Feb 26, 2020

Rules of Canonicity

Rules for Deciding Canonicity

Canonical Rule #1

Does the scroll (book) speak of Christ? Is it prophetic?

"And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself...And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. " (Luke 24: 27, 44 KJV)

Which books of the Old Testament did NOT speak of the Messiah?

Clearly Esther does not.

Levels of Inspiration or Canonicity

Think of a circle with clearly defined rings (boundaries). In the "inner circle" of "inspiration," for the Old Testament, are the five books of Moses, the Penteteuch, or Torah, or "law of Moses."

In the second circle, we would have "the prophets." What books would this include? And, let not our answer be based upon some "canon" that was supposedly being used by Christ, and universally recognized and codified, but solely upon the descriptive title given by Christ.

What books can we put safely into the category of "the prophets"? Surely the ones known as the "twelve." The only questionable ones, besides the ones named above, would be Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Ruth, Daniel, Job, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

First, it is easy to put Daniel and Job into the category of "the prophets," is it not? Jesus called Daniel a prophet (Matthew 24: 15) and certainly Job prophesied of the coming Redeemer (Goel) who would redeem him from death. (Job 19: 23-27)

Next, we can place Judges and Ruth with Samuel, who no doubt authored these books. Further, we can also put Samuel's stamp of approval, along with David's and Solomon's, upon the inspiration of the books of the Kings and Chronicles. Many of these books, in many Jewish collections, were viewed as one book. Further, one can find allusions to the Messiah in the above books.

The book of Joshua could also be placed among the books of the prophets, for he was certainly a prophet and his writings contain both law and prophecy, as well as history.

Also we find their veracity verified by New Testament writers.

Christ, though he put the Psalms in a category all by itself, in the above passage, yet could have placed it in the category of "the prophets," for David is also identified, in scripture, as being a "prophet." Christ no doubt had a reason or reasons, for so doing.

First, not all the Psalms were written by David, but included those written by Moses and Solomon, the former being a prophet, while the latter was not. Also, not all the Psalms were messianic or prophetic. Since Christ put the Psalms into a category all its own, so, we will make the Psalms to be the third circle of inspiration.

This leaves only Ezra and Nehemiah, which were often viewed as one book (as did Josephus, who, like many Jews, believed that there was to be only 22 books, for there are only 22 letters to the Hebrew alphabet).

This really brings us to the fourth circle of inspiration, which we will call "the holy writings," or the "other writings," or sometimes as simply "the writings." These would include the inspired historical books of Kings and Chronicles, and of Ezra and Nehemiah, but they will also include what may be appropriately called the "Wisdom" and Romance books.

The Wisdom literature takes in two of the writings of Solomon, excepting his psalm writing, which are the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. His contribution to the "Romance" category would be, of course, his "Song of Songs." Some would put Ruth and Judges into the category of either historical or romance, but I think they should be placed into the prophetic, into the messianic, being properly part of the entire prophetic writings of Samuel.

None of these historical books can be strictly called "messianic." They are much like the books of Kings and Chronicles, and properly called "historical." They are to be seen as accurate and trustworthy histories and are in this sense "inspired" or "of God," but still not of the kind or level of inspiration as the prophetic books which all speak of the Messiah. The same is true for the "Wisdom" and "Romance" writings. These historical books, together with the "Wisdom" and "Romance" books, are to be received as composing the fourth circle.

Then where would we put the book of Esther? Is it historical? Is it an inspired novel? Certainly it is not messanic and therefore would not pass the first test of canonicity, given by Jesus above. Would we put it in the same circle with the other historical and romance writings?

There are those who have, historically, sought to place other books into these various circles of inspiration. These would include books called "Apocryphal."

How can we judge the inspiration, truthfulness, correctness, and reliability of these books? How do they stand up to the first rule of inspiration and canonicity? The messianic rule?

3. Reliable manuscripts

What is the first criterion for deciding full inspiration or canonicity? It is the Messianic criterion (which would include what some called the "prophetic" test or criterion).

Does the book speak of Christ? In my previous chapter, I showed from Luke 24: 27, 44 that Christ made this a rule for calling something "scripture."

In this chapter I will enlarge upon the "messianic test (rule)" and show that "the scriptures" are defined by this rule.

"But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?...But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." (Matthew 26: 54, 56 KJV)

"Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24: 45-47 KJV)

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5: 39 KJV)

"And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ." (Acts 17: 2, 3 KJV)

"For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ." (Acts 18: 28 KJV)

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." (I Corinthians 15: 3, 4 KJV)

"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen." (Romans 16: 25-27 KJV)

From these verses we are given a further description and definition of what constitutes "scripture."

Scripture testifies of Christ. Whatever does not testify of Christ is not "scripture." It discusses repentance and remission of sins. Thus, "content" or "theme" is a sub category within the "messianic rule."

From "the scriptures" one may learn of Christ and the gospel. None of this, however, can be learned from the Book of Esther.

We also learn that "scripture" may be "fulfilled." This makes "scripture," by biblical definition, "prophetic," whether outright or by way of symbolism and analogy. Strictly "historical" and "romance" books of Hebrew literature, are not capable of being "fulfilled."

Canonical Rule 2 - The Profitability Test (criterion)

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15: 4 KJV)

"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (II Timothy 3: 15-17 KJV)

1) Does the book produce a "hope" of salvation through Christ?

2) Does the book "instruct in righteousness," being "profitable" thereunto?

3) Does the book "correct" errors in doctrine and righteousness?

4) Is the book "profitable for doctrine"? If so, what doctrines?

5) Is the book "profitable for reproof"? If so, how or in what way?

6) Does the book "perfect" the faith of the "man of God"?

7) Does the book "make one wise unto salvation"?

Scripture here is defined as what makes one wise unto salvation in Christ. Does the Book of Esther do this? Does it pass the test of "profitability"?

Canonical Rule 3 (no private interpretation)

Thus far we have given the first two paramount rules of judging inspiration and canonicity, the "Messianic Rule Test," and the "Profitability Test." In this chapter I introduce the next rule, the "no private interpretation rule," or the --

Privacy or Origination Test

This rule would include the issue of divine "authority."

Those who wrote scripture were not self authorized men, or men who were authorized by groups of uninspired men, but men who were chosen and appointed by God, men who were sent and authorized by him, and taught by him what to say and teach.

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (II Peter 1: 19-21 KJV)

In discerning inspiration and canonicity, we should ask such questions as these:

1. Who authored the book?

2. What was the content, subject, or main teachings of the book?

3. How did the book come into being?

4. What of its origination?

5. Is it "prophetic"?

6. Does it reveal the nature and workings of God and Christ?

7. Does it instruct in righteousness and doctrine?

All Apocryphal books are in the category of books that arose from the "will of man," being an artful and cunning device, meant to deceive. The books of genuine inspiration, however, arise from the "will of God," by the working of his Spirit.

The phrase, "private interpretation," translates the Greek phrase, idios epilupsis. Idios is defined as, “pertaining to one’s own self” or “personal.” Epilupsis is defined as an unloosing and is used metaphorically in this verse to mean interpretation, as in loosening the meaning of the verse.

"Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed." (Ecclesiastes 8: 1 KJV)

Wise ones, or "scientists," are those who are able to "explain a thing," to "make sense of things," to "interpret" things in nature.

Scripture is not like other books of knowledge. It is not like a book on Mathematics or Physics or Chemistry. These latter books owe their immediate origin, their "interpretations" or "explanations" of things, to the will and learning of a man, to his own initiative in education and learning, and to his own skillful advances in it.

But, the things the prophets and holy men wrote about were not truths that they "figured out" by the use of reason, logic, and scientific discovery and investigation.

Thus, an inspired book is not only a "prophetic" book, but a book that is "revelation," that which is directly imparted to the mind and understanding of the chosen seer, and which is truth that he could not have "figured out" or "discovered" by ordinary methods of learning.

The books of inspiration are not like works of secular knowledge.

Books of secular knowledge are produced by self willed authors who made a choice to learn all about a topic and then write something profound about it. They are therefore the results of a man's will and efforts, of his own scheming and planning, of his own efforts at discovery.

Can we read the books of Scripture, the books of the Apocrypha, and all the other many books professing inspiration, and discern whether they originated with the will of man, versus the will of God? And discern whether it is knowledge given miraculously by revelation, or knowledged acquired by the efforts of human discovery?

Did the Book of Esther, or Book of Enoch, or the Book of Judith, Book of Maccabees, etc., originate with the will of an uninspired Jewish man or with the will of God? Did the Book of Esther, etc., give a man's uninspired views of things, or the views of God? We might ask the same of the writings of Solomon.

Look at how Paul the apostle and prophet received his revelation and inspiration. He wrote:

"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1: 11, 12 KJV)

Here Paul contends against the idea that his prophetic writings were a violation of Peter's rule about "private interpretation," about "self production." What was the "source" of Paul's gospel knowledge and revelation? Was it at the feet of Gamaliel? Was it in the schools of the Rabbis? No, no. It was the gift of miraculous revelation of truth to Paul by the personal appearing and instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To know that a book is thus a "revelation" or "oracle" from God, and not a self production, requires that we know something about the author and how he received his revelation.  Of course, above all it requires the inner witness of the Spirit for anyone to recognize inspiration. 

Are there any books of the Bible where we do not know who are the authors and the manner in which they received their divine communications?

Peter says that the authors of the inspired prophecies were "holy men." Do we know that the author of the Book of Esther was a "holy man" who was "moved by the Holy Ghost"?

No "private interpretation" probably includes the idea that no particular prophecy, or book of prophecy and inspiration, is to stand by itself, but should show harmony, if not direct stated support, with other prophets and inspired books.

Paul gave us the rule of "comparing spiritual things with spiritual," which would include the hermenuetic rule to "compare scripture with scripture." (I Cor. 2: 13 KJV)

Questions to ask about particular books

1. Does the book lack authenticity?

2. Does it have faulty historical information?

3. Does it contradict other more authoratative works of inspiration?

4. Does it contradict itself?

5. What is the "spirit" and "tenor" of the writing?

6. What is in the heart and mind of the writer as he writes?

7. Who is his audience?

8. What does he hope to effect by the publishing of his writing?

9. Does the book "breathe" inspiration and divinity?

10. Can you sense the divine profoundness and style of the writings?

"And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream." (Numbers 12: 6 KJV)

The authors of inspiration meet this test. Does the author of Esther?

"Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart." (Jeremiah 14: 14 KJV)

The false prophets are the uninspired ones. They spoke not by the Lord and Holy Spirit, were not "moved" and "inspired" by him, but spoke by their own moving and by their own authority and wisdom. Their teachings originated in their evil hearts and minds, not with God's inspiration.

"Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD...How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart." (Jeremiah 23: 16, 26 KJV)

Notice how the words of the false prophets, and false writers of "scripture," are they whose message comes "from" their own selves, not "from" the Lord. Lack of a valid source to the revelation is a reason to reject the pretended revelation.

"For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed." (Jeremiah 29: 8 KJV)

This is a clear example of "private interpretation" and of what it means for a "prophecy (revelation) of scripture" to "come by" the "will of man," and not "by" the "will of God."

"Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!" (Ezekiel 13: 2, 3 KJV)

Here again is a picture of an "uninspired" prophet and of his prophecy and pretended revelations, and of his presumed authority and inspiration, of his "private interpretation" and "self revelation."

"Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." (Amos 7: 14, 15 KJV)

Here we see how Amos did arrive at the knowledge of God, as expressed in his writings, in his divine "interpretations" or "explanations" of things, and see how it was not what originated in his own heart, by his own will, and by his own moving of himself, and how it rather originated with God, being that which God gave it to him in a miraculous manner, by revelation, and so not the result of Amos' own self ambitions and educational achievements.

"For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him." (Acts 13: 27 KJV)

Here scripture is defined as being part of the collection of writings which the Jews read weekly in the Synagogue and which were messianic. Also, scripture is defined as being the production of "prophets." Every Old Testament book is the "voice" of a "prophet" of God. Was the author of Esther a prophet of God?

"But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets." (Acts 24: 14 KJV)

Notice how Paul believes only those books that are either of Moses or of a prophet are authoritative and inspired.

"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 10: 43 KJV)

What a canonical rule for judging inspiration! What does the book, claiming inspiration, speak about? Does it speak of God and Christ? Of the forgiveness of sins? Of faith?

Three rules have been given thus far for determining inspiration and canonicity.

1) The Messianic rule (test)

2) The Profitability rule (test)

3) The Privacy rule (test)

A popular Conservative web site gives these rules for "Tests of Canonicity."

"Specific tests to consider canonicity may be recognized."

(1) Did the book indicate God was speaking through the writer and that it was considered authoritative?

(2) Was the human author recognized as a spokesman of God, that is, was he a prophet or did he have the prophetic gift?

(3) Was the book historically accurate? Did it reflect a record of actual facts?

There are some 250 quotes from Old Testament books in the New Testament. None are from the Apocrypha. All Old Testament books are quoted except Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon."


Citations from another bible writer, particularly from a prophet, apostle, or from Christ, is included under canon rule #3, under Peter's rule that said no inspired prophetic work was of any "private interpretation." This will then be an enlargement upon that rule.

No inspired writing (or verbal message) by a prophet (or apostle, but really, all the apostles were prophets too) was capable of self production but was immediate revelation of God. It had to have "come by" the "will of God" and not "come by" the "will of man." The writing must have "come by" the "moving" of God's "Spirit," and not "come by" a self "moving" spirit of man.

Inspiration connects with authority and authority with revelation. A "scripture" or "inspired writing" must have God and his miraculous working as the sole cause of the revelation in order for the "source" to be valid.

According to Peter, if the source be not with God and his will and moving, then it is what is a "personal interpretation," a mere scruple that has no substance of truth to it, and what has arisen from a man's own spirit and imagination.

This third rule for judging canonicity and inspiration, or divine authority for written works of professed revelation, includes the confirmatory "interpretations" and "attestations" given by the prophets themselves to other fellow prophets and to their writings, and of Christ and his apostles, and of those who were companions of the apostles, and recognized leaders among the apostles.

This third rule for inspiration and canonicity, as I have said, includes the "prophetic rule."

Peter referred to all of Old Testament scripture as being prophetic, being revelation from a God sent prophet.

Hebrews 1:1 says, "God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets. . . ."

What prophecy or revelation is in the Book of Esther?

"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 10: 43 KJV)

What a canonical rule for judging inspiration! What does the book, claiming inspiration, speak about? Does it speak of God and Christ? Of the forgiveness of sins? Of faith?
Does the Book of Esther give this "witness" that all the prophets give? Is Esther a "prophetic" book?

"...unto them were committed the oracles of God." (Romans 3: 2 KJV)

What are the "oracles" of God? Are all books of a particular "bible" the "oracles" of God? Can we call a particular book, claiming inspiration and canonicity, the "oracles" of God?

Can the Book of Esther be properly called the "oracles" or God? When it has no utterances of God in it?

The three rules I have presented thus far are a trinity that, when taken together and applied, leads one to a correct faith knowledge of inspiration.

Canonical Rule 4

Does the professed sacred scroll contradict itself? Does it have errors? Doctrinal, theological, historical, grammatical, etc.?

Jesus said "the scripture cannot be broken." (John 10: 35 KJV)

"The scripture(s)" is synonymous with "word(s) of God." And, the "word of God" is the same as "word of truth." (II Timothy 2: 15 KJV)

"And now, O Lord GOD, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant." (II Samuel 7: 28 KJV)

"Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever." (Psalm 119: 160 KJV)

"But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay." (II Corinthians 1: 18 KJV)

"And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful." (Revelation 21: 5 KJV)

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless." (II Samuel 22: 31 NIV)

"The word of the Lord is flawless." (Psalms 12:6 NIV)

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless." (Psalm 18: 30 NIV)

"Every word of God is flawless." (Proverbs 30: 5 NIV)

"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." (I Thessalonians 2: 13 KJV)

The inspired books are infallible and without error. They are inerrant. Though there are seeming contradictions in the holy books, yet these are not real, but may be shown to harmonize.

Not only must an inspired scroll not contradict other sacred books, but it must not contradict itself or contain other verifiable errors in fact. Though the bible is no history or geography book, yet the things it says about these subjects are truthful and error less.

Canonical Rule 5

Thus far we have discovered four cardinal rules that determine inspiration and canonicity.

1. Messianic Test - does it witness to Christ per John 5: 39, Luke 24: 27, 44?

2. Profitability Test - Does it do the things scripture is said to do per II Tim. 3: 15, 16?

3. Origination Test - Did it originate by divine initiative and revelation? Is it cited by other scripture writers and consistent with other scripture? Is it from a prophetic or apostolic source? (Per II Peter 1: 20?)

4. Consistency or Truth Test - is it free of error and contradiction? (Per John 10: 35?)

5. Does it contain the oracles or utterances of God per Rom. 3: 2?

"This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us." (Acts 7: 38 KJV)

"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." (Romans 3: 1, 2 KJV)

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God..." (Hebrews 5: 12 KJV)

"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God..." (I Peter 4: 11 KJV)

Strictly speaking, no accepted inspired book of the Bible contains only the oracles of God. For instance, all of the Book of Genesis is not the direct verbal utterances of God, or his "oracles." It does contain God's verbal utterances. Yea, the very first oracle is the one given to Adam and Eve, which announced to them the coming "seed of the woman" and his victory over the "seed of the serpent." But, the other parts of Genesis are the words of Moses in commentary, explanation, and narration. Yes, these are true and inspired, but they are not the utterances of God.

Genesis is inspired because it contains the oracles or very words of God spoken to a prophet by the mouth of God. Thus the prophets were often recorded as saying, "the word of the Lord came unto me" or "thus says the Lord," or "these be the words God has given me," etc.; And, where these divine utterances are recorded, they become his written oracles. But, strictly speaking, they are different from other parts that are not the express utterances of God. Can we say that the chronologies and genealogies in the Old Testament books are the utterances or oracles of God? We can say they are truthful and accurate, as a result of God's providence, but can we say they are the "oracles" of God? No, clearly not.

But, if a book contain an "oracle" or "thus says the Lord," or other such markers of inspiration and revelation, then it passes this test of inspiration and canonicity.

Feb 23, 2020

On The Priority Of Union With Christ

There is much debate between Arminians and Calvinists over the arrangement of the "ordo salutis" and I have chimed in on this debate many times over the years. The debate focuses on whether faith precedes the new birth or follows it. Let me say here at the outset that I get very agitated when men on both sides say - "Calvinists believe that regeneration precedes faith." Many times I have had to say to both Arminians and Calvinists that such is not true. That some Calvinists or "Reformed" theologians put regeneration before faith is not doubted. But to put all Calvinists into that category is a gross falsehood. In my writings I have cited many Calvinists, such as Calvin and Booth, who did not aver that regeneration precedes faith. I am Calvinist but I do not put regeneration or the new birth before faith and conversion.

Let me also say that the older Calvinist writers did not make conversion something different from regeneration, seeing rather that evangelical conversion is regeneration. A man was not viewed as regenerate or born again before be believed in Christ.

In all the writings of those on this issue, over the past several hundred years, I have noticed a gross inconsistency by those who affirm that regeneration precedes faith. How so? Because even those who espouse such will often affirm that 1) union with Christ is the first requirement, preceding all other graces and aspects of salvation, and that 2) "vital union" is "by faith." Now, if these two propositions are true (and they are), then regeneration, rebirth, justification, forgiveness, sanctification, etc., must all follow this union; And, faith must be before these things, for it is what unites the soul to Christ. Therefore, union with Christ by faith must precede regeneration, justification, etc. Don't you see?

So, with that in mind, we cannot but hold to this order:

1. Faith
2. Union with Christ
3. Justification
4. Regeneration
5. Sanctification

Now let me cite from some Calvinists on the priority of union with Christ by faith.

The following citations can be found (here) and all emphasis is mine:

On this subject Dr. John Gill wrote:

"In a word, union to Christ is the first thing, the first blessing of grace flowing from love and effected by it; hence, [it] is the application of all others. “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus”—first loved and united to Christ—and then it follows, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1Co 1:30). So Dr. Goodwin observes that “union with Christ is the first fundamental thing of justification and sanctification and all. Christ first takes us, and then sends His Spirit; He apprehends us first; it is not my being regenerate that puts me into a right of all these privileges; but it is Christ takes me, and then gives me His Spirit, faith, holiness.”"

In "FAITH UNITES US TO CHRIST," William Cunningham (1805-1861) wrote:

"LET us now…shortly consider the effect of faith as uniting us to Christ, and thus saving the soul. There is a great deal spoken of in Scripture on the subject of faith—of its great importance and of its indispensable necessity to salvation. We read, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mar 16:16). It is faith that makes a man a Christian, that produces all those things that accompany salvation, that salvation which is the turning point of a man’s existence, that salvation which delivers him from the authority of the devil and translates him into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.

Faith occupies this important place in our salvation because it unites us to Christ. We are expressly told this by the Apostle in Ephesians 3:17, where it is written, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” This union of believers to Christ, effected by faith, is indeed frequently spoken of in the New Testament. The nature of it is set before us by every mode of expression and description fitted to convey the strongest impression of its closeness and its importance.

Now when a man believes in Christ, he is, according to God’s appointment, united to Him. There is a union formed between them. God regards him as if he were Christ and treats him as if he had suffered the punishment for his sins that Christ endured in his room—as if he had in his own person performed that full and perfect obedience to the Divine Law that our Savior's conduct exhibited. It is this imputation of Christ’s sufferings and of His righteousness, or, as it is often called, His active and passive obedience—it is this communion of suffering and of merit in which the union of believers with Christ mainly consists. This union and communion with Him is the foundation of their salvation in all its parts and in all its aspects. When they believe Him, God regards them as one with Him—as if they had offered what He has suffered, as if they had done what He has done, as if they had paid the penalty for their sins and had gained a title to His favor.

Viewing them thus as united to Christ—as one with Him—God bestows upon them the blessings that Christ purchased for all who should believe on His name. They obtain through faith the forgiveness of their sins, acceptance with God as righteous persons, the renovation and sanctification of their natures, and, finally, an inheritance among them that are sanctified. Christ is the great Head of influence: all spiritual blessings are the fruits of His purchase. It is only by abiding in Him that we are enabled to bring forth fruits unto eternal life; as it is written, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (Joh 15:5).

You see now the great importance of faith in the salvation of sinners. It is the instrument by means of which we receive everything necessary to our peace. None can be saved without it, and everyone who has it will assuredly be saved. It is connected in the statements of God’s Word with almost every blessing that is mentioned as important and valuable, as the origin from which they are all derived, the instrument by which they are all received. It is the Holy Spirit that forms the union between Christ and believers, and faith wrought in their hearts by His almighty power is the tie that connects them together and forms the bond of union.

While salvation is thus through faith, it is, at the same time, “by grace” (Eph 2:5, 8). It is to be traced wholly to God’s free and unmerited favor. There is nothing whatever in faith as a grace or virtue, as an act of ours, to merit anything at God’s hands [or] to deserve anything for us…Faith, viewed as a work or act of ours, could not itself procure for us the pardon of sin any more than repentance, if that too were in our power. Far less—[even if] we could believe by our own strength—could it ever merit for us any reward at God’s hands.

It is not indeed, then, as a work or a grace that faith saves: it is merely the instrument of uniting us to Christ. His work is the sole ground of our salvation and of all that is connected with it. We owe it all to Him. He purchased it for us by His own sufferings and obedience, and He bestows it upon us by His Spirit. Therefore, we must beware, friends, of giving to our own faith, in the work of salvation, the place that belongs only to Christ. When salvation is ascribed to faith, this is so far from attaching merit to faith that it is just expressly renouncing it. We are saved indeed by faith, but it is faith in Christ Jesus. Our faith is that which carries us out of ourselves to Christ, transferring our whole dependence, as it were, from our own doing to what He has done and suffered for us. And it is a constant act of trust, a confidence in Him for everything pertaining to another world. It bears at all times upon it a declaration of our utter inability to do anything for ourselves. Hence, not only is salvation by faith quite consistent with being by grace, but further, as the Apostle tells us, it is of faith that it might be by grace. Not only are they consistent with each other, but the one affords the most striking illustration of the other. Nothing could have more fully established or more clearly illustrated the free grace of the Gospel than making our salvation depend upon faith; for faith, besides being originally God’s gift, is a constant appeal to His agency: it is both in form and in substance a casting [of] ourselves entirely and unreservedly upon His mercy through Christ and resting upon Him alone. We believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved."

These are my sentiments exactly.

In "JUSTIFIED IN CHRIST" Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) said:

"This relation or union to Christ, whereby Christians are said to be in Christ (whatever it be) is the ground of their right to His benefits. This needs no proof: the reason of the thing, at first blush, demonstrates it. It is exceeding evident also by Scripture: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1Jo 5:12). “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us…righteousness” (1Co 1:30). First, we must be in Him, and then He will be made righteousness or justification to us. “He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph 1:6). Our being in Him is the ground of our being accepted. So it is in those unions to which the Holy Ghost has thought fit to compare this. The union of the members of the body with the head is the ground of their partaking of the life of the head. It is the union of the branches to the stock that is the ground of their partaking of the sap and life of the stock. It is the relation of the wife to the husband that is the ground of her joint interest in his estate.

As there is nobody [who will not agree] that there is a peculiar relation between Christ and His true disciples by which they are in some sense in Scripture said to be one, so I suppose there is nobody [who will not agree] that there may be something that the true Christian does on his part, whereby he is active in coming into this relation or union…Now faith I suppose to be this act.

I do not now pretend to define justifying faith or to determine precisely how much is contained in it. [I will] only determine thus much concerning it: [justifying faith] is that by which the soul, which before was separate and alienated from Christ, unites itself to Him. [The soul] ceases to be any longer in that state of alienation and comes into that forementioned union or relation to Him. Or, to use the Scripture phrase, it is that by which the soul comes to Christ and receives Him. This is evident by the Scriptures using these very expressions to signify faith.

God does not give union with or an interest in the Savior to those that believe as a reward for faith, but only because faith is the soul’s active uniting with Christ. [Faith] is itself the very act of unition on their part. God sees it fit that in order to a union being established between two intelligent active beings or persons, so that they should be looked upon as one, there should be the mutual act of both that each should receive [the] other as actively joining themselves one to another. God, in requiring this in order to a union with Christ as one of His people, treats men as reasonable creatures, capable of act and choice.

It is [in this way] that faith justifies or gives an interest in Christ’s satisfaction and merits and a right to the benefits procured thereby, that is, as it thus makes Christ and the believer one in the acceptance of the Supreme Judge. It is by faith that we have a title to eternal life because it is by faith that we have the Son of God by whom life is. The Apostle John in these words, “He that hath the Son, hath life,” (1Jo 5:12) seems evidently to have respect to those words of Christ of which he gives an account in his Gospel: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (Joh 3:36). And where the Scripture speaks of faith as the soul’s receiving or coming to Christ, it speaks of this receiving, coming to, or joining with Christ as the ground of an interest in His benefits. To as many as received Him, “to them gave he power” to become the sons of God. Ye will not come unto me “that ye might have life.”

Can I get an amen?

Feb 5, 2019

A.W. Pink - Culpable Yet Unable

Wrote A. W. Pink in his book on Sanctification (see here):

"Inability to pay a debt does not excuse a debtor who has recklessly squandered his estate; nor does drunkenness excuse the mad or violent actions of a drunkard, but rather aggravates his crime. God has not lost His right to command, even though man through his wickedness has lost his power to obey." (pg. 38)

Dec 28, 2018

Spurgeon on the "Virtue Of Age"

"Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded." (Titus 2:6)

C.H. Spurgeon wrote the following words in comment upon this passage. I thought it was worth sharing.

"They are full of spirits, they are very sanguine, they are apt to be carried away with novelties; exhort them to have that which is thought to be a virtue of age, namely, sobriety. Let them be old when they are young that they may be young when they are old."

One could "chew on" these words for a good while!

Dec 20, 2018

Divine Examination

"...but the one who examines me is the Lord." (I Cor. 4: 4 NASB)

That is a fearful thought! It evokes "fear and trembling," as it should. The Lord says "to this man will I look," to that one who has a "poor and contrite spirit" and "trembles at my word." (Isa. 66:2)

Surely these words of the apostle Paul should make us all tremble! Let us fear the Lord! Let us apply to him for all our remedies and corrections!

The Lord surely "examined" the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the first three chapters of the Apocalypse! If the Lord wrote us a personal letter after examining us, what would he say?

Dec 17, 2018

Watch This & Be Blessed!

Kevin Pendergrass of the "Church of Christ" along with two other ministers have made a video entitled "CONFESSIONS OF FORMER LEGALISTS" and I was so blessed to watch it. I recommend that you watch it and be blessed.

I have been reading some of the writings of brother Pendergrass for awhile now and cited from him on the adultery question in my recent series on that subject.

To watch the video see here

See also these two videos

Being Legalistic


A Different Kind Of Poison

Dec 14, 2018

Robert Hall On Means, Perseverance

The following citations from the writings of Robert Hall show what the Old Baptists believed at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century about salvation. His circular letters were to the Northamptonshire Association.

On Perseverance 

Wrote Robert Hall on the work of the Holy Spirit (circular letter - see here).

"It belongs to him to seal us to the day of redemption; to put that mark and character upon us, which distinguishes the children of God, as well as to afford a foretaste and an earnest of the future inheritance. And hereby, saith an apostle, we know that we are of God, by the Spirit which he hath given us. It is his office to subdue the corruption of our nature, not by leaving us inactive spectators of the combat, but by engaging us to a determined resistance to every sinful propensity, by teaching our hands to war, and our fingers to fight, so that the victory shall be ours, and the praise his. To help the infirmities of saints, who know not what to pray for as they ought, by making intercession for them with groanings which cannot be uttered, is an important branch of his office." (pg. 438)

Salvation is by grace, but salvation involves winning the battle with personal sin. Today's Hardshells in denying perseverance and the necessity of progressive growth and sanctification for final salvation have departed from the Old Baptist faith and are not entitled to be called "primitive."

Conviction Is Not Evidence Of Regeneration

Wrote Hall:

"Wherever the Spirit of God is in reality, he will convince of sin; but conviction is produced in thousands who still remain destitute of saving grace.—That influence of the Spirit by which a change of heart is effected, is essentially different from the distress and alarm which may be resolved into the exercise of mere natural conscience. For a man to be convinced that he is a sinner, and to tremble at the apprehension of wrath to come, is certainly something very distinct from becoming a new creature. Real Christians have not only perceived their danger, but have fled for refuge; have not only been less or more troubled with a sense of guilt, but, in consequence of coming to Christ, have found rest for their souls. On a review of your past life, you perceive innumerable transgressions, it may be, and are perfectly convinced that you have been “walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” So far it is well : your apprehensions are just, and well founded; and your situation more replete with danger than you have ever conceived it to be. Do not however rest here. Let the views you entertain excite you the more earnestly to press into the kingdom of God. Let them engage you to a more diligent use of the means of grace, and, above all, let them lead you to fix your hope and trust on the Redeemer, whose blood alone can cleanse you from all sin, and whose intercession is able to save “to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” Heb. vii. 25. Apply to him with humble faith and ardent prayer, and though you may be tempted to cherish doubts of the extent of his power and grace, say with him of old, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” (pg. 455-56)

That is real "Old Baptist" doctrine! Today's Hardshells are not what they claim to be, but ironically, are the real "new schoolers" or as R.B.C. Howell styled them, "new test men."

Unbelievers Lost

Wrote Hall to the brethren:

"If you ask how you may know whether you are partakers of the special grace of God we reply, This will be best ascertained by its fruits. When you feel a fixed hatred of sin, an intense thirst after holiness and perfection, and a delight in the word and ways of God, when you are habitually disposed to dwell on the thoughts of Christ and heaven, when the Saviour appears unspeakably precious, as the pearl of great price, and you are habitually ready to part with every thing for his sake, you may be certain that you are born of God. These are the fruits of the Spirit, which sufficiently demonstrate the influence and presence of that blessed Agent. Till you have experienced effects of this kind, you are in a wretched state, though surrounded with all the brightest earthly prospects, because you are estranged from God, and exposed to his eternal wrath and displeasure." (456)

Notice that Hall affirms that sinners, though under some conviction of sin, and somewhat "awakened" to their lost state, are still in a wretched unregenerate state until they have experienced a genuine union with Christ by faith.

Gospel The Means Of Regeneration

In the circular "ON HEARING THE WORD," addressed to the Northamptonshire Association (1813), Hall wrote:

"Though the Spirit bloweth where it listeth, where the gospel is not preached the effects of his operation are rarely to be discerned, and we witness few or no indications of a renewed character out of the bounds of Christendom. From the history of religion, in all ages, it appears that the Spirit is accustomed to follow in the footsteps of his revealed Word; and that, wherever his work lies, he prepares his way by first communicating the Oracles of God. When he proposed to take out a people for his name from among the Gentiles, the first step he took was to commission the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature. To this St. Paul most solemnly directs our attention, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, as the grand instrument of human salvation:- When, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased him, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. So intimate by divine appointment, is the connexion betwixt the salvation of man and the ministry of the Word, that the method of salvation, under the gospel, derives from the latter its distinguishing appellation, being denominated the hearing of faith. St. James, in like manner, asserts it to be the instrumental cause of our regeneration. Of his own will begat he us, by the Word of Truth. And to the same purpose St. Peter reminds the Christians, whom he was addressing, that they were born not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God; which word, he adds, is by the gospel preached unto you. The written Word, we are told, indeed, from the highest authority, is able to make us wise unto salvation, and many pleasing instances of its saving efficacy might be produced to confirm this position; but, as the gospel was preached before it was penned, it is certain that most of the passages which speak on this subject are to be referred to its public ministry, and that, in subsequent ages, God has put a distinguishing honour upon it, by employing it as the principal means of accomplishing his saving purposes. There is every reason to suppose that the far greater part of those who have been truly sanctified and enlightened, will ascribe the change they have experienced principally to the hearing of faith." (461-64)

Is that clear? Where are the writings of the Hardshells from that period of time that taught contrary to this? We have called upon today's Hardshells to give us the writings of men in the 18th century who taught the no means view of regeneration and they have remained silent as the grave. We all know the reason. There is no such writings because Hardshell no means view is a new and novel view among Baptists, not being propounded till the rise of the Hardshells in the mid 19th century.

In addition to the above words of Hall, he also wrote these words:

"When we see men attentive under the ministry of the Word, and evidently anxious to comprehend its truths, we cannot but entertain hopes of their salvation; for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (465)

"Establish in your minds the highest reverence and esteem of the glorious gospel...Recollect that on its acceptance or rejection, on the effects which it produces on the heart and life, depends our state for eternity..." (467)

"It is not merely the incorruptible seed of regeneration; it is also the mould in which our souls must be cast, agreeable to the apostle's beautiful metaphor: "You have obeyed from the heart that form (or mould) of doctrine into which ye were delivered." (468)

"To tremble at God's Word is also mentioned as one of the most essential features in the character of him to whom God will look with approbation." (468)

There used to be a TV show called "To Tell The Truth" and the famous line was "will the real (name inserted) please stand up." In a similar way we ask the question "will the real Old Baptists please stand up." Today's Hardshells who do not believe what Hall wrote are not the real Old Baptists but are imposters.

Dec 12, 2018

More On "Lead Us Not Into Temptation"

In "Pope Francis, The Lord’s Prayer, and Bible Translation," by Daniel B. Wallace (Dec. 12, 2017) we read the following regarding the translation of "lead us not into temptation." (emphasis mine - see here)

"It is important to recognize, however, that all translation is interpretation. The reason is that the syntax and lexical mapping in one language never match exactly that of another language. The context determines the meaning. A so-called “word-for-word” translation is quite impossible for anything more than a short phrase or sentence."

This is what I have stressed many times over the years when in discussion about "KJV Onlyism" and on issues of bible translations. Twisting of scripture happens not only when interpreting the words of a given translation of a text, but also in translation itself.

Wrote Wallace:

"Not only is the Greek in both Matt 6.13 and Luke 11.4 textually certain (variants for “do not lead us into temptation” are trivial amounting to minor spelling differences), but the syntax is clear. The verb in the petition “lead” is an aorist active subjunctive (εἰσενέγκῃς); with the negative particle, “do not lead” is the idea. The pope wants it to mean “allow” which speaks instead of God not permitting something rather than him actively leading us. And the pontiff seems to have assumed that the Greek “lead into temptation” means “permit to fall into temptation.” Several lexical, syntactical, and interpretive shifts are seen here.

The broader context of Matthew’s Gospel may give us a clue as to why the Lord said, “Do not lead us into temptation.” Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, we are told that he “was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4.1). The Greek text indicates that the purpose of the Spirit’s leading Jesus into the wilderness was so that he would be tempted by the devil (“to be tempted” [πειρασθῆναι] is an infinitive of purpose, giving the purpose of the Spirit’s leading). Mark words this even more starkly: “Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness” (Mark 1.13)."

Exactly! We have an example of what it means to be led into temptation by the Lord in the temptation of Christ! To say that God does not do what he clearly does do is no mean sin.

Continued Wallace:

"Evidently, there is a sense in which Jesus was delivered into the hands of the evil one, by the Holy Spirit himself, to be tempted. But the Greek here makes an interesting point about who is responsible for what. Two passive verbs are used in Matt 4.1— ἀνήχθη (“he was led”) and πειρασθῆναι (“to be tempted”). The agents are listed with identical prepositions: ὑπό. This is the preposition used especially for ultimate agent. It is rare to see ὑπό followed by πνεύματος (“Spirit”) in the NT (only five passages). Doing so here, Matthew shows that the Spirit is not subordinate to the devil but is the agent ultimately responsible for leading Jesus into the wilderness, while the devil is the ultimate agent of the temptation. The Spirit is not responsible for that. The Spirit did not tempt Jesus, but he did lead him to be tempted. The balance is intentional: leading into temptation is not the same as tempting. God the Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation, but he did not tempt him. Wrestling with the implications of this requires more than a little reflection.

Although Satan’s purpose was to destroy Jesus before he ever went to the cross, God’s purpose in using Satan was painted on a broader canvas. God tests; Satan tempts. The Son of God went through similar testing as the children of Israel in the wilderness. They were there for forty years; he was there for forty days. Where they failed he succeeded.

Further, the temptation that the Lord faced was the ultimate temptation—the offer of the entire world on a platter. Jesus can ask the disciples to pray that the Father would not lead them into temptation and that God would deliver them from the evil one precisely because Jesus himself faced the ultimate temptation by the evil one. Whereas the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted, Jesus asks the Father not to lead his disciples into temptation; whereas Jesus was delivered over to Satan for tempting (testing from the Father’s perspective), Jesus prays that his followers will be delivered from the evil one. It is precisely because of Jesus’ substitutionary death and life that this prayer can be recited today by Christians with the full assurance that God will answer us.

Pope Francis’s translation, however, subverts all this: “do not let us fall into temptation.” The original text speaks clearly of God leading, not permitting. To tamper with the wording misses the connection with the Lord’s temptation."

Well, amen to that!

Dec 11, 2018

"Lead Us Not Into Temptation" An Error?

Pope Francis has affirmed that "lead us not into temptation" is a mistranslation and conveys false doctrine and thinks the text should rather be translated as "abandon us not into temptation."

No, it is not a false translation and neither does it convey a false idea about God and his providence. God does lead into temptation, but he does not tempt. The great C.H. Spurgeon in "Lead Us Not Into Temptation" (May 17, 1863, Scripture: Matthew 6:13- see here) seems to have anticipated this controversy, or which shows that it is not new. Said Spurgeon:

"A great many persons have been troubled by that passage in James, where it is expressly said, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” It has been found very difficult to reconcile that express declaration of the apostle with this prayer of our Saviour; and some good, but very ignorant men, have gone the length of altering our Lord's words. I have heard of one who was won’t always to say, “Leave us not in temptation” — a most unwarrantable and unjustifiable alteration of Holy Scripture. Because sometimes a learned minister ventures, in all honesty and discretion, to give a more correct translation of the original, can this justify a foolish unlettered man in altering the original itself, and perverting the sense of a passage? There is an end to Scripture altogether, if license be given to alter its teachings according to our will. To teach perfect wisdom how to speak is too great a task to be ventured upon by any but the presumptuous and foolish. When our version is incorrect, then it is a duty to present the proper rendering, if one be able to find it out; but to give translations out of our whimsied heads, without having been taught in the original tongue, is impertinence indeed. There can be no better translation of the Greek than that which we have before us. The Greek does not say “ Leave us not in temptation,” nor anything like it ; it says, as nearly as English language can convey the meaning of the original, “ Lead us not into temptation," and no sort of pinching, twisting, or wresting, can make this prayer convey any other sense than that which our version conveys in so many words. Let us always be afraid of attempting improvements on God's perfect Word, and when our theories will not stand with divinely revealed truth let us alter our theories, but let us never attempt for one single moment to put one word of God out of its place.

Neither can we get out of the difficulty by supposing that the word “temptation” does not mean “temptation,” but must be restricted to the sense of “trial.” Now, we grant at once that the use of the word temptation in our translation of Scripture is somewhat liable to mislead. The word temptation has two meanings, to try, and to entice. When we read that God did tempt Abraham, we are by no means to understand that he enticed Abraham to anything that was evil; the meaning of the word in that place, doubtless, is simply and only that God tried him; but permit me to say, that this interpretation will not stand with this particular text now before us. The word here used for “temptation,” is not the word constantly written when trial is meant. It is just the very word which one would employ if temptation to sin were intended, and I cannot believe that any other translation can meet the case. Doddridge's paraphrase is a happy one: “Do not bring us into circumstances of pressing temptation lest our virtue should be vanquished and our souls endangered by them; but if we must be thus tried, do thou graciously rescue us from the power of the evil one.” I grant you that the word includes trial, as all temptation does, for all temptation, even if it be temptation from Satan, is in fact trial from God. Still there is more than trial in the text, and you must look at it just as it stands. As Alford, says, “The leading into temptation must be understood in its plain literal sense.” Take the text just as you find it. It means literally and truly, without any diminution, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

“Well,” says one, “if God does not tempt men, how can it be proper to pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation.’” Dear brethren, do but notice the text does not say, “ Tempt us n o t i f it did, then there would be a difficulty ; it does not say, “ Lord, tempt us not,” but it says, “ Lead us not into temptation ; ” and I think I shall very rapidly be able to show you that there is a vast difference between leading into temptation and actually tempting. God tempts no man. For God to tempt in the sense of enticing to sin were inconsistent with his nature, and altogether contrary to his known character; but for God to lead us into those conflicts with evil which we call temptations, is not only possible, but usual. Full often the Great Captain of Salvation leads us by his Providence to battle fields where we must face the fell array of evil, and conquer through the blood of the Lamb; and this leading into temptation is by divine grace overruled for our good, since by being tempted we grow strong in grace and patience. Our God and Father may, for wise ends, which shall ultimately subserve his own glory and our profit, lead us into positions where Satan, the. world, and the flesh may tempt us, and the prayer is to be understood in that sense of a humble self-distrust which shrinks from the conflict. There is courage here, for the suppliant calmly looks the temptation in the face, and dreads only the evil which it may work in him. but there is also a holy fear, a sacred self-suspicion, a dread of contact with sin in any degree. The sentiment is not inconsistent with “all joy” when the divers temptations do come, it is akin to the Saviour's “ If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” which did not for a moment prevent his drinking the cup even to its dregs.

Let me observe that God in no sense so leads men into temptation as to have any share in the blame of their sin if they fall into it. God cannot possibly by any act of his, become co-partner with man in his crime. As good old Trapp well observes, “God tempts men for PROBATION, but never for PERDITION. The devil tempts men that he may ruin them; God tries men, and puts them where Satan may try them, but he leads them into temptation for probation, that the chaff may be sifted from the wheat, that the dross may be separated from the fine gold. By these trials hypocrites fall, being discovered in the hour of temptation; just as the rough March wind sweeps through, the forest, and finding out the rotten boughs snaps them from the tree, the fault being not in the wind but in the decayed branch. James alludes to the actual solicitation to evil in which the most holy God can have no part, but our text deals with the providential bringing about of the temptation which I think you can clearly see may be the Lord’s work without his holiness in any degree being stained thereby. When the Lord leadeth us into temptation, it is always with a design for our good. He leads us to battle, not that we may be wounded and worsted, but that we may win glorious victories which shall crown the head of our gracious Leader with many crowns, and prepare us for future deeds of valour. Temptations overcome are inestimable blessings, because they make us lie the more humbly at his feet, bind us more firmly to our Lord, and train us to help others. Tempted men can lift up the hands that hang down, and confirm the feeble knees; they have been tempted in the same manner, and can therefore succour their brethren. Yet, while the benefit which God bringeth out of our being led into temptation is very great, still, temptation in itself is a thing so dangerous, trial and distress in themselves are so perilous, that it is right for the Christian to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” Though, as Martin Luther says, “ Temptation is the best school into which the Christian can enter ; yet, in itself, apart from the grace of God, it is so doubly hazardous, that this prayer should be offered every day, ‘Lead us not into temptation; ' or if we must enter into it, ‘Lord, deliver us from evil.’”

I do not know whether I have met the objection. Perhaps, in the exposition that is to follow I may be able to make it a little more clear. I wish to say, that although God does not tempt men—that is affirmed in Scripture, and reason, and God's own character, all prove it to be the fact—yet he may, and certainly does, lead us into positions in his providence, where it is absolutely certain that we shall be tempted ; and therefore, our consciousness of weakness should constrain to plead for escape from the terrible contest, and deliverance out of it if come it must."

Well, amen to that! Please read the remainder of Spurgeon's commentary on this passage via the link provided.

May 22, 2018

Making Saved Departed Loved Ones Happy

The question is often asked - how much do our saved departed loved ones, who in the intermediate state are in Heaven with the Lord, know about 1) their past lives on earth, 2) what is happening on earth, and 3) what is yet to come to pass.

Some people cannot come to grip with how a saint in Heaven can be happy knowing 1) that certain loved ones are absent, 2) what evils are befalling their loved ones on earth, 3) etc. It seems that the only way for them to be happy is for them to have knowledge of their past erased, and for them to have no knowledge of present life.

I cannot answer all the difficulties involved in such questions, but I do want to offer the following thoughts.

I suppose the first question concerns what the bible teaches about saints knowing and recognizing each other in heaven, knowing them as we have known them on earth. What does it teach? It clearly teaches that saints know each other in Heaven and of the relationship they had to each other while they lived on earth.

I understand that even this truth fact is not without difficulty in comprehending. For it implies that knowledge of former relationships brings sadness for it 1) reminds us of events that evoke feelings of sadness, and 2) reminds us that certain of our loved ones are lost forever in torment.

But the answer perhaps lies in these facts:

1) In our glorified state in Heaven we will be in every respect mature sons of God, having been made like the Son of God, and will therefore see things as he sees them. Thus, as the absence of certain of his natural children does not make God lose his peace and joy, so too with those who have the mind of Christ, or the mind of God

2) We are fully "reconciled" to God in all our thinking and have the attitude "whatever pleases the Lord pleases me" (but, saying this, leads us to say that we will be happy about the condemnation of our loved ones because we will see it as just and right, does it not?)

3) God will "wipe away all tears" and causes of sorrows to the heart and mind, which says that God somehow, in his infinite wisdom, will so comfort us in regard to the thought of lost loved ones that it is nonexistent

So, just how much do the righteous dead know about life on earth? Let me offer a few thoughts on this particular point.

First, consider Revelation 6: 10-11

"And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (KJV)

Here the departed saints know about their former lives on earth, and something about those "who dwell on the earth."

Next let us consider Luke 9: 30-31

"And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." (KJV)

Here again is evidence that departed loved ones know quite a bit about what is occurring, or will occur, on earth.

Next let us consider Luke 15: 7, 10

"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance...Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." (KJV)

Here it is said that the inhabitants of heaven, which would include departed Christian love ones, know when a sinner on earth repents.

Said the great Charles Spurgeon in his sermon "A High Day in Heaven" (see here - emphasis mine):

"I have only one more remark to make under this first head, and it is this—our Lord does not say that the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents, but that "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Who, then, has the joy? The angels, of course, first. They must be included because the previous parable says that when the Shepherd comes home, "He calls together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost." The redeemed from among men and the holy angels are the friends and neighbors of Christ—and they all rejoice over every sinner who repents. But, first of all, this joy is the joy of God, Himself. The angels and the redeemed stand in His Presence—they are His courtiers—but He Himself is the center, and Glory, and Lord of All—it is God Himself who rejoices "over one sinner who repents." God the Father rejoices, for has He not found His child whom He had lost, the child whom He loved, before the foundation of the world, with all the love of His infinite heart?"

It thrills me to know that my beloved father, who is now in heaven, rejoices when I repent!

Said Spurgeon:

"One thought I cannot help interjecting just here. I am sure that these holy angels all believe in the Doctrine of the Final Perseverance of the Saints. If they did not, they would be very foolish in rejoicing over repenting sinners. The old proverb bids us not to count our chickens before they are hatched—and if I were an Arminian, I would recommend the angels to not rejoice over a sinner who repents, for he might fall from Grace and perish—and then they would have to ring the bells of Heaven backwards, or to toll them, and to recall their songs, and say, "We rejoiced too soon." But it is not so, for they know that repentance has in it the germ of perfection! Sincere repentance is the commencement of perfect sanctification and God will make it grow to full fruition!"

Well, amen to that!