisha could not make him see them, but he offered this prayer for him, “Lord, I pray You, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw.”

…While teachers or parents entertain the belief that there is some innate power in themselves with which they can do God’s work, they are not on the right track, for God will not work through those who believe in their own self-sufficiency.

But when you say, “I can no more save a soul than I can open the eyes of a man born blind, I am utterly helpless in this matter,” then it is that you begin to pray. And beginning to pray, you are taught how to act—and God uses you as His instrument and eyes are opened—yes, opened by you, instrumentally, but God has all the Glory!

Now, when should you specially pray for those who are blind? I think this narrative teaches us that we should do so whenever we see them in trouble. This young man said to Elisha, “Alas, my master!” So that was the time for Elisha to pray for him, “Lord, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see.”

…It is also a good time to pray for sinners when we hear them enquiring. This young man said to Elisha, “What shall we do?” Be always ready, when you hear them asking, “What shall we do?” or, “How shall we do?” to point them at once to Jesus and also to take their case to Jesus in prayer.

It is also a good time to pray for them when we ourselves have had a clear sight of the things of God. You ought, by the very clearness of the vision which you have enjoyed, to pity those who still sit in darkness, and to pray that they may be brought into the Light. Elisha had himself seen the horses and chariot of fire and, therefore, he prayed for his servant, “Lord, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see.”

When it is well with you, speak to Christ on behalf of poor sinners. When you have good times, yourselves, remember those who are starving away from the banquet—and pray the Master of the feast to give you the Grace to “compel them to come in.”

It is well to pray for sinners, too, when their blindness astonishes us. I know that, sometimes, you are quite amazed that people should be so ignorant about Divine things. It surprises you that intelligent people should have such mistaken notions concerning the very simplest Truths of God’s Word. Even if you are astonished, do not be vexed at them, but pray earnestly for them.

…Let us also remember, dear Friends, that when we received our spiritual eyesight, it was mainly because others had been praying for us. Most of us can probably trace our conversion to the intercession of a godly father, or mother, or teacher, or friend. Then let us repay those prayers which were offered for us, in years gone by, by pleading for others who still are blind—

“Pray that they who now are blind, Soon the way of Truth may find.”

…Make this the burden of your daily approach to God for anyone in whom you are specially [concerned], “O Lord, I pray You, open his eyes, that he may see!”

Fourthly, he said: “There is this blessed fact…that God does open men’s eyes.”

God can do it and, according to this [description], He has done it in an instant A moment before, this young man could see no horses or chariots of fire, but as soon as Elisha’s prayer was registered in Heaven, his servant could see what was before invisible to him! …The soul is dead, and it is made alive in a single moment!

…My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, pray fervently that the blind may have their eyes opened, seeing that God can do it, and can do it at once!

And Spurgeon’s last remark was: “even those persons who can see need more sight.”

We all need to see more in the Scriptures. Each of us needs to pray to the Lord, “Open You my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law.”

…We also need to have our eyes opened as to the great Doctrines of the Gospel.

…We also need to have our eyes opened with regard to Providence.

…Oftentimes we need to have our eyes opened to see ourselves.

…We need to have our eyes opened with regard to temptation, for we may think that we are not being tempted at the very moment when we are in the greatest danger from temptation.

…We need to have our eyes opened as to what is most desirable, for we often aspire after the high places when the lowest are the best— and seek wealth when poverty would be the better soil for the growth of Grace—

…We need to have our eyes opened that we may see a great deal more of our Savior. The strangest thing of all is that though the Lord has opened our eyes and we have seen Jesus as our Savior, we know so little of Him after all.

***

In this day and age, when the love of many has grown cold, those in the churches even doubt the effectiveness of prayer.

However, the Book of Revelation says:

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Revelation 8:3-5 (ESV)

Thus, in this passage, we have a picture of God’s powerful answers to the thoughts and prayers of those who have faith in Him.

Ligon Duncan: Why Should We Pray? YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on Apr 9, 2015

Conspiracy

If only they could find the President guilty of collusion with the Russians to manipulate the 2016 election. Why, that would be a conspiracy to subvert the government; an impeachable offense; a veritable constitutional crisis.

But, so far, it’s not; not even close. If anything, some contend our President sounds much like the Founders.

Turns out, social media feeds this sort of thing by gaming what you see. It must increase its’ profits; why else would they do it? So much for knitting, quilting, and cat videos; go figure.

Maybe we have Russian bots too much on our minds? We certainly like to spread novel falsehoods. But maybe, just maybe, the real collusion story has yet to surface?

The definition of conspiracy is:

con·spir·a·cy

/kənˈspirəsē/

noun: conspiracy; plural noun: conspiracies

1. A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

“a conspiracy to destroy the government”

synonyms: plot, scheme, plan, machination, ploy, trick, ruse, subterfuge; informal racket

“a conspiracy to manipulate the results”

2. The action of plotting or conspiring.

“they were cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”

synonyms: plotting, collusion, intrigue, connivance, machination, collaboration; treason

“conspiracy to commit murder”

The Bible addresses the concept in various circumstances. One of the most striking is in the Book of Isaiah:

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear and let him be your dread.

“And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

“And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah 8:11-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin remarks on these verses, starting from Isaiah’s perspective:

For thus Jehovah spoke to me. Here the Prophet contends…against the unbelief of the people; and…there were two remarkable temptations, the one external, and the other internal.

The external temptation came from professed enemies, such as from the Assyrian; and when the people saw his plundering and cruelty, they thought that all was over with them, because he had brought them almost to utter ruin.

The other temptation was internal; for that sacred people, which boasted of having been chosen by God, relied on the assistance of man rather than of God. Now, this was a most dangerous temptation; for it appeared as if that nation, by its unbelief, refused [acknowledgement of] the promises of God, which were daily offered, and which were continually sounded in their ears…

And he continues:

As if by taking hold of my hand. This is a beautiful metaphor, [by which Isaiah] alludes to fathers or teachers, who, when their words have not sufficient effect, seize the hand of their children or scholars, and hold them to compel them to obey.

The servants of the Lord are sometimes disposed to throw everything away, because they think that they are laboring to no purpose; but the Lord lays as it were, his hand on them, and holds them fast, that they may go forward in the discharge of their duty.

…Undoubtedly, we would every moment be driven up and down, were it not that we are held by the powerful government of God and fix the anchor of constancy in firm ground.

Every one of us ought to meditate earnestly on this thought; for though we may be convinced, yet when it comes to the trial we fail, and look [to] men rather than [to] God. We should, therefore, attend more carefully to this doctrine, and pray to God to hold us, not only by his word but by laying his hand on us…

Next, Calvin examines God’s admonition to Isaiah:

Say not, a conspiracy. …We must consider what was the condition of that people, for they saw that they were not provided with numerous forces and were not able to contend in battle against such powerful enemies. They longed for outward assistance, and eagerly desired to obtain it, for they thought that they were utterly ruined if they did not obtain the assistance of others…

The Lord…admonishes Isaiah not to regard the counsels of wicked men, though the whole of the people should vie with each other [over their guidance.]

Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. There may also be a twofold meaning; for some read it separately, as if in this second clause the Prophet condemned in general terms the wicked customs of the people. But these two clauses ought rather to be joined together. “Let it not distress you, if your countrymen in the present-day plot about unlawful confederacies, and do not consent to them.”

And he explains the people’s fear:

Their fear. …The same cause of fear was alleged against [both] the godly and…the ungodly; but all did not fear in the same manner…

The Lord certainly does not forbid the godly to fear, for they cannot avoid that; but he bids them overcome that excessive terror by which the ungodly are swallowed up. [Therefore,] let us not, by their example, gaze around in every direction, and rush headlong to seek unlawful aid; and especially we must [be on guard] lest fear take away our judgment.

There is but one remedy for this evil, to restrain ourselves by the word of God, from which proceeds real tranquility of mind. Comparing the condition of that people with our own, let us learn to [seek refuge in] the name of God, which will be to us an impregnable fortress. (Proverbs 18:10.)

Here, Calvin gets to the heart of God’s message to those who follow Him:

Sanctify Jehovah of hosts himself. …Dangers lead to immoderate alarm [because] wretched men do not raise their eyes and minds to heaven. The Prophet…therefore proposes a suitable remedy for allaying terrors, that they who dread the evils which threaten them may learn to give to God the honor due to him.

To sanctify the God of armies means to exalt his power highly [in such manner] to remember that he holds the government of the world, and that the beginning and the end of good and evil actions are at his disposal. Hence it follows that, in some respects, God is robbed of his holiness, when we do not immediately [go] to him in cases of perplexity.

This expression [i.e., Sanctify the God of armies,] …is highly emphatic; it shows us that no higher affront can be offered to God than to give way to fear, as if he were not exalted above all creatures, [and not in] control [of] all events.

On the other hand, when we rely on his aid, and, through victorious steadfastness of faith, despise dangers, then do we ascribe to him lawful government; for if we are not convinced that innumerable methods, though unknown to us, are in his power for our deliverance, we conceive of him as a dead idol.

Then he presents God’s “blessing and cursing” of obedience or disobedience:

And let him be your fear and let him be your dread. He…means that [those] will be free and exempted from [anxiety], if a sincere fear of God be deeply engraven on their hearts, and never pass away from them; and indeed every person who freely devotes himself to God, and undertakes to fear him alone, so as to lay this restraint on himself, will find that no haven is more safe than his protection.

But as the ungodly do not cease to provoke his anger by shameless transgression, he harasses their minds by continual uneasiness, and thus inflicts the most appropriate revenge for their careless indifference.

And Calvin goes deeper and explains God’s relation to His people:

And he shall be for a sanctuary. He promises that the true worshipers of God will enjoy tranquility of mind, because the Lord, covering them, as it were, under his wings, will quickly dispel all their fears…

The meaning therefore is, that God demands nothing for which he does not offer mutual recompense, because everyone that sanctifies him will undoubtedly find him to be a place of refuge. Now, although in this sanctification there is a mutual relation between us and God, yet there is a difference, for we sanctify him by ascribing all praise and glory to him, and by relying entirely upon him; but he sanctifies us, by guarding and preserving us from all evils.

He then punctuates the explanation with strong encouragement for his hearers:

To the two houses of Israel. …[Isaiah] enjoins believers, though nearly the whole multitude of both kingdoms should dissuade them from obedience to God, not to be discouraged, but to disregard everything else, and break through all opposition…

This is a remarkable passage and cannot be [recalled often enough], especially [now], when we see the state of religion throughout the whole Christian world brought nearly to ruin. Many [people] boast that they are Christians who are strongly alienated from God, and to whom Christ is a stone of stumbling…

Wherever we turn our eyes, very sore temptations meet us in every direction; and, therefore, we ought to remember this highly useful instruction, that it is no new thing, if a great multitude of persons, and almost all who [claim] that they belong to the Church, stumble against God. Yet let us constantly adhere to him, however small may be our numbers.

Then turning, with Isaiah, back to the disobedient, Calvin says:

For a snare to the inhabitant of Jerusalem. …[Isaiah] means that God became a snare, not only to the common people who were scattered throughout the fields and villages, but to the nobles themselves, and to the priests who dwelt in Jerusalem, who dwelt in that holy habitation in which God intended that the remembrance of his name should be chiefly preserved…

And, finally, he reiterates God’s admonishments to both groups:

And many among them shall stumble. …Let not the ungodly…imagine that they are stronger or wiser than God; for they will find that he excels them in strength and wisdom, and that to their destruction. They must, therefore, unavoidably be ruined; for either they will be utterly bruised, or they will be snared in such a manner, that they can never [extract] themselves.

This threatening also regards the godly, that they may not hesitate to withdraw from holding fellowship with the multitude, and that they may not resolutely disregard the sinfulness of revolt…Peter reminds us that, though many unbelievers stumble, this is no reason why their stumbling should obstruct the progress of our faith; for Christ is…a chosen and precious stone. (1 Peter 2:4.)

Let us therefore, Sanctify the God of armies and cling to Him.

***

Perhaps the greatest conspiracy that was plotted and actually carried out was the one where the leaders of Israel, the occupying rulers, and the government servants conspired to withhold the Good News of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, it was all in accordance with God’s consummate plan. God’s servants prayed that God would thwart their enemy’s plan:

“…Now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

And, as a result:

…When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Is your world shaking? Or are your energies spent in foolish controversies?

R.C. Sproul: The Resurrection of Christ, YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on May 29, 2015

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Perhaps the most important question in the world is: “Who do you say Jesus is?” The answer to this determines whether you will find yourself at His right hand or the left, saved or condemned, and filled with joy or weeping for eternity.

Three of the gospels ( Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, and Luke 9:20) record the Lord Jesus asking this very question:

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:15-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

John Calvin says about this question:

But who do you say that I am? Here Christ distinguishes his disciples from the rest of the crowd, to make it more fully evident that, whatever differences may exist among others, we at least ought not to be led aside from the unity of faith. They who shall honestly submit to Christ and shall not attempt to mix with the Gospel any inventions of their own [mind], will never [lack] the true light.

But here the greatest vigilance is necessary, that, though the whole world may be carried away by its own inventions, believers may continually adhere to Christ. As Satan could not rob the Jews of the conviction which they derived from the Law and the Prophets, that Christ would come, he changed [their hoped-for Messiah] into various shapes, and, as it were, cut him in pieces. His next scheme was, to bring forward many pretended Christs, that they might lose sight of the true Redeemer.

By similar contrivances, [Satan] continued ever afterwards either to tear Christ in pieces, or to exhibit him under a false character. Among the confused and discordant voices of the world, let this voice of Christ perpetually sound in our ears, which calls us away from unsettled and wavering men, that we may not follow the multitude, and that our faith may not be tossed about among the billows of contending opinions.

Then, Calvin explains the importance of Peter’s answer:

You are the Christ. The confession is short, but it embraces all that is contained in our salvation; for the designation Christ, or Anointed, includes both an everlasting Kingdom and an everlasting Priesthood, to reconcile us to God, and, by expiating our sins through his sacrifice, to obtain for us a perfect righteousness, and, having received us under his protection, to uphold and supply and enrich us with every description of blessings.

Mark says only, “You  are the Christ.” Luke says, “You are the Christ of God.” But the meaning is the same; for the Christs (χριστοί) of God was the appellation anciently bestowed on kings, who had been anointed by the divine command.

And this phrase had been previously employed by Luke, (2:26,) when he said that Simeon had been informed by a revelation from heaven[, which was clearly divine,] that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ for the redemption, which God manifested by the hand of his Son; and therefore it was necessary that he who was to be the Redeemer should come from heaven, bearing the impress of the anointing of God.

Matthew expresses it still more clearly, “You are the Son of the living God;” for, though Peter did not yet understand distinctly in what way Christ was the begotten of God, he was so fully persuaded of the dignity of Christ, that he believed him to come from God, not like other men, but by the inhabitation of the true and living Godhead in his flesh. When the attribute living is ascribed to God, it is for the purpose of distinguishing between Him and dead idols, who are nothing, (1 Corinthians 8:4.)

He goes on to describe Christ’s blessing of Peter:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. [Peter was blessed in this sense]:

This is life eternal, to know the only true God, and him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ, John 17:3 ESV,

Christ justly pronounces [Peter] to be blessed who has honestly made such a confession. This was not spoken in a [unique] manner to Peter alone, but our Lord’s purpose was, to show in what the only happiness of the whole world consists.

That everyone may approach him with greater courage, we must first learn that all are by nature miserable and accursed, till they find a remedy in Christ. Next, we must add, that whoever has obtained Christ [lacks] nothing that is necessary to perfect happiness, since we have no right to desire anything better than the eternal glory of God, of which Christ puts us in possession.

Finally, Calvin recounts the mechanics of faith:

Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you. In the person of one man [(i.e., Peter)], Christ reminds all [of us] that we must ask faith from the Father and acknowledge it to the praise of his [unmerited favor]; for the special illumination of God is here contrasted with flesh and blood.

Hence, we infer, that the minds of men are destitute of that [discernment] which is necessary for perceiving the mysteries of heavenly wisdom which are hidden in Christ; and [beyond] that, all the senses of men are deficient in this respect, [until] God opens our eyes to perceive his glory in Christ.

Let no man, therefore, in proud reliance on his own abilities, attempt to reach it, but let us humbly suffer ourselves to be inwardly taught by the Father of Lights, (James 1:17,) [so] that his Spirit alone may enlighten our darkness. And let those who have received faith, acknowledging the blindness which was natural to them, learn to render to God the glory that is due to Him.

So, ask yourself, “Who do you say Christ is?”

Who Is Jesus? How Would You Answer?, YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on April 13, 2017

Vessels of Wrath

I was taken aback, a while ago, by a statement I read in G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy to the effect that, in his opinion, Calvinism gave rise to the deterministic worldview of the atheists of his century. Here’s a particularly striking quote:

The modern world is not evil; in some ways, the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage.

The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus, some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus, some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful…

There is no doubt of Chesterton’s superb erudition. However, his assignment of blame leaves me in a quandary. Was he blaming the Magisterial Reformation for the Radical one? Was he arguing for and against himself all at once?

In answer, what leapt to mind were several fundamental doctrines that even Calvin’s critics concede he held in common with Augustine. The first, in what may become a series of refutations, follows from the following two passages of scripture:

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory. Romans 9:21-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

and

For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”

“Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

Romans 11:32-35 (ESV)

We examine what Calvin and Augustine said about these passages. Forgive us if the comparison (for, I believe, there is no contrast) is long-winded. However, if you choose to skim the arguments, please take time to read the two paragraph conclusion at this post’s end.

Calvin says about Romans 9:

Has not the worker of the clay? etc. The reason why what is formed ought not to contend with its former, is, that the former does nothing but what he has a right to do. By the word power, he means not that the maker has strength to do according to his will, but that this privilege rightly and justly belongs to him. For he intends not to claim for God any arbitrary power but what ought to be justly ascribed to him.

And further, bear this in mind, — that as the potter takes away nothing from the clay, whatever form he may give it; so, God takes away nothing from man, in whatever condition he may create him. Only this is to be remembered, that God is deprived of a portion of his honor, except such an authority over men be conceded to him as to constitute him the arbitrator of life and death.

Still more so:

And what, etc. A second answer, by which [Paul] briefly shows, that though the counsel of God is in fact incomprehensible, yet his unblameable justice shines forth no less in the perdition of the reprobate than in the salvation of the elect.

He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected; for it was not [proper] that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men; and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable. He therefore keeps us from curiously examining those things which exceed human comprehension. He yet shows, that as far as God’s predestination manifests itself, it appears perfectly just.

…If we wish fully to understand Paul, almost every word must be examined. He then argues thus, — There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God’s vengeance and displeasure.

If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth; — what is there worthy of being [reprimanded] in this dispensation?

But that he is silent as to the reason, why they are vessels appointed to destruction, is no matter of wonder. He indeed takes it as granted, according to what has been already said, that the reason is hid in the secret and inexplorable counsel of God; whose justice it behooves us rather to adore than to scrutinize.

And he has mentioned vessels, as commonly signifying instruments; for whatever is done by all creatures, is, as it were, the ministration of divine power. For the best reason then are we, the faithful, called the vessels of mercy, whom the Lord uses as instruments for the manifestation of his mercy; and the reprobate are the vessels of wrath, because they serve to show forth the judgments of God.

That he might also make known the riches of his glory, etc. …It is the second reason which manifests the glory of God in the destruction of the reprobate, because the greatness of divine mercy towards the elect is hereby more clearly made known; for how do they differ from them except that they are delivered by the Lord from the same gulf of destruction? and this by no merit of their own, but through his gratuitous kindness. It cannot then be but that the infinite mercy of God towards the elect must appear increasingly worthy of praise, when we see how miserable are all they who escape not his wrath.

…Though in the second clause he asserts more expressly that it is God who prepares the elect for glory, as he had simply said before that the reprobate are vessels prepared for destruction; there is yet no doubt but that the preparation of both is connected with the secret counsel of God. Paul might have otherwise said, that the reprobate give up or cast themselves into destruction; but he intimates here, that before they are born they are destined to their lot.

Concerning Romans 11, Calvin remarks:

For God has shut up, etc. A remarkable conclusion, by which he shows that there is no reason why they who have a hope of salvation should despair of others; for whatever they may now be, they have been like all the rest. If they have emerged from unbelief through God’s mercy alone, they ought to leave place for it as to others also. For he makes the Jews equal in guilt with the Gentiles, that both might understand that the avenue to salvation is no less open to others than to them. For it is the mercy of God alone which saves; and this offers itself to both.

This sentence then corresponds with the testimony of Hosea, which he had before quoted, “I will call those my people who were not my people.” But he does not mean, that God so blinds all men that their unbelief is to be imputed to him; but that he has so arranged by his providence, that all should be guilty of unbelief, in order that he might have them subject to his judgment, and for this end, — that all merits being buried, salvation might proceed from his goodness alone.

Paul then intends here to teach two things — that there is nothing in any man why he should be preferred to others, apart from the mere favor of God; and that God in the dispensation of his grace, is under no restraint that he should not grant it to whom he pleases. There is an emphasis in the word mercy; for it intimates that God is bound to none, and that he therefore saves all freely, for they are all equally lost.

But extremely gross is their folly who hence conclude that all shall be saved; for Paul simply means that both Jews and Gentiles do not otherwise obtain salvation than through the mercy of God, and thus he leaves to none any reason for complaint. It is indeed true that this mercy is without any difference offered to all, but everyone must seek it by faith.

And, finally:

Oh! the depth, etc. …Whenever then we enter on a discourse respecting the eternal counsels of God, let a bridle be always set on our thoughts and tongue, so that after having spoken soberly and within the limits of God’s word, our reasoning may at last end in admiration. Nor ought we to be ashamed, that if we are not wiser than [Paul], who, having been taken into the third heaven, saw mysteries to man ineffable, and who yet could find in this instance no other end designed but that he should thus humble himself…

How incomprehensible, etc. …Let us then learn to make no [searches regarding] the Lord, except as far as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures; for otherwise we shall enter a labyrinth, from which the retreat is not easy. It must however be noticed, that he speaks not here of all God’s mysteries, but of those which are hid with God himself, and ought to be only admired and adored by us.

Who has known the mind of the Lord? He begins here to extend as it were his hand to restrain the audacity of men, lest they should clamor against God’s judgments, and this he does by stating two reasons: the first is, that all mortals are too blind to take a view of God’s predestination by their own understanding, and to reason on a thing unknown is presumptuous and absurd; the other is, that we can have no cause of complaint against God, since no mortal can boast that God is a debtor to him; but that, on the contrary, all are under obligations to him for his bounty.

Within this limit then let everyone remember to keep his own mind, lest he be carried beyond God’s oracles in investigating predestination, since we hear that man can distinguish nothing in this case, any more than a blind man in darkness.

This caution, however, is not to be so applied as to weaken the certainty of faith, which proceeds not from the acumen of the human mind, but solely from the illumination of the Spirit; for Paul himself in another place, after having testified that all the mysteries of God far exceed the comprehension of our minds, immediately subjoins that the faithful understand the mind of the Lord, because they have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which has been given them by God, by whom they are instructed as to his goodness, which otherwise would be incomprehensible to them.

As then we cannot by our own faculties examine the secrets of God, so we are admitted into a certain and clear knowledge of them by the grace of the Holy Spirit: and if we ought to follow the guidance of the Spirit, [then,] where he leaves us, there we ought to stop and as it were to fix our standing. If anyone will seek to know more than what God has revealed, he shall be overwhelmed with the immeasurable brightness of inaccessible light.

But we must bear in mind the distinction, which I have before mentioned, between the secret counsel of God, and his will made known in Scripture; for though the whole doctrine of Scripture surpasses in its height the mind of man, yet an access to it is not closed against the faithful, who reverently and soberly follow the Spirit as their guide; but the case is different with regard to his hidden counsel, the depth and height of which cannot by any investigation be reached.

Who has first given to him, etc. Another reason, by which God’s righteousness is most effectually defended against all the accusations of the ungodly: for if no one retains him bound to himself by his own merits, no one can justly [disagree] with him for not having received his reward; as he, who would constrain another to do him good, must necessarily adduce those deeds by which he has deserved a reward.

The import then of Paul’s words is this — “God cannot be charged with unrighteousness, except it can be proved, that he renders not to everyone his due: but it is evident, that no one is deprived by him of his right, since he is under obligation to none; for who can boast of anything of his own, by which he has deserved his favor?”

Now this is a remarkable passage; for we are here taught, that it is not in our power to constrain God by our good works to bestow salvation on us, but that he anticipates the undeserving by his gratuitous goodness.

But if we desire to make an honest examination, we shall not only find, that God is in no way a debtor to us, but that we are all subject to his judgment, — that we not only deserve no [outlay], but that we are worthy of eternal death.

And Paul not only concludes, that God owes us nothing, on account of our corrupt and sinful nature; but he denies, that [even] if man were perfect, he could bring anything before God, by which he could gain his favor; for as soon as he begins to exist, he is already by the right of creation so much indebted to his Maker, that he has nothing of his own.

In vain then shall we try to take from him his own right, that he should not, as he pleases, freely determine respecting his own creatures, as though there was mutual debt and credit.

***

Augustine, unlike Calvin, tends to use scripture to explain scripture as much as possible in his commentaries. In Chapter 15 of his Anti-Pelagian Writings, titled: “The Apostle Meets the Question by Leaving It Unsolved,” he says:

Since, in the case of those two twins (Romans 9:10-13,) we have without a doubt one and the same case, the difficulty of the question why the one died in one way, and the other in another, is solved by the apostle [Paul] as it were by not solving it; for, when he had proposed something of the same kind about two twins, seeing that it was said (not of works, since they had not as yet done anything either of good or of evil, but of Him that calls), “The older shall serve the younger,” and, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated;” and he had prolonged the horror of this deep thing even to the point of saying, “Therefore has He mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens.”

[Paul] perceived at once what the trouble was, and opposed to himself the words of a gainsayer which he was to check by apostolical authority. For he says, “You say, then, unto me, “Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?” And to him who says this he answered, “O man, who art you that replies against God? Does the thing formed say to him that formed it, “Why have you made me thus?” Has not the potter power of the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?”

Then, following on, he opened up this great and hidden secret as far as he judged it fit that it should be disclosed to men, saying, “But if God, willing to show His wrath and to demonstrate His power, endured in much patience the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, even that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory.”

This is not only the assistance, but, moreover, the proof of God’s grace—the assistance, namely, in the vessels of mercy, but the proof in the vessels of wrath; for in these He shows His anger and makes known His power, because His goodness is so mighty that He even uses the evil well; and in those He makes known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, because what the justice of a punisher requires from the vessels of wrath, the grace of the Deliverer remits to the vessels of mercy.

Nor would the kindness which is bestowed on some freely appear, unless to other equally guilty and from the same mass God showed what was [truly] due to both, and condemned them with a righteous judgment.

For who makes you to differ?” says the same apostle to a man as it were boasting concerning himself and his own benefits. “For who makes you to differ” from the vessels of wrath; of course, from the mass of perdition which has sent all by one into damnation?

“Who makes you to differ?” And, as if he had answered, “My faith makes me to differ, —my purpose, my merit,”— he says, “For what have you which you have not received? But if you have received it, why do you boast as if you received it not?”—that is, as if that by which you are made to differ were of your own.

Therefore, He makes you to differ who bestows that whence you are made to differ, by removing the penalty that is due, by conferring the grace which is not due. He makes to differ, who, when the darkness was upon the face of the abyss, said, “Let there be light; and there was light, and divided” —that is, made to differ— “between the light and the darkness.”

For when there was only darkness, He did not find what He should make to differ; but by making the light, He made to differ; so that it may be said to the justified wicked, “For ye were sometime darkness, but now are you light in the Lord.” And, thus, he who glories must glory not in himself, but in the Lord. He makes to differ who—of those who are not yet born, and who have not yet done any good or evil, that His purpose, according to the election, might stand not of works, but of Himself that calls—said, “The older shall serve the younger,” and commending that very purpose afterwards by the mouth of the prophet, said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

Because he said, “the election,” and in this, God does not find made by another what He may choose, but Himself makes what He may find; just as it is written of the remnant of Israel: “There is made a remnant by the election of grace; but if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.”

On which account you are certainly foolish who, when the Truth declares, “Not of works, but of Him that calls, it was said,” say that Jacob was loved on account of future works which God foreknew that he would do, and thus contradict the apostle when he says, “Not of works;” as if he could not have said, “Not of present, but of future works.” But he says, “Not of works,” that He might commend grace; “but if of grace, now is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.”

For grace, not due, but free, precedes, that by it good works may be done; but if good works should precede, grace should be repaid, as it were, to works, and thus grace should be no more grace.

Augustine goes on, in Chapter 29, titled: “It is an Inscrutable Mystery Why Some are Saved, and Others Not,” to say:

Now there is much significance in that He does not say, “The wrath of God shall come upon him,” but “abides on him.” For from this wrath (in which we are all involved under sin, and of which the apostle says, “For we too were once by nature the children of wrath, even as others”) nothing delivers us but the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The reason why this grace comes upon one man and not on another may be hidden, but it cannot be unjust. For “is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.”

But we must first bend our necks to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, in order that we may each arrive at knowledge and understanding through faith. For it is not said in vain, “Thy judgments are a great deep.” The profundity of this “deep” the apostle, as if with a feeling of dread, notices in that exclamation: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!”

He had indeed previously pointed out the meaning of this marvelous depth, when he said: “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.” Then struck, as it were, with a horrible fear of this deep: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor? or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

How utterly insignificant, then, is our faculty for discussing the justice of God’s judgments, and for the consideration of His gratuitous grace, which, as men have no prevenient merits for deserving it, cannot be partial or unrighteous, and which does not disturb us when it is bestowed upon unworthy men, as much as when it is denied to those who are equally unworthy!

Augustine, through various works, explains: that it is justice that all are condemned but mercy that some are saved, the mystery of human will and God’s mercy, that man continues to be born under sin (An argumentation against Pelagius), that God is good in all he does, that God’s secret will and just choice follow from the scriptures, more on His own just and secret judgment, that God’s unmerited favor is bestowed through His secret providence,”, that those that learn, live, and that rebuke in love is necessary for correction; and, lastly, an exquisitely short and subtle commentary on so-called double predestination.

All of this exposition is encapsulated in Augustine’s Treatise on the Predestination of the Saints.

***

God, through the Apostle Paul in Romans 9 and Romans 11, declares that all stand justly condemned, and yet some are saved by God’s unmerited favor according to His secret will. And, as we’ve shown, both Calvin and Augustine concur with this doctrine.

Therefore, might we not conclude that Calvin was an Augustinian and Augustine a Calvinist, in as much as they are clearly in concordance with each other on these points in their explication of the God-breathed scriptures? What these labels have become over the centuries belies the integrity of these two great men toward the Lord’s Word.

With Or Without Reason, YouTube, The Call – Topic, Lyrics

No Shadow of Turning

Shadows are where things hidden lay or where those who wish to hide lurk. These are not characteristics of the Living God:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change [or, turning.] Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV)

John Calvin sheds light on our passage:

Do not err. This is an argument from what is opposite; for as God is the author of all good, it is absurd to suppose him to be the author of evil. To do good is what properly belongs to him, and [is] according to his nature; and from him all good things come to us.

…James, leaving to God his right and office of punishing, only removes blame from him. This passage teaches us, that we ought to be so affected by God’s innumerable blessings, which we daily receive from his hand, as to think of nothing but of his glory; and that we should abhor whatever comes to our mind, or is suggested by others, which is not compatible with his praise.

God is called the Father of lights, as possessing all excellency and the highest dignity. And when [James] immediately adds, that there is in him no shadow of turning, he continues the metaphor; so that we may not measure the brightness of God by the irradiation of the sun which appears to us.

Indeed, God’s glory is unlike that of the sun. The sun’s light causes a sundial’s shadow to process around a dial by which we may tell time. His radiance is unchanging; as it were, without shadow. Calvin goes on:

Of his own will. He now brings forward a special proof of the goodness of God which he had mentioned, even that he has regenerated us unto eternal life. This [is an] invaluable benefit [that] every one of the faithful feels in himself. [Therefore,] the goodness of God, when known by experience, ought to remove from [the regenerated] all contrary opinion respecting him.

…This passage teaches us, that as our election before the foundation of the world was [unmerited], so we are illuminated by the grace of God alone as to the knowledge of the truth, so that our calling corresponds with our election. The Scripture shows that we have been gratuitously adopted by God before we were born.

But James expresses here something more, that we obtain the right of adoption, because God…also calls us gratuitously (Ephesians 1:4, 5.) Farther, we…learn, that it is the [unique] office of God…to regenerate us [spiritually…]

That the same thing [(i.e., spiritual regeneration)] is sometimes ascribed to the ministers of the gospel, means [nothing] other…than this, that God acts through them; and it happens indeed through them, but he nevertheless alone does the work.

The word begotten means that we become new men, so that we put off our former nature when we are effectually called by God. He adds how God begets us, even by the word of truth, so that we may know that we cannot enter the kingdom of God by any other door.

And, finally, he says:

That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. The word τινὰ, “some,” has the meaning of likeness, as though he had said, that we are in a manner firstfruits. But this ought not to be restricted to a few of the faithful; but it belongs to all in common.

For as Man excels among all creatures, so the Lord elects some from the whole mass and separates them as a holy offering, to himself. It is no common nobility into which God extols his own children. Then justly are they said to be excellent as firstfruits, when God’s image is renewed in them.

Let us, then, adore the Father of Lights, whose glory we proclaim, whose goodness we acknowledge, and whose unmerited favor we stand amazed and are grateful.

NASA | A View From The Other Side, YouTube, NASA Goddard, Published February 4, 2015

By Faith

Sometimes appearances deceive us. Or could it be that they almost always do? As I grow older, I’m not sure. Take, for instance, this vignette from the first book of the Bible:

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. Genesis 4:3-5 English Standard Version (ESV)

John Calvin has much to say about this situation. It is clearly very important.

If we look only at the externals, we might ask: “Why did God accept one, but not the other? Was it the type of sacrifice each offered?” One, an animal sacrifice, reminiscent of the animals slain when God made garments of skins for Adam and Eve. The other, a grain offering, which was someday to symbolize the food offering described in Leviticus. “Was the grain not prepared correctly or, perhaps, not the first of the crop?”

Our best answer always results when scripture explains scripture. In the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer says:

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Hebrews 11:4 (ESV)

Calvin succinctly expounds on this point:

By faith Abel offered, etc. The Apostle’s object in this chapter is to show, that however excellent were the works of the saints, it was from faith they derived their value, their worthiness, and all their excellences; and hence follows what he has already intimated, that the fathers pleased God by faith alone.

Now he commends faith here on two accounts, — it renders obedience to God, for it attempts and undertakes nothing, but what is according to the rule of God’s word, — and it relies on God’s promises, and thus it gains the value and worth which belongs to works from his grace alone. Hence, wherever the word faith is found in this chapter, we must bear in mind, that the Apostle speaks of it, in order that the Jews might regard no other rule than God’s word, and might also depend alone on his promises.

Then, more specifically to the Genesis passage, he says:

…Abel’s sacrifice was for no other reason preferable to that of his brother, except that it was sanctified by faith: for surely the fat of brute animals did not smell so sweetly, that it could, by its odor, pacify God. The Scripture indeed shows plainly, why God accepted his sacrifice, for Moses’s words are these, “God had respect to Abel, and to his gifts.” It is hence obvious to conclude, that his sacrifice was accepted, because he himself was graciously accepted. But how did he obtain this favor, except that his heart was purified by faith.

Going on, Calvin explains what the writer meant:

God testifying, etc. He confirms what I have already stated, that no works, coming from us can please God, until we ourselves are received into favor, or to speak more briefly, that no works are deemed just before God, but those of a just man: for he reasons thus, — God bore a testimony to Abel’s gifts; then he had obtained the praise of being just before God.

Next, he addresses the issue of external appearances:

This doctrine is useful, and ought especially to be noticed, as we are not easily convinced of its truth; for when in any work, anything splendid appears, we are immediately rapt in admiration, and we think that it cannot possibly be disapproved of by God: but God, who regards only the inward purity of the heart, heeds not the outward masks of works. Let us then learn, that no right or good work can proceed from us, until we are justified before God.

And, Calvin concludes:

By it he being dead, etc. To faith he also ascribes this, — that God testified that Abel was no less the object of his care after his death, than during his life: for when he says, that though dead, he still speaks, he means, as Moses tells us, that God was moved by his violent death to take vengeance. When, therefore, Abel or his blood is said to speak, the words are to be understood figuratively. It was yet a singular evidence of God’s love towards him, that he had a care for him when he was dead; and it hence appears, that he was one of God’s saints, whose death is precious to him.

So, as it says in First Samuel, “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Like Abel, let us believe Him with our whole heart.

It’s Not the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone that Saves—It’s Christ Who Saves, YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on Apr 19, 2017, Longer Teaching on the Same Subject, and Longer Still

This Video Struck Me

I was searching YouTube for Rosaria Butterfield’s testimony to send to a lunch-time friend and I ran across this:

How Churches Can Encourage Honesty About Sin, YouTube, The Gospel Coalition, Published on Dec 4, 2016

Rosaria’s statement, that starts at the 3:05 mark, grabbed me: “…That’s a starvation diet of family and community, nobody can live like that…”

Rosaria Butterfield, Sam Allberry, and Jackie Hill Perry discuss the value of community within the church. In light of my desire for church revival, I’ll let the video speak for itself.

What Is Christmas All About?

Some think it’s for SHOPPING! Retail certainly hopes so. Some think it’s for time off from normal obligations. Family and friends look forward to these times. Some think it’s discriminatory to single out a point of view that is only one among many. And some think it’s all too much.

But, the Lord Jesus Christ, through His servant, Luke, wrote:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

The holiday commemorates this prophecy’s fulfillment: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us.) Matthew 1:23, quoted from Isaiah 7:14.

As is our custom, let’s see what John Calvin had to say:

The angel opens his discourse by saying, that he announces great joy; and next assigns the ground …of joy, that a Savior is born. These words show us, first, that, until men have peace with God, and are reconciled to him through the grace of Christ, all the joy that they experience is deceitful, and of short duration.

Ungodly men frequently indulge in frantic and intoxicating mirth; but if there be none to make peace between them and God, the hidden stings of conscience must produce fearful torment. Besides, to whatever extent they may flatter themselves in luxurious indulgence, their own lusts are [, themselves,] tormentors.

The commencement of solid joy is, to perceive the fatherly love of God toward us, which alone gives tranquility to our minds. And this “joy,” in which, Paul tells us, “the kingdom of God” consists, is “in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 14:17.)

By calling it great joy, he shows us, not only that we ought, above all things, to rejoice in the salvation brought us by Christ, but that this blessing is so great and boundless, as fully to compensate for all the pains, distresses, and anxieties of the present life.

Let us learn to be so delighted with Christ alone, that the perception of his grace may overcome, and at length remove from us, all the distresses of the flesh.

…Christ proclaims peace, not only, to them that are [near], “but to them that are, far off,” (Ephesians 2:17,) to “strangers” (Ephesians 2:12) equally with citizens. But as the peculiar covenant with the Jews lasted till the resurrection of Christ, so the angel separates them from the rest of the nations.

Here, …the angel expresses the cause of the joy. This day is born the Redeemer long ago promised, who was to restore the Church of God to its proper condition.

Of course, Spurgeon has a few choice words concerning the passage, too.

As we spend this time away from ordinary cares, let us reflect on the One who came to earth to die as payment for our sins and reconcile us to God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

What Is Christmas All About? | A Charlie Brown Christmas, YouTube, Snoopy, Published on Nov 25, 2016, Transcript (of sorts)