Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Human Government and the Kingdoms of the World

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
Daniel 2:44-45
None can doubt that the final end will be the destruction of all earthly kingdoms, that they may give place to the reign of the Divine kingdom.  How can this be when the children of the Divine kingdom give their lives to uphold the earthly kingdoms?  As things now go, every individual in the world might be converted to Christ and yet the earthly kingdoms would remain in all their present strength and vigor, and the spirit of the world would be cherished in the church of God.  But if every man converted to Christ withdrew from the support of the earthly kingdoms, these kingdoms would weaken and fall to pieces, for lack of supporters; "little by little" giving way before the increase and spread of the kingdom of God.  It would no more do to destroy them suddenly, lest the wild beasts of ruin and destruction and anarchy possess the land, than it would have done to suddenly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan on the advent of the children of Israel lest the wild beasts multiply in that land against the people of God.  God must in the police regulations of the world retain his institutions ordained to execute wrath until his own children possess the earth.

God has two processes continually going forward, by which the world is to become the possession of the "saints of the most high."
  1. The work of conversion goes forward taking men, one by one, out of service of the earthly kingdoms and transferring them to the service of the Divine kingdom.
  2. He uses one wicked nation, one earthly government to destroy another nation or people, hopelessly given over to sin and rebellion.
The compromises of the children of God with the human governments, that obtain now, thwart both these processes.
  1. Conversion to Christ does not take the person out of the kingdoms of the evil one.  It does not weaken the kingdoms of this world.  It does not consecrate the talents, the means, the strength, the life of the converts to support and spread the kingdom of God.  It does not separate them from the kingdoms of the world, it does not bring them under the guidance of the kingdom of Christ.  Conversion to Christ now does not weaken the kingdoms of the devil.  It does not strengthen the church of God, but oftener, by bringing in an evil spirit, weakens it.
  2. The children of God are so mixed and mingled with the kingdoms of the world, that God cannot destroy the wicked kingdoms, without destroying his own children.  Hence the call of God is: "Come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not her plagues" (Revelation 18:4).
This is spoken of the Babylon of human government.  We cannot find one word of ground, in all the New Testament, for the children of God participating in the kingdoms of the evil one.  The practice weakens the church of God; deprives it of the service, the talent, time and devotion of its children, gives it strength to the building up of what God proposes to destroy.  It brings the spirit of the world kingdoms into the church of God, corrupts the church, drives out the spirit of God, destroys the sense of dependence upon God, causes the children of God to depend upon their own wisdom and devices, and the arm of violence, and the institutions of earth rather than upon God and his appointments; weans them from trust and faith in God, and from service in his kingdom, diverts their minds, means and service from the church to the kingdoms of the world, and so defiles and corrupts the church that God cannot bless that church.

What the church needs now is a consecrated membership that will sanctify the man -- soul, mind and body -- to the service of God.  That will consecrate the talent, the time, the means of God's people to the service and advancement of God's kingdom; that will cause every Christian father and mother, like Hannah of old, to accept children as the gifts of the Lord, to be consecrated to his service from childhood.  Now the mothers and fathers in Christ, oftener than otherwise, object to their children devoting themselves to the service of God.  They prefer that they should do service and gain honor in the earthly governments.  It is all folly and delusion to think of converting the world to God, with the present affiliation between the church of God and the kingdoms of the devil, and this giving the means and service due the church, to strengthen and upbuild her enemy.  There can be no hope for the conversion of the world, until these two kingdoms be recognized in their true, antagonistic spirit, mission, and destiny.

--David Lipscomb, Civil Government: Its Origin, Mission, and Destiny, and the Christian's Relation To It, p. 81-83

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Against Such Things There Is No Law

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, defines love as being kind. Is true love always kind? Yes. Can true love be anything other than kind? No. If you made a law that forbids kindness, would true love disobey that law and show kindness? Yes. That is precisely Paul's point in Galatians 5:22-23 as he describes the fruit of the Spirit and concludes that there are no (nor can there be) laws against these things. There are (and must be) laws against the desires of the flesh, but the nature of the desires of the Spirit precludes them from laws against them. Why is love always kind? Why must love be kind? Does the law and its just threats have anything at all to do with why love is kind? None at all! Love is kind just because it is the nature of love to be kind! True love does not need law in any sense. However, sinners need law to keep them from abusing love and turning it into lust. If we could desire, feel, and practice love as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13, we could indeed "do as we please." Since that is impossible because of indwelling sin, we need clear objective standards describing love for us. We can know that love is the right thing to do, but we do not always know what is the loving thing to do. The Holy Spirit informs us through the Scripture, transforming us thereby so that we become more like Jesus, who always loved God with all his being and his neighbor as himself.

--John Reisinger, Studies in Galatians, p. 430

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Ministry of Death

[God] has made us ... ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone ... was being brought to an end...
2 Corinthians 3:6-7
To "hear" the law is to understand clearly the law's terms of perfect obedience and to realize you can never satisfy those terms and are therefore without hope of ever seeing, apart from sovereign electing grace, the face of God in peace.

It is tragic that neither the Judaizers in Paul's day nor many Christians today understand what it means to hear the law.  The Scriptures are replete with statements that a person can "hear" without ever "hearing" (Matt. 13:10-17).  This is true of the law as well as the gospel.  If all you ever heard was, "Thou shalt not steal," you have not heard the law.  All you heard was a commandment.  You have not heard the law until you hear it say, "Thou shalt not steal and if you do I will have you stoned to death."  Now you have heard the law.  If all you heard was, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," all you heard was a commandment.  If you heard, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, and if you so much as pick up a few sticks you are a dead man," then you heard the law.  It is the penalty aspect that gives law its status and authority.  You could post a sign saying "50 mile-an-hour speed limit" every hundred yards on every highway in America, but without a fine for breaking that speed limit, police officers to arrest speeders, and judges to collect the fines, you do not have a law--you only have good advice.

In Galatians, Paul uses the term the law to refer to the old covenant in its entirety, including the Ten Commandments.  He states that this law cannot provide help in the fight against sin--either in justification or in sanctification.  The purpose of the old covenant was to expose sin and to drive a sinner to the only viable solution in the battle against sin--the Lord Jesus Christ.  To view the old covenant in any other ways is to misunderstand and misuse it.  The ultimate goal of the old covenant was to do its killing work job and then pass out of existence.

--John Reisinger, Studies in Galatians, p.283-284

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Christ Is Dead for You

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ... For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son...
Romans 5:6-8, 10
While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.

What conditions were met in us in order for God to send his only Son into the world to die for sinners?  None.  Indeed there can be none.  This is what [Thomas] Boston found valuable in the expression "Christ is dead for you."  For Boston meant this: "I do not offer Christ to you on the grounds that you have repented.  Indeed I offer him to men and women who are dead in their trespasses and sins.  This gospel offer of Jesus Christ himself is for you, whoever and whatever you are."

--Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters, page 65

Monday, February 08, 2016

Till You Feel this Same Power...

Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?
Ecclesiastes 7:16 
My dear brethren, I speak of these things, these innocent diversions, as the polite part of the world calls them, by experience; perhaps none, for my age, hath read or seen more plays than I have: I took delight in, and was pleased with them. It is true, I went to church frequently, received the sacrament, and was diligent in the use of the forms of religion, but I was all this while ignorant of the power of God on my heart, and unacquainted with the work of grace; but when God was pleased to shine with power upon my soul, I could no longer be contented to feed on husks, or what the swine die eating; the Bible then was my food; there, and there only I took delight: and till you feel this same power, you will not abstain from the earthly delights of this age, you will take no comfort in God’s ways, nor receive any comfort from him; for you are void of the love of God, having only the form of godliness, while you are denying the power of it; you are nominal Christians, when you have not the power of Christianity.

The polite gentlemen say, “Are we to be always upon our knees? Would you have us be always at prayer, and reading or hearing the word of God?” My dear brethren, the fashionable ones, who take delight in hunting, are not tired of being continually on horseback after their hounds; and when once you are renewed by the Spirit of God, it will be a continual pleasure to be walking with, and talking of God, and telling what great things Jesus Christ hath done for your souls; and till you can find as much pleasure in conversing with God, as these men do of their hounds, you have no share in him; but when you have tasted how good the Lord is, you will show forth his praise; out of the abundance of your heart your mouth will speak.

--Whitefield, G. (1999). Selected Sermons of George Whitefield. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Lord Our Righteousness (Jehovah Tsidkenu)

In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'
Jeremiah 23:6 
I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger; and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But even when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul,
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu — ’twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see —
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fear banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In Thee shall I conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley; the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For when from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

--Robert Murray M'Cheyne