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Letter, March 1, p. 10 on youth suicide.
YOUTH IN THE SEAS ?
PIRACIES AND SCUTTLINGS OF THE SOUL
AND THE WORD OF GOD UNCHANGED
MODES OF STABILITY AND STRENGTH,
BAPTISM OF SPIRIT AND HEART IN SALVATION and the
UNCHANGED CHARACTER OF GOD,
HIS COVENANT, HIS WORD and CHRISTIAN BAPTISM
GOD IS THE SAME, HIS WORD IS THE SAME: MAN NEEDS TO CHANGE
Youth is an expression of several aspects of life…
1) of God who made man.
2) of society in which he lives
3) of life made by God, with mental, spiritual, moral, social, personal and domestic components in a spiritual whole which itself is often ruptured, and normally abnormal, in this, that it does not know God or even itself.
Many 'solve' the crisis by taking what they can get, choosing from a range of options of pleasure, prestige, power or function which satisfies some of themselves, and going for it. Many more quest for ideals, seek vision and hope for a wiser, deeper and more comprehensive solution, not to say, a better one in terms of spiritual beauty and life.
At present, we read in Time,
that the rates of suicide among young men aged 15-24 has tripled in
Now if we read that whooping cough rates in children 1-4 had done this we would look with the utmost concern for the causes and seek to eliminate, qualify or condition them with vigour, enterprise and assault tactics on the microbes, environment, modes of life which might be concerned. We might also be astonished, regarding it in the light of epidemic.
In this case, however, the situation is more complex. PEOPLE WANT certain things and there are results. It is not just cleaner kitchens and better hygiene, more light or air or ventilation that is required. It is more moral light, and better spiritual environment. It is attachment to the ultimate source of resistance, vitality and understanding.
The pathological condition being evidenced in these suicides is in general, mental/spiritual/moral/developmental, and the question is this: WHAT precisely is it that is developing so amiss! As the Letter noted above mentions, educational standards have fallen, instant gratification is encourage or tolerated, 'dumbed-down' approaches are becoming more prevalent to youth attainment and self-destructive behaviours are becoming more liberal. This is one of them. That is the message there.
Now it is true that educational standards for SOME have not fallen very much in mathematics, as one Senior Lecturer at Melbourne University advised me (in his jargon, he was referring merely to the University itself), but the question is HOW MANY are in THAT situation compared with those who are not! and what is the position in realms where the cutting edge of science is less obviously requisitioned by society. In English, my own experience over decades in Church College, High School, Technical School, Technical College, and Lecturing in tertiary education has been but one. The FALL is not ONLY in attainment but in expectation. A ludicrous High School seminar in which the message was incredibly naive is only one example. In this, it was made clear that the full stop and any other sop, however small, in the educational attainment of High School students in English, should be valued (one almost felt, loved), and even if the standards were far from what one might wish, still they were LEARNING SOMETHING. Something after 10 years! What attainment!
After years of LIVING ENGLISH and language,
the 'this is how she is spoke' brigade, the artless whoredom of speech
prostituted to any passing whim, as if symphony music became the African
tom-tom, and artless 'creativity' became the new goal, even when what it
created was merely the expression of some sentiment neither particularly
noteworthy nor well put: this has become more than a lapse. It has thrust out
shoots, and become a doctrine. NOT to see it this way is as if
one were a non-'capitalist' leaning neo-ideologian (as distinct
from ideologist) in
Crafted language is 'artificial', and 'style' must be 'as she comes'. In architecture, one need not think much of the disjointed and often hideous styles, which as in clothes quite often, flaunt a philosophy of maladjustment; but at least there has to be some knowledge in them, or the buildings, gravely deficient in beauty and grace as they may be, will not even stand. In language, employers have for long been giving out this message. The English does not stand, and sometimes in the non-University area, the word on arithmetic is not dissimilar. Where is the skill ?
It would be different if the values held and
set, sought, and with rigour, inspiration and drive achieved, were there.
However that is the point: one becomes the oddity, the maverick if one wants
Latin roots, conscious style, sophisticated grammar and word power built up
with a vocabulary which does more than watch the incredibly rich and diverse
heritage of English decay through disuse. It is like being a symphony orchestra
conductor, and watching every man go off with a tin whistle and damn the trade
he left! or at least, many of them. In 1960, I was told when starting teaching
What has come to be 'accepted' is almost
incredible; the standards, even of one of the instructors, for her own child
were scarcely to be believed. Was the writing not ... original, or at least
heartfelt! What did certain considerable oddities matters … Spelling and
grammar and style: what decrements to individuality, what harassments! - that
is the message at its worst. Listlessness and non-attainment is nearer the best
THE HEART WHETHER YOUNG OR OLD,
But let us leave this aspect and turn to the heart itself! A heartfelt surgeon who did not know anatomy with great precision and conscious detail would not be very heartily accepted by me for any task. What however is in the heart, the heart of spiritual, mental and moral life for the person! The young are being systematically deprived, to an increasing level, of
1) mothers who have character, morals, spirituality, godliness, the fear of the Lord, the love of righteousness and in many cases, enough love of their children to bother to be in the same home with them. Separations and divorces abound. It is not a question of certain horrors which MAY (and from time immemorial MIGHT) arise. It is question of incompatibility built on comfort and the surges of 'open possibilities', of 'self-fulfilment', which is only another form of selfishness. When one is carried away in the stream and current of self, it reeks like an unwashed dog.
2) households which, whether or not the mother be a professional, do not show the responsibility for the children which watches and nurtures them in their innermost beings with the light of imagination, not seeking their worldly 'success' but their development of talent, understanding of the purpose of life and the meaning of love and truth, mercy and goodness.
3) basic, divinely granted teaching of life.
One of the main reasons for this is that the parents themselves in ever more liberal and listless churches, at the level of Biblical teaching, are becoming increasingly illiterate to spiritual things, if not deliberately hostile. What is taught in religion in schools, is from any Biblical perspective, often a thinly veiled attack on the objectivity of the knowledge of God, maintained with that ridiculous self-contradiction which, disesteeming ANY absolute knowledge of anything, yet SOMEHOW knows this to be a fact. Denying ALL legislation, it proceeds to legislate negatively with positive thrust, till ignorance becomes a moral virtue, misnamed tolerance, and confusion is the method of the topic.
4) sound teaching at school and university, not laden with festering propaganda and at the religious level, puffed up with logical enormities.
At many schools, such virtual unprofessionalism is not merely apathetic, but a matter increasingly of principle.
Frequently, much the same appears in University and allied tertiary teaching. Assiduous as any preacher, I found by my own experience, apart from the testimony of others, many of these lecturers produce their own brand of fictitious philosophy, irrational, erratic, but culturally acceptable. Hidden in the shadows of presumption, often if not habitually, they are quite undefended, secreted corrosive agents against the truth, anti-preservatives in the packaging of their subjects. Commonly found: An illicit implicative implantation of philosophy, constantly produced like wholesale seedlings for a nursery, in the tenor and presuppositions of their thought. Various implements may be used, consciously or unconsciously, which help students give ground to these, their cultural 'plants'.
Thus the fear of failure helps produce conformity; as may desire for any reason, for a future position for the student; while embarrassment at having argument with a professional; fear of resentment; fear of peer prying and mockery; less training than the normal Lecturer has had: these things may weigh with some, for whom the manifest character of things is not sufficient weight. Quietly, they suffer the invasion. Many indeed seem so pre-conditioned by their schools, culture and TV in particular, that they scarcely notice, or bury their concerns.
Nevertheless, one cannot Biblically heed the advice of one creationist, who suggests the "method" is to defer meeting the case until one is "through" - has the degree to one's name. To allow, until one is free, the appearance of believing what is derogatory of truth in general, and of its crux and pinnacle, criterion and substance, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the word of God, is certainly by no means to meet the requirements of Colossians 3:17: Does one imitate the fruits of unbelief UNTIL those of the faith are … convenient then !
"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through Him" - declaims the apostle.
It reminds one of the musical comedy: Well hardly ever! Here it would come to this: Well, nearly all!
Nearly all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! Yet Biblically it is necessary to forsake ALL that one has (Luke 14:33), not the parts that are judiciously deemed more apt in the long run. Compromise and 'wise' omissions then ? The kingdom of heaven does not work like that; and when Peter told Christ about His "error" in going to the Cross, he had no uncertain counter (Matthew 16:21-23). However understandable such misconceptions may be, they do not shine like Stephen, abide like a branch in a vine or constitute abiding in the word so spoken.
a) Obvious expectations of conformity to the philosophy of his/her teaching, often quite insupportable and merely 'thrown in' as an implicit; with
b) omission or distortion of thought which would at least begin to do justice to the necessities of the deity,
c) with failure in particular to have the creation, the universe, judged by its expression and working, rather than by fallacious and a priori requisitions of the Lecturer, about what it "must hav e been", while
d) 'directed' research funds abound, requiring conformity to the unempirical concepts of culture, as we saw attested by a leading academic - SMR pp. 202-203, 252A. Irrational, pagan, secular culture moves on in its intimidatory tactics (cf. That Magnificent Rock, Chs. 1,8). Often the thrust is this: conform or be confounded without finance.
In fact, the notable biologist and former Director of the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control at Ottawa, Dr. W.R. Thompson F.R.S., had even more extraordinary seeming evidence to produce of such intolerant compulsions to what, in reviewing Darwin's Origin of Species, he called "unverifiable hypotheses", deeming them fragile towers of imagination, one superimposed on the other. He himself at first did not, we understand, publish in a creationist mode for a simple reason. It would not have been published. This case is of course worse again, for the unverifiability is not only experimental, empirical, but necessary, since the contra-observational basis is itself not merely contrary to scientific method, but to rational necessity, as shown in SMR Chs. 1-3, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9 and That Magnificent Rock, Chs. 1,8 (the last named covering S.A.'s State intrusion into religion via education).
We have elsewhere (SMR Ch.2) noted the vast production of Professor Nilsson, and his equally vast irritation, frustration and exasperation at having taught for so long in a gradualist (Darwinian) mode, when the evidence he presents in mountains to the contrary, is merely mocked by such views; with significant parallel from Professor Stephen Gould of Harvard; and by no means less, the mockery of Cambridge Professor Fred Hoyle, unhappy recipient of such (evolutionary) imagination as if it were science, while what is the constraint of science is dismissed as if what is actually and demonstrably the case, were in some nugatory fashion, irrelevant. Their expostulations are such bizarre impositions are, at their points of alertness, selectively useful. They do not go all the way to the rational conclusions, but each does a significant work in debunking elements of the S.I.W. of conventional unbelief, giving that incubus of irrationality, at least an exposure in kind (cf. Wake Up World! Your Creator is Coming... Chs.5, 6; SMR Index on each, and the Other Index likewise.). However such distinguished academics are as small clouds in a typhoon of words and pressures, preferences and conventional credos.
If never was so much owed by so many to so few is one side of recent history in England; here rarely was so much credulity forced on so many young human beings by so small a percentage of the population, with such manifest obeisance to a philosophy at once vacuous and irrational.
Such however is and has long been the froth of frivolity of thought, which has been like a party paraphernalia, where custom rules and the magnificent and impenetrable perfections of the result of scientific method applied to the evidence, are systematically refused. Its very perfection seems to create offence. That is about as near to creation as some of the obstructionists will come. If it is not always so, it is always interesting to hear of an exception to the trend at any University.
An excellent but intriguing example came in
I myself found in
Again, as noted
elsewhere, when lecturing in Communications in what is now a University in
The place of imagination is great; but it is NOT in this sphere, to create the facts; and then interpret what is so created.
Hauled up to explain my position, I explained that some things which had been challenged were of a type best answered at student option out of Class, as had been the case; but that in Class the need to use such examples (of scientific method) was important.
The BEST case, the most impactive, arresting, was not something lightly to disregard. In a University, where presumably truth and knowledge had some position, I indicated, there was no room, not even possibly, for entrenched prejudice. Such was shown, it was explained, in their treatment of this topic of creation elsewhere. What balance was there to be found in this! Only one monopolistic approach to such a topic was disastrous, when it did not even meet scientific method criteria. I challenged for an indication of error on my part, for a disestablishment of what was presented. None came. It was "inconvenient" to have me proceed in this way. Logic played no part, as is usual, in answer to me in such cases, whether as student or lecturer, in such cases.
Never can I recall anything remotely resembling reason appeared in that cultural conditioning process, which often appears instead of lecturing, but bearing the same name, when challenge has been permitted. Nor has the situation been essentially different elsewhere, or from any who in turn, have been encouraged to challenge my own presentations in free University discussion situations or elsewhere. The truth is ineradicable by the most brilliant minds; after all, it fashioned them at the first! Further, the Lord of His word is alive and powerful (cf. Luke ). Such opportunity to continue my Lecturing without the scope for wisdom was as unattractive as unreasonable, and could only be rejected, once the current needs were met in examinations. Shackled with illogical and unethical bonds, unable to evoke truth, a social convenience, what a fiasco that would be, as trite and trivial as insipid soup, a soul sale in which I for one could not participate, a denial of student needs for which I could have no sympathy.
'Inconvenient'! Also inconvenient, it appears, is any answer to several challenges to debate at Adelaide University, made to Staff or Student Body; and activated over years of offering in The Truth and Life Club, to whom some came, but where none could overthrow the simple proposition that Almighty God is, and has revealed His word in one only authoritative declaration, the Bible, for mankind. None came near to doing so.
Moreover, the presentation was to
the effect that this proposition, this statement was demonstrable.
We must try to remember that not so long ago, such a presentation at a school
or university would not have seemed at all strange. Ad hominem and so
invalid attacks have rained like hail; but there has been no logical answer on
any common ground, though by now, debate, writing and attendance have all been
At the secondary level, the state of the art of propaganda was shown in a somewhat different way, but I provided it with the same challenge: If I am wrong, prove it. If right, bear with it, for is not truth an unsaleable item! Is it not to be regarded! In a school …? What is the land coming to, then!
Thus, when I myself once was asked to teach Middle East religions in a High School, I warned the person responsible of the danger, noted that I should proceed on an objective claims-fruits comparison for the religions, and then when I did this, was met with a denunciatory meeting of senior Staff, where I had to insist on apology from some teacher who wanted to inveigh against me on abusive grounds that had no basis. IF, I asked, I have done academically wrong, have abused logic, ignored knowledge, make unsustainable claims, SHOW ME, and responsibly prove it! I do not accept this sort of subjectivistic slander. This is a teaching institution, was the thrust: show it by having respect for facts. No one showed anything and the teacher apologised: but as before, it was not CONVENIENT to be rational about religion, not even when it was done on a stated principle and program! Not even when NO fault could rationally be found in the teaching…
As normal in such cases, one could not teach fraudulently; what was true had to be revealed or refuted; so in a short time, one left, having done what the course required. It must be realised that these things are all tests, and their result is but one. The intolerance of the incapable, at the level of truth, is becoming increasingly absolute. It often has been, but what is to be noticed is that in this country, and in many others, this intolerance in educational institutions is becoming oppressive, dominating and as far as may be for what does not work, domineering. Truth is fallen in the street (Isaiah 59:14); but at least, one arises as able, to lift up a standard in the name of the Lord who made us, for the truth (Isaiah 59:19, Luke ). It is in fact one of the experiences of living in the life of Christ, that such provisions are made, such graces are shown.
After all, while appeals have their place, so do tests. Those with eyes can watch them; and those with mouths, can meet them, if the case permits. Where as here it does not, then eyes can observe it. Such is the way it goes.
Let us take another case, now so notable.
Well, you have done some comparative no-nos, and it really wasn't much chop that you dealt so with one so young, but then, what is a mistress! Do not so many of us go our own way behind the wife's back, and is it not a question of degree! Is not the man governing well, and are not those missile aids to China a matter of some dispute, and did not the man say that he was only following the ways of his predecessors in his treatment of China. Look, we are having a good economy, we are growing economically strong, money is abounding, we prosper: quit it! Let him go...
This is not to seem to decide what should
have been done with
SUCH principles of interpretation of this or any other matter are already dead. Life for survival has become such a fetish, as if the provisions of the Creator for the continuation of any given kind of creature were to be construed as a primary mandate to preserve yourself as a formal and even FINAL PRINCIPLE. How ludicrous! To safeguard your equipment and make good use of its functionalities is by no means to prefer your life to that of others, or to elevate yourself into a monument of significance over all others, before your time.
Mother love may be found as strong to death as ever, even in the wild! Even insects, if you want programs with life, will sacrifice heartily and in droves, as in the case of termite soldiers which are systematically SEALED OUT of the ant-hill when it is attacked, so that the others may escape, while the soldiers ward off attackers till this escape is achieved for the rest. For their own part: They just die.
All this is in one direction. Survive, stay
alive. You might as well say this: We have an instinct to eat, it is important
for living, and we must eat (and grow fat and gross and disgusting) at all
costs! It is natural: so we do it. What however is equally 'natural' is this:
We are naturally endowed with reason, the power to survey, consider various
value systems and structures, yes, and let me say this, to love. LOVE ? I do
not mean to have 'sex' as those whose personalities seem split, at least in
terms of the verbal expression, might say. To 'have sex'! What a disgusting
reductionism! Why not call eating, to have food, and cuddling, to have cuddle,
and work to disperse energy! The human being is a personal entity,
and to divest it of this personal phase and force is to ignore what it is. What
like ? It is like referring to a Boeing 737 as aluminium having flight. In fact, however, it is a design, it is crafted, and in fact many components are brought together into a consolidated, integrated, mutually functioning totality with a purpose. To ignore this is to be infantile in retrogressive oblivion of reality.
Our beings are - as has been shown in detail, step by step elsewhere on this site (cf. A Spiritual Potpourri, Chs. 1-9, That Magnificent Rock, Chs. 1, 6, The Shadow of a Mighty Rock - SMR - pp. 211, 224, 135, 252E-G, 141, 113-116) - possessors of the definitional qualifications of a design. The human body ? If this is not one, then one was never made.
It is quintessentially the character of design MORE THAN any other visible object on earth. Its invisible additives in the spiritual aspect (cf. SMR pp. 348ff.) merely exhibit the greater, the vastly more exalted character of the whole. Its laws CANNOT arise by chance (SMR pp. 3-10ff., Ch.3), as if the hypothesis is not merely to be INADEQUATE for the result, against all logic and science, but the OPPOSITE of the requirement. Accordingly, its purpose MUST be found, and if not - WHY LIVE! Why not! Is the query of many, and of those who are not effectively suicidal, many become depressives, or have the lilt of the manic-depressive, the baulking of the psychotic unrelieved, the division of the schizophrenic with its observable failure to face things, fleeing into the night, where as a matter of fact there is to be found, not light… There is a disease which helps create its own post as the Cinderella of Psychiatry (part of the title of a book on it by an expert), by the direction of the movement of spirit and mind, of the victim, patient …
Yes, why bother living at all! Now this is the oblivious and ungrateful direction of flow of much foolish and ignorant modern thought which has achieved a measure of respectability, like the destruction of the Jews in Nazi Germany, by constant repetition - and indeed, that was precisely one of Hitler's not so ignorant propaganda ploys. He knew about manipulation all right!
So youth die. Many, in increasing numbers
here, commit suicide (literally, as well as spiritually). They die amidst
plenty and by their own hand, and they increase vastly in the exercise, while
old persons are helped to die, and who knows in their sickened and debilitated
state, how many of those euthanased, will die through the desire
and devices, mercifully disposed or far otherwise, of their ... medical and
domestic mentors! Currently a large scale medical case involving financial
manipulation is before the courts. The possibilities at least are there…
THE YAWNING OF DEATH
IS NO MERE BOREDOM
Death is the voidance of life, at the level in view, here physical. When it is voided already philosophically, morally and spiritually, when its purpose and design is ignored and even actively contravened, what do you then get! Why, you get something amazingly similar to the situation above described in English language instruction. Its possibilities are lost, its richness, depth and diversity is scarified, its wonders are not seen. Its brilliance in the presence of its Maker is not guessed, ugliness (such as is being experienced through this incredible wilfulness and arbitrary self-assertion) becomes the name of the action whether in clothes, behaviour, language (including the scurrilous and the obscene), domestic lightness about infidelities, high-contrast laughter at life, as in skin-head and bald-head approaches to shear off protection from sun and buffering: all this proceeds.
Underneath is the highway, the descent which is devastating in its proximity and thrust, vast in its scope and the affair of millions (cf. Matthew 7:`13).
As the Bible says, Even in laughter, the heart is sorrowful (Proverbs ). Of what does it speak ? Of this:
"There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death" - .
Sorrow and grief
flow readily, and often unconsciously, at the worthlessness, emptiness and
sordid selfishness of it all. And then ? Why live at all ? The age-old
question, so simply, actively and with such abundant verification on every
side, as presented in the Bible, is here answered not by the
specious squirmings of philosophy, but by the noose of a pyjama cord, as in the $A30,000 plus per year Eton College case recently revealed, or by hanging in cells, or by overdoses of drugs, or by killing other people with guns in or out of schools, lest someone else have it better, and so on!
NEEDS THAT TRUMPET,
EARS THAT ARE NEEDED
What is necessary is THIS.
preamble to the current Australian Constitution - not the proposed removal of that vestige of acknowledgment in ever more spiritually insane provocation to God and man, to human mind and soul, as if an aeroplane should refuse the name, and seek to become a collection of particles.
It can - by the simple, anti-creative device of explosion. That is fairly well known. The same in principle applies to man, except for this, that HIS CREATOR does not leave it at dust. Judgment is often inherently feared by man, whether from man or God; and often with good reason (II Cor. 5:9-11, Luke 13:1-3, Mark 9:42ff., Proverbs 1:20-32). Just judgment is the really terrifying one to the ungodly; for the barrister can then only tell the truth!
This devaluing of the magnificent donation which is ourselves is an insult to God and a disgrace to man. Suicide is merely its most drastic expression, but there are many worse, as Hitler shows and many a paranoid dictator in business or politics exhibits, as do the many millions made by Mao and Stalin expressly, millions that is of tombs, except that the cost was spared for the structure, but not for the destruction.
2. Next is a finding of the salvation in Christ, who came the just for the unjust to bring us to God (Acts 4:11-12, Luke 2:29-32, I Peter 2:22-24, John 8:24, Colossians 1:19ff., Romans 10:9, 8:32).
3. Following is turn is the corresponding need. It is the living of the life of Christ, Christ in you the hope of glory, (Romans 8:9-12, James 2:8-13, 1:22) without the witless 'easy-believism' of ignoring the word of God and the commandments, which is merely an abortion not a birth in the life of God (John 14:21-23).
THAT birth He confers on those who receive the Christ (John 1:12-13) who came
AEROPLANES FLY, BUT FLYING DOES NOT MAKE THEM
This keeping is not a condition of salvation (I John 4:18, 5:12-13): rather its voice! Imperfect ? of course ( I John 1:7-2:2), but the child of God is for all that (I John 3:1-9) perfectly aware of the force of His commandments, and that there lies the essence of love, in the wisdom and heart of the speaker (I John 5:2).
James opens the force of a volcano as he denounces the folly of acting as if you related positively to God, whilst whiling away your time in joyful oblivion of His words, His commands (as in James 2:22-25, 2:11). In 4:7-12, he exhorts against the casual breach of the standing commandments, as if abrogation were somehow a work of grace! It is, he makes clear, a work of disgrace! It is as if a man saw his image in a mirror, and went off forgetting what it is (1:21-25).
Be DOERS of the word, and not HEARERS ONLY!
The "perfect law of liberty" is that of God, which is for liberty, not licence, which confers liberty in that it is perfect for us, is not a means to salvation but an expression (James 1:17; cf. SMR pp. 520-532, esp. 525-532; That Magnificent Rock, Ch.2, pp. 54ff.). But bogus faith, masquerading in tones of liberty?). But bogus faith, masquerading in tones of liberty?
· "Adulterers and adulteresses!," he exclaims, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" (4:4). "God gives more grace to the lowly," he comforts and encourages. But SUBMIT TO GOD! HE is not the butt of our inventions, but the author of our inventiveness, not to be used in making new gods, new ways, new commands or new lawlessness (Deuteronomy 32:17-18,21,29, II Corinthians 11).
· Gratitude for salvation through grace and not of works entirely (Ephesians 2:8-10) is NOT shown by acting as if God had resigned, abrogated His sovereignty, denied the word of Christ (Matthew 5:17-20), altered His whole concept of what is better, mutated (Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, Habakkuk 3:6, James 1:17), and left man to the dogs of philosophy, self-will and endless inventions (Ecclesiastes 7:29, Psalm 99:8, 106:29, Colossians 2:8). Here we need to pause.
Many people want to ignore or decry the 'God of the Old Testament'. You get it in many sects, denominations and groups. They want 'Jesus' without law, no sign of 'Jehovah', freedom from the rules of the spiritual road, no rest on Sundays (and this not merely as a liberty grabbed, but as a preachable passion to influence others): they often refuse infant baptism*1 for all that stuff (despite Colossians 2:11-12) is OLD, OLD and OLD again, not novel, recent and up-to-date (see Questions and Answers, No. 11). Children, they philosophise, must indeed express themselves without all that clap-trap, and as for the covenant, this is denigratingly called 'covenant theology' despite the fact that Christ in the Lord's Supper announced precisely that THIS IS THE NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD!
Scarcely propitious for the covenant junking multitude which seems to want to mill about with will, as if we could CHOOSE God like a piece of last Friday's fish, if we wanted to at any time! My experience is far to the contrary, as is the word of God (Romans 9:15-16, John 15:16, I Cor. 1:14). As Paul decries, the natural man does NOT receive the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him. WHEN you receive them, you are therefore no longer 'natural' but already spiritual, and hence converted. It is NOT of him who wills but of God who shows mercy. We are born, says the apostle John in John 1, NOT of BLOOD, NOR of the WILL of the flesh, NOR of the WILL of man, but of God.
The will of man, as we have often shown (see Index on predestination, foreknowledge, and in particular, The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.4) is not irrelevant, as he is made in God's image, but it is most decidedly NOT able to do the choosing, which is God's prerogative, who has foreknown His own (Romans 8:2:8ff.) and this (Romans 9:11), not on the basis of a forwarded looking assessment of performance or faith, but through His own all-loving but chaste ways in a predestination which after all, is that of the One who WOULD HAVE all men to be saved, as far as loving attitude goes (I Timothy 2).
Those issues are deep but essentially very clear; and the principles as shown in my Predestination and Freewill are straightforward. The technique of the final arbiter is His own, though there has been shown in the work cited, ONE way how it can quite readily be conceived, simply for the sake of Christian Apologetics. This is done however, in careful relation to the Biblical revelation on the point, which breathes harmony in unique distinction from all the thoughts of mankind in philosophy over the ages, on the topic.
No, it is a God of glory and greatness who
alone does wonderful things with whom we have to do, the God who acts for the
one who waits for Him (Isaiah 64:4, Psalm 57:2, 34:6-7, 72:18); and a man, a
child, a woman must cast himself or herself upon the Lord and appeal for mercy
that life may be KNOWN and life abundant may be FOUND where it IS! There is
only one way divulged in all history, and as shown (SMR Chs.6,10),
it has simply zero rational competitors: that is - those to be based on
actual test and performance. Because the only God who performs is neglected,
the only available life is spoiled. It is as simple as that.
MILESTONE MALADIES AND
In this generation with its immediate (far more Christian) past, when the Bible had not yet been dethroned from its authoritative place by a multitude of what were once churches, there is in this country of Australia, a specific series of environmental realities. These in turn associated
|with our notable past emphasis on virtue and work and initiative
|some notable Christian leadership, as that of Menzies, and
|with an Empire which at least SAID it was Christian and Protestant
and Biblical in its requirements
of its monarch, and had its own national church (however foolishly compromised by politics,
to the detriment of the rule of the living and wise Lord Jesus Christ, a point justly emphasised
at great cost by the Scottish Presbyterians over the centuries),
had a specialised effect on what we were as a nation, to become.
There is much to erode before we are a total mess; but the process is very fast and the signal of youth suicide is merely one of many which shout at us: BEWARE THE PRECIPICE! But like some wild stallion, the nation thunders towards the precipice above the jagged rocks. The Lord is dismissed, the law of God is devalued, even by many professedly Christian Churches, and even where Christianity is mentioned, it is often pre-discounted in the interests of self-expression, self-esteem, self-fulfilment and any other selfish thing. The glory of KNOWING God is traded in, frequently, for the mischievous substitute of glorying in the flesh, and having your own ANSWERS to your own PRAYERS, without too much (pedantic? ) troubling about what is actually written.
The Lord as ever is needed, for life is no tribute to lawlessness, nor law to thoughtlessness, nor thought to mindlessness, nor spirit to compulsion. Illusionism is not salvation; and lostness shows. Isaiah 55:6 puts it beautifully, to those who did not heed, in the main, as to us, who need to heed as do all:
Seek the Lord WHILE He may be found,
Call upon Him WHILE He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts,
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
GOD DOES NOT CHANGE, HIS WORD CONTINUES,
HIS WAYS ARE EVERLASTING
We are looking at suicide, love of life, the way of life, and of course, rules for life. In the process, we have detected some important trends which help to destabilise and devalue vital realities, not least the fact that Christ has a will, a word and way which is not negotiable (cf. Luke 14:27ff., John 8:31) and not subject to autonomous change on the part of those who would walk as He directs (Luke 6:46). Things apparently small, may relate to and be relayed from things of vast significance, and it is important to be clear.
Now to revert to the point, for a moment, to the subject of infant baptism (it is NOT a salvation, as sacramentalists often foolishly teach - I Peter 3:21; but it DOES have a place in the administration of God). Of this, we have spoken before ( Questions and Answers 11, e.g.); as on the topic of rest on Sundays (Biblical Blessings, Chs. 12-13). Our present point however is simple: THESE are merely SOME of the ways in which a devaluing of the Old Testament, which is the word of God (Matthew 5:17ff., II Timothy 3:16) proceeds.
He went on, as we see in Matthew 5:19, to make it clear that to teach otherwise and do otherwise makes you least; whilst to teach and do in this rigour, elevates. Why ? Because it is pleasing to God. Indeed, it was actually DOING and TEACHING these things that was one criterion of the Christian life, where the love that obeys is not formal but normal (John 14:21-23, Luke 6:46, Matthew 7:21ff., 5:17ff.).
Now neither resting on one day, commemorative of the profound and essential work of the bodily resurrection of Christ, nor having a covenantal and formal relationship to the children of believers, is 'fulfilled'. History is not aborted, and God's principles are the same. He is not re-educated by democracy. He does not pass it all over to the sinful will of the flesh as if He had erred. He is the same: His ways do not change. So it is written. Indeed, as He states in Malachi, it is BECAUSE He does not change that we are not consumed.
But these things are simply here to be seen as some of the symptoms. Misunderstandings can arise, and it is not the same as a denial of the Gospel; but it is the direction of flow, the underlying principle which here concerns us.
The LAW of God itself and per se is often also devalued
- as if it were a sub-standard preliminary to New Testament LIGHT. In fact, while the New Testament, with focus on the directly resident Son of God, has a greater glory, the Old is still altogether the word of God as Christ emphasised; the presence of the Son does not discountenance the prophets or the law. They might conceivably, in the eyes of philosophers who do not know God, His word or His ways and His witness, have done so. But the New Testament case is directly antithetical to any such thought. The glory which excels is not the glory which aborts! Indeed, the whole concept of law, New or Old Testament gradually, as is the way with these things, comes to be disregarded, if not outrightly discarded.
It is treated as if the case were this: Driving a car is an art form which demands that we do not become limited by rules, laws or codes. It is an expression of the human spirit so intimate and so intense, it is an enlargement of motion so apt and personal, that we must drive on any side at any time, and while retaining some awareness at liberty and at will, of traffic lights, we CANNOT (yes, and WILL NOT) be BOUND by them.
Now this is merely a short parable, but the principle is clear. It is quite possible to be artistic and individual (and indeed God has made us both), without becoming paranoid about your own goddishness; for there is ONE GOD and NO OTHER (Ephesians 4:4). There are rules in your body, as clear and sharp as you could wish, about thousands of genetic directions to build its billions of cells with the UTMOST PRECISION; and for that matter, the results of any failure in the complex editing provisions for 'copying' in human cytological life can be disastrous for the children. In fact, you seethe with rules or you could not even operate at all! There are rules of thought, which, though often misconstrued, still operate and will invalidate your logic whether you or your professor realise it or not. What is, is, and any attempt to ignore it merely makes of you an ignoramus, learned or not.
THAT is the point. God, who instituted this biological scaffold in this highly ordered, organised and rule-bound manner, has ALSO instituted MORAL and SPIRITUAL LAW, so that Paul exclaims (Romans 3:31):
That with the words of Christ is categorical, clear and ineluctable. To be sure, in Romans 6:14, Paul states this:
"You are not under law but under grace," but the topic here is not whether you need to do what God commands.
As to that, what the Father commands, Christ confirms, and Himself commands (Luke 18:20), just as He made clear the horizon of His commands went to the end of time, and that He remains the SAME (John 8:58, Hebrews 13:8, Matthew 5, 24:35), and till heaven and earth pass away, this is IT (and when they DO pass away, His righteousness and His salvation remain - Isaiah 51:6). Indeed, His righteousness is everlasting (Psalm 119:142):
Indeed, eternal life is perfectly clear in the Old Testament (Psalm 145:21; 16, Job 19), as is the eternal nature of the Kingdom of the unchanging God (Malachi 3:6, Habakkuk, Psalm 102:26-27, Hebrews 1:8-14, Psalm 145:13, Daniel 7:13-14), just as He is shown to be unfailing, unlimited and tender in His mercies and compassions (Psalm 145:18; 72; 147:3). Indeed, it is quite crucial to realise this: that God is what He was, spoke the truth from the first, fulfils it to the last (cf. Psalm 119:142,144,152,160, Isaiah 8:20, 59:21). But let us revert to the constant and consistent teaching of the Bible on the love that with desire sets itself to keep the word of God, cherishing it, valuing it, desiring it (cf. Psalm 119:20, John 8:31).
It is GRACE as in Romans 6:14, which is the reason why a man can look for having the law in his heart and its working expression in his life. It is no mere dead weight, but the delightful word of the resident God, Christ in you the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), and so it is that the way is opened for liberty in the presence of law. Are simple and valid instructions from a husband to a wife in his absence, a castigation or a blessing ? Does not love understand ? Grace it is which both grants the understanding of heart and the desire of will to obey in things godly, and with God, all things are godly! Paul is saying in Romans 6, WHY sin will NOT have dominion, NOT why the word of God should be overlooked! Grace is the key.
The topic in Romans 3:21ff. is this: DOES LAW KEEPING SAVE! The answer is: Certainly not! It is because of the grace of God (which even Abraham knew as shown in Romans 4*2, and by which he lived). It is not by any regimen, total or partial, of law keeping that one is accepted in the beloved, enters or even sees the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3-7), being born again, all of grace, through the kindness of God.
That however is not the present question, when we reach Romans 6. It is here not salvation, but sanctification, not coming to the Saviour, but walking with Him. It is whether AS a child of God, one is a child of a Father who desires that His laws and ways be kept, or junked, made optional according to the existential thrill, lust, thrust, thrill, impetus, flair, fling or savour of the moment. Christ says NO. Paul says, NO: indeed, "Shall we sin that grace may abound! God forbid!" thunders the apostle (Romans 6:1).
Sin ? "Nay, I had not known sin except by the law" (Romans
7:7). Yes and the New Testament is replete with commands (as in Romans 12, I
Thessalonians 5, I Corinthians 6-7), inclusions and exclusions on the conduct
of the people of God.
The TWO ERRORS:
1) salvation partly by law-keeping or other performances of the flesh, of man, as categorically condemned in Galatians 3 and Romans 3; and
2) salvation IN LAWLESSNESS, are simply two perversions, like homosexuality and lesbianism, of the one straight fact. Salvation is by grace, TO the Lord, who a Lord, does have commands which the lover of God WILL treasure and to which apply him/herself with zeal (John 14:21-24, Matthew 7:21-29). God does NOT change. Christ, HE is the God who always was, the eternal word of God, who KNEW glory with His Father before the world so much as was (John 17:5), and is in fact the I AM (John 8:58).
The REST, to rest for a moment on the Sunday day of rest, was
ALWAYS a signal and a covenantal sign in the Old Testament; and as Paul
shows in Romans 4, salvation was never by such obediences, though it was
reflected in such constraints, as to a willing heart, as may occur in any
children in the situation of living with their parents.
Commands are not love, but surely they can in the response, express it. The Sabbath (rest day, is the meaning) in its transfer to the LORD's day and rest which He gave them when He appeared after the action of His GREATEST WORK, resurrection from the dead of the sin-bearing Christ, is shown elsewhere; and of course the commemoration of His works cannot omit the greatest, or ignore the source of it; and that is one of the points of the NEW COVENANT in HIS blood. That is one of the fulfilments par excellence, and this is how it was fulfilled, expressing itself in His first and second Sunday appearances to them, in the Sunday of Pentecost and in the Sundays of the Corinthians collections (I Cor. 16); indeed, in the great preaching day of Christ's advice on salvation, that Blessed is he who having not seen, yet believes. It was then Thomas admitted freely, to Him: My Lord and my God!
However our present point is this: that the day of rest is posited on the MODE OF CREATION, as shown in detail in the references above (Biblical Blessing Chs. 12-13) , and that is a fixed, historical fact (Exodus 20:10). The REASON is given and the proportionality is secure. The reason does not change; and God does not change (Malachi 3:6, Habakkuk 3:6, Psalm 102:26-28). The God of Israel does not change (Deuteronomy 4:7, Psalm 148:14, Psalm 67:3-7, Matthew 24:35, 5:17ff.), nor does His Gospel to all change (Isaiah 53, 63:13-15, 59:21, Galatians 1, 3:1-13).
His word does not change; eternal life does not change; His infinity does not change, His eternity does not change, His knowledge does not change, His principles do not change: merely His mode of teaching has preliminary and final stages, all true, and the fulfilments are noted in principle and in particular; while any NON-FULFILMENTS, straight teachings, are forbidden for change and invention by Christ, as in Matthew 5.
WHAT GOD REFUSES TO REMOVE,
IT IS NOT FOR MAN TO REMOVE.
Hence we return to the point. Suicide. Loss of life values. Means of securing life values and the systematic reduction in the use of those means, the systematic increase in means hostile to recovery and the provision of enticements, rewards and penalties able to motivate many to the rejection of the vital means there are; but especially of the Gospel, the word of God and the work which He performs in the hearts and lives, and with the hands and feet of His people. All this is precisely as prophesied in such places as II Peter 1, II Timothy 3, I Timothy 4, II Thessalonians 2, Matthew 24, a matter reviewed in some detail in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Ch. 9.
It forms a precise verification of the word of God, in depth, in detail, in scope and in direction. It forms also one lugubrious, poignant and at the same time (depending in the parties involved, their actions and their roles!), devastatingly wicked comment on the wisdom of the flesh, the works of the human heart unredeemed, the high qualifications of sin and the persistence of the devil.
Indeed, the dispossession of the dispossessed (cf. The Generation of the Dispossessed, the first chapter in this volume) is the thrust of the new invasion, post-Hitler, by the new paranoid mentality of philosophies which would suppress, oppress and imprison mankind through these invisible Panzer divisions and these non-screaming (but hideously repetitious) dive-bombers which cast napalm on our youth, in schools, with the funds of tax-payers, teaching folly with a sanctity and self-assurance which could make the very devil feel in danger of being surpassed. It is sickening, illogical (cf. That Magnificent Rock, Chs.8, 1). It has results. The many churches which, as predicted likewise (see SMR Ch.9) depart from the word and the rules of God, they also have results. The political intemperances and yieldings contribute handsomely. The international stress and frustration is added. The spiritual loneliness of those without God: this too is added to the liabilities side of the ledger. So it goes, but where does it go!
Is there no pity! Yes , there is, but it is to be found not in man but in his Maker; in Christ, and there only, for God is One and has His own mind (cf. Amos 4:12, Matthew 4:4). More securely than E=MC2, He has made things what they are. There is no reconciliation in truth to oneself, to life or to God except through
This pity, this cascade of mercy, deep river of love, construction of salvation like a palace on its brink remains; the word of God, the gospel of God (Romans 1:16, I Corinthians 1) which neither changes nor withers, waxes nor wanes, shivers nor shatters, but continues immutable, beautiful and dutiful, responsible, available and published for thousands of years, it is the same.
Many reject it; some receive Him; He came and some will return with Him when He returns to take those whom He has formed in heart, guests and now children of God. He, He has done it all: the Father in sending, the Son in coming in sacrificial splendour, the Holy Spirit in applying these things, strengthening the hearts and illuminating the minds of those who belong to the Son.
So long announced, with unspeakable majesty He was never exposed as in error in word, or deed; or indeed in predicted resurrection. With unlimited availability for His task, of power, He healed, raised the dead and was Himself raised, against the minds, wills and might of Rome and Jerusalem. Raising also the flag of prediction over history (SMR Chs. 6, 8-9); but covering all things, first with His blood, for those who receive Him, and then with His word, which directs history in its final control: so, He moves in majesty in the process of dissemination (Matthew 24:14) till He comes (Matthew 24:24:29ff.).
THERE is life.
There is no other. God made it, redeems it one individual at a time, receives
the redeems and leaves those who reject redemption, to the follies of their
place. HE suffered murder; there is no need for any to suffer suicide. The
author of life is the donor to life; but like a blood donation, it must be
received, not merely talked about (I John 5:11-13).
EXCURSION IN BAPTISM,
AN EXAMPLE OF VITALITY, and of
A DEATH WHICH DOES NOT KILL
THE PANORAMA ABOUT US IN COLOSSIANS 2
In Colossians 2:9, Paul is describing vigorously the complete pleroma, the fulness of the Godhead, the total and complete reality of God in Christ Jesus, in bodily format. Hence, as in Colossians 1:16 where he makes it clear that Christ is with the Father, the Creator of all things, here he is explicit further: He is in possession (precisely as in Philippians 2) of ALL that is distinguishable as the reality of God. That of course includes eternity (time in reality was made with matter, time as we have it, where we MUST wait for events, limited as we are, and constantly and rigorously reminded of it, though so many seem to forget it for themselves or more especially nowadays, for the race). You COULD not have inherent in you in bodily format the fulness of God without His sinlessness, timelessness, faultlessness and grace, His power as the Creator with all wisdom (cf. I Cor. 1:30).
Having made this clear, the apostle now
applies it to us in our phases of the matter. He, who is the head of every
power (1:10), is the One in whom Christians live. They, having been baptised
(2:12), and hence (cf. Matthew 22:22-23) in spirit and carnal self, buried with
Him, participating in the fulness of the Covenant through the Head, are also
raised in Him. What He suffered physically, they now follow spiritually. This
has nothing to do with the chosen form of baptism as a ceremony; and indeed to
rise dripping from such unity with Christ in a forlorn raising is far from apt,
whilst to cease to be 'buried' is unscriptural (Galatians 2:20, where the
perfect tense of crucified makes it clear the reality remains for the flesh,
continually!). That is established in its place (see Questions and
Answers 11 on the point) by the Biblical teaching.
THE PARTICULAR EXHORTATION
AND ITS MEANING
Here our concern is with what Paul IS teaching, the spiritual reality associated with baptism, which it represents, and in which we who are Christians, participate, not by any superficial steps, but in depth and with liberty in the Lord as a result (John 8:30), not of the ceremony, but of the situation, in which we share in His death by having our sin and sinful natures transfixed in Him, who took the penalty, and our lives renewed in Him who rose despite the doom of death as sentence on sin, vicariously for those who should receive Him
IN this teaching, Paul is making the powerful point that the baptism which is the initial ceremony which signifies (but does not create) the covenant, in which sins are forgiven (though it, the ceremony does not forgive them, it is the baptism into one body which is significant here, not the form which reflects the nature of the case merely - I Cor. 12:13): that this baptism (like the one Peter emphasises in I Peter 3:21), holds tremendous significance. It embraces life according to covenant, the New Covenant in Christ's blood of which He Himself spoke (Matthew 26).
THIS baptism is wholly a container unit for what was circumcision, now discontinued as the required rite for (but not the power to create what it symbolises) the household of faith (Acts 16). There can be no division. God is in His fulness in view; His total reality is in Christ and the reality of the Covenant in Christ is being reviewed as required and indeed to be found in this spiritual baptism (as in Romans 6, where the topic is sanctification, as here transformation of life).
Paul USES this concept in applying the fruits
of spiritual baptism (not so spiritual that its meaning is divorced from the
public action, but so spiritual that it is not limited to it, or manufactured
by it) to the believer. SINCE you have been baptised, hence buried spiritually
in Christ, you are in fact CIRCUMCISED (Col. 2:11). WHATEVER that ceremony
SIGNIFIED, is contained within baptism. HAVING BEEN BAPTISED, YOU ARE
CIRCUMCISED is the strict grammatical statement, rendered word for word. THEN
circumcision, well-known to Paul's readers, and the basis in millenia of time
for infants, as a testimony, of entry into the household of faith (not as
believers, but as participants in believing households, as a matter of
historical, Biblical fact), is used by the apostle.
THE OLD AND THE NEW
The Old Testament teaching on this is clear enough, and is easily verified by use of a concordance, to include circumcision of the heart, cleaning of the conscience (as in I Peter with baptism), union with God, removal of fleshly (carnal) contrivances, surrender with devotion into the hands of God, and denial of the lusts of the flesh, the spirit and the mind in the presence of the living, transforming God. All this has been so often and for so long used in so many exhortations and declarations from the Almighty that it gives to the apostle a springboard from which to leap with his hearers into a familiar pool, in teaching incisively necessary truth for the moment.
It is NOT something novel. It is OLD. It has long been exhibited. As in other things, Christ has NOT abrogated the law, become a new broom; but rather in purity and depth, makes the reality of the old - latent there, patent in the new.
This spiritual connotation of baptism, what it means, then, is said to wholly contain the spiritual connotation, what that means, of circumcision.
"You were circumcised …
having been buried with Him in baptism"
- Colossians 2:11-12.
Hence if you understand what is conveyed by the latter, you can grasp what is meant by the former. Hence Paul travels with his listeners, linking, educationally, the known with the ''unknown", and former knowledge with current needs of development.
He stresses the point in 2:13. YOU, he indicates, were DEAD in sins, in "the uncircumcision of your flesh". The male organ which was circumcised represents the transmission of flesh, in its sin; and the operation of circumcision symbolised removal of uncleanness. "Uncircumcision" meant NOT to be willing to be, or not actually involved in the COVENANT of the ALMIGHTY, the necessary, deafeningly necessary constraint to be WHERE He says in the MANNER He requires, in order to be His. Again (Jeremiah 9), the rite (then circumcision, as in Paul, later to be baptism) is not a saving ceremony, but it SIGNIFIES what is saving, namely: the pardon and grace and mercy and sacrificial structure in which forgiveness was found, and which Christ in final substance, completed as the Lamb of God (Hebrews 8-10, cf. the affirmation and denial of I Peter 3:21). Salvation is of the Lord, not a bi-product of a ceremony (Psalm 3:8, Jonah 2:9, I Peter , Titus 3:5).
Now the apostle is making this testimony: all that which was, and which had been in circumcision, and all it signified (as was so well known, or should or could have been, since it was so often declared in the Old Covenant), was now SIGNIFIED by baptism. Having been baptised, you are circumcised. That is what the word of God says. What that did, this did. Where that went, this went. Thus you can APPLY with Paul, what is to be found in the old circumcision, to the new baptism; and in its fulness, the new baptism incorporates this thoroughly. If you have the baptism, the circumcision is wholly contained, you have it too! It is a package within; and the new package contains it all, there ready for the boiling water of truth to be poured on, so that its goodness and benefit may be received.
From this stress on the FULNESS of the Godhead in Christ, and the fulness of the circumcision in the baptism, Paul proceeds to the fulness of the blessing to be obtained in Christ when what is signified, and used to be signified, but now more fully. The ASSUMPTION in doing so, is explicitly built: What circumcision signified is now signified in baptism, the heart of the covenant, namely, transformation of life, deliverance from the sovereignty of sin, awakening to God as to reality, cover of sins, dynamic for living spiritually in closeness to God.
Having been brought to death of the "old
man", your old nature, with Christ, you are brought to life with Him. Both
states stay put, as Galatians 2:20 shows - Paul, as noted, there showing that
he continues constantly crucified with Christ (that is the Greek perfect tense,
in that verse, and this is its meaning), and constantly is made alive, lives by
the faith of the Son of God who loved him and gave Himself for him. There is no
question of a passing parade.
THE NATURE OF EACH
But why circumcision ? First, it was THE covenantal sign which God required of Abraham. No circumcision no covenant. It did not MAKE the covenant; but it was a specified CONDITION, that it should be done; and what it signified, as noted, was continually spelt out, namely the covenant to which it related as an initiatory rite, a distinguishing mark, a teaching declaration, but NOT a saving act. It meant that the household in question was PUBLIC in its testimony, UNIVERSAL in its method of testimony, COVENANTAL in the content of that testimony, and as the pots and pans were 'holy', how much more the children (cf. I Cor.7:14).
Holiness is NOT here a spiritual reality in the children, for how could you simply assume it in I Cor. 7. They may be but young, in the Old Testament case, indeed infants of days. It is a in fact a formal situation, in the household of faith, that the whole household being rendered, surrendered and tendered to God, those in it are in His survey formally, and children being His idea, they are under the covenantal hand. This, again, is NOT to say they are 'saved', but in the prescribed, certainly required, specific covenantal situation before the face of God, surrounded with JUST what He requires, and susceptible to just such help as in this formally, covenantally and ceremonially precise fashion, is appropriate to households of faith.
As to Acts 16:31, Paul's exclamation, "You shall be saved, you and your household", while it mightily reinforces the applicability of Old Testament language and concepts, the word of God, concerning the normal, necessary applicability of the rite, here baptism, to children as such, it for exactly the same reason does NOT suggest that eternal salvation is involved for each individual in the household, since in the Old Testament itself, such sacramentalistic concepts are expressly removed (Jeremiah 9:23ff.), just as they are in the New (I Peter 3:21). God will destroy, in the case noted in Jeremiah, the circumcised WITH the uncircumcised!
What has to be realised is this: GOD SPEAKS to man in His word to the human race, wherever, and unless he discountenances a principle or concept, it remains; where He conjoins, it is conjoined; and if He discountenances, it is not to decry His knowledge, but to interpret and fulfil. The salvation involved in the 'household' is what it always was. God does not have endlessly to repeat everything He says, when anything He says is true! It is the making 'holy' as Paul puts it in I Cor.7, of the household that is in view, so that it becomes as a household, a saved one under the aegis of the parents, or believing parent. The individual question is as it always was: to mature in faith, or not. The household question was determined at once: through the faith of the parent or parents concerned, signified on the children. If a 'stranger' did not want it, not in the household would he be! The rule was clear; the household was a unit, consecrated, devoted, sacramentally involved, covenantally contained; argument against it can only be made with God, and as to Him, He is the truth!
Secondly, circumcision is apt, BECAUSE it was the strenuously required sign of the covenant (so strenuously, that Moses was threatened with death if it were not done to his child, so showing it is as deep as life - Exodus 4:24-5), signified what was basic. It is therefore contained in baptism which is also a vigorously requested sign (Acts 2:38) of the New Covenant, at once required of those who coming from the Old, and being adults since it was new and only just being heard, who believed in the long promised Messiah, as attested in the Old Covenant itself (Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 11,42,49,53-53, Psalms 110, 40 etc.).
Thirdly, circumcision as noted, is apt
because it is known, and its use as a valid symbol of the covenant provisions
was both familiar and long exegeted, expressed and development in the Old
THIS circumcision is then contained in THAT baptism, and this to the point that if the latter is yours, so is the former. In fact, it is the "circumcision of Christ" which you receive, that is the one which is His donation, His performance on you in terms of all the meaning which the older act signified. Thus the Old and the New are summarily bound, just as in Matthew 5:17ff., where not even the smallest part of a letter would be foregone in the law, but all fulfilled.
This does NOT, of course, mean that having shown this ASSUMPTION of containment of circumcision in baptism, and of Christ's performance of its meaning in the heart, according to circumcision, Paul meant that it was NOT contained. Is it not enough for some to imagine that God, without speaking, has changed His mind on the implantation of the required preliminary rite, or the application of it, relative to infants; but must it now be that He has ALTERED HIS CODE as well, and while busily betokening the two initiatory rites in their mutuality and the containment of one in the other, He really meant that there was to be understood a radical refurbishing, a knocking down and transformation which denied in passing the very heart, the kitchen and the bathroom of the old, in the new! It was cardinally meant, this circumcision, for infants, that being the norm, the way of things, how it would in due process happen all the time; and the divine warning to Moses was heavy against any delay! Its omission, even procrastination, was heavy on the heart of the Lord, and He acted towards Moses accordingly.
What then ?
Is THIS how the assumption of equivalent heart in these two affairs, circumcision and baptism, is to be understood! Baptism contains what it does not contain, holds what it loses and in a revised God with revised opinions about family affairs and the relationship of covenant children to Himself, there comes this coping stone: the two covenantal seals are indeed dynamically equivalent, though there is a total ditching of some of the most vital elements and implements of the old.
You can reach back to circumcision to explain baptism, in its force, even to the language of the Old Covenant, as so often in fact is done, to manifest the light of the abiding word of God on it; and in this case, Paul in fact, reaches back to the very name of this circumcision rite to explain baptism. Are we then in some trance-like way, to hear the very word, circumcision, used to establish this collaboration, parallel, incorporation of meaning, application of the basic realities of the covenant, new or old, which it, like baptism, symbolically can represent and here does, and yet summarily evacuate it of this basic premiss !
Are we to read the very term which the apostle thought suitable for such an equivalence proposition, and yet LOSE one major phase, crucial indeed, normative and of the deepest significance to God, within it. If so, then the new thing contains this stripped down thing, but not the fulness, in the very chapter where fulness, completeness and comprehensiveness is the stress! Are children unimportant ? Did the Saviour not in fact rebuke the disciples and ask the children, so very young, to come to Him! If they are important, who is this who reduces their participation, in the very face of the establishment of equivalent dimensions in the covenants, the one the fulness, the other the first statement, in the same principles: as if the old man were in some new way to be treated differently in the household of faith, where from Abraham on, such obediences were commanded, such applications required, such signals sent, such signs shown to all and for all! Who is this who teaches God wisdom!
What then ? If you can do that, then in betokening the New through the Old, using a rite symbol to do so, Paul is not only specifying something secretly being changed, but doing so with language which uses what is CHANGED, the rite, to signalise the equivalence which he has in mind! For teaching purposes, that would be an atrocity of misleading method. For spiritual truth, it would cry for correction. In the heart of the area, such an omission by the apostle, such a failure to qualify, would not only permit, it would foster confusion. What would this be ? Will then alteration be used to specify continuation; will it, the rampant alteration, be secret; will it become mere mockery to employ what is (secretly) mutant, to show what is constant!
If you can do that, you can do anything.
What does it imply ?
It means, first, adding to God's word (forbidden, Proverbs 30:6), by changing for Him without His consent, far less utterance, His view of covenantal symbol and children.
Let us be clear. In a setting of equivalence with the one blooming into the other, to rescind one part of the meaning of the Old, essential application of its rite to infants, is to subtract from covenantal equivalence, making less not more in baptism. How is this done ? It is done by addition to the word of God, and as such it is forbidden (Proverbs 30:6). Besides, it is never a good idea for the finite to make up words for the infinite, and require them!
Reflect a moment. Since baptism denotes the core of the covenant, as does circumcision, the one wholly embracing the other, and since each is the prescribed initial rite, then any alteration in the principle attached to the one, circumcision, in the other, baptism, any such change invented by man and not ordered by God, is
addition to the word of God, if added,
b) revocation, rescinding of the word of God, if deleted, and
c) if masquerading as 'fulfilment', then simply confusion, since each rite as Paul shows, symbolises the heart of the covenant touching those approach to God, blood being inept when Christ's is shed.
Symbols do not save. There is nothing substantial about them (cf. Hebrews' exposition on the point at length, chs. 8-10, I Peter ). There is no "substance replacing shadow" effect in symbols. They do not fulfil but signify. Hence to re-organise application of the rite, as by excluding infants, is to presume, alter divine principles, add to the word of God, rescind its conceptions, tamper with its practice and re-write the approach of God to families. The case becomes then simply the word of God written by man at his will, not by divine authority; and this cannot consistently be contemplated by those accepting, as did Christ, the whole Old Testament as the word of God.
Indeed, we then obtain by this invention (cf. Psalm 106:29,26, 99:8) a doctrinal source of 3 units, just like Rome which has transgressed from near the first as shown in detail in Ch. 10 of The Shadow of a Mighty Rock (SMR, pp. 1032-1088H); this, not the word of the living God in the Old and New Testament (cf. SMR Appendix D). We gain by this innovation, The Old Testament, the New Testament and the Church Testament, which is no testament at all, but vain tradition (Mark 7:7), such as Christ assaulted with vigour, announcing that by this means the word of God was made of no effect. It stultifies as when a false witness adds to the facts, in a court having jurisdiction. Man adds at his pleasure and leisure, despite the fact ONE is your Master, and all you are brethren, on the one hand, and the other fact that adding to these things (Revelation 22:18).
If the argument is that little children are too young for it, then it also means attacking the practice, instituted by God, of millenia. Attacking without understanding, and on false premisses no doubt; but for our point here, just this: attacking. It is not a question of what cultural chain or misconception rules in the minds of some; it is not a question of judgment on any, but on this one thing. It is simply a matter exegesis, of seeing what is there, in the word of God. What then ? It then means that when God makes an assumption (or better, a declaration which we are to take as an assumption we read as therefore a divine principle in the scriptures), we are free to countermand, qualify and alter it. It matters not at all whether sacramentalists unscripturally imagine the sacrament saves, which as noted it fails to do; the point is simple. Man speaks, roaring over the voice of God. Such practice does not do justice to the word of God, the work, the witness or the ways of God. Finite man finishing off the word of God is not the way of holiness, but of restive innovation arresting the mouth of God. Better arrest the teeth of a lion at your throat!
That is the requirement if you want to ditch
this element of circumcision from code equivalence.
The New Covenant is signified in Colossians 2:11-12, by baptism; the Old by circumcision; what one means, the other declares, the apostle indicates in the pithiest of terms. Yet for all this, the nature of the 2 covenants is to be suddenly, silently and provocatively changed, and that radically in principle, even at the very point of the language used, to signify equivalence of concept.
If however you can do this, why then bother with what God says at all, since His mouth is to be so extended beyond and contrary to His stated principles, His equivalence and His strongest assertions! The new glory of the New Covenant is far from evacuating the Old one of meaning, for Paul makes it CONTAIN the Old, one covering the other. Fulfilment is not fiasco, or frustration of commands; and in this case, it is not fulfilment but transformation of symbols, a matter of development - and development is not a ground for cancellation of God's declared principles in an area made one by the apostle, as also in Hebrews at great length.
· It is not even fulfilment in principle, there being no substance for shadow relationship, as in the animal sacrifices being replaced by the ONE sacrifice of Christ. Here symbol follows symbol. So let us restrict the symbol, countermand the sovereign ? Alas, that sort of development is that of a storm, a cloud oppressing the landscape of divine radiance. God's thoughts cannot be twiddled like a dial, trifled with as if some landscaping were being made in one's garden. They are the truth.
Circumcised with the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11) is then something rarefied, with different connotations, principles and ideas behind it; it is no longer seen as an objective household matter, hanging like a banner over the house, a specific, divinely announced, directed and controlled institution relative to family and its relationship to God, a continual charge and challenge to all. It becomes instead merely something internal, subjective, applicable in will alone, not at the will of God as directed uniformly over all members of the household.
The "circumcision of Christ" (i.e. baptism) thus is NOT His circumcision, but His something else, to be defined at the whim, caprice or philosophical preference of some church or other, which thinks this or that. THAT however is not the divine mode. As to God's mind, HE TELLS YOU, and to alter what He says has no part in His grace. It is an exercise in sand castle construction, not in building in the way of life, on rock (Matthew 7:24ff.). It is to alter the covenant connection to household, so vital and continual, as unchanged as the expanse of the heavens above the earth, in the word of God (Genesis 17:1-13, 18:19, cf. Genesis 17:7, Acts 2:39, 16:15, Isaiah 55:8).
This it is despite the use of that term as
normative and customary, in the cases of the Philippian jailor and Lydia (Acts
16:31,15, and the promise made by Peter in a setting where the current practice
was both clear and un-countermanded - Acts 2:39). What more is to be broken,
what more assumed, contrary to the express emphasis of the Almighty that HE
does not change, His ways do not change, His word will not be aborted but only
fulfilled, matters already emphasised above! Contradiction is not fulfilment;
dismissal is not maintaining; fulfilment alone is permissible in change
(Matthew 5:17ff.). This then, it is not!
SAME KEY, SAME UNCHANGING GOD, DIFFERENT KERNEL ?
To suggest that when God explicitly CALLS the
essence and spiritual pith of ONE COVENANT by the very NAME attached to the
initiatory rite of ANOTHER COVENANT, using the name of the initiatory rite of
that other in so doing, that we are free to evacuate from the scope of the new
rite in its application, as if we were kings and not servants, philosophers and
not hearers: this is something excluded from people who do not have the authority
Bound to the word of God, just as they are crucified with Christ, they cannot move without authority. Dead in Christ, they cannot fill up the word of God with their own thoughts; risen in Christ, they are under the living Lordship of the One who said, If you continue in My word, you are really My disciples! and that we should build our houses on the rock of the word of Christ, which of course (Matthew 5:17ff.) statedly includes every jot and tittle of the Old Testament, which is either fulfilled or as ever, the required reading of the word of God. THAT is the teaching of Christ. There is a vast difference between the mirages of human thought, political, psychological or philosophical, and the material of the word of God.
Thus what God has conjoined in the scope of
the covenantal assembly (Deuteronomy 29:1-2.10-11), application (Leviticus 12)
and done so with maximum emphasis (Exodus 4:24ff.), is not to be disjoined by
the roving philosophy of man, inventing reasons for differing from the divine
expositions of His covenantal will.
· What God has constructed in His word in principle, is not to be disrupted in our practice in preference.
· What God has paralleled in His covenants, by the device of these same initiatory rites, each for its covenant, making by symbolism, the new rite swallow whole the old (Colossians 2:11-14), is not free to be remanufactured by spiritual entrepreneurs, even in these same rites...
· and at that, remanufactured with a vast minus.
The "Circumcision of
Christ" is actually in Colossians 2:11, the name used from the Old
Testament, in embracing the meaning THERE given, in the New Testament, in
baptism. Thus if you are baptised, you are circumcised; the long developed
meaning of the latter, as in being "circumcised in heart" in the Old
Testament, is now available to interpret the New Testament on baptism, what it
signifies. This is the teaching.
The symbols arouse the covenants, the
covenants contain their conceptual apparatus, their mode of thought, their
principles and their applications.
To equate the symbols, or to incorporate the one
in the other as Paul does, is contrary to this wayward baptistic
principle, for that is one
To use one freely to mean the
other is no way of advising humanity of a change so vast, that the MAJOR
APPLICATION of the former, is without a word, to be understood quashed, its
stamp and seal on millions, and children daily cancelled in the new covenant,
so announced via rite... "BAPTISED ... you are CIRCUMCISED."
The transference by Paul, the apostle, of the whole basic meaning of circumcision, and that in a highly specific form, to baptism in Colossians 2:11-12, does leave scope for arbitrary change in its clientele, that is, its coverage, its field of application. But this, only at the cost of adding to God's word.
It allows reduction in the application of one
key to the covenant (circumcision) in its preparatory form, when translated by
Paul to the other key (baptism) for the New Covenant. It allows the omission of
infants (the major, stressed, normative one in the former case); but this, only
if the principles of God are to be changed by the philosophy of man. A sour
substitution! It allows such change of perspective from that drastically
emphasised in the Old Testament; but only in resistance to the divine
insistence, which was profound, in this case.
If it is ALWAYS unthinkable to add to the word of God (Proverbs 30:6), at risk of actually being summonsed as a liar, as it is likewise a breach of divine desire, how much more so is it to change His principles of application of what signifies His covenant, when the same is deemed swallowed up in the New one, so that the OLD name is used to signify the NEW reality! NAME in the Old Testament incorporates character, and the character of circumcision is objective, specified, required, required early, does not mean to donate the reality to which it refers (Jeremiah 9:25), but it DOES relate the family-unit to God VIA the explicit word of God and covenant of God on an even and comprehensive basis.
To evoke the meaning of the New covenant in terms of the Old, and that by the specific rite of the Old as a conceptual holder, when there is in hand a dismissal of the main application of principle used in this very symbol in the Old, would be far more than infamous teaching, misleading presentation. That would imply that what God has used in symmetry, in harmony, in togetherness, made one in principle, man will make divergent in practice. This is innovation by contradiction. It would indeed actually mean this: that the key to one covenant, being used to bring to mind the kernel of the other, unlocks far less, the covenant called thus to mind, being secretly altered, when in fact not a jot or tittle will fail till all is fulfilled is the word of the Speaker. Further, the alteration would be of what was the commanded, emphasised and most significant normative approach to infants. It was here that occurred the vast majority situation for the rite.
THIS, it is more than jot or tittle evacuated. The precise feature is divinely paralleled in language signifying the heart of the covenant in each case, a divine mode of incorporating the thrust of one in the rite-name of the other. It is a camel of the largest order that would be unfulfilled, not a flea. It involves the children so admittedly precious to the Lord, so explicitly called into the covenantal assembly as named parties, as well as designated by symbolic apparatus. An enormous change of heart, attitude and approach would have to be assumed in the One who commanded so unyieldingly on this very infant issue. Enormous, it would be unspoken. How then is it to be relayed ? By philosophy ? (Colossians 2:8), no fit replacement for the mouth of God, by every word of which man is to live (Matthew 4:4).
It is true that
in the New Covenant, blood changes to water, for blood has no more place when
the Saviour has shed His own; and the rite has broader applicability, as it is
no longer limited physically, though the intent in principle was always to
children of the household (Deuteronomy 29:1-2, 11-18), so there is no change
except in the practical availability of application. However there is NO
FULFILMENT in these symbolic codes and rites, moving from one to the other;
only substitution of the code for specifying the essential realities of the
covenant, circumcision as expressly shown in Colossians 2, being now recoded
as baptism. The terms are so divinely used. To exceed this divine
transformation, which expressly carries the concept of containment of the one
matter in the other, and to make remodellings of one's own, is not only to
exceed the speed (of thought) limit; it is to operate in place of God, whose
mouth is however neither for hire, nor tender. Biblically, it simply cannot be
THE PATH OF WISDOM
THERE is authority with plenary wisdom.
If God cannot be corrected, if His principles as announced cannot be aborted, if His statement of dynamic equivalence is right, if we have no power to alter any opinion or concept of God without authority express and assured from the same: then infant baptism is required.
If on the other hand, we can freely alter divine modes, transform divinely granted modules, alter apostolic teaching, make the parallel crooked and the container inadequate, the correlative disparate, then let us by all means ignore the babes in this matter. If however baptism is the circumcision of Christ, let us not re-define circumcision in order to indulge either concepts of baptism's power as a ceremony, which are sacramental and contrary to Peter, or about democracy which presume autonomy in the flesh, and not the divine election which knows all about our wills, and would have all to be saved, yet makes that decision in its own integrity.
When the materials before us show intense and
hearty parallel in concept in New and Old Covenant, which is to be expected
from the all-knowing God, and is likewise found, we are not free to invent.
Indeed, when God has expressly shown the relevance, correlativity and parallel
to the heart of the 2 Covenants, and of their initiatory provisions in
signs, it is certainly not for us to be separating and altering in our
pleasure, unfulfilled principles which yet demand utterance. It is FULFILLED or
it STANDS: that is the DICTUM OF CHRIST in Matthew 5, concerning "the
law and the prophets". It is NOT fulfilled, so it stands. Alternative:
contradiction of the word of God through the mouth of God. We are not traffic
controllers but servants; it is not for us to dig up the concrete and lay down
new roads. God is quite competent in speech, and indicates all His desire; and
its contravention in principle is not a happy thought for holiness. We are
grafted INTO the olive tree that was
On the other hand, to continue in the
prescriptions of the Almighty, authorised and expressed in constant speech and
even argument on the complete correlativity of the Covenants (Colossians 2;
Matthew 5:17ff.), dealing as His word in Old and New Testament states, in
households with specified entry symbolism,
|stable and secure in the unchanging God,|
|this is part of the stability, not to say blessedness,|
|which is the part of wisdom (Isaiah 33:6).
|More important perhaps still, is this realisation that baptism of infants is a deep, demanding and searching thing, since God detests empty forms (Isaiah 1); that bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) is not a religious exercise in existential freedom, however 'religious' it may be, but very much more: a covenantal exercise in a God who has provided such symbolism that it contains a channel of hope, a place of promise for prayer, so that all required for the covenantal children is to be met in the all-knowing God.|
It is a surround like a beautiful garden, planted by God*3. It reminds constantly that there is no decision to be taken, no liberty to be assumed, but a responsible completeness in one's attitude to one's children which goes as deep as one's own life, in its own covenantal relation to the Lord. There is immense cohesion in a structure established by God, with a seal signatured by God, symbolising for each as one unit, what God requires of all. Social structures may change, but the family continues the same.
up in this way have a marvellous exposure, example and help both divine and
human, in the road to life which loves it, and does not seek death. Parents
acting in this way are not merely avoiding the presumption of innovation,
disruption of what is cemented, corruption of what is encoded, alteration of
what is the word of Someone else in its parallels, principles and
prescriptions: they are according their ways with the divinely directed
features of family procedure, reinforced in their objective covenantal
structure, moving in all obedience with confidence in a highway of faith
carefully constructed by the One in whom that faith rests. Then it is not only
faith, but a faith which walks in the faith, a faith deposited by God,
dynamised in obedience, activated without assumption, moving steadfastly in the
channels provided, like water coursing from the reservoirs.
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC IMPACT
Of these beauties and wonders in the word of God, the covenantal harmony, Old and New, is not the least.
It is indeed filled with such minute inter-relations through all the symbols, and the changing symbols (as in the Lord's supper preceded by the Passover, baptism preceded by circumcision), and the fulfilled symbols (as in the resurrection after three days from the passover, in the waving of the first-fruits - SMR pp. 472-475), that its mere analysis in any depth, in like seeing a terrain from the skies, all ordered and inter-related in a pathway of beauty.
Indeed, it is part of the testimony of truth, that the Bible is certainly God's word, that the unchanged categorisation of families, unaltered scope of covenantal application, immutable principles of God are shown in this, just as in other aspects of His word. There is no room for innovation when the Almighty speaks to His creation, and so His words attest. He develops as He will the things which He decrees; but Himself, He does not contradict, His principles He does not change, His values He does not alter. Though men intrude, yet He is the same and His words endure.
Thus again, the covenantal language of households stays unchanged (as in Acts 16), the kernel of meaning in Old and New Covenant is identical (as in Colossians 2), the embracal of children from Peter on is explicit in the covenantal assemblage of new Christians (Acts 2), the pith in Christ unites Old and New, the shadows of preliminary portents becoming the substance of Christ's own salvation (Hebrews 4-5,8-10). Lustrous with light, the principles of divine morals and appraisal, are as unaltered as the sun, indeed more so, since that body is destined to darkness and ultimate destruction (Matthew 24:35, Isaiah 51:6), while the word of God endures for ever.
He is perfect. As to His words, their
harmony is constant, continual, their comprehensiveness, deep, both principial
and rising to the surface, being visible both in things small and in deeper
modes, as in our present topic. As the Psalmist puts it of the law of God,
"The entirety of Your
word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures
(Psalm 119:160), and again,
"I have seen a
consummation of all perfection,
Your commandment is exceedingly broad."
The ingenious magnificence of the "one garment", the seamless robe of Old and New Testament unity, in their continuity, accord and burnished agreement is one of those unasked for superabundances which delight and dignify the field of Christian Apologetics. The word of God attests itself in truth as fire speaks in warmth. What it is, it shows, and it shows it always.
Stepping out from that word is
the Living and Eternal Word, who had glory alongside His Father before creation
(John 17:1-5). Becoming flesh, He attested His words, as Peter indicated
likewise, adding that it was by the thrusting power of the Holy Spirit that
holy men of old were moved (I Peter 1:21) when they gave the scriptures found
in the Biblical prophets. These, they would stay, history incapable of denying
them minutest fulfilment.
When God expresses Himself, through the eternal sonship of the living Word, in enduring word written, it is a thing of beauty, moving through whatever medium:
accurate, acute, gracious and merciful,
unified, since He is one,
neither allowing nor evidencing change;
moving to the crux of the Cross not in an indulgence of literary effusion,
but with the precision which gave birth to science,
the heart which gave birth to motherhood
and the surveying eye which operates in fatherhood.
This He does,
Himself the author and original of all creation, through His word, and in Him,
His eternal Son, who expresses it finally, even to the consummation of the
purpose of creation (Revelation 5:12-13, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 9) -
while in so doing, attesting the truth of all that went before.
1) Actually Abraham is saved by grace through faith, as in Romans 4, and Christ is shown as the one in whom we place our faith, as Abraham was led towards the deity in the same way.
It was, says Paul, accounted to him for
righteousness that he believed God in his own milieu, as it is to us. It was
NOT () written, says the apostle, that it was imputed to
him for righteousness for his sake alone, but for us too. It was the PRINCIPLE
for one as for the other; neither earned salvation, on each it was conferred.
The founder of
2) Throughout the Old Testament, rest is precious and conferred graciously, being nothing new, as if one could KNOW GOD and not know rest, or earn it! as if He had changed in His ways, His principles and His good pleasure.
Thus we read of its intense blessedness in Isaiah 63:14, in the most picturesque terms; of its relation to pardon in Psalm 51:2,8,10,12,17, and in Psalm 32; in relation to the certainty of going to be with God for ever, in Psalm 17; and of its nature in Numbers 6:26, and its experience in Psalm 116:7.
Christ's gift merely accentuates
but also gives the basis for rest; its provision, like that of pardon, was
always there. As He gave rest, in spirit, so is rest required from the toils of
the day, by the creation called man, because of the mode of the creation of Him
who commands, giving things profitable and edifying in all His word (II Timothy
3:16), never aborting it. We are not free to add (Proverbs 30:6), or to
diminish (Matthew 4:4). The mouth of God is not subject to philosophy, and He
rules. Wise are they, and of a good understanding, who keep His commandments
(Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 111:10).
CHURCH STRUCTURE IMPACT
Now many do not understand these things completely. Their confusion or superficiality, their failure for whatever reason indeed, is sometimes found even in those who do not knowingly discount the Old Testament as the word of God. When, however, these do not dishonour the substance of the word of God directly, and fail in this matter without using baptism as a sacramentalist substitute for the Gospel in any way, there are some major considerations which we can now regard.
1) It would be unfortunate if they were
a segment apart, with whom those who practice with faithfulness, infant
baptism, could needlessly have no fellowship. Some things in the Bible take
time to chew thoroughly, being meat, as Paul puts it, not milk (I Cor. 3:1-2);
and some people are so imbued with cultural or even secular political, or
psychological modes of thought and feeling, that the penetration of this field
is exceedingly difficult for them.
2) It would enhance the unity of
fellowship and testimony if joint works could thus be engaged in by such
combinations of persons. In fact, in my own experience in the Christian
ministry, such a pastoral work was engaged in, though naturally as pastor one
could not undertake to downplay anything in the Bible, nor was this
done. In that case, certain assumptions about the impact of the Bible as such,
the necessity of following it faithfully, arose. The basis appeared not so much
directly anything to do with baptistic doctrine, as with biblical fidelity in
action, taking the directions of the word of God seriously: this in quite
3) Such limited but real fellowship is
then not found to be an impossible thing at all, and is frequently engaged in,
as for example when one was younger, in the Children’s Special Service
Mission (though that body appears at least on occasion, to have gone beyond the
meat-milk distinction in this regard, showing the need of eternal vigilance, of
knowing what one is doing and not following a path to its 'logical’ conclusion,
on premises which may change over time!).
4) It is good however that we all be
tested at all times, and all realise how easily we may slip here or there,
taking time to be holy, and watching with prayer.
5) If however the BASIS were to be
this: We agree on the main things,
6) The Presbyterian Church in
Australia, for example, made a practice of NOT requiring of members, the
understanding of infant baptism; and I myself, as it transpired (not because of
7) However, as no doctrine may be
sacrificed in teaching, no ‘harmony’ can be spiritually sustained
It is necessary that a church, ideally,
should teach infant baptism without the heady fog of
8) In fact, in New Zealand, to my
surprise, when the issue of the bodily resurrection arose,
9) In this way, with a distinction
between requirements for elders, and the standards of the church, and the
requirements in this ‘meaty’ area for members being less stringent than for
As will be seen from the foregoing, the
matters need, as do many others including predestination,
10) There are times in the course of duty when dumbness is worse than dumb.
It is God’s word and human failure in it is
no part of OUR tolerance, but of neglect of faithfulness to ANOTHER, even the
Lord! Yet then as in much teaching, when it is not the critical basic doctrine
what then ?
Then there is scope for operations of mutuality in fellowship with those who do not in all things come to what is required of an elder.
Let us not misunderstand. It is not a ‘truce’, for who will play with what God has declared. It cannot have conditions about speaking the truth. Each person must be free before the Lord. Yet it can be an opportunity for fellowship and interaction where the various basic distortions of the Gospel are avoided, so that the love of Christ may be given more scope for witness and experience, greater scope for interchange may indirectly accrue, misconceptions may be laid to rest, and many may benefit.
With this said, one thing remains: the baptism which SAVES, says I Peter 3:21, is the witness of a good conscience towards God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, while the symbols are significant, challenging, root about in the soul and invest the mind to help correct autonomous and non-covenantal liberties outside the pardoning Gospel of God and His sovereign dispositions in mercy and lovingkindness, yet more so by far is the Gospel itself. Christ did not send me to baptise, said Paul, arch-enemy of empty sacramentalism, but to preach the Gospel (I Corinthians 1). In the Gospel, it is not a mere token deployment of words, but of what words mean, that is to the point. God is a SPIRIT. Hence belief in the resurrection is not some meaningful option as seemed to be the case in the minds of the Presbyterian Church of N.Z. when they unchurched in 1966, but is in the essence of salvation, what is the actual work of it. WIthout this resurrection of the body as scripturally prescribed and described, there is no Christianity at all, but a foul falling into the evil ways predicted in II Timothy 3, where a failure to believe in the power of God is one of the many symptoms of what one must LEAVE as unauthentic and unauthenticating!
That Christ is authenticated, that what went into the tomb is what raised, came out of it as in I Corinthians 15:1ff., that the holes were there, the wounds visible in the resurrected Christ (Luke 24): this is not some daring feat of faith. It is the ABC of the Gospel, that the Creator came and died as man for man and was raised in integrity and purity, being sinless and hence a fitting sacrifice, without blemish (I Peter 23:22ff.), and so made the atonement, and was free to be raised, and was so (Romans 1:4).
This was the epic for the epoch of the Gospel Age, the very centre and life of every Christian, the exemplar of eternal life to come, the witness of His power to create and to re-create, of the Creator immortal: seizing the death penalty and in sublimity overthrowing it, since death could not hold Him (Acts 2:22-31), who made life (John 1:1-3).
It is He who became a curse (Galatians 3), made it worse for the curse in love and might, overthrowing death, not in symbol but in the manner of His coming, in the flesh, so that not a poem but the power of God wrought once for Him and in Him for all men, who receive His covenantal grace of the New Covenant in His blood. It is an affair of blood and bones, for as He said, a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me to have (Luke 24).
It is to this Christ that the Lord's Supper and the baptism refer, His profound and grand act, greater than that of Creation, which is the basic reason for the Lord's day, that of rest, now being Sunday, that symbolising Gospel centrality, and not the Saturday, symbolising merely the vast but lesser work of creation. It is now that the Creator, evidenced magnificently as the Redeemer, rests from His work; for what did He say ? "I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how I am pressed till it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:50), and with what labours did He work in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39ff.), and with what cries did He labour (Hebrews 5:7) as He even approached that amazing act, that strange and wonderful act as Isaiah calls it, the bearing of human sin, for as many as received Him! (Isaiah 53:1-6). Those whose sin was laid on Him, these were those healed in their hearts! all of them.
This is the labour of love, and love's labour is assuredly not lost; for in power from the grace His arising is the destiny of mankind, as many as receive Him who in kindness has proclaimed the only, the authoritative, the active path to peace, not in the midst of a fallen world, as part of it, but as part of Himself: it is as HIS BODY that we who believe are to be raised (Isaiah 26:19), and as sure as He is, so is that.
It is to this reality youth needs direction, not to subjective thoughts of the heart, but to the objective realities. It is then that the realities of life in the heart take place, as in a marriage. It is not cast like drift wood on the seas of free thought, but provided with a vessel which carries, where indeed we work, but not to get on it, for those in Christ are already in Him: rather to get on with it!
There is life for youth or for any other, and its vitality is that of the God who first made man, and then facing the madness of sin, re-made the very body and thus assured man that life is not a thing to toy with, in thought or in heart, but to triumph in; and the triumph, it is His.
It is THIS work in the very garden of life,
where Christ is planted and Himself arises, it is this which needs symbolising,
this which alone COULD bring rest and did to the disciples when He appeared and
granting them His peace, showed that He was indeed Lord of the life which He
created, and able to meet its worst eventualities IN LIFE, by life! This is the
first and greatest part of the work; and the symbols are an assuring part of the
perspective. In Him, there is salvation, with a faith which works by love, to us
and then in us.