Who Does the saving in the Salvation of Sinners?

Does Faith Save?For-By-Grace-You-have-been-Saved-through-faith

Stuart Brogden

The Foundation

Several authors have described salvation with a vivid word picture that warrants scrutiny. I’ve added a bit to it as I reflected on several things recently.

Let’s begin with a baseline on a couple of issues with scripture. These aren’t the only verses that address these issues, maybe not even the best ones – but they are His words on the topic.

  1. Galatians 3:24 tells us “…the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The purpose of the law is not save us, but to show us that we cannot save ourselves.
  2. In John 6:65 Christ tells us “that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” In our natural, sinful condition we are unable to seek after God – He pursues us.
  3. Acts 3:19 says “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” The call to salvation requires a change of heart, as no heart of flesh can inherit the Kingdom of Christ.
  4. Ephesians 2:8&9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Nothing we can do can cause God to love us more or love us less.
  5. In Acts 4:12, Peter – speaking of Christ – tells us “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” No cheap substitute can pay the price to gain you and me admittance to heaven.
  6. Finally, consider John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” A guarantee that we are sealed by God unto life eternal.

Keep these truths in mind as I paint this picture, as told to me by others.

 

Man’s Circumstance

You are in your 6th floor apartment, where you live a comfortable, carefree life. Everything is fine, your problems are minimal; you have no need of a savior – no need at all which you cannot meet.

Suddenly, you hear a fire alarm and, as you open your door, you discover your entire floor in engulfed in a raging fire! You cannot make it to the stairs; so back into your apartment, you rush. Not so safe and carefree any more. Frightened, anxious, unsure of how – or if – you will survive.

The fire shows us our need for a way out of our circumstances.

 

The “Crises of Belief”

In the midst of your fear, you hear a voice calling you to the window. As you peer through the opening, you see the firemen on the street below, urging you to jump!

You know that jumping from the window of a sixth floor window is normally suicide. Before the fire, your apartment was luxurious, comfortable, safe – you had no sane reason to jump. You would never have considered it! But now your apartment is a dangerous place where you will surely die if you don’t get out. Jumping may be worth the risk. Moreover, the firemen are telling you that you must jump if you want to save your life.

As you look out the window, you see that the firemen are holding a safety net for you to jump into. The firemen look professional, the net looks strong. But it’s a long way down from your window. Can the firemen and the net be trusted? If you jump and the net turns out be made of brown paper rather than canvas, you chose wrong and are dead. If you jump and the firemen are sadistic or untrustworthy and yank the net away or let go of it, you chose wrong and are dead. Only if the fireman who’s calling you to jump is trustworthy and his net strong can you be assured of survival.

Yet no matter how strong the net, how reliable the firemen – you’re dead unless you jump. No amount of knowledge about the net or the fire brigade will keep the fire from consuming you. The fire demands you to choose. The fireman calls you to jump.

You consider the situation. It’s not fair! You didn’t cause the fire, yet your life is wrecked. The fire has caused all the vermin that inhabited the apartment with you – unseen, unnoticed – to come out into the open seeking escape. You had no idea so many nasty bugs were in your walls! The fire didn’t cause the bugs to live with you; the fire simply forced them into the open. The fire revealed the filth of your environment, the squalor of your life and forces you to look elsewhere for life itself.

 

The “Irrational” Answer

You can’t escape on your own – you have to trust someone telling you to jump 80 feet into a net! Your own reasoning tells you to lay low until the danger passes; that the fire isn’t all that dangerous and will soon be put out. But hotter and louder it roars and you know it will consume you. If not for the fire, you might not have ever known you were living in filth.

So you jump – knowing that jumping won’t save you. Jumping is worthless unless those firemen and that net are there and do their job. Will they? You won’t know that unless you jump. So you jump.

And the firemen are all they claimed to be and the net was strong and sure. You were in danger of losing your life to the fire, but were saved by the firemen and their net after you heard them calling you and jumped from your “safe” apartment, falling securely into their grip.

 

No Turning Back

One more thing about jumping out of the window – once you jump, you can’t go back. Having trusted the firemen and the net enough to jump out of the window from 80 feet up, there’s no way for you to un-jump and get back into the fire even if you wanted to.

 

See Yourself?

So our lives are here in the flesh. Often comfortable to the extent that we fail to recognize the dangers of evil. Living with all sorts of hidden evil, trying to manage our sin in the same way that we manage ants and roaches – with a superficial treatment to eliminate the evidence.

Then comes the law, exposing what was in darkness and driving us to the knowledge that we are dead and in desperate need of a savior. Faithful to His promises, almighty God calls you to accept what makes no sense – another died that you might live. All you need do is answer His call and fall – jump out the window – into His safety net of saving grace, held tightly by Christ Jesus – the One who will never let go.

 

What Saves You?

As with the fire, the law doesn’t save you – it convicts you that are sinful and need Christ. As with your jump, your faith isn’t what saves you – it’s the One in whom you place that faith that saves. Christ saves to the utmost, beyond what man can imagine, beyond what man or Satan can affect or undo.

 

The Call to Action

A fire is sweeping across our country and the world. Filth is being exposed. People are looking for answers, seeking security. Tell them about Jesus! He saves! Tell your neighbors – Jesus saves! No other name in heaven – there’s no name on earth or in hell that saves – only Jesus. And Jesus saves completely, beyond all your sin, beyond all the enemy’s accusations, beyond your wildest dreams. You can trust Him – we must trust Him completely or be consumed in the fire of His judgment.

This is Discipleship

 

This is Discipleship discipleship

Many techniques, programs and systems in the modern church are mistaken as discipleship. While those techniques may contain elements of discipleship, they are not the authentic thing. (See Part 1: “This is not Discipleship.”) This obviously begs the question: what is discipleship and what did Jesus mean when He gave us the Great Commission?

 

In spite of the King James’ use of the word “teach” for mathēteúō, all other translations, commentaries, and dictionaries are agreed that the word means more than simply teaching intellectual facts:

mathēteúō.Intransitively this word means “to be or become a pupil.” One reading of Mt. 27:57 has it with reference to Joseph of Arimathea; he is said to be a disciple of Jesus. In a distinctive transitive use (Mt. 13:52; 28:19; Acts 14:21) the NT also uses the term for “to make disciples.” Behind this sense possibly stands the NT belief that a call is the basis of discipleship of Jesus[1]

μαθητεύωb: to cause someone to become a disciple or follower of—‘to make disciples, to cause people to become followers.’ πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη go then, to all peoples and make them (my) disciples’ Mt 28:19.[2]

 

Learners and Followers

Implicit in the word mathēteúō are the concepts of learners and followers.

The word “disciple” means above all “learner” or “pupil.” The emphasis in the commission thus falls not on the initial proclamation of the gospel but more on the arduous task of nurturing into the experience of discipleship, an emphasis that is strengthened and explained by the instruction “teaching them to keep all that I have commanded” in v 20a.[3]

 

These three words—learners, pupils and teaching—sound synonymous, but they are not. Pupils do not necessarily learn, and teaching someone does not mean that that person has actually learned anything. Paul speaks of those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7). Such are neither disciples, learners, nor followers.

Besides the Twelve, Jesus also had other disciples during His earthly ministry (Matt 27:57; John 6:66; 7:3; Acts 1:15). Before Jesus, John had disciples. Disciples were simply people who followed a teacher and learned from the teacher. One can speak of the disciples of other rabbis or even of Greek philosophers. In all of these cases the purpose was for the disciple to learn both theory (theology) and practice (character and behavior) from the teacher. Disciples would later gather other disciples around them and so perpetuate the teaching. It is really quite simple and yet, as we have shown, very few practice true discipleship today. So let’s look at what true discipleship really should be.

 

A Relationship

The first thing that strikes me about Jesus’ disciples is that they had a personal relationship with their Master. Based on this personal relationship, the Master knew each of His disciples personally. As a result, He deals with and teaches each of the disciples based on their unique needs, personality and characteristics. Jesus related to Peter, John and Thomas in very different ways reflecting their unique relationship to Him. Although the Bible does not use the term disciple(s) after the book of Acts, it is clear that Paul had the same kind of relationship with Timothy, Silas, Titus and a number of others. Once again, the relationship was very personal. Both Paul and Jesus lived with their followers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The idea of a disciple who does not have a relationship with the teacher, and who is a stranger to the teacher, is a contradiction in terms.

 

The same therefore holds true today. We cannot make disciples of those with whom we are not in a personal relationship. This automatically limits the number of people one teacher/leader can shepherd. It also excludes the idea of professional councilors or absentee pastors, or disciples that shy away from personal relationships, as well as those who attend church for an hour a week. How can a pastor of a church of a thousand know, and have a relationship with, each of the members? Several years ago I went to see the pastor of a neighboring church about folk who had left our church for his. He did not even know about their existence until he looked them up on his computer, only to discover they had been attending his church for three months!

The reason for this personal relationship is that part of discipling is teaching each one according to their individual needs, background and potential. A one-size-fits-all discipling package simply does not exist, and therefore discredits all off-the-rack discipleship manuals and programs as bogus.

 

Many multiplication systems have been based on discipleship. The theory is that each believer should have 12 disciples, and each disciple should have 12, etc. This is purely a multi-level marketing/pyramid scheme. Discipleship can never be forced and controlled by statistics because it is relational. And because discipleship is a relational and dynamic process, it can never be forced to comply with a statistical model. At times Paul had only one “disciple” travelling with him and at other times there were several. Neither Jesus nor Paul taught a numerical model, and it is evident that none of the Apostles attempted to recreate Jesus’ “model” of twelve disciples.

 

Submission to the Teacher

A vital aspect of the relationship between teacher and disciple is the willingness of the disciple to submit to the teacher. This is one of the main reasons very little discipling happens in the Free World these days. Modern Christians are just not willing to submit to leaders. Modern believers consider themselves above correction and on a par with everyone else. Generally, “submission” only occurs as long as things go well and the relationship is affirming. The moment admonition, rebuke or discipline is needed the believer tends to leave the relationship, and the church, and withdraws from the relationship.

 

But without this submission there is no basis for a learner/teacher, follower/leader relationship. The whole purpose of discipleship is for the teacher to train the disciple. This includes not just the transmission of ideas and knowledge but actually having a hand in the shaping of the character and behavior of the learner. Paul’s epistles are replete with instructions to rebuke, warn, correct, command, charge and admonish (2Tim 4:2; 1Thes 2:11; Col 1:28; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:15; etc.).

 

It goes without saying that the teacher may never overstep the bounds between legitimate and godly discipleship and heavy shepherding or abuse.

 

The first ingredient in the discipleship process then are disciples who want to learn and who want to follow.

 

Teachers With Dirty Hands

Just as you need those who are willing to learn, you need those who are willing to teach. But teaching is not just from the relative safety of the pulpit. True teachers are willing to get their hands soiled with the dirty diapers of babes in Christ. While there are many who want to preach, there are not many who want the hassle of discipling people.

 

Discipling is hard work. It means getting involved with people at a personal level, listening to their ideas, risking their anger when correcting them, repeating the same things over and over until the penny eventually drops. (Just think of how many times Jesus said the same things to His disciples and they still did not understand.) Discipling means feeling the pain of failure when those to whom you have become close end up falling, sometimes in the most terrible waysthink of Peter denying the Lord! Discipling means flying blind without the help of a carefully prepared script or manual. Preaching is relatively easy since the preacher is on his own turf, controls the situation and is not interrupted. Discipling provides none of those safeguards. The teacher has to think on his feet and respond to the questions, arguments and reactions of the disciple over whom he has no direct control. There is just no way of knowing ahead of time what the disciple is going to come up with, say or do, next. It is this lack of a controlled environment that scares many leaders and prevents them from descending from the pulpit and engaging on a personal level with learners. Discipling does not have regular hours because people live life 24 hours a day. The pastor who wants to work to a carefully prepared schedule does not qualify, nor will he survive in the rough and tumble unpredictable world of real discipling.

 

And it is this unwillingness to accept the discomfort and pain of being a spiritual parent to spiritual (often wayward) children that has resulted in so few true teachers being available to disciple true believers. Thus without learners who are willing to learn, and without teachers who are willing to teach, no discipleship can take place.

 

The Cross

In addition to willing and capable teachers, and disciples that are eager to learn, there is a third vital ingredient without which no discipleship can take place and that is the cross.

 

Jesus Himself made this an entry requirement for disciples: “Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27). In all three the Synoptics Jesus said: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

 

This is not an optional extra for some disciples, it is essential for all disciples. Without the willingness of the follower to deny his own ideas, personality, desires, yea even his very self, he just cannot be a disciple. This is not because the Lord set an arbitrary standard, but because the essence of discipleship means the laying aside of self and being transformed into the likeness and image of Christ. This is not behavior modelling (see part 1), it is death (to self) and resurrection (in His image) on a daily basis.

 

No wonder Jesus had very few disciples. We expect it to be different for us, but it cannot be. In most cases where numbers of people are flocking to follow leaders the vital ingredient of the cross is missing. Hence the many things that are used as cheap substitutes for the cross.

 

Teaching How and What

Most teaching in modern churches is about the “what” of the faith, but discipleship is as much about the “how” as the “what.” This is just where the problem often lies. Seminaries teach the “what” and those who come out of those seminaries only understand the “what.” The “how” is learned at the feet of a true teacher and in the school of hard knocks. Obviously we do need to understand the “what” but without the “how” the “what” is of no value.

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives explicit instructions as to what needs to be taught in the process of making disciples: “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20).

 

Note that the command is to teach “to observe….” This is in contrast with “teaching to know….” The word “observe” literally means to do. The true disciple does what he was taught, thus head knowledge has to be translated into lifestyle and theory has to become practice. Very few Christians seem to know how to behave as Christians because they were never taught, neither in word nor by example. But that is what discipleship is really about. It is about becoming like Jesus (Romans 8:29) and becoming like Him is not about knowledge but it is about essencewho we are as evidenced through our lifestyle, values and actions.

 

Paul says: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;” (1 Thessalonians 2:10) and to Timothy: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God…”(1Tim 3:15). Behavior and conduct are simply not taught any longer, yet that is the very essence of Christianity. The world is constantly telling believers how they ought to act, but the church does not. It is no wonder then, that believers act more like the world than like Christ.

 

The art of casting an artificial fly on the end of a fly rod is not rocket science, yet one can read a dozen books about it without ever being able to master the simple skill. It is only when an experienced teacher demonstrates how to do it, and then allows you to practice while correcting your mistakes, that you will ever learn how to present an artificial fly to a fish. Christianity is the same. It was never intended to be learned only from reading, preaching or talking. Jesus showed His disciples how to live and to die, and then expected them to put into practice what He had taught through His example and by His words.

 

As a result, Luke writes his Gospel concerning “…all that Jesus began both to do and teach.”(Acts 1:1)

 

Word Based

Unless the personal involvement, setting an example, or active teaching is based on the Scriptures, it is simply some humanistic effort, management technique or philosophy. Paul says: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The purpose of the doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction is to equip people for “every good work.” It is not merely for the sake of knowledge and, at the same time, is not good works based on some human philosophy. True discipleship is based on Scriptural principles that result in Godly living.

 

Discipleship at Home

Discipleship begins in the home. Parents are to disciple their children, teaching them by word and deed to be followers of Jesus Christ. But instead they choose to hire substitutes in the form of school teachers, Sunday school teachers, psychologists and an array of other hirelings. Meanwhile the parents are absent as they pursue their own selfish desires. These same absentee parents then turn around and blame everyone else when (not if) the child ends being more like the devil than Jesus.

 

Yet these same failed parents often want to be leaders in the church. Paul is emphatic that an elder must have proven his discipling skills at home (1Timothy 3:5). It is in the home that parents learn and develop discipling skills which are later used in the church. And it is in the home that children learn to be good followers and learners. It is not coincidental that the New Testament uses babes, children, and the process of growing to maturity as an analogy of the life of a Christian. There are therefore very real parallels between raising children and discipling believers. Both require the same skills, prayer, patience, observing, teaching, wisdom, correcting, encouraging, rebuking etc. Failure at home almost guarantees failure in the church.

 

Jesus and the Twelve

After three years with Jesus, His disciples had heard His teaching on every important subject. The fact that they did not understand much is irrelevant because, in time, the Holy Spirit would remind them of what they had learned (John 14:26). Not only had they heard His words but they had seen His life. They saw His relationship with His Father, how He reacted, how He handled different situations and people, how He dealt with weariness, frustration, temptation, anger and every other human experience.

 

When Jesus called them, they were a motley bunch of losers, but at the end of that time He was able to send them out as His Apostles (sent ones) to lay the foundation of the church. That was successful discipling. They knew what to do, how to act and how to react. Yes, they were still fallible men, but they had been discipled by Jesus and even their enemies could not deny that: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13).

 

Paul and Timothy

Paul had several disciples but the best of those was undoubtedly Timothy to whom Paul wrote, “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions….” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Notice again the juxtaposition of “doctrine” and “manner of life.” Paul taught Timothy not only doctrine, but how to live. He taught him to live a life with a godly purpose, how to have faith in trials, how to endure pain, suffering and persecution, and how to fulfill his ministry.

 

Near the very end of Paul’s life he wrote to Timothy “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2). Thus the pattern is perpetuated from one generation to the next.

 

We are not Jesus

But there is a vital difference between Jesus and usJesus made disciples of Himself but we do not make disciples of ourselves. Cult and other false leaders make people followers of themselves but true discipleship makes people followers of Jesus. Thirty times the book of Acts refers to “the disciples.” But never does it speak of disciples of Peter, John or Paul. “Disciples” was always understood to mean disciples of Jesus. A true teacher will always point men to Jesus and call men to follow Himnever to follow the teacher, his church, or some other human organization.

We are not called to clone or make copies of ourselves. We are to help people become like Jesus and to follow Him, and to ultimately learn from Him. The more those we teach resemble Him, the more successful they will be at making disciples.

 

Conclusion

Discipleship is not a technique or system. It is a lifestyle and is the essence of our faith. In its absence believers and churches become more worldly and less Christ-like. In spite of the proliferation of theological books and knowledge, we have abandoned our roots and failed to obey the command to make disciples. For this reason, more than any other, the church in the West has simply become an organization and has lost its life and light.

“… when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

 

 

Anton Bosch

9070 Sunland Blvd

Sun Valley, CA, 91352

www.antonbosch.org

www.sunvalleycommunity.net

 

 


[1]Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

[2]Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains. New York: United Bible Societies.

[3]Hagner, Donald A. Word Biblical Commentary. Matthew 14-28. Thomas Nelson.1995. p887.

 

 

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,

Professing Christians, Awake!

Professing Christians, Awake! 

ephesians

by ASAHEL NETTLETON

And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep (Romans 13:11).

The text is addressed to Christians. The language is borrowed from natural sleep in which a person is in a great measure insensible to the objects, and to what is passing around him, but life remains in the body. And thus it is when there is much insensibility to divine things among Christians:they sleep; but life remains in the soul. Language similar is often addressed to sinners; but then the image is borrowed from the dead who sleep in the dust. Hence the exhortation: Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

The wise and the foolish virgins both went forth to meet the bridegroom,and while he tarried they all slumbered and slept. But between the two mark the difference. The one has oil in his vessel, but the other has none. One has life, but the other is dead. Our text then is addressed to the Christian who was dead, but is alive again. To the Christian who is asleep and again bears the image of death. And now it is high time to awake out of sleep.

It is proposed to inquire:
I. When the Christian may be said to sleep.
II. Offer motives which ought to induce him to awake
I. When does the Christian sleep?

1. In general the desires his own case, and begins to consult that, when it comes in competition with duty. Religion is the great business of his life. It imposes on him many duties which are painful and crossing to corrupt nature. Thus the fraternal admonition: Exhort one another daily, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him is the command of God. To neglect this and similar duties for fear of incurring reproach, is to indulge in spiritual sloth. You may sit down and rest quietly if you will not disturb your fellow sinners around you with a sight of their sin and danger. This requires no effort. And here thousands resign themselves to rest. Individuals or a church may close their eyes on the conduct of an offender and be silent, and this awful indifference to his soul assumes the name of charity, without lifting a finger to restoresuch an one in the spirit of meekness. The slothful servant will ever consult his own ease by sinful contrivance to shun duty.

2. As one in sleep is insensible of the objects and to what is passing around him; so in a measure is it sometimes with the Christian. Though not wholly lost to a sense of divine things, yet they make but a feeble or slight impression on his soul. In this frame they go to the house of God, and no wonder they soon forget what they have never felt. Once they saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, but now they walk in darkness.Once they had a feeling sense of the worth of souls and could weep over perishing sinners around them. I beheld the transgressor and was grieved, but now they can endure the sight almost without emotion.

This unhappy state of mind is further evident from their conservation. Once they seemed to be dead to this world, their conversation was in heaven. But now their attention is all engrossed with the world; they converse with ease and cheerfulness about the trifles of time, but on the great things of eternity have little or nothing to say. Or, peradventure they speak on these high and heavenly themes,it is in a dull and lifeless manner. They seem to glance over the mind like trifles. They appear not to take an immediate interest in the subject. They feel not the impressive weight of eternal realities. When this is the case they talk like a person in sleep. He knows not what he says.

3. Another mark of this unhappy state of mind is a reluctance to secret prayer, which very properly, has been styled the breath of the Christian. Has any one continued long without the spirity of prayer, it is a sign that he is asleep. And if not shortly awaked from this breathless state, we shall be compelled to believe that he is dead. How far these, and similar remarks apply to professing Christians present you will understand me, is best known to themselves. One thing is certain. Sure I am it is not my business to cry peace in the ears of any who are sleep.

But I proceed.

II. To offer motives which ought to induce them to awake. And 1st: Consider “the time”. Gospel light is risen upon us. And those who do not open their eyes on the glory of this light must remain in eternal darkness and despair. For if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The light of heaven is shining upon us. And can you sleep? Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. It is no time to sleep. It is the day that we shall ever witness. The day of salvation. The business of this day will not suffer you to sleep. It calls on you loudly to awake. Think, by brethren, have you nothing to do for yourselves? Have you no sins to repent of, no evil propensities to mortify? Are your evidences of grace bright enough? Do you love God with all your hearts, and are you perfectly conformed to his holy law? In short, are you willing to die as you are? If you have any thing to do for yourselves, it is high time to awake out of sleep. Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

Have you nothing to do for your brethren? Is no brother or sister wandering from the path of duty?Go and in a feeling, friendly manner tell him his fault between him and thee alone. Why hesitate? Delay not. Duty calls. God commands, and love to his soul demands that you go without delay. If he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother.

Parents! Where are your children? Are they all brought securely within the ark of safety?Doubtless you pray with them and for them. But this is not all your duty. Have you ever taught them that they are sinners?That they must be born again, and are you urging them to remember their Creator now in the days of their youth? Were you this day called to part with one of your children, could you rest satisfied that you had done your duty? Have you not one word more of instruction, of counsel or warning for your children before you meet them at the bar of God? If so, then it is high time that parents awake to a sense of their duty, that you set your houses in order and prepare for death.

Again, It is high time to awake because others are up and active about us. The men of this world shame us by their conduct. They rise up early, and sit up late. They plan and execute. Labor, fatigue, and hardship are nothing to them if they can but collect a little of this world together before they leave it They are laying up treasures on earth, which the moth and rust will soon corrupt. And shall you not be as earnest to lay up for yourselves a more enduring substance, a treasure in the heavens? They are laboring for that meat which perisheth, but you are called to labor for that which endureth unto everlasting life. Do you not feel reproved by their conduct, to think that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light?

Again, My brethren, you are on the field of battle. And it is high time to awake, for the enemy is up and active about us. The prince of darkness with all the several ranks of evil angels is your enemy. The malice of their legions is directed against the Redeemer’s kingdom in this world. War is declared with all saints. And the legions of hell have gone up upon the breadth of the earth. He is already in possession of the hearts of all wicked men. They are his servants. The devil is styled the prince of this world. The ruler of the darkness of this world. This is the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. While you sleep these are all sowing tares and destroying about us. Says the captain of your salvation, He that is not with me is against me, he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

Observe; it is not a feeble foe you have to contend with. You are called to wrestle, not merely with flesh and blood, but before the battle is won you will have to grapple and contend with angelic powers with principalities and powers. Observe, your enemy is crafty. Snares and temptations are laid thick around you, and unless you are wakeful you will certainly be ignorant of his devices. That moment when you let down your watch the enemy began to come in upon you like a flood. While you slept the Philistines be upon you. And I would come to blow the trumpet and sound the alarm. Awake thou that sleepest. Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Think not to find a bed of sloth in the field of battle. Awake and put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye may be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. Awake, then; for your enemies are many, powerful, and crafty.

Another reason why you should awake is that sinners are perishing around you. While you sleep your example will contribute much to their destruction. Yes, while you sleep the world may now be stumbling over you down to destruction. Little does that ungodly professor of religion think what a train of immortal souls may be following him down to hell. It is a fact not to be concealed that one ungodly professor of religion may do more to prevent the conversion of sinners than many infidels. I know it is most unreasonable that mankind should suffer themselves to be thus forever ruined. It can surely be no consolation to the sinner in hell that he was led there by a hypocrite.

Brethren, is heaven, is hell a fable? If so then let us treat them as such. Or are they eternal realities? Whence then, this silence, this seeming indifference to the souls of men that your fellow sinners should obtain the one and escape the other. Do you verily believe that within a few days you shall be in heaven, singing the song of redeeming loveor in hell with devils and damned spirits forever and ever. Have you ever described your own danger, and fled for refuge from the wrath to come, and do you feel no concern for the souls of men? Or are there no sinners in this place? Have they all become righteous? Do all profess to know the Lord from the Least to the greatest? Is there no prayerless family in this place, on whom God hath declared he will pour out his fury? No prayerless youth to whom God hath said, I will cast thee off forever?

My brethren, if there be one impenitent sinner among us who is in danger of going into that place of eternal torment, can you sleep? One sinner in this house! One inhabitant of hell! Solemn thought! One soul present that will be lost forever. Who can it be? Could you bear to hear the name? Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burning? Have you not reason to believe that many are now living without hope and without God in the word? Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Wherever God designs to pour out his Spirit and to call up the attention of sinners to divine things, he will be inquired of by his children to do it for them. This he has taught us in his Word and often in the language of his providence. It is high time for you to awake out of sleep; for others are awake,sinners at a distance are alarmed,and hundreds are now flocking to Christ. And can you rest? Are there not more souls here to be saved or lost forever? Are they not as precious as ever? And is he not a prayer-hearing God? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Is his mercy clean gone forever? And will he be favorable no more? No, my brethren, the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear. Come then, ye that make mention of the Lord keep not silence, if ye speak not to warn the wicked; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand.

Brethren, how is your zeal for the salvation of souls compared with that of the Son of God? He beheld the city and wept over it. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.

“Did Christ o’er sinners weep?
And shall our tears be dry?”

How is your zeal compared with that of Paul? I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart for my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh. Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. There is a dreadful storm of divine wrath coming upon the world of the ungodly. It is high time to awake out of sleep, for their damnation slumbereth not.

Again, Consider how long you have slept and you will see that it is high time to awake. How many months. And of some may we ask, How many years have you slept in God’s vineyard? And still you continue on sleeping away the day of salvation. Let me tell you that your sleep is awfully dangerous. If not shortly awaked God in anger will say: Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see.

Further, Consider what time of day it is with you and you will see it is high time to awake. How long has your sun been up? Your best season is already gone. With some, I perceive, the sun has already passed its meridian. Yes, it is now hastening its rapid descent. Aged fathers, Your sun is now casting its last beams upon the mountains. Yet a little while is the light with you. Work while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work. If then you have any work to doany word to leave for your brethren, or your children, they are now waiting to hear. Delay not, for while I am speaking night is coming on. What soever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.

The believer ought to awake and take a view of the glorious prospect that lies just before him. Come then ye mourning pilgrim, you who have long traversed the wilderness asking the way to Zion. You who have long labored and prayed and groaned to be delivered from the bondage of sin, your struggles for eternal life shall have an end. Look up, and lift up your head, for behold, your redemption draweth nigh. It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is your salvation nearer than when you believed. Nearer than it was last year. Nearer than it was the last Sabbath, nearer than ever, on all the wings of time it flies. This night you may wake up amid the song of angels, and a crown of glory, of eternal life, may be placed on your head.

“Short is the passage, short the space
Between my home and me;
There, there behold the radiant place
How near the mansions be!”

Awake then and behold the glorious dawn of a bright new day. Where the sun shall no more go down: neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

Finally, It is high time to awake, for all who do not awake in time, will suddenly awake in hell. There is great danger of being deceived and thus only dreaming of heaven. The Christian can never sleep sound, but is always disturbed. I sleep, syas the church, but my heart waketh. He cannot sleep long. He will soon be affrighted and wake up awfully alarmed. But others sleep sound. They are at ease in Zion. They neither weep for their sins, nor rejoice in hope of the glory of God. There hope of heaven is a pleasant dream which cannot be broken. And here they sink down into a deep sleep.

The Christian church is a net which gathers of every kind. Ten virgins professed to be followers of Christ. Of this number, five only were real Christians. Many are called, but few are chosen. Many will go to the bar of God with hopes no better than the spider’s web. Many who now commune together on earth will never meet in heaven. Many who now appear to us to be real Christians, will, no doubt to our surprise, be found on the left hand of Christ.

The sinner having professed religion with a false hope can hardly be driven to give it up. The hope of the hypocrite is like the giving up of the ghost. What meanest thou, O sleeper! If ye will not now awake, by the worth of your soul, I entreat you to fling away your hope of heaven. For there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

Better fling away your hope, and conclude you are lost than to sleep any longer, for then will you awake in earnest to inquire,
What must I do to be saved? Watch therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. At midnight the cry will be made. Behold, the bridegroom cometh. Then will there be great confusion. For thousands will be deceived. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed.

These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou has received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

And now it is time to awake out of sleep, because many will be forced to awake when suddenly they will lift up their eyes in hell being torment.

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).

 

 

Solid Food for God’s Children

Bible Revival

A review by Stuart Brogden41UQyMEDWAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

There are so many bad Christian books on the market these days that there is a good reason to shout PRAISE THE LORD! when one comes across a good Christian book. Such is the case with Kenneth Berding’s very good book, Bible Revival. This is a small book, in format and length – coming in at just over 100 pages. The premise of Berding’s jewel of a book is that we have a plethora of Bibles, with multiple good translations and formats in paper and digital so that we can have God’s Word with us virtually everywhere, all the time. And yet so many professing Christians are ignorant of and apathetic towards the Scriptures. Poor substitutes (there can be no other kind of substitute for the very Word of God) are things easily assimilated, such as mystical experience or religious video; not much thought or personal discipline required.

This too-short book is divided up into 6 chapters:

 

  1. A Revival of Learning the Word
  2. A Revival of Valuing the Word
  3. A Revival of Understanding the Word
  4. A Revival of Applying the Word
  5. A Revival of Obeying the Word
  6. A Revival of Speaking the Word

 

Each of these chapters does a very good job of stepping on the toes of the reader – for whom of us has any one of these critical traits properly developed and practiced? Each chapter has a section for digging deeper; this is where we are led to drink deeply of the Word.

 

In the opening chapter, Berding tells us what we know but would rather not acknowledge – we don’t learn the Word of God because we have other stuff we would rather learn. In days gone by, before the Internet and cheap books, people of God knew the Bible. Schools used it to teach children how to read and churches used it as teaching material as well as preaching material – long before programs replaced both in too many churches. Our author tells us of a time when Israel was under God’s judgment and His written word was withheld from them (Amos 8:11-12). He says, “In Amos they want it, but are not permitted it. In our case, although we have unlimited access, we often don’t want it. The irony is intense.” Massive understatement! He rebukes those who say since we don’t practice all we currently understand of the Bible that we should not read and study the Scriptures until we are fully in line. This pathetic perspective fails from the start because it assumes a perfection that we will be able to attain during this age. Our minds and our bodies are unable to practice all we know and the insight into the character of both God and ourselves contained in the Bible are beyond our finding out completely. And we commanded in Scripture to never stop growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18 is on-going process, not a one-time academic accomplishment). When we read and regard the Bible in the same way we do a newspaper (are those still printed?) or novel, we reveal something ugly of our priorities. We reveal that God’s Word is no more valuable than a cheap novel and His wisdom is no more useful than Doctor Phil’s – and that speaks louder than Oprah. Contrary to this common, unspoken perspective, the Bible is the revelation from Creator God about His redemptive plan for sinners – what is more important?

 

In the 4th chapter, about applying the Word of God, our author gives us a short list of questions to guide us in applying Scripture rightly.

 

  1. What does this passage illustrate about the character of God? (Rom 15:4-6)
  2. How does this passage point out sin? (Rom 3:20; 7:7)
  3. How does this passage lead to Christ? (Gal 3:24)
  4. Are there any other biblical themes this passage illustrates? (Matt 23:23)

 

In the “digging deeper” of this chapter, Berding advises, “The Bible itself holds out hope that there will be a transformation and renewal of our minds as we saturate ourselves in the things of God (Rom 8:5-8; 12:2). It is true that our interests affect how we approach the Bible, but we need to allow the Scripture itself to renovate our concerns so that our special interests become more and more like the interests found in the Bible.” (Italics mine) This insightful idea warrants our close attention – our “special interests” ought to reflect the Word of God, not the system of the world. This is a prime battleground for every Christian, for as the Spirit of God Who dwells within each of us never sleeps nor rests, neither does the evil trinity of our flesh, Satan, and the system of this world. We do not battle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. The Word of God, with illumination by its Author is our only defense. While men will mislead us and lie to us, the Spirit of the Living God will never guide us contrary to God’s will or His special revelation given to us in the Scriptures. We are limited and warped by sin – the Bible is not nor is its Author!

 

In discussing our obedience to the Bible, we read, “If no evidence exists in your life that your faith is showing itself in your actions – that unforgiveness is increasingly being displaced by forgiveness, that anger is being out by love, that passivity toward the Scriptures is being replaced by a love and commitment to the Scripture – then you probably don’t know Him.” And He likely “never knew you.” Ouch! He goes on – “Passivity toward the Word of God is a serious spiritual matter.” Amen! Let us comfort no professing Christian who displays a greater love for the world than for the Word of God, even if that person is loved one, even if it that person is self.

 

Lastly, we are encouraged to teach the Bible. “Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you know the Bible very well. … Besides, there is no quicker way to learn the Bible than to teach it to someone else!” (This is in the context of parents teaching their children.) In talking about our conversation in the world, Berding encourages us to be purposeful in talking to other about Jesus rather than trusting our behavior to draw them into asking us. Further, our public walk must line up (with the inevitable failures to be acknowledged humbly and contritely) with the Gospel we are proclaiming. He debunks the apocryphal notion attributed to Francis of Assisi, that one should witness at times, using words when required. This is an unbiblical perspective because the Gospel is a verbal proclamation of what Jesus has done to redeem sinners – it cannot be communicated by our actions. But our actions (and speech) must not contradict the godly message we should be telling to people who are perishing.

 

This book started its life as sermon series on the need to have a Bible revival. While only the Lord can bring revival, our dear brother Kenneth Berding has done us good by bringing this volume into our hands. It can be grasped by people of all ages and reading abilities. It is solid food for God’s people. And we should thank Him.

The Sabbath Complete

THE SABBATH COMPLETESabbath

a review by Stuart Brogden

The latter half of the 20th century has brought a growing interest in Reformed Theology, in striking contrast to the growing apostasy that has gripped many evangelical denominations. Many of my fellow Baptists aggressively and happily embraced the doctrines of grace and the great theological truths about God’s sovereignty and man’s true nature. I am a grateful Baptist who was introduced to this theological construct in the ‘90s and have come to see as foundational to the Christian faith the doctrines of the Reformation, especially the reliance on Scripture Alone for all things having to do with life and godliness and For the Glory of God Alone to keep us focused rightly in all we think, say, and do. And the mostly forgotten doctrine of our forefathers – Semper Reformanda – Always Reforming, because none of has it all together nor will we get it all together while we inhabit these tents of flesh. This brings me to this remarkable book – The Sabbath Complete, by Terrence D. O’Hare. This book is the result of our author “attending an Orthodox Presbyterian Church where various Sabbath-keeping applications were stressed.” (page xi) Prompted by his pastor, who urged his congregation to examine personal motives in religious practice, he decided to study the concept of the “Christian Sabbath”, which is widely popular in churches which hold to 17th century confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 London Baptist Confession. O’Hare’s study lasted as decade, producing this comprehensive analysis of this contentious issue. His desire, and mine, is that people on both sides of this issue acknowledge the human tendency to cling to traditions (some of which, he shows, are fine and biblical), which can lead to traditions displacing true worship of God and Christ. The thesis of this book is “that Sabbatarianism is a form of traditional pietism and that the acceptance of the fully ceremonial nature of the Sabbath, though shocking to some, is actually Christ-honoring.” (page xiii)

The Sabbath Complete is organized into 12 chapters which examine various aspects of the Sabbath – prototypes, initial practice, law, feasts; how it prefigures Christ in the rest He earned, the Gospel He preached, His resurrection; and a historical review of the practice which has come to be known in the confessions as the “Christian Sabbath.” Coming in at more than 350 heavily footnoted pages, this book is thorough, enlightening, and thought provoking. It is my prayer to whet your appetite enough so that you will buy this book and study it. May the Lord be our wisdom and His glory our goal.

In his examination of the Sabbatic prototypes given to us in Genesis, O’Hare observes (page 1) that “God’s provision for our physical rest is but a token of a more transcendent remedy for our spiritual privation” and follows up (page 6) thusly: “Though God’s rest after creation is a type of everlasting rest yet to come, it is more certainly a type of Jesus Christ, who has come, in whom the faithful rest in salvation.” This snippet shows O’Hare’s focus on Christ – His provision and sufficiency, which is a constant, welcome, perspective throughout this book. As an expression of God’s sovereignty and redemptive revelation, our author reminds us (page 7), “Jonah did not just happen to be engulfed by a great fish and later ejected as a random biological event, but this occurred as designed by the Lord to shadow forth the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Likewise, the seventh day rest was not a random terminus of creation but a purposed end point to shadow forth the inevitable results of God’s work in redemption.” This sets the stage for a book that is best read slowly, with an open Bible and notepad.

In addition to each Christian studying the Bible for himself, learning from credible sources of church history is very helpful as this sheds light on when and by whom our beloved traditions were started. O’Hare has helpful advice in chapter 9, wherein he reviews the shift to calling Sunday the “Christian Sabbath.” One of the earliest post-apostolic apologists, Justin Martyr, sheds light on the common-place view of Christians in the second century:

And on the first day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read…But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”

For this most ancient brother, the Lord’s Day was on the first day not as a new instance of the Jewish Sabbath, but in concert with a remembrance of God’s creation and Christ’s resurrection – wherein we have the promise of having our decaying bodies made new like His. Our author laments how Christian traditions were often started not on the Lord’s revelation to us as New Covenant saints, but by imagining connections to Jewish traditions – “such as circumcision giving way to baptism and the Lord’s Supper approximating the Passover, came the forced and fanciful system of religious holidays common in the Roman Catholic Church.” (page 222) He then provides a lengthy quote from famous Roman Catholic Thomas Aquinas, explaining his support for these practices and then comments (page 223), “This teaching blurred the differences between the old and new covenants and paved the way for works orientation. … It was fitting for a better covenant to have fewer ordinances: one, performed only once that identifies the child of God as an heir to the kingdom, and the second, a recurring and sustaining ordinance of remembrance of the life and work of Jesus Christ. Again, similarity does not connote identity. Baptism is not a Christian circumcision, and communion is not a Christian Passover, neither is the Lord’s Day a Christian Sabbath. This is as absurd as calling the new covenant the “Christian old covenant.”” Did I mention that a Presbyterian wrote this book? He goes on to say, “It is plain that the circumcision of the Christian is spiritual and not ritual, and that it is actually the death of Christ, which was His circumcision, into which we were spiritually baptized.” In response to several sabbatarian authors (such as Walter Chantry) who press the “Christian Sabbath”, in part, as a means to restrain evil and provoke (coerce?) Christian worship, O’Hare rightly observes (page 225), “If Christ can raise up rocks to sing His praises (Matt 3:9), why would it be so difficult for Him to raise up His beloved, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to worship at the appointed time (Ps 116:18-19, 122:1-2)?” Amen! Saints of the living God don’t need a command to gather together for worship and fellowship – we, by definition, love Him, are drawn to Him, and we love the brotherhood!

Each chapter of this book delves into history and Scripture to determine the meaning and origin of the various aspects mentioned in the first paragraph. Each is compelling and enlightening. Chapter 4 – Sabbath Law, examines the Jewish laws and traditions tied to their Sabbath and points out inconsistencies in the practice of modern Christian sabbatarians. In nearly every chapter, the diligent reader will be awed by the realization of how detailed the Jewish religion is as given to them by God and how it is much, much more than merely a quaint religion for those people long ago. The Jewish religion, as the book of Hebrews tells us, is mainly a means of communicating God’s eternal plan of redemption to the people He called out of the pagan nations, to protect the promised seed and make His name known around the world. These two priorities – to glorify the Lord and declare the gospel – are consistently the highest order for us humans. This becomes more and more clear as each chapter is consumed.

To keep this review from running 20 pages or more, I will restrict myself to chapter 10 – The Sabbath in Church History. This will put the “Christian Sabbath” practice so aggressively promoted and protected into its proper context. My desire aligns with the author’s – to have readers of this book see the first day of the week in its biblical context, stripped of the accumulated baggage of 20 centuries of religion.

Chapter 10 begins with the apostolic teaching, with O’Hare stating (page 244), “There are three crucial distinctions between Christianity and its roots in Judaism: holy things, the law, and the customs.” He sees some continuity and some discontinuity in the connection between the old religion and the new, acknowledging the law is good, and “Yet these ceremonial laws isolated the Jews from their pagan neighbors, became the point of contention and ridicule, and represented a wall of separation between the two peoples. This was meant by God to display the isolation between sinners and Himself – the Jew included – so when Christ abolished the ceremonies of Judaism, the gospel of peace and the law of moral commandments would become the unifying theology and practice for Jew and Gentile alike (Eph 2:14-16). … At the beginning of the Christian Church, it was a stumbling block to require Gentiles to observe Jewish rituals: “to whom we gave no commandment.” (Acts 15:24)”

The review of the Didache (50 – 120 AD) reveals no evidence of Sabbath-keeping by Christians; the review of Ignatius’ writings (page 247) shows “he clearly distinguishes between Jewish conduct on the Sabbath and Christian conduct on the Lord’s Day, to indicate the superiority of being a disciple of Christ.” He walks us through the records of Mathetes (130 AD), Justin Martyr (114 – 165 AD), Irenaeus (120 – 202 AD), Tertullian (160 – 225), Origen (185 – 254), Eusebius (265 – 340), Sylvester, Bishop of Rome (314 – 335), the council of Laodicea (364); all of which provide no support for the “Christian Sabbath” and often denounce the idea as being a Jewish encroachment in the church.

By the time Gregory I was installed as pope of the then-emerging Roman Catholic Church, traditions now associated with that religion “were already taking root, such as the liturgical mass, a monastic life, symbolic outfits, ecclesiastical hierarchy, and declaration of days to honor saints.” (page 261) O’Hare provides a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Roman citizens in which Gregory I calls those who forbid work on Sunday (which he called the Sabbath day) “preachers of Antichrist” and sums up: “Gregory’s core understanding is that the Sabbath is a fulfilled ceremonial law that should no longer be literally applied.” (page 262) O’Hare quotes R.J. Bauckham’s claim that Peter Comester (a contemporary of Aquinas and Chancellor of Notre Dame in Paris) was the “first exegete to apply the Sabbath commandment literally to Christian observance of the first day”. (page 263) Our author reminds us (same page) that “While it is helpful to acknowledge the scattered, yet progressive, acceptance of a physical rest on Sunday, it is more important to understand the bases for these practices in empiricism and religious authoritarianism.” History tells us what happened and provides evidence as to motives. The Roman Catholic Church explored ways and means to better influence her subjects, working with the legal authorities to provide a day off work and advocating Christian observance of Sabbath principles. “Their expectation that all citizens attend Mass in this church-state led to the need to force compliance through the appeal to Sabbath law.” Thomas Aquinas further developed this line of thought, “asserting that the old law contains moral (emanating from natural law), judicial (laws regarding justice among men), and ceremonial (laws touching on worship, holiness, and sanctification) precepts; and that these three can be distinguished in the Decalogue as well.” (page 264) This appears to be the first teaching of what is now cherished reformed doctrine – that the Law of Moses can be separated into these three categories and dealt with appropriately for new covenant saints. There should be no denying these three elements are found in the Law of Moses, but, as O’Hare shows us with Aquinas, determining what is ceremonial and what is moral is the rub. Aquinas recognized a moral teaching in the Sabbath commandment – people should worship God; he also recognized the ceremonial component, specifically the date upon which such worship is to be given. “At this juncture, Aquinas took the first step toward Sabbatarianism by moralizing a ceremonial command” by asserting the moral necessity of giving time to God. (page 265) Aquinas agreed with Augustine that moral laws are revealed by nature, so all men are without excuse. But in order to get man to be at mass and give to the church due obeisance, Aquinas saw value in elevating that which had been rightly considered ceremonial to moral status.

We will step quickly through the early reformers to show how this idea progressed. Philip Melancthon is quoted as saying, in 1530, “Those who consider the appointment of Sunday in place of the Sabbath as a necessary institution are very much mistaken, for the Holy Scriptures have abrogated the Sabbath and teach that after the revelation of the Gospel all ceremonies of the old law may be omitted.” (page 274) “Luther vacillates between his definitions of the Sabbath as a ceremonial law bearing no external application for Christians and a binding law incurring God’s judgment if disobeyed.” (page 279) John Calvin also had trouble being consistent in his view on this matter. In asserting “that the Sabbath was ceremonial and is moral leaves us open to problems concerning the nature of its existence – it is both abrogated and legally binding. This was further complicated by the church-state relationship that sought to mimic a theocratic Israel and by Calvin’s misconception that the biblical Sabbath required all Israelites to assemble at the synagogue.” (page 281) In his commentary on the Heidelberg Confession, written in 1563, O’Hare lists eight failures on the part of reformers that led them to embrace the “Christian Sabbath” (page 288):

  • Failure to familiarize themselves with the teachings of the early church fathers regarding the Sabbath.

  • Failure to expand the understanding of how the Lord’s advent fulfilled each specific Sabbath command beyond “resting from one’s sins.”

  • Failure to be consistent in the treatment of ceremonial laws and types.

  • Failure to satisfactorily explain why the ceremonial Sabbath was placed with the body of the Ten Commandments.

  • Failure to recognize the limitations of the Ten Commandments as a means to inculcate Christian ethics.

  • Failure to differentiate the biblical Sabbath from the tradition of the synagogue.

  • Failure to emphasize the authority of the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to institute a new order of congregational worship.

  • Failure to distinguish the Sabbath from the Lord’s Day.”

In what may be the keystone paragraph in the entire book, O’Hare explains the meaning of the Sabbath commandment (page 289).

The Mediator is on the first table (of the Decalogue) because, unlike Moses, Christ truly comes from God and is fully God. Yet Christ, by becoming fully man, joins with man to make him complete. Man cannot become complete simply by keeping the law, but he must experience through faith a life-altering union with Christ. The ceremonial Sabbath is the evangelion within the Ten Commandments that addresses the redemption of man. It is Christ Himself who takes the place of the Sabbath in the Decalogue. The Lord’s Day is not a continuum of the Sabbath or its replacement; it is a fresh ordinance for the church of God based upon the completion of redemption that was twice sealed by the Lord, first by His resurrection and second by the descent of the Holy Spirit.”

This puts the Decalogue in the absolute best light for new covenant saints to understand it and relate to it. (Scripture never calls the Decalogue “The Ten Commandments”, but only and always “the ten words” – hence the term Decalogue. But “Ten Commandments” are much weightier in the mouths of religious overlords than are “ten words”. I would have liked O’Hare to address this aspect of the creeping incrementalism of religious lordship in the church.)

It was during this time that the early reformers also broke with the clear teachings of Scripture and the church fathers by beginning to teach the Sabbath as the product of a creation ordinance. This was taught by Ursinus who “may have adopted the theory of the Reformed Englishman John Hooper, who, in his widely published book, Declaration of the Ten Holy Commandments (1548), claimed that God instituted the Sabbath from creation. … So, only 300 years after Aquinas and fifty years after Luther, the admixture of the Sabbath and Lord’s Day developed into a general concept that the Lord’s Day is the Sabbath, fostering the idea that the Sabbath remains a viable force in Christian living.” (page 290) This creation-ordinance based “Christian Sabbath” was a major element used by state-churches on both sides of the Atlantic to coerce Sunday worship – just as Rome had learned to do, using the same unfortunate logic.

In 1973, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church published a report from a committee that had been formed to study the relationship of the Westminster Confession of Faith to the fourth commandment. In part, the committee reported:

The weekly Sabbath is an eschatological sign. This truth, central to the teaching of Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13 as well as fundamental to the entire biblical revelation concerning the Sabbath, does not find expression in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. The reason for this would appear to be that the Standards mention the Sabbath commandment primarily in terms of its bearing on the more specific matter of public and private worship.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith was not changed to reflect the eschatological import of the fourth commandment. O’Hare, having taught in this book the nature of moral law (unchanging and universal), observes “If the Sabbath is not ceremonial or typological, it is not eschatological.” “Where”, he asks, “”can it be shown that the Ten Commandments summarize the moral law given to Adam? Where can it be demonstrated that the Sabbath commandment is purely moral?” (page 291) “Was the fourth commandment, as God gave it to Israel, about the Christian Sabbath or the Jewish Sabbath? Was there anything else in the fourth commandment that was abrogated than merely the day of the week on which it fell? Where can it be shown that God abrogated the Jewish Sabbath and installed a Christian Sabbath in its place? … So, besides omitting fundamental truths about the Sabbath, the Westminster codified interpretive errors that budded with Aquinas and blossomed with early Reformers.” (page 292)

In closing this very provoking chapter, O’Hare shows us that the fourth commandment not only commanded rest, it commanded work for six days. The Hebrew word in this commandment is in the Qal imperfect tense, which implies an on-going action – “you work”. “But, if the fourth commandment moralizes the example of God for man to obey, then it is as much a sin to work on the day of rest as it is to rest on the days of work. … if someone completes their (sic) work in three days and does nothing more for three more days, what exactly are they ceasing from on the seventh day?” He instructs us on two types of rest: “1) God’s rest signifies the promise of eternal life, and 2) Israel’s rest signified her faith in God alone. God’s work is redemptive, so man’s work is meaningless apart from that redemption.” (page 309)

The early church correctly believed that the Sabbath was a ceremonial command and welcomed the ordination of the Lord’s Day as a commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection. However, the ascension of church power through the state and the influence of rationalism allowed the medieval church to begin to associate the fourth commandment with the Lord’s Day. The Reformed church, by perpetuating the error of Aquinas, eventually expanded the scope of applications of Sabbath law and increased its moral muscle, forcing the church to practice Sunday Sabbatarianism.” (page 311)

He gives us eight conclusions which are supported by Scripture and history (page 311):

  • The creation account is not about the Sabbath. It is about the primal peace with God that was lost through sin because of a lack of faith. The pattern of creation – six days of God’s work and the ensuing rest – reverberates through Scripture to demonstrate God’s sovereignty in effecting the work of redemption by grace through the faith of man.

  • When Israel left Egypt they were given the Feast of Passover; a few weeks later in the wilderness they were given the Sabbath. At Mount Sinai, Israel received her full calendar of feasts. The Lord devised this new system of shadow laws to prefigure the person and work of the Messiah.

  • The Ten Commandments are a summary of the Mosaic laws and therefore contain both moral and ceremonial laws.

  • Christ in His earthly ministry was born under the law and obeyed the ceremonial laws as well as the moral laws.

  • Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. His work of redemption – His incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection – is the fulfillment of all shadow laws, even though some of them are yet to be manifested in their entirety.

  • The redemption of Jesus Christ initiated the new covenant. It is the fulfillment of what the former covenants forecasted.

  • The apostles had divine warrant to establish first-day worship. Scripture unfolds the transition from things Jewish to things Christian. First-day weekly worship was the normative practice of the early church, it did not move the Sabbath to Sunday.

  • While there is no explicit scriptural mandate for this transition, we have scriptural foreshadowing and history of first-day significance, and rationale. Christ’s resurrection and the inaugural descent of the Holy Spirit – the most important events of the church age – occurred on the first day of the weeks in fulfillment of Israel’s shadowy calendar laws.”

There is much, much more in this book than I can even hint at in these few pages – which are too many for most, I fear. Buy the book. Study the topics, challenge the author (I found a few places where I consider him to be in error), challenge yourself – for none of us has arrived any more than did any of the Reformers.

At the end of it all, why doesn’t this book, or anyone else, show from Scripture why the Jewish Sabbath command is not meant for the new covenant church? This is the wrong starting point. We look to Scripture to see what is, what God has revealed to us; not to prove a point. What we see in Scripture about the Decalogue is that is was 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. 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. The burden is on the backs of those who say the Jewish Sabbath was, as the confessions say, abolished and re-established on the first day of the week, given to the church as the “Christian Sabbath.” That assertion, is found in paragraph 22.7 of the Second London Baptist Confession, yet established by no Scripture. Yet we do see in God’s Word the admonition for Christians to be understanding and accepting of brothers who lean on the practice of old religion (Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8) as well as stern rebukes for those who want Christians to practice old religion as a requirement (Acts 15).

The Sabbath Complete provides a comprehensive review and analysis of myriad aspects of the Decalogue and the Sabbath; examining the Word of God, the languages, and the historical context. Let the reader humbly go before Holy God and plead for understanding rather than rely on his own “wisdom” or unexamined presuppositions that we all hold too closely. Remember those who went before us – they knew they were fallible, yet many of them acted as if they were complete in their understanding of God’s Word. Yet they stood under the banner of Sufficiency of Scripture and all for the glory of God – as we must. But let these slogans of an bygone era be not merely nifty phrases we use to show our credentials, let each of us also acknowledge that we must be reformed and reforming for the glory of God, for He alone sees and understands perfectly.

This book is available on Amazon and directly from the publisher, at a competitive price.