Affliction, Purpose, and Mercy (Bruce)

 I’m enjoying this book of Robert Bruce’s sermons on Isaiah 38 (Hezekiah’s sickness and recovery).  In his first sermon, Bruce explained how the suffering of God’s people is not exactly the same as the suffering of those who are not God’s people.  Here’s what he wrote:

[Hezekiah’s story] teaches us not to measure the favor or displeasure of God by any external event here on earth.  For if we consider some visitation of God upon his child, if we dwell on the nature of the plague or affliction, both its quality and quantity, if we look to the lengthy duration of the plague, in the opinion of onlookers and of the person who is afflicted, after some time he will begin to think he is in a worse case than any of the reprobate.

But however it may be regarded in the heart and judgment of man, it is far otherwise in the judgment and heart of God.  For hidden in the heart of God concerning those who are his children is one purpose, but a very different purpose concerning the reprobate.  I will explain: when the affliction is common to us and to them, the cause for the affliction is by no means the same, neither is God’s purpose the same.  As to the godly, our affliction flows from the favor, love, and mercy of God in Christ Jesus and is directed towards our great profit and advantage, that is, that we being corrected here may not perish in eternity along with the wicked of this world.

On the other hand, the affliction visited on the reprobate flows from the burning wrath and indignation of God, as from the righteous judge; for he is initiating the punishment in this life that will continue for all eternity.

Therefore, as affliction to the ungodly is the harbinger of divine judgment, for those who love him it is a merciful correction.

Robert Bruce, The Way to True Peace and Rest, p.3-4.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Advertisements

Faith in Faith? (Schaeffer)

The God Who is There Many people today talk about the need for faith.  “You just gotta have faith” is Hallmark card spirituality, as if faith is some kind of inner strength that will get you through hard times.  Diagnosed with a serious illness?  Just believe, and you’ll make it.  Have a mountain in life to climb?  Have faith – you’ll be able to climb it!   I like how Francis Schaeffer critiqued this unbiblical view of faith:

Probably the best way to describe this concept of modern theology is to say that it is faith in faith, rather than faith directed to an object which is actually there.  Some years ago at a number of universities I spoke on the topic ‘Faith v. Faith,’ speaking on the contrast between Christian faith and modern faith.  The same word, ‘faith,’ is used, but has an opposite meaning.  Modern man cannot talk about the object of his faith, only about the faith itself.  So he can discuss the existence of his faith and its ‘size’ as it exists against all reason, but that is all.  Modern man’s faith turns inward.

In Christianity the value of faith depends upon the object towards which the faith is directed.  So it looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time.  This makes Christian faith open to discussion and verification.

On the other hand, the new theology is in a position where faith is introverted because it has no certain object, and where the preaching of the kerygma is infallible since it is not open to rational discussion. This position, I would suggest, is actually a greater despair and darkness than the position of those modern men who commit suicide.

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There, p. 84-5.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI. 54015

Exegetical Helps/Summaries

 For the last few years, I’ve been using the various volumes of the “Exegetical Summary” series.  It’s a set of books that provide an exegetical commentary on biblical texts.   These exegetical summaries are published by SIL (the Summer Institute of Language). I haven’t used all of them, but I always appreciate them when I do use them.  If you’re wondering what they look like, here’s the section on one phrase from 1 John 4:4.  I was studying this earlier today:

becausea the-(one) inb you is greaterc than the-(one) in the world.d

LEXICON—
a. ὅτι (LN 89.33): ‘because’ [HNTC, LN, Lns, WBC; all versions except NAB, NRSV], ‘for’ [AB; NAB, NRSV].
b. ἐν with dative object (LN 89.119): ‘in’ [AB, Lns, WBC; all versions except REB]. The phrase ‘to be in’ is translated ‘to inspire’ [HNTC; REB].
c. μέγας (LN 78.2) (BAGD 2.b.α. p. 498): ‘greater’ [AB, BAGD, HNTC, Lns; all versions], ‘more powerful’ [WBC].
d. κόσμος (LN 41.38) (BAGD 7. p. 446): ‘world’ [AB, BAGD, HNTC, LN, Lns, WBC; all versions].

QUESTION—What relationship is indicated by ὅτι ‘because’?
It indicates the reason they were able to overcome the false teachers [Alf, Brd, ICC, NIC, WBC, Ws]. God working in them has overcome the enemy [AB]. The victory is the product of being enabled by the one who was in them [Brd].

QUESTION—Who is the one in them?
1. He is God [Alf, Herm, HNTC, ICC, Lns, My, NIC, TH; TNT].2. He is the Holy Spirit [AB, Br, Brd, NTC, TNTC; TEV].
3. This refers to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [WBC].

QUESTION—Who is the one who is in the world?
1. He is the devil [Alf, Herm, HNTC, ICC, Lns, My, NIC, TH, TNTC, WBC, Ws].2. He is the spirit of the antichrist [AB, Br, Brd, NTC; TNT].

QUESTION—To whom or what does κόσμῳ ‘world’ refer?
It refers to all that is hostile to God [Herm, HNTC, NTC, TH, TNTC, WBC]. The word is used here in its moral sense rather than as a location [Brd]. It is the world of people who are hostile to God [NTC].

As you’ll see it doesn’t give you every exegetical insight of the text, but it does ask and answer some helpful questions.  And it gives references in the answers (references that are linked if you use these volumes in Logos Bible Software).  If you’re looking for an exegetical resource like this, I do recommend these!

The above quote is found in John Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 142.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Saved and Being Saved (Warfield)

 The Bible talks about salvation in many different places.  It also uses different tenses when it talks about the salvation of God’s people.  For example, we have been saved (Eph 2:5).  We are being saved (2 Cor. 2:15), and we will be saved (Mt. 24:13).  This language means that when God graciously rescues a person from sin, death, and hell, he doesn’t just bring the person immediately to glory.  Instead, there’s a path, or journey called the Christian life.  Here’s how B. B. Warfield put it:

What is chiefly of importance for us to bear in mind here, is that God’s plan is to save, whether the individual or the world, by process. No doubt the whole salvation of the individual sinner is already accomplished on the cross: but the sinner enters into the full enjoyment of this accomplished salvation only by stages and in the course of time. Redeemed by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified through faith, received into the very household of God as his sons, led by the Spirit into the flowering and fruiting activities of the new life, our salvation is still only in process and not yet complete.

We still are the prey of temptation; we still fall into sin; we still suffer sickness, sorrow, death itself. Our redeemed bodies can hope for nothing but to wear out in weakness and to break down in decay in the grave. Our redeemed souls only slowly enter into their heritage. Only when the last trump shall sound and we shall rise from our graves, and perfected souls and incorruptible bodies shall together enter into the glory prepared for God’s children, is our salvation complete.

 Benjamin B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation: Five Lectures (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1915), 129.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Truth of God: Not Trendy (Groothuis)

 I find myself going back to this book several times each year in my studies: Truth Decay by Douglas Groothuis.  In chapter three Groothuis gives a nice summary of the biblical view of truth.  I appreciate them all, but number five sticks out to me right now:

The truth of God is eternally engaging and monument, not trendy or superficial.  In postmodern times, our sensory environments are saturated with bright images, intrusive words and blaring sounds – all vying for our attention (and our funds).  Fads, whether in advertising, politics or sports, come and go with increasing rapidity.  It seems that nothing is settled or rooted or stable over time.  In his book, “The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion” (1993), Stephen Carter laments that for many people (and the state), religion is little more than a hobby, something with which to amuse oneself, a kind of curiosity for when the mood strikes but not something to take all that seriously, especially in matters of legality.

Yet beyond empty ephemeralities, there lies ‘the Rock of ages.’  Beyond the fragility of shifting tastes, hobby horses and market fluctuations stands the Word of the Lord, resolute and rooted in the eternal God of the universe.  ‘The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of God stands forever’ (Is 40:8). ‘Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens (Ps 119:89). And as God  declared to his rebellious people: ‘I the LORD do not change’ (Mal 3:6; see also Heb 13:8). God remains faithful to his covenant with creation and to the community he summons forth.  His word endures and is reliable, from age to age….

God’s truth is grounded in God’s eternal being.  It has no expiration date and needs no image makeovers.  Moreover, it is a living, personal and dynamic truth – a truth that transcends the transient trivialities of our age and touches us at the deepest levels of our beings by including us in an eternal drama.  This truth transforms us, as David knew well: ‘I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you’ (Ps 119:11).

The above quote is found in Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay, 73-74.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Taking the Roof Off (Francis Schaeffer)

The God Who is There (This is a post from January, 2016.)

I was recently re-reading part of Francis Schaeffer’s book The God Who is There.  Specifically, I studied section 4 – the part where Schaeffer talks about “taking the roof off” of people’s lives.  What he means by this is that when we talk to unbelievers about their belief systems, we show them the inconsistencies, inadequacies, and weaknesses of it.

“The more comprehending we are as we take the roof off, the worse the man will feel if he rejects the Christian answer.  In a fallen world we must be willing to face the fact that however lovingly we preach the gospel, if a man rejects it he will be miserable.  It is dark out there….”

Schaeffer then tells a story about a postgraduate student talking to him and confessing, “Sir, I am in great darkness.”  Schaeffer comments:

There is no romanticism as one seeks to move a man in the direction of honesty.  On the basis of his system you are pushing him further and further towards that which is not only totally against God, but also against himself.  You are pushing him out of the real universe.  Of course it hurts; of course it is dark in the place where a man, in order to be consistent in his non-Christian presuppositions, must deny what is there in this life and in the next.

Often it takes much more time to press him towards the logical conclusion of his position than it does later to give him the answer.  Luther spoke of the Law and the Gospel; and the Law, the need, must always be adequately clear first.  Then one can give the Christian answer because he knows his need for something; and one can tell him what his deadness really is, and the solution in the total structure of truth.

But if we do not take sufficient time to take the roof off, the twentieth-century man will not comprehend what we are trying to communicate, either what his death is caused by, or the solution.  We must never forget that the first part of the gospel is not ‘Accept Christ as Savior’ but ‘God is there.’  Only then are we ready to hear God’s solution for man’s moral dilemma in the substitutionary work of Christ.

Sometimes when we talk to people who aren’t Christians they may already know they are in deep need of help and truth and light.  We might use a different approach with them.  But for those unbelievers who don’t know their need or recognize their dire situation, this approach is a good one: taking the roof off.  It gives us a good opportunity to show the person the riches of the gospel and the hope, light, and life we have in Christ alone.

The above quotes were taken from The God Who Is There, p.162-163.

Shane Lems
http://www.covenantopc.net

 

God’s Wrath/Anger Against Wickedness (Morris)

Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Romans Here’s a helpful commentary by Leon Morris on Paul’s discussion of God’s anger or wrath being revealed against man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18):

It is, of course, true that God is love. But it is not true that this rules out any realistic view of God’s wrath.  …Wrath is perhaps not an ideal term, for with us it so easily comes to denote an emotion characterized by loss of self-control and a violent concern for selfish interests. But these are not necessary constituents of wrath, and both are absent from the “righteous indignation” which gives us the best human analogy. In any case “wrath” is the word the Bible uses, and we need the strongest of reasons for abandoning it. It is a term that expresses the settled and active opposition of God’s holy nature to everything that is evil. Until some better suggestion is made we do well to stick to the biblical term to convey the biblical idea. What we should not do is to abandon the idea that the wrath is personal. This leads to the position that God does not care about sin, or at least does not care enough to act. It is impossible to reconcile such a morally neutral position with the scriptural teaching about God. The Bible in general and Paul in particular see God as personally active in opposing sin.

 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 76.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI