Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

Reformed Scholars Misquoting Rev. 3:20?

And I’m not just referring to any old scholars, but two of the three big Johnnys, Owen and Edwards.

It has often been criticized that Christian newbies interpret Revelation 3:20 as being God’s calling unbelievers to salvation. But as the interpretation goes–for those who are in the know–this was said to the church in Laodicea which was supposed to be made up of believers, albeit lukewarm, and God is calling them to have fellowship with him.

I just finished reading Jonathan Edwards’ sermon(s) titled The Excellency of Christ. In it I read this:

Rev. 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him and he with me.” Christ condescends not only to call you to him, but he comes to you; he comes to your door, and there knocks. He might send an officer and seize you as a rebel and vile malefactor, but instead of that, he comes and knocks at your door, and seeks that you would receive him into your house, as your Friend and Savior. And he not only knocks at your door, but he stands there waiting, while you are backward and unwilling. And not only so, but he makes promises what he will do for you, if you will admit him, what privileges he will admit you to; he will sup with you, and you with him.

This was during the last part where he makes a long plea for the listeners to trust Christ for salvation.

Then I remembered that John Owen wrote about something similar in either The Glory of Christ or the Sin and Temptation trilogy. It was the latter–the Crossway edition.

[He is patient] toward the elect not yet effectually called. He stands waiting at the door of their hearts and knocks for an entrance (Rev. 3:20). He deals with them by all means, and yet stands and waits until “his head is filled with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night” (Song 5:2), as enduring the cold and inconveniences of the night, that when his morning is come he may have entrance. Oftentimes for a long season he is by them scorned in his person, persecuted in his saints and ways, reviled in his word, while he stands at the door in the word of his patience, with his heart full of love toward their poor rebellious souls.

The idea that God is referring to believers here is widespread enough that I even saw a meme (a photo with text on it) about how Rev. 3:20 shouldn’t be used in this way. The modern interpretation is that he wants his children to have fellowship with him and not ignore him as the lukewarm Laodiceans did. I’ve also read good blogs that explain this and it’s certainly makes sense to me.

The only modern commentary I have is an excellent one by Craig Keener in the NIVAC series. He says the Laodicean Christians have shut Him out of their lives and God is saying that he wants fellowship with them.

What do you think?

Here are some others for reference.

Adam Clarke:

Christ stands – waits long, at the door of the sinner’s heart; he knocks – uses judgments, mercies, reproofs, exhortations, etc., to induce sinners to repent and turn to him; he lifts up his voice – calls loudly by his word, ministers, and Spirit.

Matthew Henry:

[1.] Christ is graciously pleased by his word and Spirit to come to the door of the heart of sinners; he draws near to them in a way of mercy, ready to make them a kind visit…

John Wesley:

I stand at the door, and knock – Even at this instant; while he is speaking this word. If any man open – Willingly receive me. I will sup with him – Refreshing him with my graces and gifts, and delighting myself in what I have given. And he with me – In life everlasting.

Geneva Bible note:

This must be taken after the manner of an allegory; (John 14:23).

Repost: God’s Will For You

We can know God’s will for us. Are we willing to do it?

Our modern western minds tend to think of God’s will as what God wants us to do in a certain situation. God’s will as he presents it in Scripture is a little different than that. There are different types of God’s will (Sovereign decretive, Preceptive, Will of disposition) but that’s for others to teach. I’m writing about God’s will as revealed in Scripture.

These are all NIV. I added italics.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

I don’t believe we can take God’s will out of this passage and change it to mean what we’d like, which often ends up being what God wants us to do at a particular point in time. I’m learning that it’s important to be careful to keep the meaning within the context.

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of the foolish. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:11-17

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
1 Peter 4:19

Suffering is obviously something that’s put on us, not something we choose to do, but continuing to do God’s will while suffering is God’s will, if you’ll allow me to write an intentionally strange sentence.

So with all of this general stuff about God’s will for us, how does he answer us when we ask him things? Psalms are a good place to look for this. It’s really a subject for another post, and probably by someone other than me, but I found this example. I can’t remember why I was looking at the NKJV, but the words chosen fit well. Again, our modern western minds might be disappointed in how Spurgeon doesn’t even touch on how God might answer us specifically in telling us what to do in a particular situation.

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.
Psalms 143:8 NKJV

David is pleading with God to ask Him what he wants him to do in order to be obedient to Him in a way that is right. Psalm 143:10 NKJV says:
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.

Spurgeon’s commentary on verse 8 is very helpful. If you’re interested in this subject, read the whole Psalm first and notice all of the things David is looking for from God.

“Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.”  The Great First Cause must cause us to hear and to know. Spiritual senses are dependent upon God, and heavenly knowledge comes from him alone. To know the way we ought to take is exceedingly needful, for how can we be exact in obedience to a law with which we are not acquainted? or how can there be an ignorant holiness? If we know not the way, how shall we keep in it? If we know not wherein we should walk, how shall we be likely to follow the right path? The Psalmist lifts up his soul; faith is good at a dead lift [was Spurgeon into powerlifting?], the soul that trusts will rise. We will not allow our hope to sink, but we will strive to get up and rise out of our daily griefs. This is wise. When David was in any difficulty as to his way he lifted his soul towards God himself, and then he knew that he could not go very far wrong. If the soul will not rise of itself we must lift it, lift it up unto God. This is good argument in prayer, surely the God to whom we endeavour to lift up our soul will condescend to show us what he would have us to do. Let us attend to David’s example, and when our heart is low, let us heartily endeavour to lift it up, not so much to comfort as to the Lord himself.

Also see:
God’s Will Is Not a Secret | Scripture Zealot blog
Finding God’s Will | Scripture Zealot blog
Praying God’s Will | Scripture Zealot blog

Christ Feels Our Suffering

How can it be compatible with Christ’s glory now in heaven, to have a fellow feeling with our sufferings?

This fellow feeling in Christ arises not from an infirmity or passion—but from the mystic union between him and his members. “He who touches you, touches the apple of his eye.” Zech 2:8. Every injury done to a saint—he takes as done to him in heaven. Every temptation strikes at him, and he is touched with the feeling of them.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

I wanted to look more into this. It’s comforting to know that Christ not only identifies with our suffering because he himself suffered, but because he is with us now (John 14:23). The idea of the apple/pupil of his eye is unique to the Old Testament as far as I can tell, even if there is the same sentiment expressed in other ways in the New Testament.

John Calvin says in his commentary on Zechariah 2:8:

Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his eye; and to this view I certainly am more inclined; for this idea once occurs in Scripture,

“He will protect us as the apple of his eye.” (Psa 17:8.)

As then the Holy Spirit has elsewhere used this similitude, so I am disposed to regard this passage as intimating, that the love of God towards the faithful is so tender that when they are hurt he burns with so much displeasure, as though one attempted to pierce his eyes. For God cannot otherwise set forth how much and how ardently he loves us, and how careful he is of our salvation, than by comparing us to the apple of his eye. There is nothing, as we know, more delicate, or more tender, then this is in the body of man; for were one to bite my finger, or prick my arm or my legs, or even severely to would me, I should feel no such pain as by having my eye or the pupil of my eye injured. God then by this solemn message declares, that the Church is to him like the apple of his eye, so that he can by no means bear it to be hurt or touched.

And John Gill:

How careful and tender must we suppose the God of grace, and our merciful Redeemer and High Priest, to be over his dear people, parts of himself, redeemed by his blood, and designed and prepared for eternal glory and happiness; and how daring must such be who offer the least violence unto them; nor must they expect to escape his wrath and vengeance, that seek their hurt, and give them disturbance; see Psa 17:8

Also Matthew Henry:

What he will do for his church shall be an evident proof of God’s tender care of it and affection to it: He that touches you touches the apple of his eye. This is a high expression of God’s love to his church. By his resentment of the injuries done to her it appears how dear she is to him, how he interests himself in all her interests, and takes what is done against her, not only as done against himself, but as done against the very apple of his eye, the tenderest part, which nature has made very fine, has put a double guard upon, and taught us to be in a special manner careful of, and which the least touch is a great offence to. This encourages the people of God to pray with David (Psa 17:8), Keep me as the apple of thy eye; and engages them to do as Solomon directs (Pro 7:2), to keep his law as the apple of their eye. Some understand it thus: “He that touches you touches the apple of his own eye; whoever do you any injury will prove, in the issue, to have done the greatest injury to themselves.”

He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
Deuteronomy 32:10 KJV

Some may prefer the less sentimental and more accurately anatomical:

For the LORD of Hosts says this: “He has sent Me for His glory against the nations who are plundering you, for anyone who touches you touches the pupil of His eye.
Zechariah 2:8 HCSB

Moderation Schmoderation

I believe in optimalation (or optimisation if you prefer) rather than moderation, which I’ve never really believed in. Scripture calls for ‘all’, ‘everything’, ‘more and more’ too often for me to believe in moderation in everything. Maybe I’m too much into the radical and crazy.

Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:5

He said to all of them, “Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses every day, and follow me.
Luke 9:23

Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We always have to thank God for you, brothers and sisters. It’s right to do this because your faith is showing remarkable growth and your love for each other is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

I found that most of the ‘extreme’ references have to do with love.

Before any of you wish to correct me, this should be tempered with the many things that really do need moderation.

When you find honey, eat only as much as you need.
Otherwise, you will have too much and vomit.
Proverbs 25:16

This is actually the verse that spurred on this post. (I got my days mixed up and read chapter 25 on the 26th and vice versa.)

Some commentators even widen this to the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. I don’t think at this time in this world it’s a problem for most people though.

Keil and Delitzsch on the above verse:

That it is not to be understood in a purely dietetic sense (although thus interpreted it is a rule not to be despised), is self-evident. As one can suffer injury from the noblest of food if he overload his stomach therewith, so in the sphere of science, instruction, edification, there is an injurious overloading of the mind; we ought to measure what we receive by our spiritual want, the right distribution of enjoyment and labour, and the degree of our ability to change it in succum et sanguinem, – else it at last awakens in us dislike, and becomes an evil to us.

Can one gain too much true spiritual knowledge at once? Study too much even if it isn’t to the detriment of other things in life?

The beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom.
Acquire understanding with all that you have.
Proverbs 4:7

If You’ve Got It, Don’t Flaunt It

Proverbs 12:23
A prudent man concealeth knowledge – “If a fool hold his peace he may pass for a wise man.” I have known men of some learning, so intent on immediately informing a company how well cultivated their minds were, that they have passed either for insignificant pedants or stupid asses.’
–Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible

I thought this was kind of funny to read. Very concise. It’s interesting that someone with true spiritual knowledge can become a braggart, windbag, or someone who doesn’t know when to impart knowledge and when it’s best to keep it to themselves, otherwise looking like a fool. (The word ‘asses’ here is like donkeys.) Just as if a fool would only keep quiet, even though he’s stupid on the inside, doesn’t show it on the outside. It’s an interesting contrast. Many of us could learn from it.

Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.
1 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

Would God Take His Holy Spirit From David or Us?

I was thinking that naturally, the Holy Spirit, Spirit of holiness, or Spirit of God was thought of differently in Old Testament times than when after God’s Kingdom broke into this world (Luke 17:21). If we have been born again, we don’t need to worry about God taking His Holy Spirit from us.

Here is a great concise answer by a Facebook friend of mine:
“David’s anxious plea is not meant to cast a shadow on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints but an indicator of the human anxiety that naturally befalls man on account of sin.”
–Warren Cruz via Facebook

Treasury of David – Spurgeon’s commentary and collections of writings on them:

Take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Withdraw not his comforts, counsels, assistances, quickenings, else I am indeed as a dead man. Do not leave me as thou didst Saul, when neither by Urim, nor by prophet, nor by dream, thou wouldst answer him. Thy Spirit is my wisdom, leave me not to my folly; he is my strength, O desert me not to my own weakness. Drive me not away from thee, neither do thou go away from me. Keep up the union between us, which is my only hope of salvation. It will be a great wonder if so pure a spirit deigns to stay in so base a heart as mine; but then, Lord, it is all wonder together, therefore do this, for thy mercy’s sake, I earnestly entreat thee.
–Charles Spurgeon

Verse 11. Cast me not away. Lord, though I, alas! have cast thee from me, yet cast me not away: hide not thy face from me, although I so often have refused to look at thee; leave me not without help, to perish in my sins, though I have aforetime left thee.
–Fra Thomé de Jesu.

John Calvin:
Verse 11. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me. The words of this verse imply that the Spirit had not altogether been taken away from him, however much his gifts had been temporarily obscured…Upon one point he had fallen into a deadly lethargy, but he was not “given over to a reprobate mind; “and it is scarcely conceivable that the rebuke of Nathan the prophet should have operated so easily and suddenly in arousing him had there been no latent spark of godliness still remaining…The truth on which we are now insisting is an important one, as many learned men have been inconsiderately drawn into the opinion that the elect, by falling into mortal sin, may lose the Spirit altogether, and be alienated from God. The contrary is clearly declared by Peter, who tells us that the word by which we are born again is an incorruptible seed 1Pe 1:23; and John is equally explicit in informing us that the elect are preserved from falling away altogether. 1Jo 3:9. However much they may appear for a time to have been cast off by God, it is afterwards seen that grace must have been alive in their breasts even during that interval when it seemed to be extinct. Nor is there any force in the objection that David speaks as if he feared that he might be deprived of the Spirit. It is natural that the saints, when they have fallen into sin, and have thus done what they could to expel the grace of God, should feel an anxiety upon this point; but it is their duty to hold fast the truth, that grace is the incorruptible seed of God, which never can perish in any heart where it has been deposited. This is the spirit displayed by David. Reflecting upon his offence, he is agitated with fears, and yet rests in the persuasion that, being a child of God, he would not be deprived of what, indeed, he had justly forfeited.

ESV Study Bible Note:
Ps. 51:11 take not your Holy Spirit from me. Some have taken this to imply that the Holy Spirit can be taken from someone, at least in the OT; others have suggested that the Holy Spirit is viewed here in his role of empowering David for his kingly duties, and that this is a prayer that God not take the kingship and the divine anointing for kingship from David as he did from Saul (see note on 1 Sam. 16:14; cf. 1 Sam. 16:13). To evaluate these views, one should observe that the OT rarely discusses the Holy Spirit’s role in cleansing the inner life (besides here, Ezek. 36:27 is the main OT text on the subject), and certainly does not enter into technical questions of the Spirit’s permanent indwelling. Further, the fact that this is a psalm for the whole congregation argues against the idea that this is David’s personal prayer about his kingship. The whole tenor of this psalm is that, if strict justice were God’s only consideration, he would have the right to bring dire judgment on those who sin (which includes all of his own people), and that the only possible appeal is to his mercy. The function of the psalm, as a song sung by the entire congregation, is to shape their hearts so that they feel this at the deepest level, lest they ever presume upon God’s grace.

NLT Study Bible:
your Holy Spirit: Or your spirit of holiness. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can change the human will to make it “loyal” (51:10) and “willing to obey”

‎”You haven’t really understood Psalm 51 until you have realized that every word of this penitential psalm cries for Jesus. Every promise embedded in this psalm looks for fulfillment in Jesus. Every need of Psalm 51 reaches out for help in Jesus. Every commitment of Psalm 51 honors Jesus. The sin that’s at the heart of this psalm will only ever find its cure in the grace of Jesus.

Yes, Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession. And it’s true that Psalm 51 is all about what true repentance produces in the heart and life of a man. Psalm 51 defines how true repentance always produces heartfelt worship. But more than anything else, Psalm 51 is Immanuel’s hymn. The forgiveness of Psalm 51 rests on the shoulders of the One whose name would be Immanuel. The Jesus who would provide everything that David (and we) need took a glorious name. It is a name whose implications are almost too wonderful to grasp and too lofty to imagine. It’s a name that summarizes everything the biblical narrative is about.”

–Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, went through a period of two years where he felt very far from God. In his autobiography wrote that the words of Psalm 77 kept invading his mind: “Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor?”
–Found in The One Year Book of Psalms

Applications for Psalm 73 by Allan Ross

Here is a quote as promised in the review of Ross’ commentary on the Psalms. These are applications on Psalm 73, which is one of my favorites. I like what he has to say.

The applications stand out clearly. First, it is absolutely necessary for believers to seek God and not focus on the allurements of the world. And in a brief statement that also captures the main lesson of this psalm, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)—both in the events of this life and in glory.

Second, the sanctuary should be the place where this is facilitated most effectively: there, in the place of worship, people should be reminded of how the Lord has redeemed them, guides them, and will receive them in glory. A similar emphasis is found in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in which he charts how he has been afflicted and perplexed in his service for the Lord. But what enabled him to persevere was the eternal weight of glory—he did not focus on temporal things, but eternal (chapter 4).

And third, the world with its promise of prosperity and power falls far short of the provision of God for those who trust in him faithfully. And so for all such psalms we may cite John’s words: “Love not the world, neither the things of the world” for it is passing away (1 John 2:15-17).

What Does “Praying in the Holy Spirit” Mean?

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
Jude 1:20 NIV

Dear friends, use your most holy faith to grow. Pray with the Holy Spirit’s help.
Jude 1:20 GW

Almost all translations render it, “in the [power of the–GNT, NLT] Holy Spirit”.

Praying in the Holy Ghost. Observe, [1.] Prayer is the nurse of faith; the way to build up ourselves in our most holy faith is to continue instant in prayer, Rom 12:12. [2.] Our prayers are then most likely to prevail when we pray in the Holy Ghost, that is, under his guidance and influence, according to the rule of his word, with faith, fervency, and constant persevering [Luke 11:5-10, Luke 18:1-8]; this is praying in the Holy Ghost, whether it be done by or without a set prescribed form.

–Matthew Henry

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:5-6 ESV

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew 21:22 NIV

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Romans 12:12 GW

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14 NIV

Also see:
God’s Will For You | Scripture Zealot blog

persistence

Does God Tempt Us?

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
Genesis 22:1 KJV

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
James 1:13 KJV

I’m reading the second book of the trilogy of Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen titled Of Temptation, [super long rest of the title goes here].

Owen writes this, and if this is hard to understand, don’t worry about it, I didn’t at first either:

[T]emptation in its special nature, as it denotes any evil, is considered either actively, as it leads to evil, or passively, as it has an evil and suffering in it: so temptation is taken for affliction (James 1:2); for in that sense, we are to “count it all joy when we fall into temptation”; in the other [actively], that we “enter not into it.”

Again, actively considered, it either denotes in the tempter a design for the bringing about of the special end of temptation, namely, a leading into evil; so it is said that “God tempts no man” (James 1:13), with a design for sin as such—or the general nature and end of temptation, which is trial; so “God tempted Abraham” (Gen. 22:1). And he proves or tempts by false prophets (Deut. 13:3).

It might be said that we actively sin–sometimes tempted by the devil; we are passive as trials are put on us–sometimes by God (Hebrews 12). If that crude description helps at all. (If it doesn’t, keep reading.)

Then Owen goes on to write about how God tempts people. I’m thinking, This can’t be right. On the flip side, Calvin writes, “But the whole doctrine of scripture seems to be inconsistent with this passage; for it [scripture] teaches us that men are blinded by God, are given up to a reprobate mind, and delivered over to filthy and shameful lusts.”

I know that older translations (up through the ASV) use the word temptations where contemporary translations (approx. RSV onward) will use trials, tested, or troubles in James 1:12. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) uses the same root word for tempted in Genesis 22:1 as the Greek words in James 1:12-13. So it seems that modern English translators have chosen to make a distinction between verse :12 and :13 where the same root word is used. (Italic added)

Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
James 1:12-13 NIV

If this idea is new to you–and maybe it’s only new to us who read old theologians–you may like to read what John Calvin has to say on this. However, it goes beyond semantics of that word. Calvin writes about the issue of God “giving people over/up” to various sins, like the quote above, as can be found throughout Scripture–repeatedly in Romans 1:24-28 as an example. To a lesser degree, God ordains all kinds of things (Lam 3:37-38). Us modern people seem to emphasize James 1:13 where Calvin is thinking of what is said about God more often in Scripture in that regard.

Let no man, when he is tempted. Here, no doubt, he speaks of another kind of temptation [contra Gen 22:1]. It is abundantly evident that the external temptations, hitherto mentioned, are sent to us by God. In this way God tempted Abraham, (Gen 22:1) and daily tempts us, that is, he tries us as to what are we by laying before us an occasion by which our hearts are made known. But to draw out what is hid in our hearts is a far different thing from inwardly alluring our hearts by wicked lusts.

This above is very similar to what Owen writes. “Inwardly alluring our hearts” would be like Owen’s actively, which God doesn’t do according to James. Trials often contain temptations. God wants to test our hearts and uses them to help us persevere or endure, as James 1:12 says, along with Romans 5:3-4 among others.

When Scripture ascribes blindness or hardness of heart to God, it does not assign to him the beginning of this blindness, nor does it make him the author of sin, so as to ascribe to him the blame: and on these two things only does James dwell.

Scripture asserts that the reprobate are delivered up to depraved lusts; but is it because the Lord depraves or corrupts their hearts? By no means; for their hearts are subjected to depraved lusts, because they are already corrupt and vicious. But since God blinds or hardens, is he not the author or minister of evil? Nay, but in this manner he punishes sins, and renders a just reward to the ungodly, who have refused to be ruled by his Spirit. (Rom 1:26) It hence follows that the origin of sin is not in God, and no blame can be imputed to him as though he took pleasure in evils. (Gen 6:6)

The meaning is, that man in vain evades, who attempts to cast the blame of his vices on God, because every evil proceeds from no other fountain than from the wicked lust of man. And the fact really is, that we are not otherwise led astray, except that every one has his own inclination as his leader and impeller. But that God tempts no one, he proves by this, because he is not tempted with evils* For it is the devil who allures us to sin, and for this reason, because he wholly burns with the mad lust of sinning. But God does not desire what is evil: he is not, therefore, the author of doing evil in us.

*Literally, “untemptable by evils,” that is, not capable of being tempted or seduced by evils, by things wicked and sinful. He is so pure, that he is not influenced by any evil propensities, that he is not subject to any evil suggestions. It hence follows that he tempts or seduces no man to what is sinful. Being himself unassailable by evils, he cannot seduce others to what is evil. As God cannot be tempted to do what is sinful, he cannot possibly tempt others to sin. The words may thus be rendered, —

James 1:13 “Let no one, when seduced, say, ‘By God I am seduced;’ for God is not capable of being seduced by evils, and he himself seduceth no one.”

I hope my own commentary wasn’t inaccurate and didn’t cause any confusion. I wanted to convey how I came to start to have some sort of an understanding of this. I will hopefully understand more as I read more of the book and Scripture. Clarifications and observations are always welcome.

Spurgeon on Psalm 116:8

I often miss the spiritual meaning in Scripture. Death here can refer to that, possibly in addition to also being delivered from human enemies. I see it more readily now than I used to. Reading commentaries has helped me a lot with this.

I had a great time reading the first half of Psalm 116 today, which is one of my favorites. At least I thought it was, because I had the title highlighted. But in the past the Holy Spirit hadn’t opened up my eyes to nearly the amount of things I learned today. I spent some time looking at dead white guy commentaries, and this is one of the many gems I found.

For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” [Psalm 116:8] The triune God has given us a trinity of deliverances: our life has been spared from the grave, our heart has been uplifted from its griefs, and our course in life has been preserved from dishonour. We ought not to be satisfied unless we are conscious of all three of these deliverances. If our soul has been saved from death, why do we weep? What cause for sorrow remains? Whence those tears? And if our tears have been wiped away, can we endure to fall again into sin? Let us not rest unless with steady feet we pursue the path of the upright, escaping every snare and shunning every stumblingblock. Salvation, joy, and holiness must go together, and they are all provided for us in the covenant of grace. Death is vanquished, tears are dried, and fears are banished when the Lord is near.

–C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5b

Scripture Enlightening Scripture – Fear of the Lord and Wisdom

Reading and meditating on Psalm 111, which contains verse 10a:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom

may help with learning more about Proverbs 9:10, which says the same thing, along with Job 28:28. Without acknowledging, praising Him for and obeying the things written there, we will not acquire wisdom.

The fear of the Lord, including reverencing him for his spectacular works and righteous character, is the beginning–being both the foundation, and the principal or chief–of wisdom (Henry Smith–paraphrased).

C.H. Spurgeon, who wrote The Treasury of David, in the introduction to this Psalm, writes:

Many are ignorant of what their Creator has done, and hence they are foolish in heart, and silent as to the praises of God: this evil can only be removed by a remembrance of God’s works, and a diligent study of them; to this, therefore, the psalm is meant to arouse us.

Matthew Henry comments on this verse in Psalms:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is not only reasonable that we should fear God, because his name is reverend and his nature is holy, but it is advantageous to us. It is wisdom; it will direct us to speak and act as becomes us, in a consistency with ourselves, and for our own benefit. It is the head of wisdom, that is (as we read it), it is the beginning of wisdom. Men can never begin to be wise till they begin to fear God; all true wisdom takes its rise from true religion, and has its foundation in it. Or, as some understand it, it is the chief wisdom, and the most excellent, the first in dignity. It is the principal wisdom, and the principal of wisdom, to worship God and give honour to him as our Father and Master. Those manage well who always act under the government of his holy fear.

Keil and Delitzsch:

The fear of Jahve, this holy and terrible God, is the beginning of wisdom – the motto of the Chokma in Job (Job 28:28) and Proverbs (Pro 1:7; Pro 9:10), the Books of the Chokma. Psalm 111:10 goes on in this Proverbs-like strain: the fear of God, which manifests itself in obedience, is to those who practise them (the divine precepts, פקודים) שֶׂכֶל טֹּוב (Pro 13:15; Pro 3:4, cf. 2 Chr 30:22), a fine sagacity, praiseworthy discernment – such a (dutiful) one partakes of everlasting praise.

After having heard it all, this is the conclusion: Fear God, and keep his commands, because this applies to everyone.
Ecclesiastes 12:13

The Lord gives wisdom.
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Proverbs 2:6

Introductions to Colossians

Embarking on my long term study of Colossians, I’ve been reading through introductions in study Bibles, deSilva’s An Introduction to the New Testament and Moo’s The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. I’m posting some quick notes I took in Evernote.

Regarding the mystery of who the troublemakers were and their theology, it was interesting how the study Bibles complemented each other. The NLTSB was brief and general; the ESVSB (not mentioned below) was very specific, giving four possibilities and their own postulation–which seemed to assume too much; and the Reformation Study Bible, which I kind of overlooked until now (and it’s really good), seemed the most reasonable in describing the difficulty, along with what’s important and what’s not. However, deSilva’s intro was so much more complete, postulating that there are as many as 40 distinct theories put forth by scholars as to who the false teachers were and what they were teaching. The ESV must have distilled them into four general categories. I’ve found that the NLT and ESV often have differing amounts of information and content when looking up various things, and they often balance each other out very well. The addition of the Reformation is even better. They’re good as poor man’s commentaries.

For those who are looking to use these, I would buy at least two, and only use them for study, not general reading. I think the NLT is a good one to be paired with the ESV or Reformation.

(I don’t have the main HCSB or any NIV study Bibles. I’m now satisfied with what I have in that area.)

I could never really explain exactly why I like Colossians so much. Looking at the notes below, I can see some of the reasons why.

HCSB Illustrated – Key Text: 1:18
“No book more explicitly teaches that Jesus Christ is God.”

NLTSB
“It [Colossians] combines some of the deepest and most sublime teaching about Christ with very basic instruction. As strongly as any other book in the NT, Colossians reminds us that Christ must always be preeminent in a Christian’s affections and worship.”

Reformation SB:
Information on Colossae and how it was “easily the least city to which any of Paul’s surviving letters were addressed.”

deSilva NT Introduction:
‘The leitmotif of the whole letter is that “Christ is Lord over everything–over powers and principalities, but also over the Christian’s daily life.” Believers only need to be concerned about their connection with this Christ and walking in the new life Christ has opened up.’

Moo’s Commentary:

  • Most likely written to Gentiles, possibly partly because of lack of OT quotations and lack of explicit reference to the law.
  • Raymond Brown estimates that 60 percent of scholars think that Colossians wasn’t written by Paul. This shift is relatively recent. Disputation didn’t come in until the 19th century. No early Christians doubted this.
  • ‘”reconciling all things” to God (1:20) — and for believers — we are “full” in Christ (2:10). These connections reveal as clearly as any text in the New Testament the intimate relationship between theology and practice, between ontology and ethics.’ pg 61
  • “Christology is the theological heart of Colossians, and, like the spokes of a wheel, all the other themes of the letter radiate from it.” pg 63

What IS the Book of Job About?

It’s not about why there is suffering. It’s not about how to handle suffering. Job does it well, except for when he doesn’t. It’s most definitely not about how to give advice. To the contrary for the most part. The best thing Job’s “friends” did was to come and spend the time to sit in silence with him.

What I like about Walton’s commentary on Job is that he is definitive in his interpretation of what Job is about, and also about what Job is not about. He also tackles all of the questions that people may have, and doesn’t shy away from any of them; at the same time, he leaves the unanswerable unanswered.

At some point, I will have another quote or two about why we can’t and shouldn’t try to figure out why we’re suffering or in a bad situation, or “what God is trying to teach me” or anything of that sort. I’ll write more about that later.

So, at long last, what answers does the book provide as it seeks to guide our understanding of God’s policies in a world where suffering and evil may plague the righteous as well as the wicked? Yahweh does not defend his justice; he does not explain Job’s suffering; and he does not enter the courtroom into which Job has summoned him. We should not expect him to perform any of these actions in our personal circumstances either, even though these often represent our deepest longings. He directs our thinking in an entirely different direction. If there is any part of Job’s speeches that Yahweh addresses directly, it is Job’s lament over the day of his birth, since Yahweh picks up many of the same terms and concepts that Job used. This interconnection gives some indication of where God is trying to meet Job.

The message of Job is that we must trust God’s wisdom when we encounter suffering or crises, rather than attempting to figure out answers to the “why” questions. We should not think that the cosmos itself reflects God’s attribute of justice or that we can hold God accountable to running the cosmos according to justice moment by moment. If he were to do so, none of us would survive, for we all embody injustice at some level in our sinful condition. So justice would involve punishing us.

Trusting God’s wisdom does not mean adopting a belief that everything that happens to us ultimately represents justice even though we cannot see why that is so. Trust is not the conviction that there is a good reason (= explanation that justifies the suffering) even when we cannot fathom it. In other words, the book does not suggest a hidden, deeper justice behind what we perceive as injustice. If we were to think in those terms, we would still be clinging to justice as the foundation of the system and simply theorizing alternative ways that it could function, as Elihu did.

Instead, the book posits that God, in his wisdom, is willing to allow injustice in this world — perhaps sometimes as a means to a greater end, but even that does not offer an explanation that justifies the suffering. We can assume that it grieves his heart, for he is just. In his wisdom, he elevates purposes above reasons, a concept that was elaborated briefly in the Introduction (pp. 47 – 48). Even here, however, we must tread carefully. We cannot know reasons, and we cannot assume that there are reasons. We should assume that there are purposes, but that does not mean that we can or will ever know those purposes. The injustice, suffering, trials, and crises that we experience shape us into the people we are and the people God desires us to be. This truth is not intended to bring comfort to those suffering, nor does it do so. It is meant to bring understanding that might prevent us from committing Job’s error, which is the easy solution of blaming God. The alternative is to trust God.

Later on he writes:

The book of Job is not intended to bring comfort to the suffering, but to bring understanding that might prevent us from simply blaming God. The alternative is to trust God, and the book gives us a focus for our faith. Too often we focus our faith on believing that God will heal, relieve our suffering, or protect us from pain. Sometimes our faith lies in the belief that God will somehow come to us and give us explanations. Other times we place our faith in our ability to force our experiences into a coherent, meaningful narrative. All these approaches are unrealistic. Our faith should be directed toward embracing an all-wise God and asking him for help to live well before him regardless of our plight in this world that continues to display both order and disorder.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

book-job-nivac-walton

Also see:
Quick Thoughts on Walton's Commentary on Job | Scripture Zealot blog

Quick Thoughts on Walton’s Commentary on Job

I wanted to write a quick few sentences of what I thought of Job by John H. Walton over at Goodreads.com, and it ended up being a little longer, so I thought I’d post it here. It’s not a polished review with complete sentences. I will be offering a few good quotes from it soon.

book-job-nivac-walton

This is a very complete commentary on a difficult book. I didn’t feel wanting at all. Some deep writing for being NIVAC. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the book now. The running commentary of the real ‘suffering woman’ was something that I benefitted from. I know that not everyone appreciated this in a commentary, but it would be easy to skip over. He wrote a very good part near the end on what Job is about. He wrote with a lot of clarity on a book that at first appears to have little. He also wrote about interpreting Scripture, so there are other benefits too. His theology, which has God not quite as sovereign as I would have Him, or not quite as much in control of smaller things, disagrees with mine, but that is of little significance, because I can disagree with him on some minor matters and still learn just as much.

This and the commentary on Revelation are definitely hits for the NIVAC series.

Also see:
What IS the Book of Job About?

Behavior, Holiness and Wisdom in Job

For being a more basic commentary on Job, this has some deeper things in it, some much more than this. Walton also writes about wisdom in general along with Bible interpretation which makes the commentary all the more valuable.

Because we tend to see God’s requirements in the Bible as “rules,” we rationalize giving ourselves permission to do what it does not explicitly forbid. If we conclude that the Bible does not specifically speak against certain sorts of sexual behavior, against the activities we enjoy (but have been told are not spiritual), against the movies we want to watch, against the language we enjoy using, against the way we dress, and so on, we feel free to indulge ourselves with free conscience: “The Bible doesn’t say I can’t.” We may take comfort in all of the dastardly offenses we have not committed and decide that we are “good enough.” After all, we are not disobeying the Bible.

This is minimalism in its mature and virulent form. For instance, the Bible says nothing about drug abuse. Some might respond by pulling out a biblical injunction to respect your body, but that is the wrong approach, because it still assumes that we have to dredge up a biblical prohibition or command to regulate every aspect of our behavior. Attempts to explicate all the mandates of Scripture are criticized (truly enough at times) as illegitimate proof-texting that employs questionable hermeneutics and fails to consider cultural context. Let us consider briefly some of the ways that people seek behavioral guidance from the Bible.

Wisdom. Wisdom literature such as that found in the book of Proverbs provides many important guidelines for behavior. Two problems, however, must be noted. (1) The literature contains a combination of guidelines that could be considered universal and those that are more cultural. (2) The coverage of the material is spotty. The literature gives us examples of how we can order our lives based on the fear of the Lord, but it is far from comprehensive, systematic, or programmatic.

What does God want from us? How do we draw parameters without imposing potentially arbitrary rules? How does one develop biblical standards if the Bible does not yield specific information through role models, the law, or exhortations in the Proverbs or New Testament letters? Consider these ten principles:
1. We should conscientiously pursue wisdom (in its Old Testament sense), godlikeness, and holiness.
2. Beyond what is clearly stated in revelation, we should not presume to draw parameters for others (e.g., for what constitutes modesty, humility, appropriate entertainment), only for ourselves; these should reflect our goal (holiness) rather than the lowest common denominator that we can rationalize.
3. The boundaries may differ from culture to culture and perhaps from person to person, but there must be carefully thought-out parameters that reflect our desire for holiness.
4. We should not impose our boundaries on others, though we could hold them accountable to their own boundaries and challenge them to aim higher.
5. There must be discernable differences between Christian be havior and the world’s behavior (Rom. 12:1 – 2).
6. We should not concede either to self-righteousness or to self-indulgence.
7. We should understand that God does not need what we give; our behavior can please him but does not benefit him.
8. Our behavior should not be motivated by expectation of material rewards [as with Job]; further, our behavior cannot save us.
9. We should aspire to be godlike, not just to keep rules (which inherently only lead us in the right direction).
10. Obedience is expected but represents the minimal level of godliness.

The path of wisdom, godlikeness, and holiness would rely on Scripture for guidance without necessarily looking to specific texts to lay down hard and fast rules (though it occasionally might and we dare not neglect them when it does). Wisdom brings order to life and relationships, and the wise take God seriously. Wisdom derives from biblical values, but it is not necessarily bound to Israelite culture. Holiness recognizes that aspects of our behavior will sharply distinguish us from those around us. God’s holiness is embodied in his distinguishing attributes; we exhibit holiness by reflecting God’s communicable attributes (e.g., by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit). We can build ideas about godlikeness around the biblical text’s portrayal of God. Obedience is important, but our end responsibility is to strive to be like God. Disobedience will impede us from reaching this goal, but obedience alone will not necessarily achieve it.

Ideally, we should aspire to holiness, not because of benefits we can gain as a result, but because God is God and our righteous behavior is one of the ways we honor him. Regardless of whether we experience any advantages in life because of these decisions, we choose this path because of who God is.

–John H. Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)