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Discuss the tough questions relating to the Christian Faith. Present the Scripture in an interdenominational fashion demonstrating those things we hold in common and provoking thought whenever possible. Hopefully you will find things here that will encourage you to study more deeply that all of Scripture will be at home in your heart.


Romans 3:3 - God's Faithfulness Challenged?

Romans 3:3

"Rom 3:1-8 - The law could not save in or from sins, yet it gave the Jews advantages for obtaining salvation.  Their stated ordinances, education in the knowledge of the true God and his service, and many favors shown to the children of Abraham, all were means of grace, and doubtless were made useful to the conversion of many.  But especially the Scriptures were committed to them.  Enjoyment of God's word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people.  But God's promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect.  He will fulfill his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers.  God's judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice.  The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man's need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin.  Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways.  The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just."  Mathew Henry's Concise Commentary

"What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?" (NASB)

"For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" (KJV)

"True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful?" (NLT)

"What then? If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God?" (NET)

Like Israel, does our wickedness nullify the promise of God made to Abraham?  This promise was and everlasting covenant that would bless all the generations to come! Perhaps said another way, will the decrees of Almighty God be thwarted by our conduct?  As we look back through this microsecond of history (compared to eternity) do we not see the blessing of God unfolding? As the science of our day peers though larger and more sophisticated telescopes searching for evidence of life on other worlds, what unfolds before them is an the seemingly endless universe created by an eternal God who is not bound by time and space.  The light from our sun takes about 8 minutes to reach earth traveling at around 186,000 miles per second.  Do you begin to see why James refers to our life as a morning fog? (James 4:14)  We are a mist, a vapor, a wisp of cloud that appears for a short time and then evaporates.  But the faithfulness of God endures forever.  Yet He is opposed to the proud (James 4:6).  That is why Paul here is anticipating all the arguments.  If anything the misconduct of Israel, and those of us who would later benefit from the promise, more fully demonstrates God's faithfulness! How wonderful that the Salvation of Christ is close at hand and that He is patient with us waiting for that day when we would believe.


“Walk Like an Egyptian”?

A recent morning’s OT reading for me was Exodus 9 & 10, which contains some of the plagues God brought upon the Egyptians, and how Pharaoh (The Egyptian in mind) told Moses he would let the people go when one of the plagues stopped but harden it again as soon as things were back to normal.

The song title “Walk Like an Egyptian” (an 80’s #1 hit), pinged in my brain. I was reminded of times that I have “walked like an Egyptian” (Pharoah, not the song). Maybe my case is a long way from the Pharaoh’s, but the principle is the same. Get in a tough spot and call out to God, read the Bible more, go to church/Bible study more, whatever. Get relief and slack off on the spiritual stuff.

Not exactly what the song was about, but it fits. There’s also a huge God lesson here. When plague of hail rained down on all of Egypt except where the Israelites lived, and Pharaoh asked Moses for relief (promising to let the people go…again), Moses said he would stop the hail and Pharaoh would know whose God was REALLY in charge!

Now I have another one of those profitable questions I should ask ‘the man in the mirror’ on occasion:

“Dude, have you been ‘walking like an Egyptian’ again? I might not phrase it quite like that, being 64 and all (Beatles anyone?) but it would do me well to just ask it.

BTW, you can find the song on YouTube. I checked. I didn’t even remember the lyrics when I was engaged in my morning reading.   The story of Moses, the plagues, and the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt can be found in the book of Exodus.  The first twelve chapters will take you to the point where Pharaoh finally ‘let the people go’


Romans 3:2 - The Whole Revelation of God

Romans 3:2

"Rom 3:1-8 - The law could not save in or from sins, yet it gave the Jews advantages for obtaining salvation.  Their stated ordinances, education in the knowledge of the true God and his service, and many favors shown to the children of Abraham, all were means of grace, and doubtless were made useful to the conversion of many.  But especially the Scriptures were committed to them.  Enjoyment of God's word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people.  But God's promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect.  He will fulfill his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers.  God's judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice.  The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man's need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin.  Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways.  The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just."  Mathew Henry's Concise Commentary

"Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the G3051oracles of God." (NASB)

"Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the G3051oracles of God." (KJV)

"Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the G3051whole revelation of God." (NLT)

"Actually, there are many advantages. First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the G3051oracles of God." (NET)

"Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God's people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai.  And there Moses received G3051life-giving words to pass on to us." (Acts 7:38 NLT)

"You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about G3051God's word.  You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food." (Hebrews 5:12 NLT)

"Do you have the gift of speaking?  Then speak as though G3051God Himself were speaking through you.  Do you have the gift of helping others?   Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies.  Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.  All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen." (1 Peter 4:11 NLT)

G3051
λόγιον
logion
Thayer Definition:
1) a brief utterance, a divine oracle (doubtless because oracles were generally brief)
1a) in the NT, the words or utterances of God
1b) of the contents of the Mosaic law

A blessing and a curse! Not unlike a verse from a country song, "standing knee deep in a river and dying of thirst." Is not that the way we deceive ourselves? The heavens display the glory of God but we are the descendents of the primordial soup! The rebellion of the diametrically opposed (Father God — Mother Nature). The Bible remains the best seller and least read! Blessed insurance, State Farm is mine, oh what a joy from actuarial divine. Heir of deductible, all is at rest, I keep my adjuster's name in my vest.

"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. " (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)

The benefit of the Word of God is that it exposes us for who we really are! When we have seen ourselves in the "light of His Glory" we begin to understand our own depravity. From this humbled state we begin to see the length and breadth and depth of His magnificent Grace. We experience His resurrection power to overcome the sin that so entangles us.

OR

We become arrogant fools deceived by our own sin and live a form of godliness and deny the power thereof.

We are without excuse for we have the "whole revelation of God."


The Sword of The Spirit–A Perspective from Spurgeon
The Sword of The Spirit–A Perspective from Spurgeon

“We have a more sure word of testimony, a rock of truth upon which we rest, for our infallible standard lies in, “It is written. . .” The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but  the Bible is our religion. . . .It is said that it is hard to understand, but it is not so to those who seek the guidance of the Spirit of God. . . . .A babe in grace taught by the Spirit of God may know the mind of the Lord concerning salvation, and find its way to heaven by the guidance of the Word alone. But be it profound or simple; that is not the question; it is the Word of Gods, and is pure, unerring truth. Here is infallibility, and nowhere else. . . .This grand, infallible book. . .is our sole court of appeal. . . .[It is] the sword of the Spirit in the spiritual conflicts which await. . . .The Holy Spirit is the Word, and it is, therefore, living truth. O Christians, be ye sure of this, and because of it make you the Word your chosen weapon of war.”

___________________

Sermon Source: “Infallibility – Where to Find it and How to Use It” , Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol 20 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874, 698-99, 702.


Romans 3:1 - Home Court Advantage

Romans 3:1

"Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?" (NASB)

"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?" (KJV)

"Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision?" (NLT)

"Therefore what advantage does the Jew have, or what is the value of circumcision?" (NET)

 

"Rom 3:1-8 - The law could not save in or from sins, yet it gave the Jews advantages for obtaining salvation.  Their stated ordinances, education in the knowledge of the true God and his service, and many favors shown to the children of Abraham, all were means of grace, and doubtless were made useful to the conversion of many.  But especially the Scriptures were committed to them.  Enjoyment of God's word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people.  But God's promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect.  He will fulfill his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers.  God's judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice.  The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man's need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin.  Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways.  The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just."  Mathew Henry's Concise Commentary

"Here the apostle answers several objections, which might be made, to clear his way.  No truth so plain and evident but wicked wits and corrupt carnal hearts will have something to say against it; but divine truths must be cleared from cavil."  Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

Cavil
CAVIL, v.i.

1. To raise captious and frivolous objections; to find fault without good reason; followed by at.

It is better to reason than to cavil.

2. To advance futile objections, or to frame sophisms, for the sake of victory in an argument.

What value is there in the Excellency of the Christian faith?  There must be value since Noah Webster wrote a book entitled, "Value of the Bible and Excellence of the Christian Religion."  It is the same advantage that is given to the Jew!  The faithfulness of God! So what if everyone of us is unfaithful?  Does that limit the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ?  NO!  Even if we are violators of the covenant, does that make His promises null?  NO!

Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love?  Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.")  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love.  Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the LORD's anger.  He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light.  He has turned His hand against me again and again, all day long.  He has made my skin and flesh grow old.  He has broken my bones.  He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress.  He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead.  He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains.  And though I cry and shout, He has shut out my prayers.  He has blocked my way with a high stone wall; He has made my road crooked.  He has hidden like a bear or a lion, waiting to attack me.  He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated.  He has drawn His bow and made me the target for His arrows.  He shot His arrows deep into my heart.  My own people laugh at me.  All day long they sing their mocking songs.  He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink.  He has made me chew on gravel.  He has rolled me in the dust.  Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is.  I cry out, "My splendor is gone!  Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!"  The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.  I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.  I say to myself, "The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!"  The LORD is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him.  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.  And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of His discipline: Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD's demands.  Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.  Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies.  For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever.  Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion because of the greatness of His unfailing love.  For He does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.  If people crush underfoot all the prisoners of the land, if they deprive others of their rights in defiance of the Most High, if they twist justice in the courts—doesn't the Lord see all these things?  Who can command things to happen without the Lord's permission?  Does not the Most High send both calamity and good?  Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins?  Instead, let us test and examine our ways.  Let us turn back to the LORD.  Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, "We have sinned and rebelled, and You have not forgiven us.  "You have engulfed us with Your anger, chased us down, and slaughtered us without mercy.  You have hidden Yourself in a cloud so our prayers cannot reach You.  You have discarded us as refuse and garbage among the nations.  "All our enemies have spoken out against us.  We are filled with fear, for we are trapped, devastated, and ruined."  Tears stream from my eyes because of the destruction of my people! My tears flow endlessly; they will not stop until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees.  My heart is breaking over the fate of all the women of Jerusalem.  My enemies, whom I have never harmed, hunted me down like a bird.  They threw me into a pit and dropped stones on me.  The water rose over my head, and I cried out, "This is the end!"  But I called on Your name, LORD, from deep within the pit.  You heard me when I cried, "Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!"  Yes, You came when I called; You told me, "Do not fear."  Lord, You are my lawyer!  Plead my case!  For You have redeemed my life.  You have seen the wrong they have done to me, LORD.  Be my judge, and prove me right.  You have seen the vengeful plots my enemies have laid against me.  LORD, You have heard the vile names they call me.  You know all about the plans they have made.  My enemies whisper and mutter as they plot against me all day long.  Look at them! Whether they sit or stand, I am the object of their mocking songs.  Pay them back, LORD, for all the evil they have done.  Give them hard and stubborn hearts, and then let Your curse fall on them! Chase them down in Your anger, destroying them beneath the LORD's heavens.  (Lamentations 3:1-66 NLT)


Jesus’ Divine Mission

Since we are entering the Christmas season, it seems appropriate to provide a reminder of Jesus’ Divine calling and mission. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, we tend to think of all sorts of things and neglect the fact that God sent His Son to us for a very specific reason that was revealed to Joseph:

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." – Matthew 1:19-20

John Gill expressed it well:

He shall save – This expresses the same as the name, and on this account the name was given to him. He saves people by dying to redeem them; by giving the Holy Spirit to renew them Joh_16:7-8; by His power in enabling them to overcome their spiritual enemies, in defending them from danger, in guiding them in the path of duty, in sustaining them in trials and in death; and He will raise them up at the last day, and exalt them to a world of purity and love.

His people – Those whom the Father has given to him. The Jews were called the people of God because he had chosen them to himself, and regarded them as His special and beloved people, separate from all the nations of the earth. Christians are called the people of Christ because it was the purpose of the Father to give them to him Isa_53:11; Joh_6:37; and because in due time he came to redeem them to himself, Tit_2:14; 1Pe_1:2.

From their sins – This was the great business of Jesus in coming and dying. It was not to save people in their sins, but from their sins. Sinners could not be happy in heaven. It would be a place of wretchedness to the guilty. The design of Jesus was, therefore, to save them from sin; and from this we may learn:

1. That Jesus had a design in coming into the world. He came to save his people; and that design will surely be accomplished. It is impossible that in any part of it he should fail.

2. We have no evidence that we are his people unless we are saved from the power and dominion of sin. A mere profession of being His people will not answer. Unless we give up our sins; unless we renounce the pride, pomp, and pleasure of the world, we have no evidence that we are the children of God. It is impossible that we should be Christians if we indulge in sin and live in the practice of any known iniquity. See 1Jo_3:7-8.

3. That all professing Christians should feel that there is no salvation unless it is from sin, and that they can never be admitted to a holy heaven hereafter unless they are made pure, by the blood of Jesus, here.

This year, as we buy gifts, decorate trees, sing carols, and gather with our families, let us not forget the reason for the season.


Romans 2:29 - The Genuine Christian

Romans 2:29

"But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." (NASB)

"But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." (KJV)

"No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God.  And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit.  And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people." (NLT)

"but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code.  This person's praise is not from people but from God." (NET)

"To be a real Jew you must obey the Law.  True circumcision is something that happens deep in your heart, not something done to your body.  And besides, you should want praise from God and not from humans." (CEV)

"Rather, the real Jew is the person who is a Jew on the inside, that is, whose heart has been circumcised, and this is the work of God's Spirit, not of the written Law.  Such a person receives praise from God, not from human beings." (GNB)

"How strikingly this also brings out what so breaks everywhere through the doctrine of this epistle that everything is according to its reality before God, God being revealed through Christ and the cross.  All must take its true character and result according to what He was. Note moreover that the terms suppose gospel knowledge — 'seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility.'  These are known by Christianity." Dr. John Darby

What then can we say in parallel, dear Christian, about our hearts from this amazing passage.  To be a genuine Christian is our baptism to be external only by ritual cleansing in the water?  Or is our baptism to be an internal act of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts?  Is our life lived in a manner that give the outward perception or do we walk by the Spirit giving honor and glory to Him who died for us to bring us life eternal?  Do we live in secret sin and delude ourselves into thinking we are walking in the light?  Or are we living in in the light of His Glory being washed clean by the blood of the Son?  If we think that we are not deceived, then deception has had its way with us!  We have already fallen prey to the ultimate deceiver.  Look around, believer, do you see the signs of the Glory of the Lord being displayed everywhere that this is a Christian nation?  Is your church overflowing with the songs of thousands of souls set free by the blood of the Crucified One?  Has the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life touched everyone you meet?  Does the world look like you or do you look like the world?  Are you really engaged in ministry?  Or are you just engaged in activity?  What's the difference?  Fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit that transforms lives making them brand new.  Lives living in the victory that is in Christ Jesus that sets them free from the law of sin and death! 

"He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5 NLT)

"With respect to the conduct of Christians towards the world, grace has banished violence, and the spirit of rebellion and resistance which agitates the heart of those who believe hot, and which has its source in the self-will that strives to maintain its own rights relatively to others.

The Christian has his portion, his inheritance, elsewhere; he is tranquil and submissive here and ready to do good.  Even when others are violent and unjust towards him, he bears it in remembrance that once it was no otherwise with himself: a difficult lesson, for violence and injustice stir up the heart; but the thought that it is sin, and that we also were formerly its slaves, produces patience and piety.  Grace alone has made the difference, and according to that grace are we to act towards others."  Dr. John Darby


What Is Successful Evangelism?

"Evangelism is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouth pieces of God’s message of mercy to sinners. Anyone who faithfully delivers that message, in a small meeting, from a pulpit, or in a private conversation, is evangelizing. The way to tell whether you are in fact evangelizing is not to ask whether conversions are known to have resulted from your witness. It is to ask whether you are faithfully making known the gospel message.”  - J. I. Packer

Consider for a moment the accounts of both Peter’s and Stephen’s proclamation to the Jews, recorded in the Book of Acts.

Peter

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. 

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:36-41 ESV)

Stephen

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53 ESV)

 “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:54-59 ESV)

Peter and Stephen preached the same hard message to both groups of Jews – that the Jesus they had crucified was the long awaited Messiah. Neither man minced words. Under the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, they accused their listening audiences that they had murdered their Savior. After Peter’s sermon, the listeners were cut to the heart and 3,000 were saved. After Stephen’s sermon an enraged crowd stoned Stephen to death.

Did Peter succeed and Stephen fail? Perhaps by the ‘head counting’ standards used in our day, but not by God’s standard!

Success in evangelism is measured by our faithfulness in delivering the unvarnished message that Christ died for OUR sin and was raised from the dead. to the glory of God, so that men and women who repent and believe the gospel would also be raised from spiritual death to spiritual life, and one day be raised physically to be with their Lord forever. God is in charge of the result.


Romans 2:28 - The False Badge of Faith

Romans 2:28

"For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh." (NASB)

"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:" (KJV)

"For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision." (NLT)

"For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh," (NET)

A most important lesson here! There are NO Grandchildren in the Faith!!! We are not believers because we are the descendents of Christian parents, or because we were baptized or participated in some other religious ceremony! Like Israel, who took pride in being the keepers of the oracles of God, we too presume upon God's Grace when we think that owning a Bible or attending church brings salvation.

"For he is not a Jew ... - He who is merely descended from Abraham, and is circumcised, and externally conforms to the Law only, does not possess the true character, and manifest the true spirit, contemplated by the separation of the Jewish people. Their separation required much more." Dr. Albert Barnes

We cling to our badges and other outward signs because the inward man is still defiant toward the will of God. This guarantees us one or many trips around Mount Sinai until we repent and turn away from our sin and ask for the forgiveness that flows from the throne room of Grace to the foot of Golgotha where the crimson flood makes us white a snow. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved!

"There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NLT)

"In a word, they are invited to return by repentance, and enjoy all the promises made to Israel. The Messiah Himself should return from heaven to establish their blessing. The whole nation is here addressed as natural heirs of the promises made to Abraham. But, while they were speaking, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to lay hands on them, being grieved that they preached the resurrection, which their unbelief and dogmatic system did not receive. They put them in prison, for it was evening. The hope of Israel was set aside; the grace of God had spoken in vain, great and patient as it was. Many, however, believed their word: five thousand persons already confessed the Lord Jesus." Dr. John Darby

Was it not the high priests, the rich and influential in the society, and the Roman authority that together crucified the Son of God? How many times in American history do we find the same influences being applied to bring about a great evil? What religious badge was worn when one man owned another? Or when in time of war we incarcerated our fellow citizens based upon our own fears and the President did ask us to pray with him to Almighty God? Let us consider this with the events of our day! How are we doing church?  What badge are we wearing today?


The Hope of Heaven

L. Nelson Bell

Have Christians forfeited their rightful anticipation of eternity?

Three years ago I had an assignment that took me entirely around the world—first to Japan, then Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, on to Europe, and finally to New York and home. During this trip I did my best to carry out my task effectively. But in the back of my mind there was always a lurking longing for home and for loved ones and friends. I was anxious to get back to the place where I belong, where there is always a loving welcome, where I am comfortable and at peace.

Has the Church lost its sense of home, so to speak—of man's ultimate destiny? Have Christians forfeited their rightful anticipation of heaven? Are we so concerned about making this world a "better place to live in" that we forget the Bible's admonition, "Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Heb. 13:14)? Do we think that the Son of God came into this world primarily to reconcile man to man, rather than to redeem man from his sins and make him fit for heaven?

The activities of many suggest that our world is permanent, and that man's tenancy is permanent. But that is not so. We live in a world dominated by sin and dying of it, and the Christian's witness is not primarily about what is seen and temporary but about what is not seen and eternal.

"Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly use," we've heard. Perhaps so. But there certainly are many others who are so anxious to be where the action is that they overlook the place where the greatest "action" of history took place—the cross of Jesus Christ.

Why shouldn't the Christian think of and look forward to heaven? The earth and our bodies are temporary; heaven is home. Christ makes it plain that his primary objective in coming into this world was to "save" and to give "eternal life." It is one of the strange vagaries of our day that talk about salvation, heaven, and eternal life is, generally speaking, passé. Could it be that Satan has blinded the eyes of the world to the transience of this present life and to the fact of a life after death to be lived somewhere, eternally?

Jesus said his Father is in heaven. He said that no man can come to the Father but by faith in him. He repeatedly spoke of eternal life and the necessity of being prepared for it. He made it plain that sin separates us from God, now and for eternity. He affirmed that the transition from a perishing state to the possession of everlasting life takes place when men believe in him as the Son of God and Savior from sin.

Why, or why, is so little said about this from our pulpits today?

I have had the pleasure of visiting many places in this world. There are some to which I would love to return—Palestine, for instance. But there is no place in this world comparable to the heaven described in the Bible: "Things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9, NEB).

This is not "pie in the sky," as some derisively say. It is a glorious hope, the hope and destiny of every Christian. Why are we so often silent about such a future?

Jesus tells us that there are many "mansions," "rooms," "dwelling places," in heaven. No matter how one interprets the word, the fact is that our Lord is even now preparing a dwelling place for those who are his own, and that it will be our permanent address.

In an editorial republished in the March 18 [1968] issue of U. S. News and World Report, editor David Lawrence emphasizes "The Illusion of Permanence:" "The North Atlantic Treaty is temporary. The United Nations is temporary. Peace itself is temporary. … Basically, there is only one permanence we can all accept. It is the permanence of a God-governed world. For the power of God is alone permanent. Obedience to his laws is the road to a lasting solution of man's problems."

Down through the centuries the hope of heaven has rightly been the stay of believing Christians. The Apostle Paul speaks of the bleakness of any faith in Christ confined to this life.

And the Apostle John gives us a vision of what heaven will be like. Obviously, no words can adequately describe it. The new heaven and new earth will be perfect. Sorrow, death, crying, sickness, death, mourning, pain—all these will be gone, and the joy of the Lord will be in every heart.

God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will be there, and because of his presence there will be no need of the sun. Nor will there be any night. There will be nothing unclean or false, for we will be in the presence of the holiness of God himself.

This is no plea that Christians sink back into a meaningless life of mere anticipation. Our knowledge of such a glorious future should be reflected in the lives we live right now.

Jesus came into the world to make this glorious future possible, and he is coming again to make it a reality. "The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command [reminiscent of, 'Lazarus, come forth'], with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

Surely we should give this hope the emphasis due it. This does not blind us to the necessity of caring for the material needs of the unfortunate; rather, it gives meaning to all acts of Christian compassion, for it looks beyond the temporal to the eternal implications of the Christian faith.

Christians should be in the vanguard of those who are working to alleviate suffering and sorrow; but theirs is a double ministry—to the body and to the soul. They should make it clear that their service is done in the name of Christ and for his glory.

All honor is due those who are personally engaged in human relief. It is the duty of every Christian to recognize such work as both legitimate and essential in the total witness of the Church. But let us be sure that it is recognized as a means to an end and not as the end in itself. The ultimate goal of the Christian lies beyond the horizon of human experience.

I have known some who had everything this world has to offer but who still were utterly miserable. They had no joy in the present, no hope for the future. I have also known many, here and abroad, who had only the barest necessities of life but who nevertheless had joy in the present and complete confidence for the future.

The Church must emphasize this future joy as man's ultimate destiny, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This article first appeared in the May 24, 1968, issue of Christianity Today. At the time, L. Nelson Bell wrote the column, "A Layman and his Faith" for CT. He was a cofounder of the magazine and also founder of the Southern Presbyterian Journal (later renamed The Presbyterian Journal). He was also a medical missionary and influential leader in the Southern Presbyterian Church. He died in 1973.

Copyright © 2003 Christianity Today.


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