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Ditching Tradition and Admiring Truth
Tradition is not always wrong. It can be right. It is just that its source is inadequate for unquestioning acceptance, its tentacles frequently aspire to kill and its entrenchments in bases of culture, often are used to build strategies against the King.
Truth is Jesus Christ. There is no other. It is He who came, displayed deity, evidenced love, the channel of mercy, the epitome of power, the focus of majesty, fulcrum of humility and wheel of peace.
Hence His hatred of making the word of God "of none effect through your tradition" - Mark .
The Reformed group have
contributed much. Better, the Reformation, an actual work instead of a studied
school, severed from
One must WARN the brethren of what is a plague, and instead of coalescing, as Anglicanism increasingly is doing, and the Uniting Church, not to mention much of Lutheranism, avoid it and seek for the salvation of the lost souls who, if they credit its teachings, violate the sole mastery of Christ (Matthew 23:8-10), the necessary and bloody nature of the sacrifice of Christ (cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H) and the status of Mary (cf. SMR p. 923ff., 977ff.), not to mention participation in the ecclesiastical sating of abundant other worldly appetites.
However the Reformed theology often omits adequate stress on victory over sin, being rightly impressed with the desolate depravity of man in the flesh, but wrongly too insensitive to the glorious power and transforming grace of Christ to engender a triumph over all obstacles, and the fruits of regeneration in practical action; too inclined to wander on gender matters in eldership (my own Presbytery in the PC of America, before perforce I was constrained to leave it at my own initiative, was proudly indicating to me its fellowship as a Presbytery with a denomination with female elders and ministers! cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 7), too mobile towards that flat contradiction of scripture, amillenialism (for all its corrective advantage over some opposite extremes cf. SMR Appendix A, Sparkling Life in Jesus Christ Ch. 10, Galloping Events Ch. 8, *2 and *3). It is easily associated with Reformed Baptist groups, just as the Pentecostals are easily assimilated with Romanism, when the latter bows to the former's extreme exaggeration of 'the gifts' in various ways (cf. A Question of Gifts ), and the former slights historical reality in Christ in favour of existential or allied outbursts.
For the good of just emphasis on many of the gifts, unexaggerated and modest, on a just stress on the TULIP doctrines, often associated with extremes, but in themselves sound (cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 8 ), as on sound solidarities in due co-operation at regional levels as in Presbyteries, and sound exposure of the depravity of sin, together with the insistence that the human will does NOT determine salvation (though it is relevant to God who DOES determine it by His own knowledge, with NO emphasis on ANY human merit), and on the insistence on infant baptism, though not the numbo-jumbo often associated with it (cf. Questions and Answers 11): for all these good things, we are happy to give applause.
For the theological SCHOOLS however which uniformly as if on some sort of jaunt, tend to exaggerate some aspect and ignore another, we are not so thankful. For the pugnacity of labels, which insists on having routine wars with labelled swords, ignoring the jars on which they should be placed, but where they often do not fit, we are not at all thankful.
What is needed is this, to
take the scripture, the word of God, the Bible as it comes and ignoring the
labelling advertising campaigns, to follow it wherever, at whatever cost,
anywhere. After all, it starts from God, ends in God, comes from God, is moved
on by God, has the guarantee of God, and so what is the need of the flesh! It
is NOT whether some 'saint' or other has declared, decreed this or that; in the
That, it can overshadow the issues,
attenuate the perception and glamorise error. THIS person has done, or
did, this or that, and hence when he speaks, the world listens at attention,
and his peccadilloes frequently become orders of the day. In
Oh for the Berean style approach, where the things to be believed are found by DIGGING in the word, not by DECLARING from the steps of some 'school' of theology, thought or prejudice... IF it is right, prove it; and if it is not provable, dispense with it. What is simpler! Of course, we must ALL guard against mistakes, and that implies being corrigible! But by what means shall we so guard ? By some utterance of some body which squeals, squawks or savages because its school label has been scratched ?
IS THAT honestly the sort of thing Christ encouraged ? Did not Paul expressly forbid this very sort of thing in I Cor. 3, and is not, for example, Calvinism, despite its manifest excellences in most things, STRICTLY FORBIDDEN as a label! How many ignore this in the supposed superior sanctity of their alternate towers, built on gravel, who call themselves just this with man-labels for their ‘position’, ‘school’ or stance, notwithstanding.
It is not a mere matter of words (though when the word of GOD declares a prohibition, whether it concern theology by man's names, or adultery, it is all one: offend in one, offend in all as James declares). It is a matter of attitude, leaven.
Thus the fruit-root error exposed in Deliverance from Disorientation Ch. 5 , ignores the necessity of faith in order to have real fruit, and hence the prior need for faith before the fruit which fruit inspectors aspire to assess, could possibly form. How does the fruit bearer produce, in faithless fertility, in order to have fruit assessable and hence the propriety of being 'allowed' to have certifiable, indeed credible faith!*1. Its good point is an emphasis on justifiable humility, earnest abiding, and it is in this to be congratulated; its bad point however is the denial of the primal necessity of faith in the individual heart, as if someone could be born incognito, and not cry at the outset on arrival!
It is NOT a question, this last point, of some routine and required method of regeneration, in terms of human experience. It IS a need to realise that HOWEVER you get there, in terms of your experiential quotient, THERE you get, and must know it. If you know God, and you do NOT have eternal life without it, are you going to sit there, or indeed stand there, and declare that you do not happen to notice it! Do you meet some great literary figure, and fail to recognise it IF YOU ARE A WRITER! Do you watch a golf exhibition, being zealous of the game, and not happen to realise that you are walking on the fairways with such and such a champion ? How on earth could you fail to realise when you are walking with the KING of HEAVEN, Jesus the Christ! (John 17:1-3).
must be one of the learner.
To be sure, the Gospel is at once clear and obvious; but in all the whole range of divine exposure of truth, it is necessary not to be in this school or that, and be piqued about it, with pride of place, but to GROW and LEARN from what is there.
What however is there today, for us, as an example of this need ?
It is the doctrine found in Romans 6, not of antinomianism, but of victory over sin.
Victory over sin ? One must realise that this is one of the greatest single consequences of the Gospel of grace. That it is grace is magnificent. That is is a loving-kindness, a mercy prodigious is thrilling. That it is powerful and grand, majestic and free, God loving without constraint from any source, but in what might be called an extravagant loyalty to the needs of His creation and kindness to His people: all this is of spectacular and embracing delight. It is however not a mere series of doctrines. It is a litany of truth about what God is, may be found to be, an experimental as well as a revelatory attestation!
Thus the POWER and the GRACE of God are not two words which allying themselves, fit snugly in some plan of salvation (though they can be expressed in such a format, with the advantage of brevity and survey, but some danger of being shorn of the experiential flavour of their truth). They are things true of God, which happen and are continuing to happen. One is almost at times moved to wonder whether some forms of doctrinal formulation are a substitute for living the things to which they refer! Thus the POWER is available and operative in OVERCOMING sin, and the GRACE is prodigious in bearing with one as the fights and warfares on the way, as one overcomes. The LOVE is profound as one is brought from this or that error, weakness or declivity, with all the buoyancy of cork, yet for all that, with that divine lift without which no natural properties of regeneration are adequate.
But IT HAPPENS! The power is not divorced from the child of God. Due emphasis on humility is not to be considered some sort of substitute for prevailing against besetting sin; and stress on one's entire orthodoxy is not to be made an alternate for finding in practice the power of God in directing and enabling one to endure, not in the grip or thrall of this or that, but as being lifted out of such ditches. God is not the one providing the power of God to salvation in the Gospel of grace (Romans 1), in order to be acknowledged as
the Tutor of Existential Depravity, the Access Station for Continuing Defeat, and
the Co-ordinator of the Lip Service squatters in the houses of sin,
in Degradation Street!
John did not, in I John 3:9, indicate (despite the poor translation in this case of the AV) that he who is born of God does not make a practice of sin, for fun. To be sure, there are depths and dimensions of sin, there are qualitative deficiencies RELATIVE TO THE STANDARD OF AND IN CHRIST, which make us all shake our heads. We ARE sinners.
However the concept of defeat as a kind of substitute for victory, in the interests of scripture is a flat contradiction of scripture. IF we are aware of sin, it must go. IF we are proud, that is sin, and must go. If we are proud of our sanctity, that is sin, and must go; but NOT the sanctity, just the pride in it! We are far from having 'already attained' but this requires growth, not wallowing in sin, as if defeat in known quarters is some emblem, mascot or trifle associated with pure Christian life because one is 'reformed'.
This is not at all to suggest that all who call themselves 'reformed' are of this kind. It is to indicate however that such emphases, such virtual actions as accomplices of spiritual defeat, are too often met with in practice. There is no nobility in defiance, dress it up as humility as you may.
to Romans 6. It is here we must abhor inadequate tradition, as presented by
some, and find what it is actually saying. Its message of VICTORY is profound,
delightful and indispensable.
ROMANS 6 IS GRAND TREATMENT FOR VICTORY
You are not under law, but under grace, they say.
It is a good statement, inspired by God. But what is often made of it ? A gross distortion is often made of it.
It can be used in a sort of phraseological dominion or kingdom, to mean or to imply that what God has said is not really required, that you can readily dispense with it, that so gracious is He who died in order to bear the trespasses and sins indicted against us, does not really care too much about violation, or not to put too fine a point on it, about a measure of serene and self-confident disregard of His directions. Grace so abounds that the idea of trying with any real effort to DO what He has demanded, does demand and continues to demand (since the word of God endures forever, and even Christ insisted that greatness in the kingdom of heaven relates not a little to DOING and TEACHING the least of these commandments): this is thought of as childish.
Yes, it is a failure to realise the profundity of the grace, to worry about what it met, in order to avoid condemnation for us who are sinners: it is this which many allege, is the fault of those who seek victory or imagine that the word of God is bound, and binds us to its law (not lore).
NOTHING of keeping the law relates in the least degree to the STATUS achievement, wrought by Christ, of being a Christian. People seem to have a natural proclivity to mix the most elemental of concepts. This then being so, we come to the next and non-assimilable, but rather discretely true point. NOTHING of failing to keep the word of God is commendable, or shows depth, and NO reflection on one's failures is relevant in the matter of pleasing God. He can BEAR with them; but they are not of the character and style of being a Christian.
They are moles, some perhaps carcinomas, they are able to be treated; but they are neither exhibitions of the profundity of one's theology nor the advanced status of one's sainthood, that one has acquired. If they are present, the time for their removal is NOW. The power for it is DIVINE. The willingness to operate is STATED!
Where, where is it stated ?
In II Peter 1 we find that to us are given great and precious promises that by
these we should ... what ? Let us rephrase it, indeed start at the beginning in
II Peter 1:3:
"... as His divine power" - notice the infinitude of the power for the purpose - "has given to us" - notice the past tense, it is not something hoped for, but NOW PRESENT - "all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue."
It is this "by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises that through these you may.." may what, what precisely ?
That by these, it proceeds, "you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust".
That is an ESCAPE of real dimension is it not!
But let us return to Romans 6, and 'you are not under law but under grace'. Is it saying this in the context dismissive of the need to obey the word of God ? The exact opposite: it is declaring it in the context of WAYS of obeying God. Shall we, it says immediately after telling us that we are not under law but under grace, continue in sin that grace may abound! This dramatic expostulation is not for fun or effect. The TOPIC is overcoming sin. Having shown JUSTIFICATION (with reign in Christ in Romans 5, and in particular), Paul now shows SANCTIFICATION.
Does the former obliterate or condition the latter ? Of course not, says Paul. The thought is defamatory to the divine intention, a distortion of truth and wholly despicable.
Baptism into Christ (the
dynamic reality is in view, where the term designates the effect, not a ceremony
of problematic character in this, that faith may be missing in it as one of the
actual cases), as in I Cor. 12:13 is in view. It is not a question of some
sprinkling with water (says I Peter 3:21), when we are dealing with salvation,
the actual reality as distinct from the word, we find from Peter. Rather is it the
witness of a clear conscience before God through the resurrection of Christ
from the dead. This is the baptism BY the Spirit, INTO the body of Christ of
which fundamental reality Paul advised the Church at
This BAPTISM of the Spirit is encased in 3 pictures. One is burial, one is planting, one is crucifixion. Those who in total departure from the context in sanctification, want to lasso this text into the realm of some sacrament or other, would have not merely its contradiction in power of the other statements of the Bible as Peter's just noted, which deny any such power to sacrament, but the 'problem' of using betimes crucifixion for baptism, or maybe potting, or burial betimes.
Let us not be absurd. These are symbols of some value in conveying the TOTAL involvement of one's sinful place, name and appetites in death, overcoming, degradation, de-dynamising, dereliction. If you like, these are bombed.
They are also a sharing with Christ in His death, since one's actual person, or personality if you do not make the distinction, is a SINFUL ONE: so that IT also must die into Christ. The SINNER himself, herself, is something that is sinful, and like all sin, has to die with the generous proviso, the necessary provision that the death is followed in the regenerating power of God, by a new being, symbolically related to the resurrection of Christ, and one with direct access to that very power of God which PRODUCED the resurrection of the sinless Christ from His vicarious grave (cf. Ephesians 1:19 which declares just this).
If you are dead, Paul insists, then you have ceased from sin. Do not misunderstand! The topic is not perfection but victory. It is a question of NOT GIVING YOUR MEMBERS, your mind, or your body or its elements, to sin. Your very spirit, heart, mind, body, in this dimension, combination, in that, in all must be consciously yielded to CHRIST for HIS service. You are no longer lord of these things, nor worthy to be so; but He is by love to Him, through power form Him, in grace that is His, the Lord. The term does not mean poetry. It is not a question of mere doctrinal obeisance. It is a matter of actual power and direct access, as to the boss at work, whose presence is not at all symbolical, and who is not at all impressed by talk of total depravity as ground for frankly poor work!
Depravity is true; deliverance is also true. Defeat is true; victory is the end of the matter. Degeneration from the mark and lustre which we should all have had consistently is true; regeneration into the image of Him who created us is also true. Thus we are told to "put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" - Ephesians .
Let us however return to Romans 6, that glorious chapter of expostulation and deliverance, victory and virtue.
"He who died has been freed from sin" - Romans 6:8, is not compatible with this, "He who is a Christian is always mired in the clay of besetting sin." The former, and not the latter, is Biblical. We are reinforced in Paul's inspired words by the following consideration: "knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him" - 6:9.
HE DIED to sin, Paul adds in the following verse; the LIFE He lives, by contrast, He lives to God, His Father.
What then ? "LIKEWISE", says Paul, likewise God affirms through the apostle, "you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. THEREFORE do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." There is here first a FACT OF FAITH. RECKON yourselves dead to sin. Is this compatible to reckoning yourselves the hideous by-product of its unarrested and rampant reign ? Some may say, To be sure, not; but for all that, we are immersed in the stuff.
On the basis of what scripture then ? Let us not grow confused, for this is one of the chief weapons of Satan in his endeavours to disgrace the gospel, so that tepidity instead of truth, and defeat instead of victory is the esteemed mark of the faithful by a perversion of truth and biblical doctrine so profound as to astonish those uninured to it!
There is always a deficiency RELATIVE TO CHRIST, in the Christian's life, for the simple reason that He is perfection, and we have not already attained, but must grow in grace and knowledge, sometimes slip, or fall as David showed (but he did not show it often in this readily assignable practical way!). We are always to be humble before God and man, for apart from the sin we find ourselves committing here or there, inadvertently, or like Moses in some tempestuous situation (cf. Numbers 20:11-12), we are merely derivative in our salvation, the whole thing is a work of grace, and our best efforts are those of a being decidedly so imperfect that the idea is a stimulus, not a congratulation.
As far as perfection is concerned, we glory in Christ and seek to attain with a ready vigour the mark of the high calling in Jesus Christ the Lord (as in Philippians 3:8ff.,13ff.).
However, the topic is not total maturity, entire perfection, self-will in presumptuous assertions, forgetfulness of the wrath we have escaped entirely 100% by grace. That in part is more the topic of Romans 5. It is all true. Now however we have moved onto the topic of CURRENT CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. That is the question here. We are NOT under law but grace and SO OF COURSE we do not continue in sin that grace may abound. SO LIKEWISE we are to RECKON ourselves DEAD to sin.
Now the teaching in some reformed circles at this particular level, and on this particular topic, is often PRECISELY the opposite; and worse still, it is made by some a mark of superiority, in all humility ... it is the evidence of a great spiritual heart or life, it seems to be taught or implied at least, to NOT SO RECKON. Now this is simply practical rebellion, like that of the sons of Korah, who authoritatively acted AGAINST the authority of the word of God, through Moses (Numbers 16).
What is the good of that ?
Rebellion can be in lust, eating, prestige seeking, honour gobbling so that one
seeks 'success' in church or elsewhere, statistically, or some superiority,
notoriety or power, acceptance or whatever else may make its idolatrous presence
felt. What does it matter if now in a 'reformed way' (this is true merely as a
leaven, not applicable to all 'school of reformed' people, just as the root
fruit error is a leaven in Pelagianism, though in form and intention the very
opposite), one rebels at this point. It is all rebellion which contravenes or
contradicts the word of
'UNDER GRACE' HERE IMPLIES
EQUIPPED WITH POWER TO PREVAIL
Thus the direct teaching of Romans 6, when you forget all about labels of theology and concentrate on that necessary item, what it is saying, is that SINCE you are not under law, but under grace; SINCE your mainspring is not teaching depravity but overcoming sin; SINCE Christ has paid and you are bought, and He being alive, you are one who is wrought in; and that SINCE you are devoted to Him as Christians, therefore it is altogether to be expected that you would wish to render to Him all your powers for His service, and SINCE He has overcome the final product of sin, death, and lives, and in love confers His victory on you, and SINCE He lives that way and you are His, this is direct transmission: that THEREFORE you do not abound in sin, but abounding in the grace of His place, past, performance and power in your heart, gain the victory.
Romans 7 itemises the conflict as it may have been historically with Paul, at the time when sin was aroused in him at the commandment not to cover, for example; but Romans 8 continues the method, declaring roundly, "But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus form the dead dwell in you, he who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit wo dwells in you."
Thus also "we are debtors not to the flesh, to live after the flesh, for if you live after the flesh, you shall die; but if you through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." He proceeds to declare to the fact that "you have received not the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, Abba, Father."
As far as the LAW is concerned, "we establish the law" (Romans ). How otherwise when Christ bound the least commandment, except of course it be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17ff.), FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. This is not some past mirage but the dominant theme of the present and future! (Matthew , ). The symbolic peripheries are past in the substantial realities, it is true; the sacrificial symbolisms are interpreted, in particular, in the cardinal realities of the cross; the theocratic particulars are inapplicable where there is no theocracy: but the moral law, and the spiritual directives for man, these are as completely untouched as is the everlasting flower by the passage of the months.
When THEREFORE we say, well, "we are not under law but under grace" the relevance should be this, that we are expected a colossus of help in gaining victory over sin, and not at all, that we shall plan to sin grandly by IGNORING what is written and unfulfilled in the word of God.
That, really, is all there is to it.
THE WONDER OF IT ALL
Now it is time to reflect on the cohesive integrity of scripture as displayed in this matter. It is not as if God says, IT IS MOST important that you do ALL I have said; and then declares, Oh! don't worry about it! as antinomians allege. Nor is it the case that He first makes men earn their salvation, and then says, Don't worry about it! You can have it for free!
As so often in such matters, people radically with more robustness of sensation than realism of fact, go to extremes. It never was the case that God was indifferent to His words. It is PRECISELY the same from Genesis, where the fall led to the exact result stated, and the derogation of the purity and power of His word by Satan, was antecedent to the fall felt ever since (cf. Romans 5). The fact is reiterated in various contexts and situations from Deuteronomy 4 and 12, to Isaiah 8:20, 59:21, 44:25-26, 34:16, Joel 2:22, to Matthew 5:17ff., John 14:21-23, Revelation 22:18-19; and you see it in most dramatic form in Jeremiah 1:9-10,
"Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant."
Again, God is exhibited in His word as
God's word stands, in detail, in every focus and feature as in Matthew 5:17's, Isaiah 59:21's and Isaiah 34:16. Search, says the last, from the book of the Lord, following its detailed itemisation of the implements or evidences of ruin to come to
It then gives a reason for this phenomenal characteristic of
It is this:
Thus whatever God has said, He will do, down to the very mating of ingredients, and the exact specification in history of the formulation in the book!
Change! It is a matter of constancy, consistency and certainty, wherever you look. The word is, and it is sure. Whatever is surely declared is surely done, to detail. Warnings are warnings, exhortations are exhortations, but declarations are to be done!
As to the PARTICULAR case of salvation, its relationship to works of man as merit or inducement to God, satisfaction, so that man may be accepted, it also is the same since man fell into that pathological condition of sin. At the first, Noah FOUND GRACE in the sight of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). He did not make up a merit criterion, but found grace. It is the same with Cain and Abel. The latter presented an offering involving blood, implying acceptance of sin as deadly, whereas Cain did not, merely presenting grain, something of value and merit, but without such an admission of the deadliness of sin. Not only so, but the evangelical mercy of the Lord is the same always to this sinful race of mankind (Romans 5:1ff. exhibits the case).
It is no
different in principle whether it be in the word of the Lord to Cain, or to
The point of doing well, of course, is the sacrifice or offering presented to God. The one was good, the other bad. It was in no case the work of the man, but the offering to the Lord. The offering of the agricultural work of man was out; the offering of the life (of the animal from his flock) which God created, as attestation of the nature of the case, was acceptable. It was a matter of sinful or other provision, of life from God or work from man. The former was as always, in the right line, the other wrong. The one is merely the pretension of human effort, the other the gift of life from God. As found in the case of Abraham, who proceeded towards the offering of the life of his very own and only son, even this was not sufficient. NOTHING which came from man would or could cover man.
The symbol of salvation had to be what came from God, a sacrifice of life, but not of the life of any actual sinner amongst men, since pollution does not cover the case for pollution. You might as well try to vacuum a dirty room with a tar sprayer. It simply does not work.
In the case of Abraham, a ram was found and sacrificed. The LORD showed Abraham where it was; the sinner did not even catch it! The fact that the ultimate sacrifice would need to be of God, of equality with God, to meet the purity and justice of God for all those who would receive it, was apparent in Isaiah 52-53, Hosea 13:14, and in the Psalms (cf. Joyful Jottings). The fact that God would Himself do it is apparent moreover in Psalm 102, 40. The cost to Him is clear in these scriptures, and the motive of love is clear endlessly, as in Ezekiel 33:11, I Timothy 2, John 3, Hosea and Jeremiah (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, The Biblical Workman Ch. 1, Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital MilleniumChs. 9-12).
The fact that it is in the
righteousness of GOD HIMSELF ALONE that anyone may be accepted by Him, of Him
who in turn made the sacrifice (or in the prophets, would do so, just as He has
now performed His promise) drafted in heaven and wrought on earth, is constant
throughout. Thus in Psalm 89:16, 143:1-2, in Jeremiah 23:6-8, Psalm 71:16. The
last declares this: "I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours
only." In the
Not merely however does the New Testament say exactly the same, it even cites Isaiah ! (as in I Peter 2:24, "by His stripes you are healed" - from Isaiah 53:5.
Thus when we come to the realities of the word of God, avoiding the anti-scriptural licences of antinomianism and the fussy additives of legalism, but adjusting to what is written and to this alone, we find that the word of God is always bound, is often fulfilled in the sense that it is no more required to be fulfilled, as in the death date, death circumstances, death meaning for the Messiah, in the power of miraculous workings, in the place and tribe for His birth, in the national rejection of Him by the Jews, in His focussing into His own act, in ways such as described in the book of Hebrews.
These things are categorically done, and need doing no more! They are fulfilled. Much of course continues wholly unfulfilled, in that it is simply a commandment, non-symbolical, simply a directive and hence binding. As to this, it is NEVER as a means to salvation through obedience (Christ wrought that IN HIS OWN obedience, vicariously for others, as in Philippians 2), but as a matter of guideline and mandate for man, for his good and at the binding of God Almighty Himself.
Man thus does not suddenly cease to be man, and hence cease to be required to have a day of rest from secular pursuits for his toil; for the ground of the requirement as creation (as in Exodus 20:11), which nothing actually has undone at all! It happened; it is the cited ground of the binding. The peripheral symbolisms are not binding since the law was a symbolic system which taught, and we are now free of that tutor (Galatians ). The principles of the teaching however are in no way either dismissed or invalidated. Tutors are neither inconsequential - if rightly appointed - nor binding when the test is done. The principles remain. The word of God is not an evolutionary process, but bound to the jot and the tittle, by the One who, being the Word of God incarnate, knows what He is doing, saying and binding.
does not suddenly cease to be uninterested in having little children bear the
covenantal sign and symbol of His salvation, because Christ died. The death was
payment; it did not alter God's love of and precise sort of interest in
children. This is seen in Colossians 2:11-12 for example, as shown in some
detail in Questions and Answers 11. It is all, always consistent in
symbol, where this is the chosen vehicle of expression, in substance, in
principle and in expression. The philosophic extremes thrust into it are merely
human additions or subtractions. They no more alter what is written than does
any other philosophy. What is of God is written in doctrine; what is not, is
not written in the book of the Lord. It is so simple that a child may, and
often does, comprehend the position.
In terms of Christian Apologetics, this is the sublime and expected, the verified and victorious result. Here is the book identified in SMR as the book of the Lord, and it is so internally harmonious, so marvellously simple in framework, so impenetrably deep in meaning, so consistently beautiful in cohesion as the meaning is in the very deepest things found and verified from its text, that there is nothing like it in all the literature, scientific, historical or other, of mankind. It says and stays unchanged for several millenia.
That consistency, cohesion, integrity, power to perform so that the future prospects eventuate as directed, as if a teacher were directing a teacher's aid concerning what features to present to the class, and at what stage of the proceedings, all these things are what one would expect rationally from such a Being as God, not expect from anyone short of God, what one does not find in the work of anyone else, and would not expect to.
All is superb and perfect on the verification scene.
it is merely one of the innumerable facets of the jewel of the expression of
God, who in word and Christ has said what He has a mind to say, to man; and
having said it, does it.
THE HOPELESSNESS OF MERE HOPE
It is altogether
instructive, if not startling, to find such a wise-seeming writer as W.B.
Sprague, in his justly famed Lectures on Revival, in error on this point. Of
course, the cultural milieu can account for much. It is edifying to the extreme
to see and hence to realise that in given a theological culture of force,
strength and rather wide acceptance, with various interminglings of those who
preach, that a certain TRADITION can arise which is manifestly wrong, but
which, in the contests and behests of just theology, has come to be regarded as
correct and to be taught.
It is not always so total a depravity and a departure, however, that occurs in this way; but even far smaller matters, involving thought and careful consideration, rather than mere runaway rebellion, may gain a general acceptance IN A PARTICULAR facet of the Christian Church (or in some cases, in what was once such a church!). It is always therefore necessary to beware of tradition. Today, it is exalted, tomorrow it is seen more justly as the oversight to be explained in humbling and sorrow.
Thus Sprague on p. 226 expressly states how nice it is to see the humble new convert, not brashly acclaiming his certain salvation, but quietly and with seemly modesty, expressing rather his/her HOPE that salvation has indeed come, realising the need to see its attestation confirmed in due expression in due time. He often looks, says Sprague, to the "hole of the pit from which he hopes he has been taken." He is to show that "for aught he knows he may be indulging the hope of the hypocrite."
The modesty is wonderful; but modesty at the expense of the One whose words STATE the salvation to be sure, to faith, represents doubt of Him, the other name for which is weak faith, not modesty.
When it is Christ’s praise that is in view, since He promises (John , 50-54, I Thess. 5:9-10), this being reduced, represents no modesty but meddling! Let it never be thought that the many remarkable features of this usually judicious volume of Sprague are overlooked in that one must expose a weakness. Let it be acknowledged that the error does not occupy much space in this volume of his. But then again, look at the O-rings on the Challenger! Remember its inglorious descent into the ocean, claiming lives! It was a little thing, but of no mean import!
It is not men whom we must follow, lest we err; it not that we should overlook the wonders the Lord has wrought in them, and through them, since this is to His praise; but it is that we recall that there is ZERO glamour in man, and there is EXPRESS COMMAND NOT to name them as the base of belief.
It is Christ who is the
Master, His word the ruler, and the intrusions of men’s wisdom however
well-intentioned, and the pastoral perspectives which seek judiciously to avoid
misconception, these can have no place in collision with His word. To SEEK
rather to have HOPE than FAITH at the outset is like seeking to have life
continuance, rather than cure in an operation. Whatever the operation may do,
such a characterisation of a routine and established procedure, suggests that
it is not so routine, not so established, subject to foreign doubts. If it is,
so be it. In this case, it is not. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will
be saved! is not a
suggestion or a possibility, a matter of probe or of hope (Acts ). HE is the ROCK, the
I shall be satisfied when I awake, with Your likeness" - Psalm .
Christ did not say to the Samaritan woman:
Whoever drinks of this water may find, perhaps, with due meekness attached, an enduring loss of thirst, due to its quenching qualities.
Of course, some may find for unforeseen reasons, that the draught is not quite … there are so many complexities in these things.
Still, in principle there is good reason, believe me, to hope that if you drink of the water that I shall give, you may indeed find a destabilising, at least of the thirst mechanism, and an imbuing with new powers to resist thirst, to the point that one may indeed present the conception that thirsting again may be hoped to cease altogether.
If He had, doubtless, HE would not have been the Saviour (He would have had co-workers to get the thing done), and His salvation would have been a thing so foreign to the simplicity that it marvellously has, the Gospel of grace, that not only this world, but the Lord Himself would be a very different entity! (Romans 1:16).
It is to the praise of His glory, that this sort of attenuation is not so. DRINK and never thirst again. This is both the dictum and the deliverance. DID I drink ? Do you HOPE that you drink ? to pursue His point. Is it an academic matter ? Do you HOPE that you eat His flesh and drink His blood (as in John 6 - the words are spiritual of course, as in John 6:62-63), receive His sacrifice in its full intent and coverage BY FAITH, and then wonder if after all, you did not eat!
Is this the nature of the point ? Those who once so eat, He will raise up on the last day. In John 6:50-51 the verb is aorist, and the result is living for ever. As in the Samaritan case, Christ is contrasting the need of repetitive actions with the provision of a permanent ‘food’ and ‘drink’. Hence the simple act of eating, as the grammar confirms in the context, each reinforcing the point to the other, entails eternal life. This is precisely the wonder of it. The fathers in the wilderness had to keep on collecting; in Christ you receive in Him at once the food of eternity, and shall live for ever. In John 6:49-51, the contrast with ‘the fathers’ in the desert is express. They ate and died; you eat and live forever. Despite their continuity of input, there was death in the end. Here IF YOU SHOULD EAT this bread, you live forever. That is your endless condition!
But what ? Did those who ate being 5000 wonder if perhaps they did not ? Is this not the simplicity and directness of the comparison ? Do you wonder if you enter a door (John 10:9)? Does your front foot dangle, uncertain, at the threshold, so that you have to obtain an accurate ruler to determine whether or not you entered the building ? Is this how you behave ?
One would find no sane person in such a condition, except of course, at play!
This is not a playful thing, however.
Did those who were told, Go in peace, your faith has saved you, wonder if perhaps the healer was dreaming or they were ? While many fool with the things of God, if you take them, they are yours. He came that men might have life more abundantly, yes and life itself, and women, and children: not that they should ponder quiddities, fashion obscurities and wonder whether they had cast in joy their sin upon Him, and He could catch it, and whether He would indeed convey it to the depths of the sea (as in Micah 7:19ff., Hosea 14). When you BELIEVE, and come, then to whom you come, you KNOW, and by faith you receive what He offers.
What then do you know ? This: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is bale even to subdue all things to Himself" - Philippians 3:20-21. Whether it be Paul or Christ, there is no ambiguity. Paul does not say, "from which we rather hope He might perchance see fit to transform", but "who will transform our lowly body…" The Bible is built on faith in the focus of Christ.
The result is as sure as God is. How can this at all be said ? It is His word which says it, and it is this which is as sure as God is, since He chose to speak it (Matthew 24:37, I Peter 25). He states the regeneration, the never thirsting again to those who believe in the Christ whom He sent, whom He depicts, whose works He characterises, and that there is NO OTHER NAME (Acts 4:12-13) in this business of salvation. What would then be another name ? The pope ? Yes that is another name.
Any other takers ? Your OWN NAME ? Yes that is another name. Neither of these do or can possibly have ANYTHING to do with your saved status. It is conferred as a gift to faith in Christ, plus nothing, minus nothing, who died for sinners and will raise them up in the last day, who have drunk of the water which He gives. Thirst again ? It is by His own word, excluded. He does not need co-saviours!
Certainly this is a profound miracle of God. Who would say to the contrary! It is greater than that of creation, for construction in power and wisdom is less than redemption with His own life! However, as to the way He has framed the cure, BELIEVE and you WILL BE SAVED. Believe in whom ? In HIM! WHO IS HE ? The One depicted in the Bible, foretold, and who foretold what was to become of the world, the race and … the sinner who received Him as Lord and Saviour. Trust Him ? Good. Not so ? Then the fruits cannot come, since the faith is not first present.
Fruits to satisfy man ? Very possibly, since man is not God. Fruits of the Spirit ? Only if you are His. ALL Christians have His Spirit (Romans 8:9) and hence His fruit, though the eyes of the misled frequently assess as zero the spiritual fruit which, disbelieving, they cannot see; and the assessors in the history of Judases, often cannot see (John 3:3). It is God who sees. It is by His word that we are to look. It is the LORD who knows who are His (II Timothy ). Man is frequently misled, churches astray. No church in the end retains its place without faith, the Bible and the Spirit of God who is given to ALL Christians. Many mask the realities; but the realities are unmasked in the presence of the Lord. Many are duped and do dupe, but the Lord never (cf. Luke ).
What then ? This: NEVER be
satisfied with hope. If this is all you have, you lack the ESSENTIAL ingredient
faith. It does not say, Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,
but BELIEVE in Him. If you do not believe, there is nothing; if you do, say so.
Indeed, certainly say so: Romans 10:9 declaring that if you believe that God
has raised His Christ from the dead (aorist, you do or you do not, very
simply), hence believing in the Lord, and confess Him as Lord, you will be
saved. As soon as you place hope in yourself or your works, you foul your case.
HE is the case that prevails. Its very simplicity is what seems to obscure it
from the eyes of unbelief. That of course is because they do not see. Sight is
from the Lord! But as to the conditions, "If anyone enter by Me, he shall be
saved, and go in and out and find pasture." Once again, you come, then you come and go, as His.
That is written. It is visible to the eye! God has said it.