Is Predestination Biblical?

I was asked to serve at a small Baptist church near the property in SE Oklahoma my wife and I bought some years with hopes of moving to in 2015. So this opportunity to shepherd a small flock provided the impetus for us to move a year ahead of schedule. I had traveled up to this church once on a general call to preach, having been recommended by the local Baptist association. I preached twice that day and was quickly invited back to “preach in view of a call”. I drove the 400 miles to do that on July 6, preaching from Hebrews 1:1-4 (telling them I would preach through that book if called) and had a meeting with the members of the church that evening.

I was asked if I believed in “once saved always saved” and I explained the believer’s security such that “easy believism” was not an option. The same lady asked me is I would be willing to have little children bring trinkets to me during the service so I could relate the trinket to Scripture. I told her the service was for the worship of God, not the entertainment of children. 

I asked them what they thought the main function of the pastor was and was encouraged to hear several say “pray, study, preach”. I asked them what the main function of the church was on the Lord’s Day and was encouraged to hear several say “worship the Lord in song, hear the Word preached.”  That provides a foundation upon which to build.

I was also asked if I believed in predestination and confessed that I had no choice because it is clearly taught in Revelation, Romans 8 and Ephesians. I was encouraged when that answer was met with a few “Amens!” Some questions about programs and Sunday School – I pressed on them the need to engage parents and to help young people grow into adults; so I would accept some “age appropriate” Sunday School for small children, but by 12 they need to be with adults – because we see this in Scripture and we see the need in our culture.

I was asked to step outside. About 5 minutes later, I was asked back in and told that they wanted to call me as their pastor. The terms were acceptable. We made provision to sell our house in Houston, bought a trailer to live in for a season and I moved on up on Aug 6, with my dear wife following in a couple of weeks. I preached several sermons (available here: http://gowenbaptist.blogspot.com/) and they had a very nice welcome dinner for us on Aug 24 and then the deacons told me they could not tolerate my preaching that included predestination, so they asked me to step down on Aug 31. They corralled the members the next day and then told me on Wed evening the whole church voted for me to leave.

The deacons would not answer questions about their view that altar calls are necessary nor would they be willing to reconsider their view on predestination if I showed them clear passages of Scripture that declare it. They are free-will people, have been all their lives and they have no interest in growing in grace and knowledge of Christ. I told them that if I had known they held to free-will theology, I would never have come to serve there. That being said, they have been very nice and generous and have offered to help us move our trailer off their property.

I am heart-broken over this, but unashamed of the messages I delivered while there – all 4 week’s worth. I put together a list of  Scripture passages touching on this topic, see below. No man can come to the Father unless He draw him. How can free-will in a sinful creature claim credit for choosing to be saved? The lack of willingness to ponder Scripture and let that be a guide flies in the face of Christianity and denies the authority, sufficiency, necessity, and clarity of Scripture that I preached on while there.

On Predestination:

John 1:11-13 (ESV) 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 3:6-8 (ESV) 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 10:25-30 (ESV) 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

John 15:15-17 (ESV) 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:11-14 (ESV) 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Revelation 13:5-8 (ESV) 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

Revelation 17:6-8 (ESV) 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.

 

On man’s inability:

Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV) 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

1 John 5:11-12 (ESV) 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

 

God saves, not man:

John 6:36-40 (ESV) 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:44 (ESV) “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Titus 3:4-7 (ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Romans 9:14-18 (ESV) 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Should a Christian Tithe?

Should a Christian Tithe?  Tithe

I.  The Command to Tithe

Deuteronomy 14:22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire–oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

  • the only commands to tithe are found in or during the Old Covenant

 

II. The Purpose of the Tithe

Numbers 18:21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”

25 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 27 And your contribution shall be counted to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 So you shall also present a contribution to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the Lord’s contribution to Aaron the priest.

  • purpose of the tithe was to fund a permanent priesthood in Israel

 

III. The Location and Spirit of the Tithe

Deuteronomy 12:17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake. 19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

  • to be taken to Jerusalem only
  • portions of tithe to be eaten with family, servants and local Levites (basically as a feast)

 

IV. Special Added Tithing

Deuteronomy 26:12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13 then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me. 15 Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’

  • there is some disagreement amongst the commentators whether this added tithe represented a second or third 10%
  • most scholars lean toward two tithes (an annual 10% of everything and a second 10% of everything on the third year)
  • there were other donations required of the Israelite and there was also an encouragement to contribute freewill gifts which totalled to a annual “taxation” of 20-30%

 

V. An Example of the Tithe’s Re-institution

 

VI. It’s Omission a Cause for Chastening

Malachi 3: 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

  • obviously abandoned for pragmatic reasons
  • part of giving to God what He required was trusting that He would still supply all one’s needs

 

VII. Commanded in the NT to those Still Under the Old Covenant

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

  • remember that the New Covenant is not yet established so tithing was a genuine act of obedience to YHWH
  • by the time of Jesus the tithe had been so “midrashed” that it was an oppressive burden men tried to get out from under

 

VIII. Never Commanded for New Covenant Believers

  • there are no NT texts that command a Christian to give 10% of all he has to the Lord

 

IX. Why Do We Give Money to Church?

To Meet the Needs of Church Members

1 Timothy 6: 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

 

To Enable Pastors to Do the Work of Ministry

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The labourer deserves his wages.”

 

X.  How Much Do We Give to Church

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

  • the simple answer is… there is no set amount!
  • the NT pattern often links giving to need
  • we should give a lot (bountifully), thoughtfully (as made up mind), freely (not under compulsion), happily (God loves a cheerful giver) and trustingly (God will cause the bountiful giver to be a bountiful reaper)

Posted here.

Active Spirituality

Active Spirituality  Active-Spirituality

A review by Stuart Brogden

This is an uncommon book – the format is that of personal letters from the author, intended to provide pastoral guidance to the issue of sanctification. I was reminded of a couple of books I read in high school that were letters from a father, one to his son and the other to his daughter. I passed these along to my son and daughter as they grew into young adults. Brian Hedges’ belief is that this format will be more personal and effective – as our spiritual journey is not linear, but (as was the Exodus) “circuitous and roundabout, with lots of detours and obstacles, punctuated by backtracking, rest stops, and significant delays on the side of the road.” (page 14) I think the author succeeds in this regard, as each letter reads as a warm personal communication. I appreciated the author’s repeated reference to various works by John Bunyan, but was less enthused by his somewhat frequent use of quotes from C.S. Lewis and references to “the seven deadly sins” – a concept the Bible knows nothing about (sex outside of marriage and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit are more serious than other sins), taught by the Roman Catholic Church, based primarily on the list in Proverbs 6:16-19 but not taught therein as a special list of “deadly sins”. That being said, this book is a most excellent look at various aspects of everyone’s spiritual journey, with solid biblical counsel we can all benefit from.

Throughout this easy-to-read but thought provoking book, Hedges gives the reader biblical exhortations to walk in the light, to examine one’s self, to stay focused on Christ. He puts good works in their place (post-redemption works empowered by the Holy Spirit) and presses the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Late in the book (page 94), he gives us a word picture of a stool with four legs, each leg being an essential part of what God gives as assurance of our standing with Him.

  1. Faith in the gospel promises of salvation
  2. Evidences of God’s grace in the transformation of the heart and life
  3. The testimony of the Holy Spirit
  4. The fruit of love in relationship with other believers

He cites the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is accurate in the doctrine of salvation, for the first three of these legs; pointing us to 1 John 3:14 for the fourth. Our author provides a concise paragraph for each leg, demonstrating from Scripture each one and urging us to know the Word of God that we be not deceived by emotions or lies or, as the next chapter puts it – self-trust.

I will leave you with a short excerpt from the last letter in this book. Throughout, Hedges has given us solid biblical counsel, with many examples from Scripture and theological tomes. He contrasts grace and law, justification and sanctification, lawlessness and true trust in Christ. And in this last letter, we are given a solid comparison between the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of the saints. Often, reformed folk are accused of relying on works for salvation or for perseverance. This is a contentious issue, but is helpfully summed up by the phrase, “We are saved by faith alone, but by faith that is alone.” One who has been spiritually raised from the dead by the same power (the Holy Spirit) that raised Christ from the tomb will exhibit signs of life. He has no life before being made alive by God, so there’s no way his works can contribute to his redemption. Yet once made alive, the child of God will naturally grow in grace and the fruit of the Spirit as He works in us.

And this leads to the right understanding of the perseverance of the saints. Hedges tells us that perseverance and preservation are “really talking about the same doctrine, but from two different perspectives. If perseverance has to do with our responsibility to continue in faith and holiness, preservation highlights God’s work in strengthening and sustaining our faith.” Scripture tells us the Christ intercedes for us with the Father and the Holy Spirit prays for us when we know not how to pray. We will persevere because God is faithful! Our Lord declared He would lose none of the sheep given to Him by the Father. We are told that His Spirit is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Our author points us to Hebrews 7 to see how the Lord Jesus provides for us in His sacrifice and His intercession.

In His sacrifice, Christ our High Priest offered himself for us once and for all (Hebrews 7:27. This is his finished and completed work. But now, he continues to apply this work to us through his ongoing intercessory prayer. And this guarantees complete salvation!” (See Hebrews 7:24-25)

Dear saints, know this: you have died with Christ and are seated in the heavenly realm with him. How we can we go on living for the flesh, knowing it will perish like the grass? Our Lord is the faithful witness who has gone to prepare a place for us – where Abraham lives, in the city whose builder is God. Jesus will return to gather His sheep to Himself. Have faith in Christ! This book is a great help in reminding us He is sufficient.

The Roman Catholic Eucharist

Why the Catholic (and Emerging Church) “Eucharist” Does Not Line Up With Scripture

By Roger Oakland    Pope

The Catholic Church teaches that once a Catholic priest has consecrated the wafer of bread during Communion, the wafer turns into the literal and real body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.1 Therefore, the Communion Host is no longer bread but Jesus, under the appearance of bread and is therefore worthy of adoration and worship. The Catholic Catechism states succinctly:

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.”2

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.3

 

What Does the Bible Teach About the Lord’s Supper?

We have documented [in Another Jesus] what the Catholic Church teaches concerning the Eucharist. But what does the Bible teach? The Bible encourages believers to study “all the counsel of God”(Acts 20:27) and to “[p]rove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). And as believers, we are admonished to:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)

With these instructions in mind, let us search the Scriptures to determine what the Bible teaches concerning the Lord’s supper.

The Last Supper was celebrated by first century Christians in obedience to Jesus’ words “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). This observance was established by the Lord at the Last Supper when He symbolically offered Himself as the Paschal Lamb of atonement. His actual death the next day fulfilled the prophecy. Only Paul uses the phrase “Lord’s supper” (I Corinthians 11:20), while the Church fathers began to call the occasion the Eucharist meaning thanksgiving from the blessing pronounced over the bread and wine after about A.D. 100. Christians have celebrated the Lord’s Supper regularly as a sign of the new covenant sealed by Christ’s death and resurrection.4 Today, the Eucharist means far more than simply thanksgiving.

 

This is My Body

To what exactly did Jesus ordain during the Last Supper? The Bible states:

[Jesus] took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22: 19-20)

Proponents of the Catholic Eucharist point to Jesus’ words recorded in John 6. Though this chapter does not deal with the Last Supper, Jesus’ words, which are taken to relate to the Communion meal, are as follows:

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (John 6:51-55)

Just what do these Scriptures mean? The answer to that can be found in our examination of the Word of God itself.5

 

Metaphors and Similes

Throughout the Bible, context determines meaning. Bible-believing Christians know to take the Bible literally, unless the context demands a figurative or symbolic interpretation. Before exploring Jesus’ words in John chapter 6 and elsewhere, let’s review a few examples of symbolism in the Scriptures. All scholars would agree that the following verses are metaphorical. An explanation follows each verse:

O taste and see that the LORD is good. (Psalm 34:8; Try to experience God’s promises to find if they are true.)

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14; For those who receive the gift of salvation, Christ’s Spirit shall dwell in their souls assuring them of everlasting life.)

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. (Ezekiel 3:1, 2; Receive into your heart, internalize, and obey God’s Word.)

And I could go on and on with one example after the next. At one point Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Jews thought He spoke of the literal temple in Jerusalem, but if we keep reading, we find that Jesus was referring to His body (John 2:20-21). On another occasion, Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). Of course, we know that Jesus did not mean that He was a literal grape vine twisting around a post. When the Bible says God hides us under His wings (Psalm 91:4), we know that God is not a bird with feathers. God is the source of all life and our provider and protector, and these figures vividly illustrate this.

Throughout the Bible, figurative language is used to compare one thing to another so that the listeners can easily understand. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus regularly used parables to figuratively describe one thing as something else (Matthew 13:34).Jesus Himself stated, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (John 16:25). The Bible should always be interpreted literally unless the context demands a symbolic explanation. So what does the context of John’s Gospel and the other Gospels demand?

 

John Chapter 6: The Bread of Heaven

If we read the entire sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, we not only get the context, but also some startling insights into what Jesus meant when He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. John 6 begins with the account of Jesus feeding five thousand, followed by the account of Jesus walking on water. On the following day, people were seeking Jesus for the wrong reasons, which we understand from Jesus’ words in verses 26 and 27:

Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.

These verses begin to frame the context of the verses that follow, specifically, that Jesus emphasized the need for them to seek eternal life. Jesus goes on to explain to them how to obtain eternal life. And in verse 28, when the people ask Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus replies, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (vs. 29).

Here Jesus specifies only one work that pleases God, namely, belief in Jesus. Jesus reemphasizes this in verse 35 when he states: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” Notice the imperative is to “cometh to me” and “believeth on me.” Jesus repeats the thrust of His message in verse 40 where He states:

And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jesus could not be clearer—by coming to Him and trusting in Him, we will receive eternal life. At this point in the narrative, the Jews complained about Him because He said: “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (vs. 41). Jesus responds to their murmuring when He states that He is indeed the “living bread” and that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to obtain eternal life (vs. 42-58). However, let’s remember the context of this statement. First, Jesus contrasts Himself with the manna that rained down on their fathers and sustained them for their journey. But their fathers have since died. But Jesus now offers Himself as the living, heavenly bread, causing those who eat of Him to live forever.

Jesus is not the perishable manna that their descendants ate in the wilderness—He is the eternal bread of life that lives forever. Only by partaking in His everlasting life can we hope to live with Him forever. This contrast strengthens His main message, where Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (vs. 47). Notice, Jesus said that as soon as we believe in Him we have—present tense—eternal life. It is not something we aim at or hope we might attain in the future, but rather, something we receive immediately upon accepting Him by faith.

When Jesus said these words, He was in the synagogue in Capernaum, and He had neither bread nor wine. Therefore Jesus was either commanding cannibalism, or He was speaking figuratively. If He was speaking literally, then He would be directly contradicting God the Father: “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat”(Genesis 9:4). Therefore, because Jesus Himself said, “[T]he scripture cannot be broken”(John 10:35), He must be speaking metaphorically. And that is exactly how He explains His own words in the subsequent verses.

 

The Flesh Profits Nothing

After this, in verse 60 (of John 6), we find that many of His disciples said: “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” Jesus was aware of their complaints and He responded saying:

Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. (vs. 61-64)

Wait a minute, the flesh profits nothing! I thought Jesus said we must eat His flesh? Yet, if the flesh profits nothing, Jesus must be speaking in spiritual terms. And that is what He says: “[T]he words that I speak unto you, they are spirit.

Jesus uses the exact same Greek word for flesh (sarx) as He did in the preceding verses. Therefore, He is emphatically stating that eating His literal flesh profits nothing! If the Lord Himself sets the context of the dialogue, we would do well to hear Him. He said that the words He speaks are spirit and that the flesh profits nothing. In other words, Jesus has just told us He has spoken in a metaphor, so we need not guess at it.

If that isn’t clear enough, Peter’s words add further clarity. Immediately following the dialogue with the Jews, in which some disciples left, Jesus said to the remaining twelve apostles, “Will ye also go away?” (vs. 67). Peter’s response is profound:

Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (vs. 68-69)

Amazing! Peter did not say we have come to believe that we must eat Your flesh to live. He said that we know You are the Christ, and we have come to believe in You as the Christ. This is the confession of faith that leads to eternal life, not eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood. It also agrees with the totality of Scripture.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

[W]hat must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. (Acts 16:30, 31)

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. (John 3:36)

To understand more fully the Catholic Eucharist versus biblical communion and salvation, read Roger Oakland’s book, Another Jesus.

The Golden Rules of Biblical Interpretation

The Golden Rules of Biblical Interpretation Bible

14 Straightforward Rules to Help Keep New Students of the Bible On Course

 

1. Come to the Scriptures prayerfully. Most of the great Bible interpreters were guided by prayer in their studies. The necessity of the involvement of the Holy Spirit is vital!

2. In my own case, I read the Bible right through – cover to cover – 3 or 4 times right at the start of my Bible study life. Try to do this at least once. In doing so you will get a great overview of the Bible’s overall teaching. You will get a correct perspective.

3. Allow Scripture to interpret itself and refuse to be clouded by personal doctrinal presuppositions or preferences. This really sets the great Bible expositors apart from those who refuse to depart from their own denomination’s guidelines.

4. Begin with understanding what the passage actually says, and yet always ask, “What does the passage really mean?”

5. Pay as much attention to the original Hebrew and Greek as your learning will allow you. (For those without language training, an interlinear Bible can be very helpful as can be a Bible dictionary).

6. Never use one of the paraphrased (very loose) translations to establish doctrine! The NKJV and NIV are very sound primary study translations, but the more paraphrased versions, such as the NLT, have a place in more devotional reading.

7. Establish the Major Doctrines (teachings) of Christianity! Those who do this are less likely to ever fall away or fall into the hands of false teachers. The teaching on Justification (how we can be made ‘right’ with God), the deity of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness and resurrection; these are major areas of Christian teaching. On this topic, note the links which may be found lower on this page.

8. If you are an absolute novice (quite new in the Faith), don’t try to tackle deeper theology before you attain some basic knowledge; I find that many make this mistake and just become very confused, then they often accuse the article writer of being ‘confusing’ – but, so often, the problem is that they are just not used to the discipline of theology! Being a good, clear logical thinker is essential for the disciplines of apologetics and theology. But don’t attempt to run before you can walk!

9. Always take into account the full context of the passage. Read verses in the context of the whole passage, the chapter and even the book. And, of course, always keep in mind the larger context of the New Testament or Old Testament.

10. The Bible is progressive revelation. This means that, generally speaking, the New Testament specifically interprets the Old Testament. Don’t forget that the Old Testament can be called ‘The Book of the Old Covenant’, but Jesus inaugurated the ‘New Covenant’ – it doesn’t mean that the Old Testament can’t teach us anything – it has many lessons for us – but that one should never, ever, use a vague or cloudy verse in Leviticus to overthrow a clear statement of Jesus or Paul. This has been a major error of the cults and sects! This can be very well demonstrated in our attitude to the Sabbath. Various seventh day groups will ask, ‘Which day is the Christian Sabbath?’ – but even in asking that particular question they are revealing very flawed biblical exegesis; they are taking a topic of Old Testament importance (the Sabbath), and imposing an equal New Testament concern for the subject (which, truthfully, does not exist), by employing the word, ‘Christian’ – a far better question would be‘What did Jesus show us about the real meaning of the Sabbath?’ (Matthew 11:28-30, Mark 2:23-28).

11. Always consider all the passages dealing with any particular topic. For instance, don’t try to understand faith by only looking at a few more sensational ‘faith verses’ (as the Word-faith people like to do), but get a thorough grounding in what the whole Bible says about faith. A Bible concordance will prove essential here.

12. Always interpret the more difficult or unclear passages by the clear ones - never the other way around! A favourite device of the cults is to choose a difficult passage and build their unique doctrines upon it without ever considering the broader sweep of bibical teaching.

13. Always take into account the different genres of writing within the Bible – here again, the cults and sects have regularly stumbled! The Bible contains different forms of writing; there is history, proverb, parable, apocalyptic, letters (epistles), Old Testament prophecy, genealogies and other elements too. We must respect what these different forms of writing set out to achieve! Sometimes the cults could not find some detail they were looking for within prophecy, so went looking for it in other biblical genres which are unconcerned with prophecy! This would be somewhat similar to reading the main news in a newspaper, perhaps an article about President Bush or Tony Blair, finding a vital detail had been left out, so going looking for that detail in the newspaper’s ‘gardening section,’ or ‘sports section’ or ‘television programmes section’ – plainly quite daft!! The founders of the cults and sects were unabashed about abusing the Scriptures in this way, mainly because of their lack of knowledge, but we can learn from their shortcomings!

14. Beware of novel, new, or unusual interpretations, always check various conservative commentaries on the passage. There is really very little that is new under the sun, as the saying goes, ‘The gospel is the gospel is the gospel!’ Many of the heresies of the cults have been dealt with thoroughly in various well-authenticated works. It is also interesting to note that even though there are many Christian denominations, their opinions never differ very greatly on the essential doctrines! There is solid agreement on the pivotal doctrines of the Christian Faith. Don’t allow some new idea (such as the ‘health, wealth and prosperity gospel,’ which is a ‘new kid on the block’), to divert you from established Christian teaching.

Robin A. Brace,

The Defect of Preachers Reproved

 

“The Defects of Preachers Reproved”images
by Solomon Stoddard

“The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.”
Matthew 23:2–3

In these words is a direction given by Christ unto the people, where we have:

First, the foundation of the rule: “the Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” Some take this as spoken of the Sanhedrim, who were the successors of Moses and the seventy elders of Israel. Possibly that may be a mistake, for several of the Sanhedrim were not Pharisees (Acts 23:3). For the chief priests belonged to that society (Acts 4:6), and they are said to be Sadducees; but by Scribes and Pharisees I understand the principal teachers among the Jews. The priests and Levites were more especially devoted to the study of the law. Deuteronomy 33:10: “They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law.” Yet others who were learned in the law were made use of to instruct the people, and were chosen to be rulers of the Synagogues. The Pharisees were of any tribe. Paul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin, was a Pharisee by education, as he tells in Acts 23:6: “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”

Second, here is the rule given: “what they bid you observe, that observe and do.” This must be understood with the limitation: when they teach according to the mind of God. Sometimes they taught for doctrines the commandments of men and then it was sinful and dangerous to observe their directions. “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).


DOCTRINE: There may be a great deal of good preaching in a country, and yet a great want of good preaching.

It is a felicity to a people when there is good preaching in the land, yet there may in the same land be great want of good teaching. Some things that are very useful may be plainly and fully taught, and other things that might be as useful may be neglected. Many sound principles in religion may be taught, and other things that are of great concern unto souls may be omitted. Ministers don’t sufficiently do their duty if they preach many sound truths, and do it convincingly and with good affection, if they do it with great clearness and evidence, provided they neglect other things that are needful to salvation. And so it falls out sometimes that men who make many good sermons are very defective in preaching some other things that they ought to preach.

I shall clear this in three instances.

1. The Scribes and Pharisees in Israel taught the people that there was only one God, the Maker of all things, and were great enemies to the idolatry that their fathers were guilty of before the Babylonian captivity. As the Scribe said to Christ in Mark 12:32, “Well, Master, Thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but He.” They taught many moral duties: that men must love God and believe His Word, that they must be just and chaste and men of truth, and were very strict in the observation of the sabbath. They limited men how far they might go on the sabbath (Acts 1:12). We read of “a sabbath day’s journey.” They taught truly the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:7–8). The Pharisees dissented from the Sadducees. The Sadducees say there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees confessed both. They taught that the Messiah was to come; the Samaritans themselves received that doctrine (Job 4:25). They were very punctual in teaching circumcision and the ceremonies of the Law of Moses, about sacrifices, tithes, and legal uncleanness. But they were very faulty in preaching in other particulars. They were ignorant of the doctrine of regeneration, so Nicodemus (John 3:4) says, “How can a man be born when he is old?” They taught that the first motions of lust, if the will did not consent, were not sins. As we may gather from Romans 7:7, Paul says, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, ‘Thou shall not covet.’ ” And from Matthew 5:27–28, “It was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ But I say whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery in his heart.”


They taught also that dangerous doctrine of justification by works (Romans 10:3). They went about to establish their own righteousness (Romans 9:2–3), They sought it, as it were, by the works of the law. They taught the people that in case they devoted their estates to the temple, they need not relieve their fathers or mothers (Matthew 15:4–6). And above all they taught that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah and brought many objections against Him. They said that He came out of Galilee, was a gluttonous man and a winebibber (Matthew 11:19), a friend of publicans and sinners. They reproached Him that by the devil He cast out devils, and they were very dull in their preaching (Matthew 7:29).


2. The papists they teach the doctrine of the trinity truly, and the attributes of God, so also the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, and that He died for our redemption and is at the right hand of God. They teach the doctrine of the day of Judgment, of heaven and of hell, and many moral rules. But they preach a multitude of false doctrines with these doctrines that are pernicious to the souls of men. They teach men to seek the pardon of their sin by afflicting their bodies, by pilgrimage and paying a sum of money. They teach many horrible things with respect to their Pope, that he has power to forgive sin, to dispense with incestuous marriages; that he has power over all the churches and may dispense with the laws of God; that he is infallible. They teach the doctrine of image worship, abolishing the second commandment. They teach prayer to saints departed, the unlawfulness of priests’ marriages, the doctrine of purgatory, justification by works, a conditional election, the power of free will, falling from grace, and hundreds of other erroneous doctrines. They indeed subvert the faith of Christ.

3. Many Arminians preach very profitably about God and the person of Christ, about justification by faith and universal obedience, about the day of judgment and of eternal rewards and punishments. But there is a great deal of want of good preaching among them. They decry all absolute decrees of election and reprobation, making the decrees of God to depend on the foresight of repentance or impenitence. They assert universal redemption, as if Christ died to make all man saveable. They deny the propagation of sin, saying men become sinners by imitation. They hold a power in man to withstand the grace of God; that after God has done His work it is in the power of man to refuse to be converted. They don’t acknowledge the servitude of man to sin, but have power with that assistance that God affords to convert himself. They deny the doctrine of perseverance. These things draw a great train of errors after them.

The reason of the doctrine is because some preachers are men of learning and moral men, and they have drunk in some errors and lack experience. Learning and morality will qualify men to make many good and profitable sermons, much for the edification of the hearers. Learning qualifies men to clear up many principles of religion, and a moral disposition may fit men zealously to reprove vicious practices. But men may be learned men, yet drink in very corrupt doctrines.

Learning is no security against erroneous principles. The Pharisees and Sadducees were men of liberal education, yet leavened with many false principles. Matthew 16:6: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And verse 12: “Then understood they that He bid them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Learning will not cure those distempers of the heart that expose men to false opinions. Learning will not cure the pride and conceitedness of men’s hearts. Men of learning may lean too much to their own understanding. Men of learning may be led aside by reading erroneous books. A learned education will not deliver men from carnal reason. Men of corrupt affections are very inclined to imbibe bad principles. Men of learning may be blind men. Christ says of the Pharisees, “They be blind, leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14).

Most of the errors in the world in matters of religion have been hatched by men of learning. Arius, Socinus, Arminius, and Pelagius were learned men. Errors in religion have been generally the offspring of great scholars, and have been propagated by them. And men may be moral men who have no experience of the work of God upon their hearts. Men may be zealous men against drunkenness and whoredom who have no saving knowledge of Christ. Many moral men have no communion with God, no experience of a saving change in their own souls. Men may be very moral and have no experience of a work of humiliation or being brought off from their own righteousness, or a work of faith; of the difference that is between the common and special work of the Spirit; of the difference between saving and common illumination; of the working of the heart under temptation; of the way wherein godly men are wont to find relief.

Every learned and moral man is not a sincere convert, and so not able to speak exactly and experimentally to such things as souls want to be instructed in. It is as with a man who has seen a map of a country, or has read a great deal about it: he can’t tell the way between town and town, and hundreds of particular circumstances, as a man who has traveled or lived there is able to do. Experience fits men to teach others. A man who has himself had only a common work of the Spirit, and judges it saving, is very unfit to judge the state of other men. Men would not put their lives into the hands of an unskillful physician, or trust their ship with an unskillful pilot, or an intricate case depending on the law with an unskillful lawyer.

USE 1. Of examination whether it is not thus in this country.

It is notoriously known by those who are acquainted with the state of the Christian world that though there are many eminent truths taught, yet there is a great want of good preaching. Whence it comes to pass that among professors a spirit of piety runs exceedingly low. But it is proper for us to take notice how it is among ourselves; and though it is very evident that there is a great deal of good preaching in the land, that the way of salvation is preached with a great deal of plainness and power, and many men are very faithful to declare all the counsel of God, yet there may be cause of lamentation that there is a great deal wanting in some places. Some may be very much to blame in preaching as they ought to do.

If any are taught that frequently men are ignorant of the time of their conversion, that is not good preaching. Some are of that opinion, and it is likely they may drink it in from their ministers. This is a delusion, and it may do them a great deal of hurt; it hardens men in their natural condition. Paul knew the time of his conversion: “At midday, O King, I saw a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13).

Men are frequently at a loss whether their conversion was true or not; but surely men who are converted must take some notice of the time when God made a change in them. Conversion is a great change, from darkness to light, from death to life, from the borders of despair to a spirit of faith in Christ. As for the outward conversation, there is sometimes little difference. Men might carry very well before, but, as to the frame of men’s hearts, there is a very great difference. Formerly they were under the reigning power of objections against the gospel; when converted they receive it as a divine truth. Before they were converted they were under a sentence of condemnation; now they have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Men are generally a long time seeking conversion, laboring to get an interest in Christ; and it would be much if when God reveals Christ to them they should not take notice of it when the change is made. Ten to one but conscience will take notice of it.

When a seaman comes into the harbor, when a prisoner is pardoned, when a victory is obtained, when a disease is broken, it would be much if men should take no notice of them. Conversion is the greatest change that men undergo in this world; surely it falls under observation! The prodigal knew well enough the time of his return to his father’s house. The children of Israel knew the time of their passing over Jordan.

If any are taught that humiliation is not necessary before faith, that is not good preaching. Such doctrine has been taught privately and publicly, and is a means to make some men mistake their condition and think themselves happy when they are miserable. For men must be brought off from their own righteousness before they are brought to Christ. Men who think they have anything to appease the wrath of God and ingratiate themselves will not accept the calls of the gospel in sincerity. While people have a foundation to build upon, they will not build upon Christ. A self-righteous spirit is quite contrary to the gospel. If men are self-righteous men, they will not judge it fair for God to cast them off. Men who depend upon the justice of God will not depend upon the mere mercy of God. Men who lay claim to heaven from their own works will not depend on the plea that Christ has given His life a ransom for many, and has redeemed us from the curse, being made a curse for us.

Multitudes of men are ruined by building upon a sandy foundation. Men must see their malady before they see their remedy. Men must be led into understanding of the badness of their hearts and the strictness of the law before they will be convinced of the preciousness of Christ. Men who can heal their own consciences will not come to Christ for healing. Men must be driven by necessity indeed before they come to Christ. Though men feel great terrors and live a tormented life, yet they will not come to Christ until driven out of themselves. Men must feel themselves dead in sin in order to their believing. Romans 7:9: “Sin revived, and I died.” Men must see themselves poor and miserable, wretched and blind and naked, before they receive that counsel of buying of Christ gold tried in the fire, and white raiment (Revelation 3:17).

When men don’t preach much about the danger of damnation, there is a want of good preaching. Some ministers preach much about moral duties and the blessed estate of godly men, but don’t seek to awaken sinners and make them sensible of their danger; they cry for reformation. These things are very needful in their places to be spoken unto, but if sinners don’t hear often of judgment and damnation, few will be converted. Many men are in a deep sleep and flatter themselves as if there was no hell, or at least that God will not deal so harshly with them as to damn them. Psalm 36:2: “He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.”

Men need to be told of the terrors of the Lord so that they may flee from wrath to come. A little matter will not scare men. Their hearts are as hard as a stone, as hard as a piece of nether millstone, and they will be ready to laugh at the shaking of the spear. Ministers must give them no rest in such a condition. They must pull themselves as brands out of the burnings. It is well if thunder and lightning will awaken them. They need to fear that they may work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Ministers are faulty when they speak to them with gentleness, as Eli rebuked his sons. Christ Jesus often warned them of the danger of damnation. Matthew 5:29–30: “It is better that one of thy members should perish, and not that the whole body should be cast into hell.” Matthew 7:13: “Broad is the gate and wide is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.” Matthew 13:42: “The angels shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (See also Matthew 22:13 and 25:41, 46) This is for our imitation.

Christ knew how to deal with souls, and Paul followed His example. Men need to be terrified and have the arrows of the Almighty in them that they may be converted. Ministers should be sons of thunder. Men need to have storms in their hearts before they will betake themselves to Christ for refuge. When they are pricked at the heart, then they will say, “What must we do to be saved?” Men must be fired out of their worldliness and sloth. Men must be driven as Lot was out of Sodom. Reason will govern men in other things, but it is fear that must make them diligently seek salvation. If they are but thoroughly convinced of their danger, that will make them go to God and take pains.

If they give a wrong account of the nature of justifying faith, that is not good preaching. Justifying faith is set forth in the Scripture by many figurative expressions: coming to Christ, opening to Him, fitting under His shadow, flying to Him for refuge, building on Him as on a foundation, feeding on Him. These expressions imply not only an act of the understanding, but also and act of the will, accepting Him, depending on Him. This doctrine is despised by some, and faith in Christ is said to be only a persuasion of the truth of the Christian religion. This is the way to make multitudes of carnal men secure, and to flatter themselves as if they were in a good condition. They say they are not heathens, Turks, Papists, or Jews. Since they believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, they hope they are believers; but multitudes of people have such a faith that will fall short of eternal life. John 2:23–24: “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles that He did; but Jesus did not commit Himself unto them.” John 14:42–43: “Among the chief rulers many believed on Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him.”

The faith of some men is only a persuasion from their education. As heathens receive the religion of their forefathers by tradition, so these receive the Christian religion from hearsay. But justifying faith is wrought in men by the mighty power of God.


2 Thessalonians 1:11: “That He would work in you the work of faith with power.” Ephesians 1:19–20: “And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power; which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” By justifying faith, men answer the calls of God, relinquishing their own righteousness; they place their dependence only on the mediation of Christ (Hebrews 6:18). They flee for refuge, to lay hold on the hope that is set before them. Justifying faith is a living principle that sanctifies men. Acts 15:9: “Purifying their hearts by faith.” Many men have a common persuasion of the truth of the gospel who are utterly destitute of holiness. But true justifying faith is always accompanied with a holy life. Where there is faith, there is every other grace. Acts 26:18: “Sanctified by faith that is in me.”

If any give false signs of godliness, that is not good preaching. Signs of grace are of two sorts. Some are probable, and they must be spoken of only as probable; a score of them may make the thing more probable, but don’t make it certain. Probabilities make no demonstration. Probable signs are not conclusive. There are two errors in laying down signs. One is when those things that may flow from common principles—such as natural temper, natural conscience, fear of hell, or false imaginations—are given as sure signs of grace. But those things that may flow from common principles don’t truly distinguish between saints and hypocrites, things such as a good conversation savory discourse, zeal against sin, strong religious affections, sorrow for sin, quietness under afflictions, delight in ordinances, or suffering for religion. From such loose signs people are in danger of taking up a false persuasion of their godliness.

Such signs are full of delusion, and many men bless themselves who are in a miserable condition. Such probable signs may be where there are certain signs of the contrary. Men are apt to flatter themselves, and when they hear such signs they are strengthened in their carnal confidence. There is no infallible sign of grace but grace. Grace is known only by intuition; all the external effects of grace may flow from other causes. Another error is when men are too strict in their signs, as when they give that as a sign that there is a constant care to glorify God, a continual living upon Jesus Christ, and a constant watchfulness against the workings of corruption. There is no godly man but has at times ill frames of spirit. David and Jonah and Peter had such. When David committed adultery, he had not a due care to glorify God; nor Jonah when he was in a fret, nor the Psalmist when he was as a beast before God, nor Paul when he was led into captivity by the law of sin that was in his members. There is no godly man who can comfort himself with such signs as these. It is well if godly men see now and then the workings of a spirit of grace. Grace is many times under hatches and is invisible.

If any teach men to build their faith about the divine authority of the Scripture upon probable signs, that is not good preaching. There are many probable arguments for the authority of the sacred scriptures: the eminency of the penmen, and they have had a mighty efficacy to make a change in the hearts of men. It is said there were many miracles wrought for the confirmation of the doctrine of them; there has been an accomplishment of many of the predictions in them. These arguments are preponderating and outweigh all objections that are brought against the authority of them. These considerations may well strengthen the faith of the people of God, but these things cannot be the foundation of our faith. It is only the certain knowledge of their authority that can be the foundation of faith or any other grace. Men cannot believe them to be infallibly true upon probable arguments. Probable arguments must be looked on but as probable and not convincing. Men must have infallible arguments for loving God and believing His Word. The foundation of believing the divine authority of the Scripture is the manifestation of the divine glory in them. There is a self evidencing light in the works of God. The creation of the world shows God’s power and the Godhead (Romans 1:20). It is impossible that the world should be made by any but an infinite God. So there is a self-evidencing light in the word of God; there are such things revealed there as can be made known by none but God. 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Those eternal rewards that are spoken of in the Scripture , those perfect rules that are laid down there, those accounts that are given of the mercy of God and the justice of God, manifested in the way of our salvation, would never have entered into the heart of man to conceive if it had not been revealed by God. Men would never have thought of such a way of salvation if it had not been declared by God.

If men preach for such liberties as God does not allow, that is not good preaching. There are many licentious liberties that are taken by men in their apparel, in their drinking, in their dancing and other recreations, in their discourses upon the sabbath, and in their dealings with one another. And if ministers either vindicate or connive at them, they don’t preach as they ought to do. Some men are lax casuists, and they take too great a liberty themselves, as do their wives and children, and they are afraid to anger men by reproving some particular evils that men are addicted to who prevail in the land. The Pharisees were such casuists. Matthew 5:43: “Ye have heard it hath been said of old, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ ” Men should be solemnly warned against all evil carriages; and if this is omitted it gives great increase to sin in the land. God complains of ill against teachers for not reproving sinners. Isaiah 56:10: “They are ignorant and blind, dumb dogs that cannot bark.” If men were duly reproved for their extravagancies, that would be a means to reclaim them. Jeremiah 23:22: “If they had stood in My counsel and had caused My people to hear My words; then they should have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”

Faithful preaching would be beneficial two ways: one way is it would cut off occasions of anger and prevent those sins that bring down the wrath of God on the land; we should then enjoy much more public prosperity. The other is, that it would deliver men from those vicious practices that are a great hindrance to conversion. As long as men live in ways of intemperance, injustice, and unsuitable carriages on the sabbath, it will be a great impediment to a thorough work of conversion. There may be conversion though men are not broken off from sins of ignorance, but as long as they tolerate themselves in immoralities that will be a mighty bar in the way of their conversion.

If men preach for such ceremonies in worship as God does not allow, that is not good preaching. There are those who plead for human inventions in worship, who would if they could defend the ceremonies of the church of England, who would retain some Jewish ceremonies that are abolished, and practice other human appointments. Jeroboam was condemned not only for worshipping the calves of Dan and Bethel, but for appointing a time of worship in his own heart (1 Kings 12:32–33). So it is noted as an imperfection in the reformation of Asa, Jehoshaphat and Manasseh that the high places were not taken away. This is spoken of as a great sign of hypocrisy. Isaiah 29:13: “This people draw near Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips; but have removed their heart far from Me: and their fear towards Me is taught by the precept of men.” When men impose such ceremonies, they usurp a power that God has not given them. It is God’s prerogative to appoint in what ways we shall worship Him; and men therein go quite beyond the bounds of their authority. Men therein impute imperfection and defect to the ordinances of God, as if they could teach him how it is fit that He should be worshipped, and they presume on a blessing without a promise. Matthew 15:9: “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” This is a way to make men formal in their worship; the multiplying of ceremonies eats out the heart of religion and makes a people degenerate. Men who multiply ceremonies are apt to content themselves with the form without the life.

QUESTION. Is the late practice of some ministers in reading their sermons commendable?

ANSWER. There are some cases wherein it may be tolerable. Persons through age may loose the strength of their memories, and be under a necessity to make use of their notes—but ordinarily it is not to be allowed.

Consideration 1. It was not the manner of the prophets or apostles. Baruch read the roll that was written from the mouth of Jeremiah; but Jeremiah was not wont to read his prophesies. It was the manner of the Jews to read the scriptures in the synagogues; but after that it was their way to instruct and exhort men, not from any written copy. Acts 13:15: “After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’ ” This was according to the example of Christ (Luke 4:17, 20). It was ordered in England in the days of King Edward the Sixth that ministers should read printed homilies in public. And there was great necessity of it, for there was not one in ten who were able to make sermons. But it has been the manner of worthy men both here and in other places to deliver their sermons without their notes.

Consideration 2. The reading of sermons is a dull way of preaching. Sermons when read are not delivered with authority and in an affecting way. It is prophesied of Christ (Micah 5:4): “He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” When sermons are delivered without notes, the looks and gesture of the minister is a great means to command attention and stir up affection. Men are apt to be drowsy in hearing the Word, and the liveliness of the preacher is a means to stir up the attention of the hearers and beget suitable affection in them. Sermons that are read are not delivered with authority; they favor the sermons of the scribes, (Matthew 7:29). Experience shows that sermons read are not so profitable as others. It may be argued that it is harder to remember rhetorical sermons than mere rational discourses; but it may be answered that it is far more profitable to preach in the demonstrations of the Spirit than with the enticing words of man’s wisdom.

USE 2. See the reason why there is so little effect of preaching. There is much good preaching, and yet there is want of good preaching. There is very good preaching in old England, yet there is great want of good preaching, especially among the conformists. And there is very good preaching in New England, and yet there is some want of good preaching, especially in some places: and this is one reason that there is no more good done. There is a great fault in hearers: they are not studious of the mind of God; they are enemies to the gospel. And when Christ Himself preached among them many did not profit by it. Yet some preachers are much to blame, and though they preach profitably many times, yet they have great cause to be humbled for their defects.

For hence it is that there is so little conversion. There is great complaint in one country and in another that there are few converted. It is apparent by men’s unsanctified lives and their unsavory discourses. This is one reason, there is a great deal of preaching that does not much promote it, but is a hindrance to it. To tell men that they may be converted though they don’t know the time; to teach that there is no need of a work of humiliation to prepare them for Christ; and that faith is nothing else but a persuasion that the gospel is true, is the very way to make many carnal men hope that they are converted. It makes other preaching very ineffectual; it makes them think that it is needless to strive for conversion. Such preaching hardens men in their sins. The want of dealing plainly with men is the reason why there is seldom a noise among the dry bones.

In some towns there is no such thing to be observed for twenty years together. And men continue in a senseless condition, come to meetings and hear preaching, but are never the better for it. In some towns godly men are very thinly sown. Most of the people are in as bad a condition as if they had never heard the gospel. They go on in a still way, following their worldly designs, carry on somewhat of the form of godliness, but mind little but the world and the pleasures of this life. The scribes did not preach with authority. Matthew 7:29: “And they entered not into the kingdom of God themselves, and they that were entering in they hindered.” Such preaching is not mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Conversion work will fail very much where there is not sound preaching.

Hence many men who make a high profession lead unsanctified lives. They are not dealt plainly with; and so, though they profess high, they live very low. They are not dealt roundly with, and they believe they are in a good estate, and conscience suffers them to live after a corrupt manner. Some of them live a proud and voluptuous life, and they are not searched as they should be. If they were told their own, that would keep them from saying that they were rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing. If they were rebuked sharply, that might be a means to make them sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). It might make them not only to reform, but lay a better foundation for eternal life than ever yet was laid. Paul was very thorough in his work, and wherever he came he had the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, (Romans 15:29).me preachers are much to blame, and though they preach profitably many times, yet they have great cause to be humbled for their defects.

For hence it is that there is so little conversion. There is great complaint in one country and in another that there are few converted. It is apparent by men’s unsanctified lives and their unsavory discourses. This is one reason, there is a great deal of preaching that does not much promote it, but is a hindrance to it. To tell men that they may be converted though they don’t know the time; to teach that there is no need of a work of humiliation to prepare them for Christ; and that faith is nothing else but a persuasion that the gospel is true, is the very way to make many carnal men hope that they are converted. It makes other preaching very ineffectual; it makes them think that it is needless to strive for conversion. Such preaching hardens men in their sins. The want of dealing plainly with men is the reason why there is seldom a noise among the dry bones.

In some towns there is no such thing to be observed for twenty years together. And men continue in a senseless condition, come to meetings and hear preaching, but are never the better for it. In some towns godly men are very thinly sown. Most of the people are in as bad a condition as if they had never heard the gospel. They go on in a still way, following their worldly designs, carry on somewhat of the form of godliness, but mind little but the world and the pleasures of this life. The scribes did not preach with authority. Matthew 7:29: “And they entered not into the kingdom of God themselves, and they that were entering in they hindered.” Such preaching is not mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Conversion work will fail very much where there is not sound preaching.

Hence many men who make a high profession lead unsanctified lives. They are not dealt plainly with; and so, though they profess high, they live very low. They are not dealt roundly with, and they believe they are in a good estate, and conscience suffers them to live after a corrupt manner. Some of them live a proud and voluptuous life, and they are not searched as they should be. If they were told their own, that would keep them from saying that they were rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing. If they were rebuked sharply, that might be a means to make them sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). It might make them not only to reform, but lay a better foundation for eternal life than ever yet was laid. Paul was very thorough in his work, and wherever he came he had the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, (Romans 15:29).

 

 

The Decalogue

The Decaloguedecalogue_tablets_rembrandt_wiki_PD

Reformers see the Mosaic Law revealed in Scripture in three categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral. We see the moral law as eternal and universal, as shown in Romans 2: For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. The challenge for us is to rightly determine what within the Mosaic Law is moral and what is ceremonial or civil. We can see how diligent one must be in this regard by considering the book of Leviticus – the first half is a varied mixture of the two, often within the same verse.

While most reformers simply take the Decalogue as God’s moral law as a unit, there is a mixture of moral and ceremonial or civil law in the tablets. It appears to shine forth God’s moral law in addition to codifying Israel’s national identity. For example, nearly everyone agrees with the change in the day of the week wherein God’s people gather; not by command of Scripture, but by example therein based on the day in which Christ was raised from the dead. The command to meet on the 7th day must not be a moral command, having been changed without command; it must be ceremonial or civil. What else in the Decalogue is ceremonial or civil? Also, which version of the Decalogue is eternal and unchanging? The two versions recorded in Scripture have some variance (the substance of which is not easily dismissed as textual variants), further revealing the mixture of eternal moral commands and temporal ceremonial or civil commands. The problem for us is that God did not see fit to reveal to us or preserve for us the exact Ten Words written on the stone tablets. What Moses wrote in the Scripture has more words in some of the commandments than we think God specified on the tablets. Let us take a look at the Decalogue to see more truly what is moral and eternal. May the Lord God of Heaven and Earth be our wisdom in this and all matters, that He would be glorified and His people edified.

 

Exodus 20

Deuteronomy 5

[2] “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Introduction

[6] “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

[3] “You shall have no other gods before me.

I

[7] “‘You shall have no other gods before me.

[4] “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, [6] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

II

[8] “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [9] You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, [10] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

[7] “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

III

[11] “‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

[8] “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, [10] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. [11] For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

IV

[12] “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. [13] Six days you shall labor and do all your work, [14] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. [15] You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

[12] “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

V

[16] “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

[13] “You shall not murder.

VI

[17] “‘You shall not murder.

[14] “You shall not commit adultery.

VII

[18] “‘And you shall not commit adultery.

[15] “You shall not steal.

VIII

[19] “‘And you shall not steal.

[16] “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

IX

[20] “‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

[17] “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

X

[21] “‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

Overview: A basic guide to proper hermeneutics is to recognize the context and audience of a given passage of Scripture. We cringe when folks take Jeremiah 29:11 out of context and claim it as a personal promise, even though we see biblical principles therein which can be rightly applied. I wonder why Sabbatarians fail to do this with the Decalogue. The biblical context for each mention of the Decalogue or the ark of the covenant shows the Decalogue to be an integral part of the Mosaic Covenant and the testimony or witness of that covenant (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:27 – 29). This key aspect of the Decalogue being a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel is further developed in Ex 25 and 26, with the ark being the “ark of the testimony” (see Ex 25:22 for emphasis). This is reminiscent of Ex 16:33 – 34 when Moses was commanded to put manna in a jar as a testimony God’s promise of provisions, seen in Ex 16:4 – 5. These are the most (only?) explicit statements in the Bible regarding the reason and purpose for the tablets and the ark – as a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel made on Mt. Sinai. Paedobaptists claim infant baptism as the sign and the seal of the New Covenant, equal to the sign and seal of the Old Covenant, circumcision. They also are the originators of making the testimony of the Old Covenant equal to God’s eternal moral law that binds all men. But where do we see the warrant in the text for appropriating the testimony of the Sinai Covenant as binding on those in the New Covenant? Romans 7:1 tells us Christians are not bound by the law because we have died to it.

As an aside, Exodus 34 does not provide a third version of the law, as some insist. This passage provides a narrative summary without the detailed, specific listing of all of the commandments. The focus of chapters 34 and following are the worship of God, as He instructed and required of the Hebrew people how they were to observe the Sabbath and build the tabernacle.

Let’s now take a look at a few examples of how ceremonial/civil law is mixed with moral law within the Decalogue.

2nd commandment: Does the Lord eternally visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Him? Or is this curse actually a reflection of the Hebrew federal headship of fathers and the penalty for idolatry? We see in Deuteronomy 24 and Ezekiel 18 that sons will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. Therefore, mustn’t we see that part of this commandment is not eternal and moral, and therefore, temporal and ceremonial or civil?

4th commandment: Many people argue for the perpetual and universal application of the 4th commandment by pointing out the word, “Remember”, in the version from Exodus 20; claiming this shows that the the Hebrews knew of this law from ancient times, despite no record of observance by man prior to being taught about the Sabbath in Exodus 16. Indeed, God’s Holy Scriptures (Neh 9:13-14) tell us the Sabbath was given by God to the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai, not from the garden. How is it a creation ordinance if not given to man until Sinai? The word, “remember” can also mean to “keep in mind”; thus this word does not prove the case of those who hold to alleged long-time practice of keeping the Sabbath. YHWH reminds the Hebrews of His resting on the first 7th day as the reason for this commandment. The same commandment in Deuteronomy begins with, “Observe”, reinforcing the idea that “remember” (in Exodus) means “to keep in mind”; and goes on to provide reasons why the Hebrews should keep His Sabbath: remember how the Lord brought them out of Egypt; that their exodus from Egypt, reminding them of God’s protection, etc., is the reason they, the people of Israel, are to keep the Sabbath. These are not directly applicable to New Covenant Christians, unless one flattens out the distinctives between the old and new covenants, as paedobaptists do. Again, does not this show us that some of what is recorded in the Decalogue is temporal and ceremonial or civil? Ezekiel 20:12 tells us the Sabbath is a sign between God and the Hebrews – marking their exodus from Egypt. It is not listed as a sign for the church, any more than water baptism is a sign and seal of that New Covenant.

We read in Colossians 2 not to let anyone judge us on questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath because these are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. This pattern of days refers to all of the holy days of the Jews, from yearly feasts to the weekly Sabbath, and comes from repeated descriptions of the Mosaic ritual, found in 1 Chron 23:30-31; 2 Chron 2:4, 8:12-13, 31:3; Neh 10:33; Isaiah 1:13-14; Ezek 45:17; and Hosea 2:11. This is another indication that the Mosaic code, of which the Decalogue is part, does not apply to Christian as a law – but as a type or shadow of the Christ to come. Our exodus is not from Egypt; that country is a type for sin and wickedness. The moral law, though it is revealed within the Mosaic code, is eternal and no more uniquely part of that Sinai covenant than the New Covenant is – though the covenant of grace was progressively revealed over time, even within the era of the Mosaic Covenant.

There is no record in Scripture of any mention or observance of a “Christian Sabbath.” History shows a creeping incrementalism towards that idea, being codified by the Roman Catholic Thomas Aquinas, who opined that the Decalogue was God’s moral law, binding for all people. Early reformers, including John Calvin, did not hold to a Christian Sabbath, although Sunday worship was normal since Apostolic times and embraced by these men. The moral law was clearly seen, the ceremonial or civil brought into the visible church by man. The New Testament shows Christians gathering for worship, teaching, fellowship, and much more on the first day of the week (“the day after the Sabbath” in the Greek; does this not make the use of the term “Christian Sabbath” all the more strange?) – but this does not reflect the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath on the next day as some claim. This argument is akin to the paedobaptists’ argument for infant baptism based on the several “household baptisms” found in Scripture – claiming a practice so common place that nobody mentioned it. The sabbath rest promised in Hebrews 4:8 – 11 refers to our resting in Christ, ceasing from our works as God ceased from His work of creation on His Sabbath; not keeping a pale imitation of the Jewish Sabbath on the day after the Sabbath.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us the ark of the covenant, which contained the tablets of testimony, is to be forgotten (Jr 3:15-16): “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.” Might these testimonies of the Mosaic Covenant be types and shadows that point us to something greater, as so much of what God gave Israel in that covenant is properly recognized as?

5th commandment: Most of us do not teach our children that they will live longer and inherit land promised to them if they obey us. We ought to teach our children to obey us parents because such is honorable in the eyes of God, because He has commanded them to do so. Does not this commandment also reveal a mixture of eternal and moral law with temporal and ceremonial or civil law? We know Paul quotes this command with the promise in Ephesians 6, yet in the new covenant this “promised land” is eternal life – that children might receive blessings from God; encouraging parents to faithful instruction and exhorting children to faithful learning. Again, language in the Decalogue that is shown in the New Testament to be a type – the temporal used to foreshadow the spiritual.

Written in Stone: There are those who claim that since God wrote the Decalogue on stone tablets with His own finger, the Ten Words are eternal and morally binding. Yet the first set of tablets was destroyed and the second set of tablets (which may or may not have been written on by God, see Exodus 34:27 – 28) has been lost (intentionally – recall Jer 3:15-16) to antiquity. We do not have a record in Scripture of what was written on these tablets; we have what Moses told Israel as part of the Sinai Covenant. Are the stone tablets sacred? We see in Scripture that temporal objects made of stone are not eternal – the hearts of stone are replaced with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26); the message of Christ is written on the hearts of His people, not on tablets of stone (2 Corinthians 3:3); the fine Jewish temple of noble stones would be torn down (never to be useful again) and replaced by a temple of Christ’s body (John 2:19 – 20). Why would the stone tablets of testimony of the covenant God made with national Israel be morally binding on all men, or on members of the New Covenant? Or are they merely the testimony of the Mosaic Covenant with Israel, reflecting God’s moral law as part of that covenant?

In the mid 17th century, English Baptist John Grantham was defending the doctrine of the credibility of then-modern Bibles as the Word of God. He saw the wisdom of God in allowing the autographs to be lost, as men would revere them as relics and be led astray as in the Roman Catholic Church. With numerous credible copies, he argued, all men would be more peaceable since God had given to all equal access to His word. Does the reverence some men give to the Decalogue approach relic worship? All things considered, it does not appear that the stone tablets of testimony are sacred to God. We remind ourselves that what He has revealed to us in Scripture is sufficient for life and godliness, so pointing to stone tablets He has not given us is not a proper argument for interpreting the written Word He has given us.

New Testament: The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:17ff) is often described as exposition of the Decalogue, yet this address to Jews by the Lord Jesus does not cover all Ten Words. In fact, there is no clear New Testament teaching that encompasses the entire Decalogue as a unit or all Ten Words individually; no teaching that assigns them as binding on Christians, much less all men. Would not the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 been the perfect place for this topic to be addressed? Circumcision is often used as shorthand for the Law of Moses; this was the issue at this council. Sent to Gentile Christians were specific instructions on Christian love (not putting a stumbling block in the path of a brother), but nothing about law keeping, which is what Sabbath keeping is. Hebrews 9:1-5 calls the Decalogue, “tablets of the covenant”, the Mosaic Covenant.

Matthew 22:34 – 40 is said to be summation of the Decalogue. But that text says “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus tells us that the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible) and the Prophets (the balance of the Old Testament) hang on the two greatest commandments – not that they hang on the Decalogue. By claiming that these commandments (taken from Deut 6 and Lev 19 – not from Ex 20) only sum-up the Decalogue puts them in too low of a position. All of the then-known Scriptures depend upon them, in the same way that they point to Christ, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” The proper love of God and love of the brotherhood cannot be reduced to Ten Words on stone tablets. It must be written by God on tablets of flesh in the hearts of His people – it is a far, far greater thing than the type and the testimony given to Israel on Mt. Sinai. The Law of Moses serves its purpose – keeping sinners until faith in Christ comes (Gal 3:24 – 25) and it continues (Matt 5:17) for all born into the covenant of works that binds non-elect until Judgment Day. Short and to the point, 2 Cor 3 contrasts these two concepts better than I am able.

In Closing, it does make perfect sense for the Presbyterians to appropriate the covenants given specifically to the nation of Israel, because they see equivalence between the church and ancient Israel, both members of the same covenant with wheat and chaff therein. Baptist ought to see the nation of Israel mainly as a type, fulfilled in Christ in the New Covenant in His blood, wherein only the redeemed enjoy the far greater benefits of that covenant. The Decalogue reflects God’s moral law given to Adam and deployed it with terms that were types and shadows of Who was to come, marking His temporal people as distinctly His, as His Spirit marks His eternal people as His. The 1689 LB Confession, in chapter 1 paragraph 1, declares something not found in the Westminster document: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” May we rightly see this as a call for us Baptists to be faithful to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and not be misled by what men have built up as tradition.

If we are to walk humbly before men and God, we must not stand on what men have taught us, but seek wisdom from the Lord, as revealed in Scriptures. Sola Scriptura must be our foundation of knowing, serving and loving our God and His people; Sempre Reformanda to keep us from clinging wrongly to our beloved traditions.

An unworthy servant of the triumphant Lamb,

Stuart Brogden