NOT THE DECLAMATIONS OR DISTILLATIONS
BUT THE DOCTRINE OF DEITY
WORKS OF FAITH AND WONDERS OF DISMISSAL
This chapter is an expanded version of a sermon delivered to the
Australian Bible Church - July 27, 2008
A CONTINUATION OF THE
ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE
OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
THE PATHWAY OF LOVE
Philemon: the Love of God and the Name of Jesus Christ
As we read Philemon, we find the topic, restoration of a runaway slave to his Master, the writer, one of high tenderness and exquisite tact, the ground, the slave’s conversion to Jesus Christ and HENCE new relationship with his former Master as a brother, the apostle’s realisation, that this involves costs, his willingness, to pay to cover it, if need be and his point, that as one converted through his ministry, Philemon owes his very life to the Gospel of grace.
But what may be seen of the LOVE OF GOD from this epistle or throught it ?
Paul does not speak as an apostle, as though his post as writer of what by divine inspiration was to be recognised as scripture, in the authority of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 14:37, 2:8-13) made him important as a person. On the contrary, he appeals to Philemon on behalf of the case for Onesimus, the runaway slave who ran in the end to Jesus Christ, so being converted through Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. In this, Paul is more than an observer, but has become a participant in giving eternal security to the new man in Christ (15, cf. Ephesians 1:11).
It is not like Obama’s desire for “a common security for our common humanity” (The Australian on line, July 16, 2008), or Rudd’s talk of the pope as having a common human touch, or welcoming him with the atrociously misleading words, “Your holiness, in this country you are truly among friends and we are honoured as Australians to have you with us today.” He said the pope was not only welcomed by Catholics, but by Australians of all faiths (France 24, International News, July 17, 2008).
How could Protestants welcome this appalling false teacher! whose office arrogantly presumes to set itself above all, adding words and honour to itself, in the name of God Almighty, whose Gospel finished long before this bane! (Galatians 1).
No, Paul did not seek something in COMMON to man, be it a common humanity as his resource, ground or hope, or security, nor a common welcome to a pontiff who would have a common touch, to whom all must allegedly go if to be saved, as if there were no other way, when in fact this is no way at all, but another Gospel. In fact (II Corinthians 11), Paul made it most clear that engineering works on the Lord’s Christ were of the devil, and efforts to make some one name, not His, a necessary funnel for salvation is putting man where only God is, two where only one is, a sinner where only the sinless Christ is, a child of Adam where the Son of God is to be found.
Not only did Paul not, for example, declare that it was a common humanity which was the ground for receiving back a runaway slave, nor an uncommon supreme religionist, but that he presented Jesus Christ, as the ground of unity. An apostle of peace, as Rudd called the pope, was not a title given to one whose faith has engineered a new christ, but to those who being called, presented, placarded the ONLY MASTER (Matthew 23:8-10), Christ crucified, yes rather risen, both of which features fail to appear in ANY pope! (Romans 8:23, I Cor. 1:23, Galatians 3:1-5).
In fact, here in Romans 8, Paul asks WHO is going to condemn, and WHO will bring a charge against the people of God: IT IS CHRIST who died, and is risen, says Paul. NONE can condemn. The Lord Himself, the ONLY one able to do so, has died for us. That is his message. Who then is the pope or any sect or religion whatsoever, which dare oppose the work that no sinner can do, and yet which must be done! To Paul, the pope cries, I CAN CONDEMN, for they MUST come by ME and it is MY NAME which I insist on, if they are to be saved. YOU! comes the reply, YOU dare to say this in obstructive opposition to Jesus Christ. You say it, who are not even the Saviour OR the Lord!
What IS found could not be further away. It is a COMMON JESUS CHRIST, not one rising up from among men, but coming down to humble Himself to be one of this race. This is put fully in Philippians 2, but here the commonality is this, “peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” No other Lord! it is this one alone (there IS one LORD, just as there is ONE GOD, Ephesians 4:4); nor is there other Father, but this one (as in Matthew 23:8-10)! IT IS FORBIDDEN. Who is it that cannot or will not read!
there is no other name (Acts 4:11-12), but this one by which men must
From what ? from sin. For whom ? for Christ. By what ? by His sin-bearing (I Peter 2:22-25).
As what ? as our Shepherd (I Peter 2:25), THE Shepherd of our souls. What peace is this ? it is one given by sacrifice on the cross (Ephesians 2:14-18) to faith in Him as only Saviour, name and sacrifice (Hebrews 9-10), through whom man must be saved. What peace-apostleship, then, is this, which has many sacrifices (masses), another name and another Christ, forced to endure the Canon Law of Rome, as if it were good to multiply words of another, as grounds for receiving His own!
No, in simplicity of faith, not corrupted by the craft of the serpent, there is that common bond between Paul and Philemon (II Corinthians 11:3-4). It is on this alone, not another, not another name, not another gospel, not another spirit, that the call is made. It was made then, it is made now, to the alienated and the cost-motivated, to find their spirits forgiving, their hearts softened, their kindness activated and their openness of heart broad. THAT is the love, NOT new paths!
In our current world, there is a new look to COMMON HUMANITY as resource and safety, COMMON acceptance of a new gospel spokesman as a hope for peace, common talk without accuracy, our Australian government disgracing itself by having millions of tax money spent on forwarding and sustaining this divisive papal work, praising his policies, while here again, its PM is transgressing afresh, after the aboriginal fiasco, where those who once helped some of them with sacrifice were swept with a common hand into a cause for sorrow, with others. ALL Australians welcome a false prophet with a false Gospel ?
Has PM RUDD then not HEARD of the Reformation!
Does he in this way not cease to proclaim what is not true!
Was he never taught in his schooling that there were many burnt
Did he perhaps imagine that everyone would forget what had been done
Did he not know that Great Britain, a vast empire for centuries, was a
Even if he wished with Rome to ignore the teaching of the Bible on this,
Is then what many deplore to be not only feted, made a subject of
Is the PM elected to be a religious arbiter, to secure a lowest common
No, the Christ of Paul, of the Gospels, the One who ACTED for mankind (Titus
2-3), this is not one who arrogates greatness to Himself,
since equality with God was always His
(Philippians 2, John 8:58, 5:19ff., Psalm 45, Revelation 2:9 with Isaiah 44:6),
but was the One who humbled Himself.
In this it is the precise opposite of the papacy (cf. SMR pp. 911ff.), the blusterings of which have been as bizarre a buzzing as one could wish in self-exaltation, whatever their imagined basis! Goe Almighty on earth! what an expression from the New York Catechism! There is ONLY ONE of those, and He is not currently on this earth (cf. Acts 3:19ff.), and has ONE BODY as a man among men (Hebrews 2) in which He was once sacrificed by HIMSELF (John 10:18).
As seen in Mark 9, He deplores seeking to be first, just as He IS first and suffers NO ONE ELSE TO BE SUCH (cf. SMR 99ff.). SUCH is the attitude of the love of God, and the papacy has the most incontinent lavishment upon itself, of PRECISELY what is forbidden, and this to an eminent and even institutionalised degree. So far from the works of Romanism in its militant persecutions having anything to do with the Christ of the Bible, it has even persecuted in nation after nation, with the most intense and loathsome flagrancy, those who followed this, the word of God, and lived for the Christ of God as there exposed for all!
These are the victims, not the purveyors of violence, a fact to be realised by those slanderers who seek to harass again those who have already been the butt! or to excuse the exponents of violence in Islam, who merely proceed to parallel what has been done by this division in forbidden eminence, falsely taken, and falsely applied, by the papacy.
It would be as ludicrous to accuse Great Britain of Auschwitz as to seethe against biblical Christians for the works of this religion of Rome; indeed it would resemble the more acutely, accusation against Britain for the invasion of Poland, her protection of which led to World War II.
Are there Romanists in this country, and is Rudd a crypto-Catholic in this ? As to the first, certainly, and as to the second, it seems possible. Yet intolerance to people is very different from certainty of truth; and there is despite the errors of the Inquisition IN KIND, no ground in Christianity for people to make assumptions about what others in a country believe, or what they will welcome, any more than there is to use force to obtain what is desired! This is the case whether such force for religious purposes be based in things political, psychological, covert, overt or other!
Robust discussion is good; profane presumption is not.
With Blair of Britain now in the Middle East as an ambassador, forging new help for those who seek the take-over of what is left of Israel, on behalf of the UN, Rudd in Australia distorting facts in a wave of presumption, the State of Massachusetts since 2004 in the USA legalising what is strangely termed same-sex marriage, Anglicanism refusing to remove grossly unscriptural immorality from its books, Obama reportedly with his concept of common security for a common humanity, while it is only uncommon security for a special people which Christ gives (I Peter 2:9-12) and this planet and race in itself, has none: the world is moving with real relish in a different direction from that of Paul, of Christ.
It is one that does not focus on acceptance of runaways from the LORD, back to Himself on the basis of the unchanged Gospel, but increasingly acceptance of its human race, itself and its dicta, as the ground of peace and security. The slavery to sin is not removed by such means, nor is the peace of God to be found there. "CEASE from man," says the Lord through Isaiah, "whose breath is in his nostrils, for of what account is he!" (2:22).
Not only so, but Paul spoke with passion on the results of this Gospel. He had heard of Philemon’s love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints. With saints’ hearts refreshed by him, Paul had much confidence. “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains”. Once unprofitable, a runaway, he is now profitable not only in ministering with much comfort to Paul, in prison for the faith, but has potential for his former master (10-12).
Receive him, says Paul, for depriving himself of the helpfulness of Onesimus, Paul is here seen to be sending him back: but receive him AS MY OWN HEART, says the apostle. It is MY HEART you receive, when you receive him (12). Here is love’s intractable appeal.
From the heart to the heart is the love of God, for in this is the love of God, "not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins". What He loves, He loves as the apple of His eye, though when this love is rejected, spliced, derided, then there is mere posturing, and the cord is cut that would have bound for ever. "He did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" - and it is He only who does the saving, by grace, through faith, without works, to avoid boasting, that it might in all things be of God, and in all things Christ have the pre-eminence in the Church as Lord. Will naturalism prefer a stone, well then it has a heart of stone; will papistry prefer another name added where none is to dwell (Acts 4:11-12), then let meddling be the ground on which false faith falls.
Love is pure, it is the love of GOD. Who dares to indwell it, replace it, implant in it, direct it, impose conditions, for there is no other name but that of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, sent from the Trinity to pay the redemption cost in person, not by some messenger, in full, not in some contribution, through which men MUST be saved, as Peter declared (cf. Hebrews 9:12, 1:!ff., Romans 5:1-11, Hosea 13:14, Ezekiel 34, John 10).
Here is the basis of the passion which moves others in the love of God (Philemon 1:3,5-6).
Here is the love of Christ through Paul, not in man as man, nor cultural commands, but in personal sacrifice. Paul does not stop there. Perhaps, he departed from you for a while, says the apostle, so that you might receive him forever (15). How important is this sense of changed relationships, not based on man or human masters, but on God and the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, and gives life in its original fluency and hope, back to those once estranged from HIMSELF (Ephesians 2:16-17, Colossians 3:10).
As Jew and Gentile alike (Ephesians 2:11-18) could now come to the common SALVATION (NOT common humanity) in Christ (decidedly MOST UNCOMMON, being God as man), so could master and servant. Here is love’s transcendent perspective. Let us see it in detail as presented through Paul concerning that other division, Jew-Gentile as a singular parallel for the work of love, in the domain of truth, divine and indivisible!
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—
who are called Uncircumcision
by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands -
"that at that time you were without Christ,
being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and
strangers from the covenants of promise,
having no hope and
without God in the world.
"But now in Christ Jesus
you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
"For He Himself is our peace,
who has made both one,
and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is,
the law of commandments contained in ordinances,
so as to create in Himself one new man from the two,
thus making peace,
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross,
thereby putting to death the enmity.
"And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father."
That abolition, of the ordinance aspect of the law, the ceremonial, sacrificial multiplicity in the interests of one Cross, one sacrifice, one people of one God (Ephesians 4:4), one Lord who through one act of one Saviour, in one life who gave it up once, to secure by vicarious death and victorious resurrection, peace for all who made use of His offer: it is typical of what in other fields, if not abolished, ceases to have application.
ITS TRANSFORMING POWER
Thus Paul did not seek to abolish slavery direct, but its grounds, not its law but its lore, not its existence, but the chafing of this with the common bond in Christ. His was not the civil war, but the civil core. Can you lord it over a beloved brother (16), aloof, superior, heartless, loving yourself as yourself, forgetful that you are not the only one to be loved!
Paul is not eminent in order to be aloof, but in order to serve the more. Am I a partner, he cries to the convert, Philemon ? then receive Onesimus as you would receive me. After all, if this is Paul’s ‘heart’, you would have to! Here is love’s close fellowship.
Is there something lacking in money in this transaction ? asks the apostle. Charge me then, put it to my account, he offers, though I could point out that you owe me even your own life! That is, the Gospel through Paul at cost, call and endeavour reached Philemon, thus moving him from the kingdom of this world, to the kingdom of heaven. Could he not regard this as a precedent for receiving others, similarly transformed ? Nevertheless, Paul in this would command nothing, only appeal.
In writing to Philemon, Paul brings to light a number of others who were helping him while he was in prison, an “apostle in bonds”. One of these was Mark. Now this relative of the great-hearted Barnabus, had failed in Paul’s opinion, when they all went to Cyprus, by going back to Jerusalem, before continuing with the mission outside that Island. A quitter ? Paul was unimpressed and candidly refused to have Mark back in the team, arguing on this point with considerable strength with Barnabus, who had been with him in the missionary work (appointed as in Acts 13), to that effect (Acts 15:36ff.). Barnabus however himself took Mark with him, instead.
Now we find that Mark is with Paul, helping him while he is in prison. Indeed it is in Colossians 4:10 that we learn that Paul gave that church a personal reference for Mark, pointing out to them that he has given instructions to RECEIVE Mark, indeed to welcome him! Again in II Timothy 4:11, Paul himself ASKS that Mark be brought to him in prison, because “he is profitable to me for the ministry.”
What a wonderful transformation of attitude is here, what a willingness to witness change, to believe in transformation, to remove former impressions on the basis of a changed life! How excellent that Mark, who is noted as having been used in the composition of Mark’s Gospel in conjunction with Peter, should thus have been so utterly transformed that even one formerly against his ministry, should become so keen on its continuance, even at a personal level! How the devil would have smirked if he could have made Paul to receive a lasting dislike for Mark; but on the contrary, the apostle’s great self-discipline (as in I Cor. 4, II Cor. 4 and 11) recognised not a slacker in Mark, but a man built in the Lord.
Love is like that, for it does not cling to disapprobation built on a real or imagined fault, flaw, failure or failing, but seeks to use what is restored, to work with what is transformed, to have unity where it may be found, team-work where it is available, if only in these things Christ may be honoured, while His power is shown.
THIS is what changes a world, though this one now seems little interested in being changed, but rather engrossed in holding fast to humanity, whether in a pope, a sinner, or in a race, sinful as it is, for security and peace, when what is needed is neither man’s gospel nor man, but the Gospel of the grace of God through that ONE AND ONLY NAME which is given to man, Christ’s own.
HE ONLY has risen from the dead, having paid the price of sin for those who are His; HE ONLY has power to bring peace to this world or any other fallen site; HIS is the Ruling Power and those who seek either to rebel into unruliness or to be under some other rule are CONTRIBUTORS of CONTENTION, not apostles of peace.
Man’s love for man is most unreliable, most changeable, and most ineffective. It comes and goes according to passion, prejudice and profit; but God’s love for man is the criterion of life, in the power of purification and the washing of regeneration (Titus 2-3).
It is only then that the love of God through man can come, when it has released the heart of man to receive it (Romans 5:5) and so to transmit. Lesser loves may erupt for a time, but this is for ever; daring love may be courageous for a time, but this has wrought eternal redemption. Love which despises the love of God is smitten with mildew, being divorced from its parent love. Love which arises FROM the love of God is a cleansed love, filled with peace, not pace, power, not flurry and with persistence in a passion not of lust, but for good.
This is that love of God in which the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour other world (I John 4); and there is no love than can stand, except that of God, and the love that is in the presence of its source. It takes action: incarnation, redemption on the Cross, resurrection from the tomb, sending of the Spirit; it has wisdom: and while it is God who is love, not love which is God, for it is personal and spiritual and eternally His, yet its elemental reality comes from God, in the beauties of His holiness.
THIS is the love of the Book of the Lord, prescriptive for the Coming of the Lord, that He might in His unique power, just as in the creation, present for man a new face, that of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 4:6), a new interface, that of His salvation through free grace (Ephesians 2:4-12, Romans 3:23ff., Isaiah 44, Galatians 1, 3).
There is nothing like it, for being from that God who IS love (I John 4:7), it has a stark reality, a beautiful realism, a gracious non-imperialism and a grave truth, which provides all man needs and dismisses what ruins him; and if he MUST die, then he dismisses himself in his own follies, and with his own sad dreams, and in his own reconstructions of life, his own, or that of Christ, or futile countervailings which lead only to wailings; for to be lost, it is at last the sorrow of eternity (Matthew 22:13, Daniel 12).
To be found, however, it is free; but like other remedies, it must be TAKEN (John 1:12); and when one is taken by Christ, one is transferred from the kingdoms of this world, to His own (Colossians 1:12-13), and even before its outward form comes, one lives IN Him, as a branch is in a vine. These realities are made clear past all contention by His word, and in particular, the pre-eminence of Christ only is seen as part of all these things.
"For this reason we also, since the day we heard it,
do not cease to pray for you, and to ask
"that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will
in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
that you may walk worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work
and increasing in the knowledge of God;
strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power,
for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
giving thanks to the Father
who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
"He has delivered us from the power of darkness
and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
in whom we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of sins.
"He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created
that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.
All things were created through Him and for Him.
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
"And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence."