Much More

The grief of death paints my abode—streets and structures—pale and decrepit. Nothing of earth surpasses its power; I have seen no mere man pierce to true light beyond this affixed shadow. Firm is death’s power to dominate humankind. 

But almost unnoticed, the world creates death into a lull—a sinking song—that looks no further than to self. It whispers that unless I abide by the gritty baseness and the meaninglessness of life (apart from living for self), I am inexperienced—or, cannot make much of this life at all. The enemy exploits itself for all it has—convincing masses that today is it. So, “live your truth,” “follow your heart,” “stay positive,” “because nothing ultimately matters, almost anything can”—so goes its hell-founded song. 

This is deceit of the devil—as though some power of death could be shifted to man because it has been made eerily artful, wrapped in a dull, philosophical glow. As if there is nothing to fear of death because “self has lived!” 

No! Death is no song—but mankind its slaves. The enemy does not rightly captivate, but the world is its captive. If, apart from Christ, I would know no fear of death—would confess no sorrowful subjection to its power—how could I see what Christ has done, in partaking of humanity and putting foot to soiled ground? 

Lies about death can be rejected in knowledge of Him who shared in the shadow, though Himself spotlessly pure. Where sin fell, He fell Himself beneath it, “so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:14b-15). No mere man could pierce death to slide slimly past his inevitable future; only could death reign because of man. But the God-Man, Jesus Christ, more than pierced—crushed—evil powers; if by mere man death could govern this world, much moredoes the God-Man bring His reign.

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much morewill those who receive the abundant grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:17, emphasis added

Much more through Christ: 

“Because of one man’s trespass”—Adam’s—death first came to all mankind as a “ruthless ruler.”¹ Butthose who are in Christ“become the rulers (cf. Rev. 1:6) whose kingdom is one of life!”² In Christ is found such certain and abundant life in place of death that it is not said, “life reigns”—but those who believe reign in life, to His praise.

Much more through Christ: 

Over being self-owed, believers “expatiate in a life divinely ownedand legally secured, ‘reigning’ in exultant freedom and unchallenged might, through that other matchless ‘One,’ Jesus Christ!”³ For death is not one time, but after the first comes judgment—and then the second death, eternal in span. So, those reigning in Christ are said to be secured, unchallenged. Death, the second, will last forever, but the divinely owned will never meet it. Rather, they will exult in the freedom of their Lord.

Much more through Christ: 

No longer feeding on the world’s bloated, supersaturated, choking pleasures of natural impulses and empty, “positive” recitations—which are the taste of chocolate, with the bite of poison—God’s righteousness is free to receive. This righteousness is “offered to all by God [yet] must be appropriated by an individual by faith.”4 Those who receive it “stand forth enriched with God’s ‘abounding grace’ and in the beauty of a complete absolution from countless offenses.”5 By grace, the faith-possessing are dry of all sins, which are offensive to the Father, because their sins—exchanged for righteousness—were put upon the perfect Son. 

Jesus teaches that death is not as man might naturally imagine; its true sounds are weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41-42). One day, no veil of deceit will obscure it. Those who are afraid of passing through it alone, without Christ, hear the beginnings of the truth, seeing hearths as broken, paths as bent, and futures as hollow. 

And so, when I saw my emptiness without Him, I turned to Christ as I was—“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). While I was still weak, still fearing, still sinning, still under the pull of the world—He gave Himself for me so that through Him, life might swallow death (1 Cor. 15:54) instead of the other way around. This glory song is heaven-sent: truth, freedom and forgiveness, sin- and death-crushing promise. 

 “As sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 5:21b

Without Him, I would be overshadowed by death or misled by strangling “positivity.” But with Him: grace, truth, obedience, righteousness, growth, protection, reigning, glory, worship—life forevermore.

 “As sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 5:21b

Without Him, I would be overshadowed by death or misled by strangling “positivity.” But with Him: grace, truth, obedience, righteousness, growth, protection, reigning, glory, worship—life forevermore.

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His Own Will, Eph. 1:11 | Out of Tomes

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”

— EPHESIANS 1:11 ESV

Through whom also we have obtained an inheritance. Hitherto he has spoken generally of all the elect; he now begins to take notice of separate classes. When he says, WE have obtained, he speaks of himself and of the Jews, or, perhaps more correctly, of all who were the first fruits of Christianity; and afterwards he comes to the Ephesians. It tended not a little to confirm the faith of the Ephesian converts, that he associated them with himself and the other believers, who might be said to be the first-born in the church. As if he had said, “The condition of all godly persons is the same with yours; for we who were first called by God owe our acceptance to his eternal election.” Thus, he shews, that, from first to last, all have obtained salvation by free grace, because they have been freely adopted according to eternal election.

Who worketh all things. The circumlocution employed in describing the Supreme Being deserves attention. He speaks of Him as the sole agent, and as doing everything according to His own will, so as to leave nothing to be done by man. In no respect, therefore, are men admitted to share in this praise, as if they brought anything of their own. God looks at nothing out of himself to move him to elect them, for the counsel of his own will is the only and actual cause of their election. This may enable us to refute the error, or rather the madness, of those who, whenever they are unable to discover the reason of God’s works, exclaim loudly against his design.

— John Calvin

Providence is irresistible in its designs and motions; for all providences are but fulfilling and accomplishments of Gods immutable decrees. Eph. 1: 11. “He works all things according to the counsel of his own will.” Hence Zech. 6: 1. the instruments by which God executed his wrath, are called “chariots coming from betwixt two mountains of brass,” i.e. “the firm and immutable decrees of God.” When the Jews put Christ to death, they did but do what “the hand and counsel of God had before determined to be done,” Acts 4: 28. so that none can oppose or resist providence. “I will work, and who shall let it?” Isa 43: 13.

— John Flavel, Fountain of Life Opened Up

The counsel of his will, κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, means the counsel which has its origin in his will; neither suggested by others, nor determined by any thing out of himself. It is therefore equivalent to his sovereign will.

— Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians

But mark now how on all occasions he takes pains to point out, that it is not the result of any change of purpose, but that these matters had been thus modeled from the very first, so that we are in no wise inferior to the Jews in this respect; and how, in consequence, he does every thing with this view. How then is it that Christ Himself saith, “I was not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel?” (Mat. xv. 24.) And said again to his disciples, “Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans.” (Mat. x. 5.) And Paul again himself says, “It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts xiii. 46.) These expressions, I say, are used with this design, that no one may suppose that this work came to pass incidentally only. “According to the purpose,” he says, “of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will.” That is to say, He had no after workings; having modeled all things from the very first, thus he leads forward all things “according to the counsel of His will.” So that it was not merely because the Jews did not listen that He called the Gentiles, nor was it of mere necessity, nor was it on any inducement arising from them.

— John Chrysostom, "Homily II" on Ephesians

Election, or choice, respects that lump or mass of mankind out of which some are chosen, from which they are separated and distinguished. Predestination has respect to the blessings they are designed for; particularly the adoption of children, it being the purpose of God that in due time we should become his adopted children, and so have a right to all the privileges and to the inheritance of children. We have here the date of this act of love: it was before the foundation of the world; not only before God's people had a being, but before the world had a beginning; for they were chosen in the counsel of God from all eternity. It magnifies these blessings to a high degree that they are the products of eternal counsel. The alms which you give to beggars at your doors proceed from a sudden resolve; but the provision which a parent makes for his children is the result of many thoughts, and is put into his last will and testament with a great deal of solemnity. And, as this magnifies divine love, so it secures the blessings to God's elect; for the purpose of God according to election shall stand.

Matthew Henry

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Gathered Up, Eph. 1:10 | Out of Tomes

“as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

— EPHESIANS 1:10 ESV

That he might gather together in one. In the old translation it is rendered (instaurare) restore; to which Erasmus has added (summatim) comprehensively. I have chosen to abide closely by the meaning of the Greek word, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, because it is more agreeable to the context. The meaning appears to me to be, that out of Christ all things were disordered, and that through him they have been restored to order. And truly, out of Christ, what can we perceive in the world but mere ruins? We are alienated from God by sin, and how can we but present a broken and shattered aspect? The proper condition of creatures is to keep close to God. Such a gathering together (ἀνακεφαλαίωσις) as might bring us back to regular order, the apostle tells us, has been made in Christ. Formed into one body, we are united to God, and closely connected with each other. Without Christ, on the other hand, the whole world is a shapeless chaos and frightful confusion. We are brought into actual unity by Christ alone.

But why are heavenly beings included in the number? The angels were never separated from God, and cannot be said to have been scattered. Some explain it in this manner. Angels are said to be gathered together, because men have become members of the same society, are admitted equally with them to fellowship with God, and enjoy happiness in common with them by means of this blessed unity. The mode of expression is supposed to resemble one frequently used, when we speak of a whole building as repaired, many parts of which were ruinous or decayed, though some parts remained entire.

— John Calvin

Translate, "Unto the dispensation of the fulness of the times," that is, "which He purposed in Himself" (Eph 1:9with a view to the economy of (the gracious administration belonging to) the fulness of the times (Greek,"fit times," "seasons"). More comprehensive than "the fulness of the time" (Ga 4:4). The whole of the Gospel times(plural) is meant, with the benefits to the Church dispensedin them severally and successively. Compare "the ages to come" (Eph 2:7). "The ends of the ages" (Greek, 1Co 10:11); "the times (same Greek as here, 'the seasons,' or 'fitly appointed times') of the Gentiles" (Lu 21:24); "the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power" (Ac 1:7); "the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the prophets since the world began" (Ac 3:2021). The coming of Jesus at the first advent, "in the fulness of time," was one of these "times." The descent of the Holy Ghost, "when Pentecost was fully come" (Ac 2:1), was another. The testimony given by the apostles to Him "in due time" ("in its own seasons," Greek) (1Ti 2:6) was another. The conversion of the Jews "when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled," the second coming of Christ, the "restitution of all things," the millennial kingdom, the new heaven and earth, shall be severally instances of "the dispensation of the fulness of the times," that is, "the dispensation of" the Gospel events and benefits belonging to their respective "times," when severally filled up or completed. God the Father, according to His own good pleasure and purpose, is the Dispenser both of the Gospel benefits and of their several fitting times (Ac 1:7).

— Jameson, Fausset, and Brown

This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way a upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God.

— Irenaeus, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching

II. In the way of exhortation. If it be so that praising God is very much the employment of heaven, hence let all be exhorted to the work and duty of praising God. The following considerations will show why we should be stirred up by this doctrine to this work.

1. Let it be considered that the church on earth is the same society with those saints who are praising God in heaven. There is not one church of Christ in heaven, and another here upon earth. Though the one be sometimes called the church triumphant, and the other the church militant, yet they are not indeed two churches. By the church triumphant, is meant the triumphant part of the church; and by the church militant, the militant part of it: for there is but one universal or catholic church. Cant. vi. 9. “My dove, my undefiled, is but one.” Christ has not two mystical bodies. 1 Cor. xii. 12. “The body is one, and hath many members.” The glorious assembly and the saints on earth make but one family. Eph. lii. 15. “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Though some are in heaven, and some on earth, in very different circumstances, yet they are all united: for there is but one body, and one spirit, and one Lord Jesus Christ. One. God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, find in all. God hath in Christ united the inhabitants of heaven, and the holy inhabitants of this earth, and hath made them one. Eph. i. 10. “That in the dispensation of the fulness of time, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.” Heaven is at a great distance from the earth: it is called a far countryMatt. xxv. 14. Yet the distance of place does not separate them so as to make two societies. For though the saints on earth, at present, are at a distance from heaven, yet they belong there; that is their proper home. The saints that are in this world are strangers here; and therefore the apostle reproved the Christians in his day, for acting as though they belonged to this world. Col. ii. 20. “Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?”

Some of a people may be in their own land, and some in a strange land; and yet be but one people. Some of a family may be at home, and some sojourning abroad; and yet be but one family. The saints on earth, though they be not actually in heaven, yet have their inheritance in heaven, and are travelling towards heaven, and will arrive there in a little time. They are nearly related to the saints in heaven; they are their brethren, being children of the same Father, and fellow-heirs with Jesus Christ. In. Ephes. ii. 10. the saints on earth are said to be fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the. household of God. And the apostle tells the Christian Hebrews, Heb. xii. 22-24. that they were ” come to mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” But how were they come to this heavenly city, and this glorious assembly, when they were yet here on earth? They were come to them, ere they were brought and united to them in the same family. But this is what I would inculcate by all this, that the church of God on earth ought to be employed in the same work with the saints in heaven, because they are the same society: as they are but one family, have but one Father, one inheritance; so they should have but one work. The church on earth ought to join with the saints in heaven in their employment, as God hath joined them in one society by his grace.

We profess to be of the visible people of Christ, to be Christians and not heathens, and so to belong to the universal church. We profess therefore to be of the same society, and shall not walk answerably to our profession, unless we employ ourselves in the same work.

2. Let it be considered, that we all of us hope to spend an eternity with the saints in heaven, and in the same work of praising God. There is, it may be, not one of us but who hopes to be a saint in heaven, and there continually to sing praises to God and the Lamb; but how disagreeable will it be with such a hope, to live in the neglect of praising God now! [...]

— Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume II, "Sermon X"

By gathering together in one, is meant making happy together in our head, or uniting all in one fountain of life and happiness; as appears by John xvii. 20, 21, 22, 23.

The same thing is taught again in Colos. ii. 9, 10. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power. ” What is rendered complete in him, in the original properly signifies filled up, or filled full, in him. He is he in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells, and in whom the creature receives that fullness; and he is the head of communication whence ye receive fulness, or in whom we are filled full, who is the same person, who is also the head, in whom the angels receive their fulness, as it is added, “who is the head of all principality and power.”

This is very agreeable to what the apostle says, Colos. i. 18, 19. “And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence, for it pleased the Father that in him all fulness should dwell.” By this it appears that it was the design of God so to exalt and glorify his Son, that all his intelligent creatures should in every thing be after him, inferior to him, subject to him, and dependent on him, and should have all their fulness, all their supplies from him, and in him; especially if we compare this verse with the context, and with many other places in the New Testament.

— Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume II, "Confirmation of Angels"

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The Clearness of Light, Eph. 1:9 | Out of Tomes

“making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ”

— EPHESIANS 1:9

the mystery—God's purpose of redemption hidden heretofore in His counsels, but now revealed (Eph 6:19Ro 16:25Col 1:2627). This "mystery" is not like the heathen mysteries, which were imparted only to the initiated few. All Christians are the initiated. Only unbelievers are the uninitiated.

— Jameson, Fausset, and Brown

Several things belonging to that great redemption, are mentioned in the following verses: Such as God’s great wisdom in it, ver. 8. The clearness of light granted through Christ, ver. 9. God’s gathering together in one, all things in heaven and earth in Christ, ver. 10. God’s giving the Christians that were first converted to the Christian faith from among the Jews, an interest in this great redemption, ver. 11. Then the great end is added, ver. 12. “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”

— Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume One

Blessings were made known to believers, by the Lord's showing to them the mystery of his sovereign will, and the method of redemption and salvation. But these must have been for ever hidden from us, if God had not made them known by his written word, preached gospel, and Spirit of truth. Christ united the two differing parties, God and man, in his own person, and satisfied for that wrong which caused the separation. He wrought, by his Spirit, those graces of faith and love, whereby we are made one with God, and among ourselves. He dispenses all his blessings, according to his good pleasure. His Divine teaching led whom he pleased to see the glory of those truths, which others were left to blaspheme. What a gracious promise that is, which secures the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who ask him! The sanctifying and comforting influences of the Holy Spirit seal believers as the children of God, and heirs of heaven. These are the first-fruits of holy happiness. For this we were made, and for this we were redeemed; this is the great design of God in all that he has done for us; let all be ascribed unto the praise of his glory.

— Matthew Henry

Having made known to us - By his word and by his Spirit. The mystery of his will - The gracious scheme of salvation by faith, which depends on his own sovereign will alone. This was but darkly discovered under the law; is now totally hid from unbelievers; and has heights and depths which surpass all the knowledge even of true believers.

— John Wesley

Some were alarmed at the novelty of his doctrine. With a view to such persons, he very properly denominates it a mystery of the divine will, and yet a mystery which God has now been pleased to reveal. As he formerly ascribed their election, so he now ascribes their calling, to the good pleasure of God. The Ephesians are thus led to consider that Christ has been made known, and the gospel preached to them, not because they deserved any such thing, but because it pleased God.

— John Calvin

Hence we are informed, That interest in Jesus Christ is the true way to all spiritual preferment in heaven. Do you covet to be in the heart, in the favour and delight of God? Get interest in Jesus Christ, and you shall presently be there. [...] You see among men, all things are carried by interest: persons rise in this world as they are befriended; preferment goes by favour: So it is in heaven, persons are preferred according to their interest in the beloved, Eph. 1: 9. Christ is the great favourite in heaven: his image upon your souls and his name in your prayers, makes both accepted with God.

— John Flavel, Fountain of Life Opened Up

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Perfect Wisdom, Eph. 1:8 | Out of Tomes

“which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight”

— EPHESIANS 1:8 ESV

The wisdom and understanding which God has so abundantly communicated, includes both the objective revelation and the subjective apprehension of it. This is the third great blessing of which the context treats. The first is election; the second redemption; the third is this revelation both outward and inward. The first is the work of God, the everlasting Father; the second the work of tile Son; and the third the work of the Holy Spirit, who thus applies to believers the redemption purchased by Christ.

— Charles Hodge

The guilt and the stain of sin could be no otherwise removed than by the blood of Jesus. All our spiritual blessings flow down to us in that stream. This great benefit, which comes freely to us, was dearly bought and paid for by our blessed Lord; and yet it is according to the riches of God's grace. Christ's satisfaction and God's rich grace are very consistent in the great affair of man's redemption. God was satisfied by Christ as our substitute and surety; but it was rich grace that would accept of a surety, when he might have executed the severity of the law upon the transgressor, and it was rich grace to provide such a surety as his own Son, and freely to deliver him up, when nothing of that nature could have entered into our thoughts, nor have been any otherwise found out for us. In this instance he has not only manifested riches of grace, but has abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence (v. 8), wisdom in contriving the dispensation, and prudence in executing the counsel of his will, as he has done. How illustrious have the divine wisdom and prudence rendered themselves, in so happily adjusting the matter between justice and mercy in this grand affair, in securing the honour of God and his law, at the same time that the recovery of sinners and their salvation are ascertained and made sure!

— Matthew Henry

 

It is only infinite wisdom that could find out a way for the salvation of any one of the whole race of mankind, so as that it might be reconciled unto the glory of his holiness, righteousness, and rule.

— John Owen, Christologia

1. How vast the benefits divine,
Which we in Christ possess!
We're saved from guilt and ev'ry sin,
And called to holiness.

2. 'Tis not for works which we have done,
Or shall here-after do;
But He, of His electing love,
Salvation doth bestow.

3. The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to Thee alone;
Aught to ourselves we dare not take,
Or rob Thee of Thy crown.

4. Our glorious Surety undertook
Redemption's wondrous plan;
And grace was given us in Him,
Before the world began.

5. Safe in the arms of sov'reign love
We ever shall remain;
Nor shall the rage of earth or hell
Make Thy dear councils vain.

6. Not one of all the chosen race
But shall to heav'n attain,
Partake on earth the purposed grace,
And then with Jesus reign.

— "How Vast the Benefits Divine," by Augustus Toplady

Paul gives to the gospel the magnificent appellations of wisdom and prudence, for the purpose of leading the Ephesians to despise all contrary doctrines. The false apostles insinuated themselves, under the pretense of imparting views more elevated than the elementary instructions which Paul conveyed. And the devil, in order to undermine our faith, labors, as far as he can, to disparage the gospel. Paul, on the other hand, builds up the authority of the gospel, that believers may rest upon it with unshaken confidence. All wisdom means — full or perfect wisdom.

— John Calvin

The great God is our Saviour. Now the finding out such a fit person to be the Redeemer of men, is to be ascribed solely to the wisdom of God: had all men been summoned together, and this declared unto them, that God was willing they should be redeemed, could they settle upon a proper person to redeem them; and had the angels been called in to assist with their counsel, after long consultation, they would never have been able to have proposed one fit for this work; for who could have thought of the Son of God, and proposed his becoming man, and suffering, and dying in the stead of men, to redeem them? this is “nodus deo vindice dignus”; what God only could have found out; and he claims it to himself; “I”, the only wise God, “have found a ransom” (Job 33:24; Ps. 89:19, 20).

— John Gill, Doctrinal Divinity

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The Remission of Sins, Eph. 1:7 | Out of Tomes

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”

— EPHESIANS 1:7 ESV

Guilt is nothing else but the force and power that is in sin, to oblige the sinner to undergo the penalty due to sin; therefore sinners are said to be guilty of hell-fire. atth 5:22. Guilty of eternal judgement, Mark 3:29. To be under the judgement of God, Rom. 3:19. Remission takes away both guilt and punishment together; it takes away all guilt, Acts 13:38, 39. and all punishment.

[...]

Now that this remission of sin is the privilege of believers, is most apparent, for all the causes of remission are in conjunction to procure it for them; the love of God, which is the impulsive cause of pardon; the blood of Christ, which is the meritorious cause of pardon; and saving faith, which is the instrumental cause of pardon, do all co-operate for their remission, as is plain in the text.

[...]

the pardon of believers is the purchase of the blood of Christ: nothing but the blood of Christ is a price equivalent to the remission of sin, for this blood was innocent and untainted blood, 1 Pet. 1: 19. the blood of a Lamb without spot; this blood was precious blood, blood of infinite worth and value, the blood of God, Acts 20: 28. It was prepared blood for this very purpose, Heb. 10:5. Prepared by God's eternal appointment; prepared by Christ's miraculous and extraordinary production by the operation of the Spirit; prepared by his voluntary sequestration, or sanctification of himself to this very use and purpose.

The blood of Jesus is not only innocent, precious, and prepared blood, but it is also blood actually shed and sacrificed to the justice of God, for the expiation of guilt, and procurement of our discharge, Isa. 53:5. O. To conclude, the severe justice of God could put in no exception against the blood of Christ, it is unexceptionable blood, being, (as before was noted,) untainted by sin, and dignified above all estimation by the person whose blood it was. Justice required no less, and could demand no more; and this is the price at which our pardons are purchased, and without which no sin could be pardoned; for "without shedding of blood, (such blood as this) there is no remission," Heb. 9:22.

— John Flavel

The word πλοῦτος riches in such connections is a favorite one with the apostle, who speaks of the riches of glory, the riches of wisdom, and the exceeding riches of grace It is the overflowing abundance of unmerited love. inexhaustible in God and freely accessible through Christ. There is, therefore, nothing incompatible between redemption, i. e. deliverance on the ground of a ransom (or a complete satisfaction to justice), and grace. The grace consists —1. In providing this satisfaction and in accepting it in behalf of sinners. 2. In accepting those who are entirely destitute of merit. 3. In bestowing this redemption and all its benefits without regard to the comparative goodness of men. It is not because one is wiser, better, or more noble than others, that he is made a partaker of this grace; but God chooses the foolish, the ignorant, and those who are of no account, that they who glory may glory only in the Lord.

— Charles Hodge

What saith the Scripture about “that blood”? Let me try to put my readers in remembrance. Do we want to be clean and guiltless now in the sight of God? It is written that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;”—that “it justifies;” that “it makes us nigh to God;” that “through it there is redemption, even the forgiveness of sin;” that it “purges the conscience;” that “it makes peace between God and man;”—that it gives “boldness to enter into the holiest.” Yes! it is expressly written of the saints in glory, that “they had washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” and that they had “overcome their souls' enemies by the blood of the Lamb” (1 John 1:7; Col. 1:20; Heb. 10:19; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:14; Eph. 2:13; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 7:14). Why, in the name of common sense, if the Bible is our guide to heaven, why are we to refuse the teaching of the Bible about Christ's blood, and turn to other remedies for the great common soul-disease of mankind? If, besides this, the sacrifices of the Old Testament did not point to the sacrifice of Christ's death on the cross, they were useless, unmeaning forms, and the outer courts of tabernacle and temple were little better than shambles. But if, as I firmly believe, they were meant to lead the minds of Jews to the better sacrifice of the true Lamb of God, they afford unanswerable confirmation of the position which I maintain this day. That position is, that the one “blood of Christ” is the spiritual medicine for all who have the “one blood of Adam” in their veins.

— J. C. Ryle, Upper Room

Special promises are made first to Christ, and then by proportion to us; and they are these,—(1.) God promiseth to grace his Son above his fellows, that he may die and suffer, and merit to us grace answerable to this,—“A new heart, and a new spirit,” (Jer. 32:39; Ezek. 36:26, 27.) “For out of his fullness we receive, and grace for grace,” (John 1:16.) (2.) Justification is promised to Christ, not personal, as if he needed a pardon for sin, but of his cause. There is a cautionary, or surety-righteousness, due to the surety, when he hath paid the debts of the broken man, and cometh out of prison free by law: so he came out of the grave for our righteousness, but having first the righteousness of his cause, in his own person. “He is near that justifieth me,” saith Christ; “who shall contend with me?” (Isa. 50:8.) “Justified in the Spirit.” (1 Tim. 3:16.) So have we justification of our persons, and remission in his blood, (Eph. 1:7;) and that by covenant, (Jer. 31:32, 33). (3.) Victory and dominion are promised to Christ, (Psalm 110:1, 2; Psalm 89:21, etc.). He must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet; (1 Cor. 15:25,) and victory over all our enemies is promised to us, (John 16:33, and 14:30; Rom. 6:14, 15; Gal. 3:13; Col. 2:14, 15.) (4.) The kingdom and glory is sought by Christ, (John 17:5,) from his Father; then he had a word of promise from his Father for it, (Phil. 2:9, 10,) and we have that also. (Luke 12:32; John 17:24; John 14:1-3.) (5.) Christ had a word of promise, when he went down to the grave, as some favourite by law goeth to prison, but hath in his bosom from his prince, a bill of grace, that within three days he shall come out, to enjoy all his wonted honours and court, (Psalm 16:10, 11:) so have we the like, (John 11:26, and 6:38,39.)

— Samuel Rutherford, An Exposition of the History of Christ's Dispossessing of the Daughter of the Woman of Canaan

Rom. iii. 25, God is said “to set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins;” his righteousness is also manifested in the business of forgiveness of sins: and therefore it is everywhere said to be wholly in Christ, Eph. i. 7. So that this gospel grace and pardoning mercy is alone purchased by him, and revealed in him. And this was the main end of all typical institutions, — to manifest that remission and forgiveness is wholly wrapped up in the Lord Christ, and that out of him there is not the least conjecture to be made of it, nor the least morsel to be tasted. Had not God set forth the Lord Christ, all the angels in heaven and men on earth could not have apprehended that there had been any such thing in the nature of God as this grace of pardoning mercy. The apostle asserts the full manifestation as well as the exercise of this mercy to be in Christ only, Tit. iii. 4, 5, “After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared,” — namely, in the sending of Christ, and the declaration of him in the gospel. Then was this pardoning mercy and salvation not by works discovered.

— John Owen, Of Communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost

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Becoming a Selective Listener—In the Best Sense

Our so-called “information age”—when information has become the going commodity—involves voluminous data, assertions, thoughts, and opinions whizzing both from and toward us online. Within this environment, not only do false teachers exist—as in historical times—but they have now inherited the power to ask for attention through greater reach, even paying for more influence. 

Has ever a time existed when selectivity about whom we follow for spiritual guidance been a more vital skill? 

Unwise Listening

Regardless, this is not a new challenge. Even many years ago, Reformer John Calvin recognized a human propensity toward being unwise listeners. He noted

Men, of their own accord, choose to be deceived rather than to be properly instructed […] the world will have ears so refined, and so excessively desirous of novelty, that it will collect for itself various instructors, and will be incessantly carried away by new inventions.

Following Calvin and his wariness for theological ingenuity, to cultivate biblically-formed, selective listening skills can be considered a duty. In fact, being a passive listener does not appear to be a biblical category—and by “passive listening” here, I mean falsely believing that I am not choosing the messages I am influenced by because they come toward me online, outside my seeking. Instead, being swayed by fancy-sounding, yet sub-biblical teaching is, according to Calvin, a choice.

Selective Listening and Scripture

Psalm 1:1 shows a progression for falling away from the truth of Scripture: walkingwith wicked counsel, standing in the way of this counsel, and then openly sitting in congruence with evil. Again, Calvin writes that Psalm 1:1

…shows how by little and little men are ordinarily induced to turn aside from the right path. They do not, at the first step, advance so far as a proud contempt of God but having once begun to give ear to evil counsel, Satan leads them, step by step, farther astray, till they rush headlong into open transgression.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 reveals a similarly flawed pattern—listening to teachers who are not sound, taking action by turning from truth, and, finally, wandering off altogether. 

Both patterns begin with listening. 

When commenting on Psalm 19 and then on 2 Timothy 3:16, D. A. Carson laments that too often, our selective listening ironically applies to the Scriptures themselves:

Many people choose snippets and themes that soon constitute a grid for eliminating the rest [of Scripture]…Worst of all, Christians invest so little time and energy in learning what they claim to be the Word of God that it falls away by default.

The danger in contemporary evangelicalism is not formal rejection of Scripture, but an unrealistic assumption that we know the Bible while in fact we press “on” (in reality, slouch backwards) toward endless conferences on leadership, techniques, tools, gimmicks, agendas.

Becoming a Selective Listener by Knowing Scripture

Following from Carson’s thoughts, listening well to the full counsel of Scripture (Acts 20:27) grows wise listeners with the ability to select influences well. If you do not know where to begin, here are some thoughts I have collected while learning from others in my family, church, and Bible college/seminary on delving into further study of the fullness of Scripture:

[Tweet “Being swayed by fancy-sounding, yet sub-biblical teaching is, according to Calvin, a choice.”]

1. Check your assumptions.

Begin your study of Scripture with an assumption that God is perfect and that, therefore, his holy words are always and absolutely best. If you come across a verse or concept that seems “off” to you, assume that your understanding can grow, rather than conjecturing a problem with God’s word choices or character.

2. Be a learner.

Go straight to the passages that are most challenging for you, and be prayerfully willing to engage in a learning process that humbly gleans from the wisdom of those who have already spent their lives in study. Everything changes when we become Christians—we are reborn into new people, and are given spiritual sight and hunger for God’s Word. Becoming Christians does not automatically make us experts on Christ and his Word, but propels us toward learning. So building Scriptural knowledge and wisdom is simply part of walking with Christ. 

3. Look back to different times.

Do not be overwhelmed with the quick, current Christian publishing environment—thinking you need to keep pace. While having present-day books is important (especially for putting theology into today’s language and for responding to current theological challenges that were not historically encountered head-on), not to mention enjoyable, becoming separated from the theological problems of one’s own generation often best comes through historical works. Read classic, doctrinal resources—primary sources. Some ideas of authors are: Irenaeus, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, or Carl F. H. Henry. 

4. Find a scholarly mentor.

If possible, search for a scholarly mentor who loves the gospel and is versed in the historic tradition of the Christian faith. Pursue this so that (1) you can ask questions about difficult areas of interpretation and viewpoints that differ from yours, and (2) you can be introduced to areas of thought outside of your context of which you would not have known to inquire. 

But first, ask a potential mentor about his or her beliefs. Here are some ideas:

  • Does he or she convey the full gospel message including the unpopular aspects—like repentance, the reality of hell, God’s holiness and wrath, and the necessity of receiving it with the kind of grateful response that leads to growth in righteousness?

  • Can he or she affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy?

  • Is he or she committed to a literal, historical-grammatical hermeneutic?

  • Who are his or her theological influences, and similarly, what does this person believe about the gospel and Scripture?

  • Does he or she see the significance of describing differing viewpoints with accuracy?

If this kind of relationship is not available to you, “mentors” come in various forms; I have been shaped through pages of books, words of sermons, and lectures in the classroom or through recordings. Through these means, mentors can be numerous. For no scholar stands alone; faithful Christian scholars consider themselves part of a wider, conversing community—ideally seeking to challenge, correct, and steer each other collectively into the best possible exegesis. Much can be learned from listening in to these kinds of conversations through multiple sources.

Gladness in Growth

Transferring the plentiful information available to us into wisely-held knowledge almost invariably produces a keen awareness about how much one has yet to learn, and how little is already grasped. Do not take these thoughts as a reason for discouragement, but a cause for gladness that you have a concrete indication you are following those ahead of you. 

Keep following; I will too.

Has ever a time existed when selectivity about whom we follow for spiritual guidance been a more vital skill? 

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Meditations on Dust

The godly are the God-ward—and faced there, they know they are not like what they see. They are not righteous in all their ways; they are not naturally near to the truth; not able to save, able to endure, able to abound in a perfection of goodness and greatness, able to act with self-generated and -sustained power, able to count stars beyond stars, able to reduce rulers to naught or view earth and all therein from on high, with a glance, and weigh it as a piece of dust, a sliver of grass—as nothing.

Turned to Him, how little I like to feel small—to accept small. But that the nations are dust cannot reflect poorly on the Creator, as if finitude were evil. From above, He once called all of this terrestrial ball “good.” If my view to creation were as to the dust, one floating, sailing speck, it would leave my sight as soon as it entered. I might absorb it with the swipe of a rag-holding hand, no misgivings. Who are we that He is mindful of us? This is the kind of mystery in Scripture most perplexing. He decided to love—to set His image upon—miniscule; an amebic sphere contained the incarnation… Yet, not only size is involved—that is not the offense—but small became evil, hateful, proud. Dust acted like it was something. No wonder He laughs (Psalm 2:4). What if my creation were dust? How great is His love for us!

Being small, unable to generate power or increase my own strength, I am weak, fainting, weary, utterly falling, etcetera—list proceeding. And so I wait. I must wait—God-ward. The renewal of His people will certainly come, whether presently or eschatologically—hope will actualize into mounting up, running, and the overall-not-fainting. And we will be saved. But the weak must wait; I must wait. Otherwise, I become a workman who molds an image and realizes a carved abomination. When the weak attempt to generate greatness, we can never alone find a tree unable to rot or a project that is incapable of falling. One breath—one laughing exhale—and He levels the accomplishments of man. I am weak; so, if He does not act—does not heal, does not increase strength, does not give the insight, or the muscles or the words or the voice or the whatever it is I am wanting, I must be the waiting.

Lifted from the finite—waiting toward God sets me at the Word, breathed by inerrant breath. It is standing. And it will forever be—this book that the world contrives is infected with fantasies and tainted [instead of made holy] by hatred. It prevails—this book that I would doubt and despise in spiritual blindness if not for His Spirit. How great His grace! His Word stands; the blade of grass will soon not. What can man say against God’s flawless revelation? Nothing; he can sit beneath, remembering who still measures as you know what on the scales.

Only knowing I am nothing can I see that He upholds my spirit when I fall—preserving me to the end; only when bowed can I see how and in what manner I am raised up to know Him; only when I am hungry can I receive His timely food; only in want can I know the wonder of His Word. I want to be infinitely low,[1] and know His unfathomable grace; my voice to cry for help, and know His kind deliverance; my eyes to look upon Him with love, and see some of the unsearchable greatness and beyond-measure glory. He, He, He—the cause of all being held together, sustained every day. He—righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His words, full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy—He is good to all. What is the strength of my soul? His nearness, that I might receive all I can of who He is and what He gives, worshiping Him for both, for always. 

Three words emerge from the dust—wait, Word, and worship. Being one who is nothing before God, I must wait for Him—for His strength in my inner spirit, resting within the hiding place of His peace during temptations, while He unveils one next detail of His mind for me and mine. And before His Word—I receive there—the bread, the high, heavenly bread raining here, as upon the grass for prime collection. And in worship, whatever is done, accomplished, and gained—God alone is great. With that, dust contents itself as such and can move along glorying in God being God—and is now being swept up for all existence in Him.

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Conspicuous Grace, Eph. 1:6 | Out of Tomes

“to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

— EPHESIANS 1:6 NASB

Accepting of persons is noted in scripture as the sinful act of a corrupt man; a thing which God abhors, being the corruption and abuse of that power and authority which men have in judgement; overlooking the merit of the cause through sinful respect to the quality of the person whose cause it is; so that the cause doth not commend the person, but the person the cause. This God everywhere brands in men, as a vile perverting of judgement, and utterly disclaims it himself, Gal. 2:6. "God accepteth no man's person;" Rom. 2:11. "There is no respect of persons with God."

[...] There is also an accepting of persons, which is the gracious act of a merciful God; whereby he receives both the persons and duties of believers into special grace and favour for Christ's sake; and of this my text speaks. In which act of favour three things are supposed or included.

First, It supposes an estate of alienation and enmity; those only are accepted into favour that were out of favour; and indeed so stood the case with us, Eph. 2:1213 "Ye were aliens and strangers, but now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ". So the apostle Peter, in 1 Pet. 2:10. "Which in time past were not a people, but now are the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." The fall made a fearful breach betwixt God and man. Sin, like a thick cloud, intercepted all the beams of divine favour from us; the satisfaction of Christ dissolves that cloud, Isa 44:22. "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins." This dark cloud thus dissolved, the face of God shines forth again with cheerful beams of favour and love upon all, who, by faith, are interested in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, It includes the removing of guilt from the persons of believers, by the imputation of Christ's righteousness to them, Rom. 5:12. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand:" for the face of God cannot shine upon the wicked; the person must be first made righteous, before he can be made accepted.

Thirdly, It includes the offering up, or tendering of our persons and duties to God by Jesus Christ. Accepting implies presenting or tendering: believers indeed do present themselves to God, Rom. 12:50: But Christ's presenting them makes their tender of themselves acceptable to the Lord; Col. 1:22. "In the body of his flesh through death to present you holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable, in his sight." Christ leads every believer, as it were, by the hand, into the gracious presence of God; after this manner bespeaking acceptance for him: "Father, here is a poor soul that was born in sin, has lived in rebellion against thee all his days; he has broken all thy laws, and deserved all thy wrath; yet he is one of that number which thou gavest me before the world was. I have made full payment by my blood for all his sins: I have opened his eyes to see the sinfulness and misery of his condition: broken his heart for his rebellions against thee, bowed his will in obedience unto thy will; united him to myself by faith, as a living member of my body: and now, Lord, since he is become mine by regeneration, let him be thine also by special acceptation: let the same love with which thou lovest me embrace him also, who is now become mine." And so much for the first particular, viz. What acceptation with God is.

— John Flavel

The believer has been “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6), and stands before the throne of God arrayed in a garment more excellent than that which is worn by the holy angels.

 — A. W. Pink, Doctrine of Justification

We will consider the choice of the person to be our redeemer. When God designed the redemption of mankind, his great wisdom appears in that he pitched upon his own, his only-begotten, Son, to be the person to perform the work. He was a redeemer of God’s own choosing, and therefore he is called in Scripture, God’s elect, (Isa. lxii. 1.) The wisdom of choosing this person to be the redeemer, appears in his being every way a fit person for this undertaking. It was necessary, that the person that is the redeemer, should be a divine person.—None but a divine person was sufficient for this great work. The work is infinitely unequal to any creature. It was requisite, that the redeemer of sinners, should be himself infinitely holy. None could take away the infinite evil of sin, but one that was infinitely far from and contrary to sin himself. Christ is a fit person upon this account.

It was requisite, that the person, in order to be sufficient for this undertaking, should be one of infinite dignity and worthiness, that he might be capable of meriting infinite blessings. The Son of God is a fit person on this account. It was necessary, that he should be a person of infinite power and wisdom; for this work is so difficult, that it requires such an one. Christ is a fit person also upon this account. It was requisite, that he should be a person infinitely dear to God the Father, in order to give an infinite value to his transactions in the Father’s esteem, and that the Father’s love to him might balance the offence and provocation by our sins. Christ is a fit person upon this account. Therefore called the beloved, (Eph. i. 6.) He hath made us accepted in the beloved.

It was requisite, that the person should be one that could act in this as of his own absolute right: one that, in himself, is not a servant or subject; because, if he is one that cannot act of his own right, he cannot merit any thing. He that is a servant, and that can do no more than he is bound to do, cannot merit. And then he that has nothing that is absolutely his own, cannot pay any price to redeem another. Upon this account Christ is a fit person; and none but a divine person can be fit.—And he must be a person also of infinite mercy and love; for no other person but such an one would undertake a work so difficult, for a creature so unworthy as man. Upon this account also Christ is a fit person.—It was requisite that he should be a person of unchangeable perfect truth and faithfulness; otherwise he would not be fit to be depended on by us in so great an affair. Christ is also a fit person upon this account.

— Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. II

It is neither glorious praise, nor glorious grace, but to the praise of the glory of his graceThe glory of grace, is the divine excellence of that attribute manifested as an object of admiration. The glory of God is the manifested excellence of God, and the glory of any one of his attributes, is the manifestation of that attribute as an object of praise. The design of redemption, therefore, is to exhibit the grace of God in such a conspicuous manner as to fill all hearts with wonder and all lips with praise.

— Charles Hodge

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The Enjoyment of His Favor, Eph. 1:5 | Out of Tomes

“he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”

— EPHESIANS 1:5 ESV

Three causes of our salvation are here mentioned, and a fourth is shortly afterwards added. The efficient cause is the good pleasure of the will of God, the material cause is, Jesus Christ, and the final cause is, the praise of the glory of his grace. [...] in the freest manner, and on no mercenary grounds, does God bestow upon us his love and favor, just as, when we were not yet born, and when he was prompted by nothing but his own will, he fixed upon us his choice.

— John Calvin

Sonship in reference to God includes—1. Participation of his nature, or conformity to his image. 2. The enjoyment of his favour, or being the special objects of his love. 3. Heirship, or a participation of the glory and blessedness of God.

— Charles Hodge

The more you search the Bible, the more sure will you be that sonship is the special privilege of the chosen people of God and of none beside. Having thus, as far as I can, established my point, that the privilege of our text is a special one, let me dwell upon it for a moment and remark that, as a special one, it is an act of pure unmistakeable grace. No man has any right to be a son of God. If we are born into his family it is a miracle of mercy. It is one of the ever-blessed exhibitions of the infinite love of God which without any cause in us, has set itself upon us. If thou art this day an heir of heaven, remember, man, thou wast once the slave of hell. Once thou didst wallow in the mire, and if thou shouldst adopt a swine to be thy child, thou couldst not then have performed an act of greater compassion than when God adopted thee. And if an angel could exalt a gnat to equal dignity with himself, yet would not the boon be such-an-one as that which God hath conferred on thee.

— Charles Spurgeon

God’s praise is the end of the work of redemption. In Eph. i. where that work in its various parts is particularly insisted on, and set forth in its exceeding glory, this is mentioned, from time to time, as the great end of all, that it should be ”to the praise of his glory.” As in ver. 6, 12, 14. By which we may doubtless understand much the same thing, with what in Phil. i. 11. is expressed, ”his praise and glory.” Agreeably to this, Jacob’s fourth son, from whom the great Redeemer was to proceed, by the special direction of God’s providence, was called praise. This happy consequence, and glorious end of that great redemption, Messiah, one of his posterity, was to work out.

In the Old Testament this praise is spoken of as the end of the forgiveness of God’s people, and their salvation, in the same manner as God’s name and glory. Isa. xlviii. 9, 10, 11. “For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise, will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. Behold I have refined thee—for mine own sake, even for mine own sake will I do it; for how should my name be polluted? and my glory will I not give to another.” Jer. xxxiii. 8, 9. “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity—and I will pardon all their iniquities. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour.”

— Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. I

Finally, we are informed here, that in this matter He took counsel with none, but that we are "predestinated according to the good pleasure of His will."

— A. W. Pink, Sovereignty of God

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Counsels of Divine Love, Eph. 1:4 | Out of Tomes

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

— EPHESIANS 1:4 ESV

The very time when the election took place proves it to be free; for what could we have deserved, or what merit did we possess, before the world was made? How childish is the attempt to meet this argument by the following sophism! “We were chosen because we were worthy, and because God foresaw that we would be worthy.” We were all lost in Adam; and therefore, had not God, through his own election, rescued us from perishing, there was nothing to be foreseen. The same argument is used in the Epistle to the Romans, where, speaking of Jacob and Esau, he says,

“For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.” (Romans 9:11.)

But though they had not yet acted, might a sophist of the Sorbonne reply, God foresaw that they would act. This objection has no force when applied to the depraved natures of men, in whom nothing can be seen but materials for destruction.

In Christ. This is the second proof that the election is free; for if we are chosen in Christ, it is not of ourselves. It is not from a perception of anything that we deserve, but because our heavenly Father has introduced us, through the privilege of adoption, into the body of Christ. In short, the name of Christ excludes all merit, and everything which men have of their own; for when he says that we are chosen in Christ, it follows that in ourselves we are unworthy.

 [...] Where are the men who dread and avoid the doctrine of predestination as an inextricable labyrinth, who believe it to be useless and almost dangerous? No doctrine is more useful, provided it be handled in the proper and cautious manner, of which Paul gives us an example, when he presents it as an illustration of the infinite goodness of God, and employs it as an excitement to gratitude.

— John Calvin

The federal oneness between the Redeemer and the redeemed, the choosing of them in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), by which a legal union was established between Him and them, is that which alone accounts for and justifies all else. “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). As the Covenant-Head of His people, Christ was so related to them that their responsibilities necessarily became His, and we are so related to Him that His merits necessarily become ours. Thus, as we said in an earlier chapter, three words give us the key to and sum up the whole transaction: substitution, identification, imputation—all of which rest upon covenant-oneness. Christ was substituted for us, because He is one with us—identified with us, and we with Him. Thus God dealt with us as occupying Christ’s place of worthiness and acceptance. May the Holy Spirit grant both writer and reader such an heart-apprehension of this wondrous and blessed truth, that overflowing gratitude may move us unto fuller devotedness unto Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

— A. W. Pink, Doctrine of Justification

All who are chosen to happiness as the end are chosen to holiness as the means. Their sanctification, as well as their salvation, is the result of the counsels of divine love.

— Matthew Henry

And if we can say that to be perfect would be Heaven to us, then we are already on the road to Heaven—and God is working out in us His eternal purpose, which is, "that we should be holy." [...] We are chosen, not because we are holy, but that we may be made holy. The election precedes the character and is, indeed, the moving cause in producing the character.

— Charles Spurgeon

Eph. 1:4, "According as he hath chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and with out blame before him in love." Chap. 2:10, "Created unto good works, which God hath foreordained that we should walk in them." Holy practice is as much the end of all that God does about his saints, as fruit is the end of all the husbandman does about the growth of his field or vineyard; as the matter is often represented in Scripture, Matt. 3:10, chapter 13:8, 23, 30, 38, chapter 21:19, 33, 34, Luke 13:6John 15:1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 1 Cor. 3:9, Heb. 6:7, 8Isa. 5:1-8Cant. 8:11, 12Isa. 27:2, 3.75 And therefore everything in a true Christian is calculated to reach this end. This fruit of holy practice is what every grace, and every discovery, and every individual thing which belongs to Christian experience, has a direct tendency to.

— Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

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Take Freely, Eph. 1:3 | Out of Tomes

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”

— EPHESIANS 1:3 ESV

Eph 1:3-14 sets forth summarily the Gospel of the grace of God: the Father's work of love, Eph 1:3 (choosing us to holiness, Eph 1:4; to sonship, Eph 1:5; to acceptance, Eph 1:6): the Son's, Eph 1:7 (redemption, Eph 1:7knowledge of the mystery of His will, Eph 1:9an inheritance, Eph 1:11); the Holy Spirit's, Eph 1:13 (sealing, Eph 1:13; giving an earnest of the inheritance, Eph 1:14).

— Jameson, Fausset, and Brown

The word bless is here used in more than one sense, as referring to God, and as referring to men. I find in Scripture four different significations of this word. 1. We are said to bless God when we offer praise to him for his goodness. 2. God is said to bless us, when he crowns our undertakings with success, and, in the exercise of his goodness, bestows upon us happiness and prosperity; and the reason is, that our enjoyments depend entirely upon his pleasure. Our attention is here called to the singular efficacy which dwells in the very word of God, and which Paul expresses in beautiful language. 3. Men bless each other by prayer. 4. The priest’s blessing is not simply a prayer, but is likewise a testimony and pledge of the Divine blessing; for the priests received a commission to bless in the name of the Lord. Paul therefore blesses God, because he hath blessed us, that is, hath enriched us with all blessing and grace.

— John Calvin

But did you notice the word, "all"? I must bring that out clearly. I must turn the microscope on it. "Who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings." Surely Paul means that we have not one spiritual blessing which God did not give. We have never earned one—we could never create one. All spiritual blessings come from the Father! He has really given us all spiritual blessings. "I have not received them," says one. That is your own fault! He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. A new heart, a tender conscience, a submissive will, faith, hope, love, patience—we have all these in Christ. Regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perfection are all in Christ. If we do not take them out, it is the fault of our palsied hands that have not strength enough to grasp them! But He has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ. [...] You are in your Father's house—you cannot steal, for your Father says—"Help yourself to what you like." He has made over His whole estate of spiritual wealth to every believing child of His! Therefore take freely and you will, by doing so, glorify God!

— Charles Spurgeon

The meaning is that these blessings pertain to that heavenly state into which the believer is introduced. Here on earth he is, as the apostle says, in ch. 2, 6, ‘in heavenly places.’ He is a citizen of heaven, Phil. 3, 10. The word heaven, in Scripture, is not confined in its application to the place or state of future blessedness, but sometimes is nearly equivalent to ‘kingdom of heaven.’ The old writers, therefore, were accustomed to distinguish between the coelum gloriae, the heaven of glory; coelum naturae, the visible heavens, and coelum gratiae, the heaven of grace here on earth. These blessings connected with this heavenly state, are conferred upon believers in Christ. It is as they are in him, and in virtue of that union that they are partakers of these benefits.

— Charles Hodge

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Eight Words for Worshipful Meditation

The voice of the dinner host resounds throughout the dining room and kitchen, “Alright, the food is ready, friends! First, grab your silverware, plates, and napkins here, and then start going along this side of the table to get your food. Don’t forget, drinks are on the far counter—we have ice water, lemonade, and coffee.” 

For guests to follow instructions from their host about the meal he or she has prepared and provided is honoring to do. Similarly, as we hear what God’s Word teaches about itself, we are guided through the “meal” of meditation. 

Eight Words for Worshipful Meditation

Meditation has been defined as this:

Act of calling to mind some supposition, pondering upon it, and correlating it to one’s own life. A wicked individual meditates upon violence (Prov. 24:2). The meditation of a righteous person contemplates God or His great spiritual truths (Pss. 63:6; 77:12; 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 148; 143:5). He hopes to please God by meditation (Ps. 19:14). Thus meditation by God’s people is a reverent act of worship. [1]

To remember the ways God has said his Word is profitable toward our souls while we contemplate it in meditation is honoring to him and worshipful. As one way to help in this pursuit, below are 8 words taken from Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16 that God speaks concerning Scripture. Provided as well are some explanations about these words, followed by questions to guide us as we ponder and then correlate to life the principles and teachings we have studied throughout the Bible.

Reviving(Psalm 19:7a)

Matthew Henry writesthat Scripture “is of use to convert the soul, to bring us back to ourselves, to our God, to our duty.” Scripture makes us turn to the Lord, it plunges his life-giving ways into more of the depths of our hearts.

How does this passage awaken my soul to the Lord and things eternal, and deaden me toward the world?

Making Wise (Psalm 19:7b)

Henry writes, “It will give us an insight into things divine and a foresight of things to come. It will employ us in the best work and secure to us our true interests.” Scripture causes us to see life in light of the greatness of God, helping us live with increasing temperance and diligence.

In light of this passage, how am I challenged to live, act, and make decisions in a more godly way?

Rejoicing (Psalm 19:8a)

Henry writes, “The law, as we see it in the hands of Christ, gives cause for joy; and, when it is written in our hearts, it lays a foundation for everlasting joy, by restoring us to our right mind.” Scripture gives joy to our lives; the person who knows and follows what is right and true is spared from great misery. 

What teachings, provisions, and promises in this passage bring joy to my life as I align with them and know my God better?

Enlightening (Psalm 19:8b)

Henry writes, “It brings us to a sight and sense of our sin and misery, and directs us in the way of duty.” Scripture gives us new understandings — it challenges our minds to see everything by holy light that glories in God.

[Tweet “Scripture challenges our minds to see everything by holy light that glories in God.”]

What can I learn from this passage that I did not previously know—how does it change the way I think about what is true, valuable, etc.?

Teaching (2 Timothy 3:16)

John Calvin writes, “[Instruction] ranks above all the rest; for it will be to no purpose that you exhort or reprove, if you have not previously instructed.” Also, Matthew Henry refers to “teachings” as “doctrine.” Scripture instructs us, giving us information about God, our world, and ourselves that we simply could not otherwise know.

How does this passage help me understand God, his acts in this world, and his will for people?

Reproving and Correcting (2 Timothy 3:16)

Calvin writes, “Reproof and correction differ little from each other, except that the latter proceeds from the former; for the beginning of repentance is the knowledge of our sinfulness, and a conviction of the judgment of God.” Scripture confronts the sin and untruth in us; it stands contra evil and provides clarity about how to change.

How am I convicted as I read this passage? How do my ways not measure up to the holiness of God, and how can I be corrected?

Training (2 Timothy 3:16)

Calvin writes, “Instruction in righteousness means the rule of a good and holy life.” Scripture fills our lives with the abundant peace of living according to the everlasting ways of God.

According to this passage, in what ways can my life be filled with the righteousness God loves because I love him?

As we meditate upon God’s holy Word as he has intended, he teaches us to pray from our hearts, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

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Women Wonderfully Different and So Very Similar

To my sisters in Christ 

Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, was a Christ-exalting woman in Scripture. She was a prophetess who knew Scripture, and sat at the temple, worshipping, fasting, and praying constantly. She was there when the Son of God arrived for His dedication, and she recognized her Redeemer, giving thanks for Him. She proclaimed the news of His coming with adoration to all who were waiting (see Luke 2:36-38).

Deborah, who was sought-after for her wise judgments, was a prophetess, military leader, and worshipper of Yahweh who led Israel into a period of rest for forty years. According to the theme of the book of Judges, Israel had success as they feared the Lord; Deborah faithfully led them into that success, fear of the Lord, and peace (see Judges 4-5).

Huldah was a prophetess during the reign of Josiah when the Book of the Law of God was rediscovered. She prophesied that God would bring disaster upon Israel for forsaking Him, and yet, that because the book of the law was found and heard with penitence, God would not bring this disaster within their lifetimes. She promoted and gave dynamic impetus to the spiritual revival of Israel during the kingship of Josiah with her truthful words (see 2 Kings 22-23).

Priscilla helped to instruct a new believer, Apollos, in the way of God more accurately. The Apostle Paul was one of her and her husband’s houseguests (see Acts 18:2-3; 24-26). Paul pointedly commended them for making personal sacrifices for the apostle as fellow servants of the Lord (see Romans 16:3-5).

Tabitha, a disciple in the early church, was full, or overflowing like a stream, of good works of mercy or charity in benevolence toward others—including making clothing. She was also given the honor by Peter of being raised from the dead to demonstrate the great power of God; many believed at this sign of the apostle to the authenticity of Christ (see Acts 9:36).

Anna was devoted, ready to recognize and proclaim her Redeemer when He arrived. Deborah was a sought-after woman of wisdom whose leadership of Israel ushered them into a time of peace and fear of God. Huldah inspired and promoted Israel’s return to the good law of God and to favor in His eyes. Priscilla was hospitable, self-sacrificial, and well-versed in Scriptural theology such that she could help teach the ways of God to a fellow brother. Tabitha was devoted to charitable works of service—they overflowed from her heart.

Each woman belonged to God as His child, under His Fatherly provision and direction (Matthew 7:11; Hebrews 12:3-11), devoted to Him and His righteous Word in the circumstances God brought. Each of their godly actions flowed from the Lord, each person beautiful in their own ways of reflecting Him while serving those around them—all together being used by God in His Word to teach us the truth. Yet, each one had markedly different circumstances, gifts, and roles in life.

It seems to me that you and I are also different in the same way Scripture’s women of history were different. Yet, we are also the same: we are children of the same Father who rely upon His Word for how to live, believe, worship, and serve, with the God-given honor of together representing Him in the pieces of His plan for this world we cherish as gifts and call our lives.

As women, we may be in various seasons, circumstances, and roles, and we may bring different gifts to what we commonly share. Yet, Anna’s delight was discovered in Scripture and fulfilled in Christ, Deborah’s wisdom and victory were attributed to her God, Huldah’s prophecy came from Him, Priscilla depended upon the ways of God in order to teach them and follow them, and Tabitha’s heart overflowed because she was a disciple of Christ. The beauty of each one’s service flowed from a humble love for the truth.

They were wonderfully different, while so very similar—like us. 

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9 Spurgeon Quotes on Fear and Faith

According to Charles Spurgeon (here and here), Psalm 56:3—“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”—holds a tension and, yet, a resolve that is uniquely characteristic of the Christian’s experience of fear. 

1. Spurgeon gives voice to inner complexities.

Notice, first, then, that here is David in a complex condition. He says, “I am afraid,” yet with the same breath he says, “I will trust in You.” Is not this a contradiction? It looks like a paradox. Paradox itmay be, but contradiction it is not!

2. He illustrates that intellectual qualms need not be viewed as displacing of faith.

You have seen a precious promise or a glorious Doctrine and you have believed it because you have found it in God’s Word. You have believed it so as to grasp it and feel it tobe your own, yet, perhaps, almost at the same time certain rationalistic thoughts have come into your mind and you have been vexed with doubts as to whether the promise is true. You remember, perhaps, the insinuations of others,or something risesup out of your own carnal reason that renders it difficult for you to believe, while at the same time you are believing! You battle with yourself—one selfseemsto say, “Is it so?” and yet your inner self seemsto say, “I could die for it, I know it is so!”

3. He teaches that there is courage in being honest about fears.

David says, “I am afraid.” Admire his honesty in making this confession. Some men would never have admitted that they were afraid. They would have blustered and said they cared for nothing! Generallythere is no greater coward in this world than the man who never will acknowledge that he is afraid.

4. He reminds that even when faith can stand to grow in those times of life when death seems impending, faith one can still have. And greater truths also abound.

But if, as a rule, you and I can think of death without any kind of fear, if no tremor ever crosses our minds, well then, we must have marvelously strong faith, and I can only pray we may be retained in that strength of faith! For the most partthere is such a thing as terror in prospectof death—the fear is often greater in prospect than in reality! In fact, it is always so in the case of the Christian.

[…]

And so the fear and the faith shall go on hand in hand together for a while, till at last perfect love shall come in and take the place of fear—and then faith and love shall go hand in hand to Heaven!

5. In noting the despondency of going anywhere but to God, and that being one’s end, he promotes gratitude for grace. 

It is a sure sign of Grace when a man can trust in his God, for the natural man, when afraid, falls back on some human trust, or he thinks that he will be able to laugh at the occasion of fear. He gives himself up to jollity and forgetful-ness, or perhaps he braces himself up with a natural resolution—"To take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them." He goes anywhere but to his God.

6. He puts on display the illogical nature of natural human impulses.

You say, "I feel so dead and cold, I have not the spiritual vivacity and warmth and life that I used to possess. I used to come up to the Tabernacle and feel such joy and rejoicing in worshipping on God's Holy Day, but now I feel flat and dull." Oh, but do not be tempted to get away from Christ because of this! Who runs away from the fire because he is cold? Who, in summer, runs away from the cooling brook because he is hot? Should not my deadness be the reason why I should come to Jesus Christ?

7. He teaches that when lamenting over a life that has created, of oneself, nothing that pleases God, but only the opposite—to then rejoice, for grace is true.

When I can see marks of Grace in myself, to trust Christ is easy—but when I see no marks of anything good, but every mark of everything that is evil and then comeand cast myself upon Him and believethat He can save me, even me, and rest myself upon Him—this is the faith which honors Christ and which will save us! May you have it and such time as you are afraid of sin, may you trust in Christ!

8. He is honest and serves as an example of how to respond inthe starkest realizations unworthiness.

I dare to say these ancient words [of Psalm 56:3] tonight from the depths of my soul! I am afraid of my sins! I am afraid of my unworthiness! I never live a day but what I see reason to be afraid! If I had to stand all by myself, I would be afraid to stand before God! If I had never done anything in my life but preach this one sermon, there have been so many imperfections and faults in it that I am afraid to place any reliance upon it! But my Lord Jesus, You are my soul's only hope. I trust entirely in You!

9. Best of all, he takes Christ at his word.

A Christian has no right to be always saying—"Do I love the Lord or no? Am I His, or am I not?" He may be compelled to say it, sometimes, but it is far better for him to come just as he is and throw himself at the foot of the Cross and say, "Savior, You have promised to save those that believe! I believe, therefore You have saved me!" I know some think this is presumption, but surely it is worse than presumption not to believe God! And it is true humility to take God at His word and to believe Him.

In the day of being afraid, Spurgeon teaches that Christian confidence is not in one’s inner state, intellectual reachings, adequacy of confession, absence of future experiences of fear, coping abilities (i.e. humor or human resolve), history of actions and inactions, or self-perception. With all of these in view—and the cause for fear growing when considering each one—“when I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Ps. 56:3). A Christian’s confidence in fear is that God does exist as One who, of his own incomprehensible decision and grace, rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6).

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MainLianna DavisFear
70 Prompts for Adoring God

I worship you, my God, because of who you are: 

  1. Eternal, immortal, and invisible, you alone are God (Psalm 90:1-2; 1 Timothy 1:17; Isaiah 45:5).

  2. You are Spirit (John 4:24). 

  3. You are living (Joshua 3:10).

  4. You are one able to create ex nihilo, or out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3), in six days, and resting on the seventh (Genesis 1).

  5. You are independent of all creation, and have life in and of yourself (John 5:24).

  6. You are known to all (Romans 1:19-20).

  7. As self-existent Yahweh, you are self-revealing to your people (Exodus 3:14-15).

  8. You are omnipresent, or everywhere, always (Psalm 139:7-12).

  9. You are omniscient, knowing everything (Proverbs 15:3).

  10. You are omnipotent, or all-powerful (Matthew 19:26; Hebrews 1:3). 

  11. You are omnisapient, or all-wise (Romans 16:27).

  12. You are sovereign (Ephesians 1:11, 20-21).

  13. You are one God in three Persons (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 8:6).

  14. Each Person of the Trinity is fully and equally God; in appearance and outworking, the Father begets the Son (John 1:18), and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 16:7).

  15. Jesus Christ was preexistent before the incarnation (John 6:38; John 17:5).

  16. Jesus Christ humbled himself (Philippians 2:5-7).

  17. Jesus Christ became incarnate in the flesh (John 1:14), conceived by the Holy Spirit without a human father and born from a virgin (Matthew 1:18). 

  18. Jesus Christ, with a human nature, experienced the weakness and growth that are a part of the human experience (Mark 2:15; 14:33; 15:34; Luke 2:40; 7:9). 

  19. Jesus Christ was tempted and overcame (Luke 4:2); with a divine nature, he could not sin. 

  20. Jesus Christ is God—the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the one of whom deity is claimed (Luke 1:43; John 1:1; Matthew 22:44; Hebrews 1:10-12).

  21. Jesus Christ’s omnipotence is displayed through his miracles over nature (Matthew 8:26-27; Matthew 14:19; John 2:1-11). 

  22. Jesus Christ’s eternality is known through self-revealing statements (John 8:58; Revelation 22:13).

  23. Jesus Christ’s omniscience is displayed through perceiving hidden thoughts (Mark 2:8; John 1:48), and in knowing all things as attested to by his disciples (John 16:30).

  24. Jesus Christ is omnipresent, as seen in his claim to be with the disciples always (Matthew 28:20).

  25. Jesus Christ is sovereign, as demonstrated in his authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7).

  26. Jesus Christ is worthy to be worshipped and adored (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:12).

  27. Though not relinquishing any divine attributes, Jesus Christ gave up the outward appearance and radiance of his glory in order to complete the mission of the Father (Philippians 2:7), using his divine attributes only as necessary for his mission and ministry, out of submission to the Father.

  28. Jesus Christ is one Person without separation, including two natures without confusion—human and divine—in hypostatic union (Hebrews 1:3). 

  29. The Person of the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotions, and will. With intelligence, he knows the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11); with emotions he can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and according to his will, he distributes spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11).

  30. The Holy Spirit is deity with omniscience (1 Corinthians 1:11-12), omnipresence (Psalm 139:7), and involvement in creation (Psalm 104:30); blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against God (Matthew 12:31-32).  

  31. Father, Son, and Spirit—one God—you are unity (Deuteronomy 6:4).

  32. You are Elohim, sovereign and transcendent over all the earth (Deuteronomy 2:30; 33; 3:22).

  33. As El-Shaddai, you are God Almighty, powerful and strong (Genesis 17:1). 

  34. As El Elyon, you are God Most High who reigns supreme (Genesis 21:33).

  35. As El Olam, you are God Everlasting and changeless forever (Genesis 21:33).

  36. As Yahweh Jireh, you are “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14).

  37. As Yahweh Nissi, you are “The Lord Our Banner,” the victorious (Exodus 17:15).

  38. As Yahweh Shalom, you are “The Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24). 

  39. As Yahweh Sabbaoth, you are “The Lord of Hosts,” the commander (1 Samuel 1:3). 

  40. As Yahweh Maccaddeshcem, you are “The Lord Thy Sanctifier” (Exodus 31:13). 

  41. As Yahweh Tsidkenu, you are “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).

  42. The way you relate to your creation can be described by many images, like the image of Father (Matthew 6:26; 2 Corinthians 6:18; 1 John 3:1). 

  43. The image of Mother (Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 49:15; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34).

  44. The image of Husband (Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19; Revelation 21:1-7). 

  45. The image of Friend (John 15:12-15). 

  46. The image of Shepherd (Psalm 23; John 10:11)

  47. The image of Teacher (Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 48:17). 

  48. The image of Ruler (Psalm 103:19; 1 Timothy 6:15). 

  49. The image of Judge (Isaiah 33:22; 2 Timothy 4:8). 

  50. The image of Deliverer (Exodus 6:6; Matthew 1:21).

  51. And the image of Justifier (Romans 3:26). 

  52. You are a preserver of all you have made (Nehemiah 9:6; Colossians 1:17).

  53. You are one who gives decrees that are all-encompassing, or inclusive of all creation (Ephesians 1:11).

  54. Your decrees are for your own glory (Psalm 19:1), and they are based upon your sovereign contentment (Daniel 4:35).

  55. Your decrees are best because they are based upon your infinite wisdom (Psalm 147:5; Psalm 104:24). 

  56. You are morally pure and set apart (Leviticus 11:44-45).

  57. You are holy (Revelation 4:8).

  58. You hate sin and are angered by it (Joshua 7:1). 

  59. You are perfectly wrathful (Romans 1:18; Nahum 1:2).

  60. You are compassionate (Psalm 103:13-14).

  61. You are patient (Romans 2:4).

  62. You are love (1 John 4:8, 16).

  63. You are good (Psalm 25:8).

  64. You are just (Genesis 18:25).

  65. You are righteous and gracious (Psalm 145:17).

  66. You are rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).

  67. You are immanent, near and active (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28). 

  68. You are immutable, or unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). 

  69. You are true (Isaiah 65:16).

  70. You are the blessed and only King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15).

Help me to know you, to love you for who you are, and to value what you value, my God. 

Amen.

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MainLianna DavisFeatured, Worship
A Well Lived Life

When the sun turned down for the day and golden light peaked through the edges of my living room blinds throwing glistening shadows onto dim walls, my eyes assumed the same golden gleam with thoughts of recent hours. The sun grew over walls and furniture—and all the swells of the day—for the hour or so of light’s gold: the dining room table where a candle earlier sped and smoked, the distant corner of the kitchen where orange slices were held and bites were taken alongside grins and chats, and the stairs that withheld against pounded motions of every happening, whether languid and clomping or running late with clipping.

My lips met spiced tea and my mind swelled over those waves of the day, freeing the memories that active minutes compress—enumerating the menagerie of surges and stages. Finally, the thought came as the sun yielded to the downward pull and the last spark was gone before night’s scroll was unrolled—Was this one well lived?

The last light fell, and I had all appreciation for that unique sunset slice of the day—it was like the lightning that flares when a person of mystery speaks revealingly and the rarity only adds to gratitude and wonder, leaving a trace of want for when it will happen again. So, a sunset does not grace the every minute, and with the last light, today’s provoked, Can you be content to mirror many other days after today’s strains?

Now, if one can enter near, a late octo- or nonagenarian might musingly review not a day of life for Christ, but a life. The gray hair of the godly, that crown of splendor and honor (Prov. 16:13), affords its own glow for watching eyes—perhaps the brightest and fiercest sparks of belief and holy desire. Chair close, one hears of minds that have worked and worked, and of hearts’ resolve, and eternity’s splendor insight from earliest days. One might hear of children and family, and friendships and ministry while witnessing the effects of prayer’s secret dependency. One will certainly hear of Christ, as the godly gray are naturally nearest, anticipatorily, to see His face in all of glory’s bright.

In these, my elders, I’ve seen steps of resolve, commitment to the path that is straight. Steps that haven’t veered back and away or circled, as with a loose, stray connection—but have traveled steadily, with a resolve that started from the dedication of earliest teenage days (Ecclesiastes 12:1). I’ve heard of consistency in studying, of adeptness with mastering one day’s portion of Scripture at a time to accumulate wealth, a considerable responsibility—without having been shirked or shunned, but received as weighty and worthy duty (Prov. 1:7, 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:15). I’ve noticed the freedom and joy, and sole honor for Christ, in the gray-haired whose finances have long reflected the weight of eternity and Scripture’s guiding hand, for whom money has not directed decisions of value, for the path to heaven is highest (Matt. 6:19, 23).

Pure sparks have graced my sight of love for family, care for husbands and wives while in view of a marriage-honoring God (Heb. 13:4), and for the ministry that began in one’s home—how instruction and love of children has not been seen as secondary but as prized with piles of devoted time (Deut. 6:5-9). With the family of God, I’ve seen the peace of relationships that are deemed successes if giving has been sacrificial—where mutuality has been warmly welcomed, but personal fulfillment has not been given the status of being the aim or goal (Phil. 2:3). I have beheld how the deposit of truth has been regarded—the fountain for unity (2 Tim. 1:14; Rom. 16:17-20) and how speaking its core message of the King has served as compassion for those in the dark (Rom. 10:14).

Gazed fixed, I have gleaned themes of wisdom, that when tutors have been sought for the school of saintly life, selectivity and standards have been welcomed by all. For good mentors have been careful to bow and exegete well the holy Word—pointing to those who have been advanced in maturity and dedication—with thoughtfulness to approve by Scripture every influence, faithfully, no matter the cost (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 1:9-10). Now, when I hunt for their lives of prayer, I scarcely collect in my sight all that’s certainly there—for they are faithful to the Lord’s instruction, to maintain reverent secrecy (Matt. 6:5-6). Yet, in their lives’ humility and given trust, evidence abounds of those who have long ago settled that they can do nothing, would never want to do anything, apart from Him (John 15:5; Phil. 4:11-13).

I’ve traced my hand over a life’s day to follow the sparkling-sun-movement, a sun still graciously lasting by God’s hand to have come this evening after visiting lives of all ages. And as golden hours will double and triple and more in my experience, Lord willing, tomorrow and the next day again, I will have less and less propensity for youthful doubtfulness in the truth that my days are short—just as He has said (Jas. 4:14). My home will travel through sunset again; while I sip that tea and steep in the swells, the lightning spark of want noted in my day-end light—my question—is now seated in Scripture’s witness to imitate those whose whole lives have already been well lived for Him (Heb. 13:7; 2 Thess. 3:9; 1 Cor. 4:16).

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Early Martyrs' Witness to Christ's Worth

In early years of Christianity, many withstood the tests of torturous persecution and martyrdom to the glory of the One whose Name they bore: “Yet, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter. 4:16). As I have been learning of the history surrounding these men and women who loved Christ more than life on this earth and reflect upon their voices that echo through the centuries, I am led to honor Christ for His suffering, power, and worth.

Martyrdom as Reality

In classical Christian times (roughly 100 to 600 A.D.), persecution varied according to who was in power of the Roman empire at the time—each emperor having the power to create his own policies and climate for Christians. In summary of what I have been learning, here is an anecdotal sketch from these years when martyrdom was a reality for many:

  • Nero, who came into power in 54 was a persecutor of Christians, especially in his nearby vicinity. After receiving blame for a widespread fire, he diverted public attention by blaming the Christians.

  • Under Domitian existed scattered persecution across the empire for those who participated in “Jewish practices” [in early years, differentiations between Judaism and Christianity were unclear to authorities].

  • Emperor Trajan set the policy that, essentially, Christians ought not be sought out with state money, but also ought not be pardoned if accused before imperial authorities.

  • In 161, Marcus Aurelius became emperor and saw fit to persecute the Christians more pointedly—believing them to blame for growing challenges, like natural and military disasters.

  • Septimius Severus issued a syncretistic edict in 202 intended for the unification of the empire; worship of various gods was permitted as long as Sol Invictuswas given superior status.

  • Decius, in 250, instated an empire-wide edict that governors and magistrates enforce sacrifice to Roman gods and to the emperor, resulting in amplified persecution of Christians who refused.

  • Under Diocletian, who became emperor in 303, another edict was formed. This time, all Christian sites of worship, Christian writings, and Christian acts of worship were illegal, prompting a severe period of hostility.

  • The emperor Galerius—who began his influence in Christian persecution—ultimately deemed these edicts and acts futile due to Christian steadfastness. Year 311 saw a cessation of persecution, leading soon to vastly altered times under Constantine’s leadership.[1]

Martyrdom as Honor

Amidst these adverse times, the church regarded martyrdom as an honor. They wrote of Peter having “born his testimony” in martyrdom and of Paul, who “won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith”[2]in his.

Bishop of the church at Antioch, Ignatius, was sentenced to death in 107. He was sent to Rome for trial, and on the way—in one of seven letters—he wrote to the church at Rome,

Only pray that I may have power within and without, so that I may not only say it but also desire it [martyrdom]; that I may not only be called a Christian, but also be found one […] Yet if I shall suffer, then am I a freed-man of Jesus Christ, and I shall rise free in Him […] The farthest bounds of the universe shall profit me nothing, neither the kingdoms of this world. It is good for me to die for Jesus rather than to reign over the farthest bounds of the earth. Him I seek, who died on our behalf; Him I desire, who rose again [for our sake].”[3]

Early Christians wrote of the martyrs of their own times,

For who could fail to admire their nobleness and patient endurance and loyalty to the Master? seeing that when they were so torn by lashes that the mechanism of their flesh was visible even as far as the inward veins and arteries, they endured patiently, so that the very bystanders had pity and wept.[4]

One young believer, Germanicus, was advised to deny Christ when facing death to preserve his youth. But he only indicated to authorities his desire to even more quickly “obtain a release from their unrighteous and lawless life.”[5]

Bishop Polycarp of the church at Smyrna was also asked to recant multiple times. Once he replied in faithfulness: “Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” And another time he replied with eternal truth: “Thou threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and after a little while is quenched: for thou art ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly.”[6]The saints at the time wanted to emulate his example, “seeing that it was after the patter of the Gospel of Christ.”[7]

Martyrdom for Christ’s Glory

When reading these martyrs’ accounts, I think of the temptation to become man-focused. No doubt, these believers’ willingness to die in faithfulness to the Lord is an example to me. At the same time, according to 1 Peter 4:12-14, the glory resting over these faithful men and women belongs to God:

“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

With that in mind, one record has particularly stayed with me because of how it held me back from a man-exalting perspective on martyrdom—the Apostle Peter’s:

…after being scourged, he [the Apostle Peter] was crucified with his head downwards. It is related that he himself chose this painful posture because he did not think he was worthy to suffer in the same manner as the Lord.[8]

Peter didn’t consider that he ought to experience his martyrdom in the same form as Christ—his humility and love for the Lord Himself is evident in his request. His eyes were on Christ, with honor, thinking of how awfully the Lord had it and not wanting to remotely resemble thecrucifixion.

In light of the example of many persecuted believers who knew their Lord was worth their lives and thinking of the Apostle Peter who did not consider himself worthy of his martyrdom in view of Christ—taking a step back, I am presently processing what in my life is properly called suffering. I don’t suffer nearly as I think I do. While martyrs expected the slaying fires of this earth to be cold to them, [9]I recently prayed that I might—please, please—never grow cold to God. I have also been asking for far too little.

Finally, I take tremendous comfort in the Lord’s sacrifice for me, possible because He walked this earth as the God-Man—fully able to relate to my circumstances. At the same time, Peter’s love for the PersonJesus Christ exemplifies that my difficulties are still not reason for me to relativize the cross to my experience—but to all the more live in view of the Lord Himself who hung on the cross and bore the wrath of God.

I am fully God’s through the cross—such is the complete grace of Christ to receive. Yet, I am unworthy to be His, who motivated the faithfulness of His servants to earthly death. I worship, “Lord, you are the worthy, yours is the power, and yours was the suffering.”

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MainLianna DavisSuffering
The Honor of Biblical Submission

The God like us—stunning. Descending from majesty. Grappling with the confines of flesh, with skin and hands. Hearing others’ voices through two ears and having blood pump through a heart roughly the same size as mine. He knew the onslaught of grief, with all looming darkness, at Gethsemane. And he endured punishment for sin after sin—the number seems endless from my perspective, though he must have known each one. He was seen, known, heard, and touched.

I have come to know him through his being the Lamb; so the nearness of God inhabits an exclusive warmth of truth within me. I can find myself stunned that God came, and he came to be flesh. He came to be obedient flesh. He came submitting at Calvary, being subject in the garden.

Women Seeking Nobility

Any one Sunday morning, I’m greeted outside by a fellow human whose sins were paid for at the cross. Opening the door to foyer and sanctuary, I see many more of the same men and women—and there is no Greek or Jew, male or female (Galatians 3:28). Yet, as a woman, I also walk through that door differently from men, and with a distinct privilege in how I show honor to others and the Lord.

I walk amidst sanctuary, nursery, foyer, Sunday school classrooms with a role that runs parallel to Christ’s in a specific way. We can be Scripturally assured that any man might nobly aspire to be an elder (1 Timothy 3:1-2). Yet, church eldership and church-derived authority over men are not noble aspirations for a woman (2:12).

Where does this leave women? I have not yet found myself disproven in the thought that practical advice not fully grounded in biblical theology will, at best, be one-sided and incomplete. How well-meaning the advice—“Women, when you think about submission in the church, think about all you can do, like women’s ministry, children’s ministry, etc. That’s leading more than half of the church!”

Yet, that’s not enough.

When Women Are Robbed

Jesus’ submission to the Father—in a life of obedience, in the garden, and on the cross—we praise him for this.

We women are robbed by our hearts if we succumb to feeling any defeat or deflation about submitting, or if we regard God’s truth as less than ideal. For devaluing a woman’s submission inadvertently devalues the work of Christ that women, in principle, reflect.

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

Reflecting the Lord is as noble as I could imagine—“and the head of Christ is God.” His unmatched beauty in submitting to the Father when incarnate, securing the way of salvation is somehow by grace similar in principle to my role of submission, whether in marriage or church. The nobility of living by this exceeds the practical advice I wrote of above—this is the “more” we need to know.

Adorned in Uniqueness and Equity

Noble Sarah beautified herself, being subject to her husband.

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands. (1 Peter 3:5)

What did she know of Christ? She knew of God’s order in creation; yet, the fraction of what she held dear in terms of knowledge of the Messiah means this adornment could not be any less accessible to the holy women of today.

The question to you, sister in Christ—Do you esteem womanly submission?—is best preceded by the question, Do you treasure that Christ submitted? In that light, how can we not perceive the immense privilege here? Defining what submission entails and what it looks like—and what it doesn’t—is beyond the scope of this article. But the right adornment is well to be sought.

So if you, sister, have been asked by God—by virtue of your submission—to relinquish a desire along the natural course of your adult life in marriage and church, this has been your honor. And where we have yet to receive this experience as an honor, it’s not too late to start adorning ourselves accordingly.

Submission in View of Christ

We can live in view of Christ’s cross and unparalleled expense, for he has been gracious to first take us into his view—though we are but dust. We may live our submission in view of him, who—despite any possible circumstance of ours—has always sacrificed the more. This way, we will innately come to treasure him in our hearts and actions.

Before the cross, there is no male or female—all are equally called to the feet of the King and raised to unfading inheritance with him. Further, who could say that the Father is honored above the Son—is there any lack of equity in their honor? Of course not. Thus, it is in equity we women are adorned with the unique role of submission—the humble honor of female Christian submission matching the humble honor of male Christian servant-leadership.

Both men and women, uniquely and together, have the equal joy and privilege of showcasing the riches of our incomparably sacrificial God by showing one another biblically-described forms of honor. For our God-given honor in roles pours itself out in honoring one another: “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10b).

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MainLianna DavisWomanhood
Cheerios, Transience, Sticky Fingers, and Righteousness

My fingers run over familiar lines in my home. Edges of tables. The soft back of the sofa where we have played and sat and read. I have a minute to think. The walls are colored with pieces of our lives like finger-paintings or crayon drawings. We’ll take them down soon, temporary things. We’re moving—not across the country or anything, but somewhere new. We’ll leave behind our nail holes. They’ll be filled. Someone else will start over with it all.

My fingers move to the binding of a book I am reading. But some of the pages are stuck together. Babies are messy; nothing is safe from them. I look down. She’s reading her own book now, my baby who I am so grateful for in everything. She’s big and solidly walks on her own. She has words to tell me what is on her mind and cognition to understand so much of what is on mine. It won’t be long before she’s in her own home, coloring the walls with her own crayons, sitting still and hoping to understand time for herself—or so I’m told. She’ll ache too, just like I have. And it will be over more than not being allowed to put sticky fingers into books—books, which the press builds and spews forward. 

I’m hardly, or not at all, reading enough to get caught up—but that’s not as important I guess. Blogs are daily and it’s hard to make that the conversation when I’m still processing something from last week or last month. It’s fast; it’s all too fast for me. Even moving to a new home is too fast, too easy. I am looking to reach the ground somehow so that when I move it’s like my feet are dragging in concrete because I had somewhere to stay. But in reality, I suppose I could do it again (but I hope I don’t).

I saw an edited picture the other day, a double exposure making a child’s head look like it was filled with Cheerios. And I sure could cut-back more on my baby’s Cheerios—I laughed at it, I think out loud. But I wonder what exactly we’re doing online sharing our hearts and our good messages. Part of it is so very good but part makes me want to sign off forever to de-clutter my brain of the many, many pieces of little Cheerios that I no longer digest. I must be doing something wrong. I sort of admire the people who are, mostly, offline. But then I think of the people I have met online and I am grateful. Still, if the whole of the web went away I have more than enough and so much joy and life. I have more than I could ask for.

All these things in my home, crayons and the sofa and a couple of tables that serve us well, they’ll be in motion soon—in the same type of motion as those who have moved before me, but many for far different reasons and with more urgency. The Israelites out of Egypt. The Israelites out of the promised land. The promise stated in the earliest generations of human history might have been fulfilled then (God is faithful), except they stopped moving toward God and so He said when it was enough, far enough. I’ve got sticky-finger “problems.” God, the Maker and Ruler of all, has children who hate Him. No comparison. But He is still faithful to Himself, and so, to us. He will fulfill each promise.

Part of me wants to combat the culture in my own little way by staying grounded and by never moving and by never do anything that is fast. Another part says that this isn’t my home anyway; it isn’t supposed to feel that easy, or as good as I want it to feel. Part of me remembers the vanity of Ecclesiastes and part of me to enjoy gifts from God—also in Ecclesiastes—but I also know to wait for the end of that book too to see that what matters is to fear and obey God through it all.

This is not as though authenticity and art and moments don’t matter; I believe they do. But in them—or, the goal of them—everything that is not righteous will not endure, and hopefully, we don't want it to. Is that my main thing here, in all of this? Because if not, I had better trade crayons for markers or lay off every weight—everything that’s too rapid. It’s easier to disengage altogether in the places we could engage well. I know that too. But every kind of medium has a different kind of beat—social media, blogs, and endless books too. Every medium, itself, communicates something. I hear the cautionary and the explorers each in my mind with their warnings and their passions respectively.

But 10 years ago, I was still deciding if I should join Facebook and—did we really think this thing through? I am still pointing my arms in different directions on here—is this right, is this it? But I don’t think I am supposed to feel blind anymore. After all, I like solidity and conclusions, and I like that the Bible is absolute in authority. Pausing, I am so grateful; we owe more to ourselves than the lie of total transience—except, of course, we are transient. I think you know what I mean. God is not transient and we are His.

Righteousness, moderate choices with limited time, identifying weights well to lay them off, seeing people in person, and, just, running my fingers over the pages of the Bible that tells me what to think from the God who knows me—these are things I keep coming back to in the quick of this all. Having fewer Cheerios, engaging more with the tangible stickiness that I can run my hands over in this home, in the physical places around, and in this heart, and do my part to clean it, and nail in—hard—the righteousness that lasts. 

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