Archive for the 'Quotes' Category

God’s divine sovereignty and man’s moral freedom

I just came across this first quote regarding the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as recorded in Exodus in the Handbook on the Pentateuch by Victor Hamilton, and thought I’d post it. Hamilton then mentions Romans 9:17-18 in that both the OT and the NT “holds in tension God’s divine sovereignty and man’s moral freedom.” Then I thought I’d repeat a quote by John MacArthur that I’ve posted in the past.

The remarkable thing, however, is that his never led to a flat determinism, depriving Man of the responsibility for his actions. At all times the capacity for self-determination is insistently retained. The whole ethical exhortation of the prophets is based on the conviction that decision is placed in the hands of men. But the Law too rests on this presupposition. The fundamental postulate of moral freedom is thus found in equal force alongside the religious conviction of God’s effective action in all things; and no attempt is made to create a harmonizing adjustment between them. It is testimony to the compelling power of the Old Testament experience of God that it was able to affirm both realities at once, and to endure the tension between them, without discounting anything of their unconditional validity.

–Walther Eichrodt, As quoted in Handbook on the Pentateuch, pg 172

How these two sides of God’s truth—His sovereignty in choosing us (Romans 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Romans 10)—reconcile is impossible for us to understand fully. But Scripture declares both perspectives of salvation to be true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and joyfully accept them by faith.

–John MacArthur

What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! For He tells Moses: I will show mercy to whom I show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it does not depend on human will or effort, but on God who shows mercy. For the Scripture tells Pharaoh: For this reason I raised you up: so that I may display My power in you, and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. So then, He shows mercy to whom He wills, and He hardens whom He wills. You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?” But who are you–anyone who talks back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Or has the potter no right over His clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory–on us whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:14-24

Bonus – I also remembered this little insert box thingy in the NLT Study Bible in Ezekiel. I like that study Bible because those things are all over the place. It’s like a box of chocolates–you never know what you’re going to get.

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY

How can God deceive a prophet and still hold him accountable for his actions? Ezekiel 14 raises this question in many people’s minds. How can we reconcile God’s sovereign control over all things with the personal choices and decisions for which we will be called to account?
The Bible traces all things back to God’s sovereignty. That the rain falls on the just and unjust alike is part of God’s sovereign plan (Matt 5:45). Even a false prophet could give a prophecy that led people astray only with the Lord’s permission or direction.

At the same time, God is in no way responsible for our sin; it is our responsibility because it comes from our own sinful desires. In giving deceitful messages to false prophets, God was simply giving them and their hearers exactly what they wanted (cp. 2 Thes 2:11). Unless God restrained them from their sin, they would naturally choose lies instead of the truth and worship creation in place of the Creator (Rom 1:18-25). God simply gave them permission to enact their hearts’ sinful desires.

The remarkable fact is not that God allows some sinners to persist in their chosen delusions, but that he saves sinners, changes our natures, and gives us the desire to do good for the glory of God (see 36:25-26; Rom 8:1-11; Eph 2:10).

Vindicating God Instead of Ourselves

The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston is one the best, if not the best books I’ve read on dealing with affliction. I may write more about that at some point; but here is one of my favorite quotes from the book. It may take a few reads to understand it.

Even good men … think God deals His favours unequally, and is mighty severe on them more than others. Elihu marks this fault in Job, under his humbling circumstances. And I believe it will be found, there is readily a greater keenness to vindicate our own honor from the imputation the humbling circumstances seem to lay on it than to vindicate the honor of God in the justice and equity of the dispensation. The blindness of an ill-natured world, still ready to suspect the worst causes for humbling circumstances, as if the greatest sufferers were surely the greatest sinners, gives a handle for this bias of the corrupt nature. But God is a jealous God, and when He appears sufficiently to humble, He will cause the matter of our honor to give way to the vindication of His.

–Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot

John Owen on Infant Baptism and Covenant

At this time I am not a pedobaptist, however I haven’t looked into it at length, and my view on this could be altered. It hasn’t been a major interest of mine. We have no children, and therefore no grandchildren. Not that it isn’t an important issue, because it involves things like covenant.

For those who haven’t looked into this at all and wonder how that whole thing works, here is a quote by John Owen from his commentary on Hebrews from a post titled John Owen was never a Baptist by Lee Gatiss.

Infants are in the covenant, were baptised in apostolical times, and should be now.
“For whereas there were two sorts of persons that were baptized, namely, those that were adult at their first hearing of the gospel, and the infant children of believers, who were admitted to be members of the church; the first sort were instructed in the principles mentioned before they were admitted unto baptism, by the profession whereof they laid the foundation of their own personal right thereunto; but the other, being received as a part and branches of a family whereupon the blessing of Abraham was come, and to whom the promise of the covenant was extended, being thereon baptized in their infancy, were to be instructed in them as they grew up unto years of understanding. Afterwards, when they were established in the knowledge of these necessary truths, and had resolved on personal obedience unto the gospel, they were offered unto the fellowship of the faithful. And hereon, giving the same account of their faith and repentance which others had done before they were baptized, they were admitted into the communion of the church, the elders thereof laying their hands on them in token of their acceptation, and praying for their confirmation in the faith. Hence the same doctrines became previously necessary unto both these rites;–before baptism to them that were adult; and towards them who were baptized in infancy, before the imposition of hands. And I do acknowledge that this was the state of things in the apostolical churches, and that it ought to be so in all others.” Hebrews vol 5:58

– See more at: John Owen was never a Baptist – Reformation21 Blog

How dead guys deal with afflictions

These two paragraphs below by the Puritan Thomas Boston are more rich than the whole new book I just read [skimmed] on worry. These are just introductory remarks. He will go on in detail about how to go about this, instead of just leaving it at that and moving onto the next thing. I can see why some people are cynical about new popular level books. It’s easy to get pulled in by the blurbs and descriptions, and the newness of something. Many contemporary (even Reformed) authors also seem to be reticent to come out and say that God is the ultimate direct or indirect cause of everything, Biblical as it is (Lamentations 3:37-38).

He’s starting out using text from Ecclesiastes which is one of my favorite books in the Bible. This is my first exposure to Boston. Maybe I will especially like him.

The crook in the lot is affliction, continued for a shorter or longer period of time, as opposed to acute pain or discomfort–something that goes crooked in your allotment in life.

‘1. The remedy itself [dealing with adversity] is a wise eyeing of the hand of God in all we find to bear hard on us: “Consider the work of God,” namely, in the crooked, rough, and disagreeable parts of your lot, the crosses you find in it. You see very well the cross itself. Yea, you turn it over and over in your mind and leisurely view it on all sides. You look to this and the other second cause of it, and so you are in a foam and a fret. But, would you be quieted and satisfied in the matter, lift up your eyes towards heaven, see the doing of God in it, the operation of His hand. Look at that, and consider it well; eye the first cause of the crook in your lot; behold how it is the work of God, His doing.

2. Such a view of the crook in our lot is very suitable to still improper risings of heart, and quiet us under them: “For who can make that straight which God has made crooked?” As to the crook in your lot, God has made it; and it must continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even it, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: it will not change for all you can do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is a proper means at once to silence and to satisfy men, and so bring them to a dutiful submission to their Maker and Governor, under the crook in their lot.’

–Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot: Or a Display of the Sovereignty and Wisdom of God in the Afflictions of Men, and the Christian’s Deportment Under Them

God’s sovereignty over the crooked

I love Ecclesiastes, and this short book has been a really nice change of pace.

We often forget that things that are bad are often going to stay bad. There is no promise that they will get better (John 16:33). If things are bad, they are by God’s permission or even design (Lamentations 3:37). And all things are for part of God’s will for his glory, which is for our good (Romans 12:2, Romans 8:28-29).

Follow the insight of wisdom. Consider the work of God in all these things. A wise man will never kick against the goads. Who can straighten what He has made crooked? Will a man be able to bend the world in a different direction than the Almighty has? This central doctrine in the book must he allowed to sink deeply into our souls. Is it crooked? Then the Lord God made it so. But why? If He had wanted us to know that, then He would have told us. The closest we get to an explanation is found in Romans 9—

What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Rom. 9:22-24) [NIV]

The ultimate explanation is that God does all things to glorify His name and exalt His majesty. But regardless of various reasons for the crookedness of the world, the fact remains that the Bible affirms God’s sovereignty over the crooked. He truly is the only Lord.

–Douglas Wilson, Joy at the End of the Tether The Inscrutable Wisdom of Ecclesiastes

Quotes on Bible Reading

Here are some quotes I’ve posted before on the most important thing we can do along with prayer. In order to pray, we need to use the language of the Bible.

The primary purpose of reading the Bible is not to know the Bible but to know God.

–James Merritt

If I want to love God more, I have to know Him more deeply. The more I search the Scriptures and focus my mind’s attention on who God is and what He does, the more my soul breaks out in flames.

–R.C. Sproul

Next to praying there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible reading. By reading that book we may learn what to believe, what to be, and what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace.

Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it, but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice!

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion, p. 97

We measure Scripture’s story by ours. The attitude the psalm [Psalm 1] commends involves delighting in Yhwh’s teaching—especially (we might add) when its story seems irrelevant or it takes a different stance from us. That is the moment when studying Scripture becomes interesting, significant, and important. We then delight in it. The way that delight expresses itself is by talking about it day and night–-in other words, ceaselessly.

–John Goldingay, Psalms 1-41, pg 84, referring to Psalm 1

The Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Acts 17:11

Quote(s) of the Day: Imputation

I found this section in The Cross of Christ by John Stott to be very educational regarding the subject of imputation. I’m about a third of the way through the book and find it to be very systematic and thorough, in addition to simply being interesting. I’m very lacking in knowledge of the symbolism in the Old Testament, which he writes about quite a bit. The things he mentions at the beginning of the second paragraph are items he covered earlier in the book.

When we are united to Christ a mysterious exchange takes place: he took our curse, so that we may receive his blessing; he became sin with our sin, so that we may become righteous with his righteousness. Elsewhere Paul writes of this transfer in terms of ‘imputation’. On the one hand, God declined to ‘impute’ our sins to us, or ‘count’ them against us (2 Cor. 5:19), with the implication that he imputed them to Christ instead. On the other, God has imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. Many are offended by this concept, considering it both artificial and unjust on God‘s part to arrange such a transfer. Yet the objection is due to a misunderstanding, which Thomas Crawford clears up for us. Imputation, he writes, ‘does not at all imply the transference of one person’s moral qualities to another’. Such a thing would be impossible, and he goes on to quote John Owen to the effect that ‘we ourselves have done nothing of what is imputed to us, not Christ anything of what is imputed to him’. It would be absurd and unbelievable to imagine, Crawford continues, ‘that the moral turpitude of our sins was transferred to Christ, so as to make him personally sinful and ill—deserving; and that the moral excellence of his righteousness is transferred to us, so as to make us personally upright and commendable’. No, what was transferred to Christ was not moral qualities but legal consequences: he voluntarily accepted liability for our sins. That is what the expressions ‘made sin’ and ‘made a curse’ mean. Similarly, ‘the righteousness of God’ which we become when we are ‘in Christ’ is not here righteousness of character and conduct (although that grows within us by the working of the Holy Spirit), but rather a righteous standing before God.

When we review all this Old Testament material (the shedding and sprinkling of blood, the sin offering, the Passover, the meaning of ‘sin-bearing’, the scapegoat and Isaiah 53), and consider its New Testament application to the death of Christ, we are obliged to conclude that the cross was a substitutionary sacrifice. Christ died for us. Christ died instead of us. Indeed, as Jeremias put it, this use of sacrificial imagery ‘has the intention of expressing the fad that Jesus died without sin in substitution for our sins’.

Christ Died Because of My Sins

“Who delivered up Jesus to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy; — but the Father, for love!”

–Octavius Winslow

God didn’t spare his own Son but handed him over to death for all of us. So he will also give us everything along with him.
Romans 8:32 GW

“As we face the cross, we can say to ourselves both ‘I did it, my sins sent him there’ and ‘he did it, his love took him there.'”

–John Stott

I used to have a hard time with that. I didn’t send him there. I would never do that! But if I want to be saved, I have to admit I’m a sinner not worthy of being with a holy God that I’ve always wanted to be in relationship with. In order for me to have that, I need to accept and embrace the fact that Christ wouldn’t have died it if wasn’t for my/our sin(s). I need to humble myself and admit that so that I can receive God’s gift and be at peace with him.

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
Romans 5:1 NET

Owen and Watson on Meditating on Scripture

The mark of a Christian is one who thinks a lot about what they read in their Bible. I was looking through my notes on Owen’s book The Glory of Christ and remembered Watson writing about it also. If you’re not familiar with them, they were both Puritans.

Having attained the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ from the Scripture, or by the dispensation of the truth in the preaching of the gospel, we would esteem it our duty frequently to meditate thereon. It is to be feared that there are some who profess religion with an appearance of strictness, who never separate themselves from all other occasions, to meditate on Christ and his glory; and yet, with a strange inconsistency of apprehensions, they will profess that they desire nothing more than to behold his glory in heaven for ever. But it is evident, even in the light of reason, that these things are irreconcilable. It is impossible that he who never meditates with delight on the glory of Christ here in this world, who labours not to behold it by faith as it is revealed in the Scripture, should ever have any real gracious desire to behold it in heaven. They may love and desire the fruition of their own imaginations; — they cannot do so of the glory of Christ, whereof they are ignorant, and wherewith they are unacquainted. It is, therefore, to be lamented that men can find time for, and have inclinations to think and meditate on, other things, that maybe earthly and vain; but have neither heart, nor inclination, nor leisure, to meditate on this glorious object. What is the faith and love which such men profess? How will they find themselves deceived in the issue!

–John Owen, The Glory of Christ

He [the devil] will let men profess, or pray and hear in a formal manner, which does him no hurt and them no good. But he opposes meditation, as being a means to compose the heart and make it serious. He can stand your small shot, if you do not put in this bullet of meditation. He cares not how much you hear—but how much you meditate. Meditation is chewing the cud, it makes the Word digest and turn to nourishment; it is the bellows of the affections. The devil is an enemy to this. When Christ is alone in the wilderness, giving himself to divine contemplations, the devil comes and tempts him, to hinder him. He will thrust in worldly business, something or other to keep men off from holy meditation.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer, Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the LORD,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
Psalm 1:1-3 NLT

Praying Spiritually

“Spiritual prayers are best. Have you a diseased body? Pray more that the disease of your soul may be removed than of your body. “Heal my soul, for I have sinned.” Psalm 41:4. The plague of the heart is worse than a cancer in the breast. Have you a child that is lame? Pray more to have its unholiness removed than its lameness. Spiritual prayers are more pleasing to God, and are as music in his ears. Christ has here taught us to pray against sin, “Deliver us from evil.”

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer

I will harp on this idea of praying spiritually until the day I die.

Regarding the quote: Praying for someone’s temporary comfort and not praying for their salvation, if it’s in doubt, is the meanest thing anyone can do.

As far as the subject of healing, when praying for Christians, pray for that, but more importantly for perseverance, faith, hope, that God would use whatever the situation to bring them closer to Him, to know His character better, to become more Christlike, etc. We don’t know if healing is God’s will or not, but we know those other things are in fact God’s will for believers. It’s all over the Bible. We can’t go wrong by imitating the prayers of Jesus and Paul.

Also see:
Complete List of Paul's Prayers | Scripture Zealot blog
Praying for the Soul | Desiring God by John Piper, Daily Devotionals Online

Quote of the Day: Gregory Beale on Suffering

I don’t know if I’ve written this before, but I really don’t like the idea that God allows suffering and the whole system of how he uses that for spiritual growth. However, imagine that there is suffering, and God doesn’t use it. It’s just there, but has no purpose. That would be much, much worse. Praise God that he redeems our suffering and makes it extremely valuable.

While the means of growth is the word of God, the context of our growth is often suffering…. Suffering is not an automatic lever to release the life of Christ in us, but suffering is the occasion that we look for Christ’s life to flow in us (2Cor. 4:10, 11). When we are comfortable, we too easily trust in the adequacy of our resources. When we are afflicted, we realize the inadequacy of our resources and look to Christ so that his life is released in us. The life flows not only in us but through us to bless others…. The life of Christ not only strengthens us in weakness but also renews us in glory through suffering.

G. K. Beale, God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth as quoted in a blog post, Beale for Dummies by Carl Trueman

Apparently Gregory Beale has switched to the scholar standard of two first initials, contra The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by Gregory K. Beale.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV

Should “The Word of God” Be Reserved for Christ?

I remember a few years ago reading a blog post where the author postulated that the term “The Word of God” should be reserved for Christ, and not Scripture. That’s how I remember it anyway. It could have been “God’s Word”. Either way, as much as I’ve learned from material on the internet, I’ve been frustrated by hair splitting and things that don’t really matter, which I regret I spent the time reading. This one actually made me wonder. Then there is “bibliolatry”, whatever that means, knowledge being a bad thing, and whatever other ideas people dream up.

Here is John Owen’s take on this. I also like how he skewers some people’s method of reasoning, which is still going on today as much as ever. (This was scanned and OCR-ed, so I apologize for any mistakes I might have missed.)

The first is worded in somewhat of this fashion. “The title of ‘Word of God’ (say our fanatics) belongs to Christ, and to Christ alone. It is therefore blasphemy to confer that title on Scripture. Can you thus honor the Bible, without reducing the honor due only to Christ? Surely the Bible is not Christ! Surely it is letter, and not Spirit! The title of Jesus Christ is ‘the Word of God.’ Leave it to Him, and let the Bible rest content with its own titles and nature!”

But see the trick and deception here. We are to be so led on by our love and reverence for Christ that we are supposed to be blinded to the different uses and significations of the same words. By a mere homonym, a simple coincidence of sound, it is intended to drive us out from under the authority and perfection of Scripture! And note that by this these wretched men are not merely seeking to bring in an objection against the name and title of Scripture alone (if that were so they might at least be deserving of some pity), but no, the case is quite different. By this unique stratagem, they not only strip the Bible of its authority and remove it from its appointed place, but actually are attacking the very personality and divine existence of Christ Himself. By thus limiting all reference to the “Word of God” to Christ Himself, they are free to take all of those texts in which the term does not well fit the historical Christ, God-and-man, and apply them to a fictitious “Christ,” a dreadful argument of their own imaginations, who they equate to the pretended “inner light,” which they say is common to all men, a “no-one knows what” spiritual everything, which is in truth quite nothing at all. When Scripture, in hundreds of places, makes mention of “the Word of God,” of “preaching the Word,” of “spreading” or “reception” of the Word, where the actual physical presence of Christ cannot be intended, they are thus free to twist the passages into anything at all that suits their fancy by this device of an “inner light,” of which they themselves are, of course, the sole possessors, of which nothing at all has been heard up to now. This fiction of an “inner light” or “inner word” must be dealt with in its own proper place, and along with it their fictitious “Christ.”

–John Owen, Biblical Theology, pg. 778-779

He then goes on in much more detail.

But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Luke 11:28 NASB

He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Revelation 19:13 NASB

Thomas Watson on Affliction

This is from Thomas Watson’s book The Lord’s Prayer. I’ve been finding that books like this are just as good for dealing with suffering as books on suffering (which many posts on this blog are about). Not just the parts of them on subjects dealing with suffering directly, but for example in this book, the extensive part on Our Father is very edifying in every way. The quote below is from part of the section on Thy Will Be Done. Notice the hierarchy of numbering goes from [] to () in the bold parts. I think the most difficult part of reading the Puritans are the lists with the numbers. They can go three and four deep. It’s more difficult when it’s an eBook, like this one is for me. At least it makes it easy to copy and paste. I think this is especially good for those dealing with suffering or who might wrestle with the subject:

When do we not submit to God’s will in affliction as we ought?

(1) When we have hard thoughts of him, and our hearts begin to swell against him.

(2) When we are so troubled at our present affliction that we are unfit for duty. We can mourn as doves—but not pray or praise God. We are so discomposed that we are not fit to hearken to any good counsel. “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.” Exod 6:9. Israel was so full of grief under their burdens, that they minded not what Moses said, though he came with a message from God to them; “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.”

(3) We do not submit as we ought to God’s will when we labor to break loose from affliction by indirect means. Many, to rid themselves out of trouble, run themselves into sin. When God has bound them with the cords of affliction—they go to the devil to loosen their bands! Better it is to stay in affliction, than to sin ourselves out of it. O let us learn to stoop to God’s will in all afflictive providence.

But how shall we bring ourselves, in all occurrences of providence, patiently to acquiesce in God’s will, and say, “May your will be done”?

The MEANS for a quiet resignation to God’s will in affliction are:

[1] Judicious consideration. “In the day of adversity consider.” Eccl 7:14. When anything burdens us, or runs cross to our desires, did we but sit down and consider, and weigh things in the balance of judgment, it would much quiet our minds, and subject our wills to God. Consideration would be as David’s harp, to charm down the evil spirit of frowardness and discontent.

But what should we consider?

That which should make us submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done,” is:

(1) Consider that the present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman’s life is subject to storms. [No one escapes bearing the lot which all suffer.] “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward;” he is heir apparent to it. Man comes into the world with a cry—and goes out with a groan! Job 5:7. The world is a place where much wormwood grows. “He has filled me with bitterness (Heb with bitternesses); he has made me drunken with wormwood.” Lam 3:15. Troubles arise like sparks out of a furnace. Afflictions are some of the thorns which the earth after the curse brings forth. We may as well think to stop the chariot of the sun when it is in its swift motion, as put a stop to trouble. The consideration of a life exposed to troubles and sufferings, should make us say with patience, “May your will be done.” Shall a mariner be angry that he meets with a storm at sea?

(2) Consider that God has a special hand in the disposal of all occurrences. Job eyed God in his affliction. “The Lord has taken away;” chap 1:21. He did not complain of the Sabeans, or the influences of the planets; he looked beyond all second causes; he saw God in the affliction, and that made him cheerfully submit; he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Christ looked beyond Judas and Pilate to God’s determinate counsel in delivering him up to be crucified, which made him say, “Father, not as I will—but as you will.” Acts 4:27, 28, Matthew 26:39. It is vain to quarrel with instruments. Wicked men are but a rod in God’s hand! “O Assyria, the rod of my anger.” Isaiah 10:5. Whoever brings an affliction—God sends it! The consideration of this should make us say, “May your will be done;” for what God does he sees a reason for. We read of a wheel within a wheel. Ezek 1:16. The outward wheel, which turns all, is providence; the wheel within this wheel is God’s decree; this believed, would rock the heart quiet. Shall we mutiny at that which God does? We may as well quarrel with the works of creation as with the works of providence.

(3) Consider that there is a NECESSITY for affliction. “If need be, you are in heaviness.” 1 Peter 1:6. It is needful that some things are kept in brine. Afflictions are needful upon several accounts.

[1] To keep us humble. Often there is no other way to have the heart low—but by being brought low. When Manasseh “was in affliction, he humbled himself greatly.” 2 Chron 33:12. Corrections are corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. “Remembering my misery, the wormwood and the gall, my soul is humbled in me.” Lam 3:19, 20.

[2] It is necessary that there should be affliction; for if God did not sometimes bring us into affliction, how could his power be seen in bringing us out? Had not Israel been in the Egyptian furnace, God had lost his glory in their deliverance.

[3] If there were no affliction, then many parts of Scripture could not be fulfilled. God has promised to help us to bear affliction. Psalm 37:24, 39. How could we experience his supporting us in trouble—if we did not sometimes meet with it? God has promised to give us joy in affliction. John 16:20. How could we taste this honey of joy—if we were not sometimes in affliction? Again, he has promised to wipe away tears from our eyes. Isaiah 25:8. How could he wipe away our tears in heaven—if we never shed any? So that, in several respects, there is an absolute necessity that we should meet with affliction; and shall not we quietly submit, and say, “Lord, I see there is a necessity for it?” “May your will be done!”

(4) Consider that we have brought our troubles upon ourselves; we have put a rod into God’s hand to chastise us. Christian, God lays your afflictive cross on you—but it is of your own making. If a man’s field is full of tares, it is what he has sown in it. If you reap a bitter crop of affliction, it is what you yourself have sown. The cords which pinch you are of your own twisting. If children will eat green fruit—they may blame themselves if they are sick; and if we eat the forbidden fruit, no wonder that we feel it gripe. Sin is the Trojan horse which lands a multitude of afflictions upon us. “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” Jeremiah 4:18. If we by sin run ourselves into arrears with God, no wonder if he sets affliction as a sergeant on our back, to arrest us. This should make us patiently submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done.” We have no cause to complain of God; it is nothing but what our sins have merited. “Have not you procured this unto yourself?” Jer 2:17. The afflictive cross, though it be of God’s laying, is of our making. Say, then, as Micah (chap 7:9), “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” “Whatever a man sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

(5) Consider that God is about to prove and TEST us. “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.” Psalm 66:10, 11. If there were no affliction, how could God have an opportunity to try men? Hypocrites can serve in a pleasure boat: they can serve God in prosperity; but when we can keep close to him in times of danger, when we can trust him in darkness, and love him when we have no smile, and say, “May your will be done,” that is the trial of sincerity! God is only trying us; and what hurt is there in that? What is gold the worse for being tried?

(6) Consider that in all our afflictions, God has kindness for us. As there was no night so dark, but Israel had a pillar of fire to give light—so there is no condition so cloudy, but we may see that which gives light of comfort. David could sing of mercy and judgment. Psalm 101:1. It should make us cheerfully submit to God’s will, to consider that in every afflictive path of providence, we may see his footstep of kindness.

There is kindness in affliction, when God seems most unkind.

[1] There is kindness in affliction—in that there is love in it. God’s rod and his love may stand together. “Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.” Heb 12:6. As when Abraham lifted up his hand to sacrifice, Isaac loved him. Just so, when God afflicts his people, and seems to sacrifice their outward comforts, he loves them. The farmer loves his vine when he cuts it and makes it bleed; and shall not we submit to God? Shall we quarrel with that which has kindness in it, which comes in love? The surgeon binds the patient, and lances him—but no wise man will quarrel with him, because it is in order to a cure.

[2] There is kindness in affliction—in that God deals with us as his children. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Heb 12:7. God has one Son without sin—but no son without stripes! Affliction is a badge of adoption. Says Tertullian, “Affliction is God’s seal by which he marks us for his own.” When Munster, that holy man, lay sick, his friends asked him how he did? He pointed to his sores, saying, “these are the jewels with which God decks his children!” Shall not we then say, “Lord, there is kindness in the cross, you treat us as your children. The rod of discipline is to fit us for the inheritance. May your will be done.”

[3] In kindness God in all our afflictions, has left us a promise. So that in the most cloudy providence, the promise appears as the rainbow in the cloud. Then we have God’s promise to be with us. “I will be with him in trouble.” Psalm 91:15. It cannot be ill with that man with whom God is; I will be with him, to support, sanctify, and sweeten every affliction. I had rather be in prison and have God’s presence, than be in a palace without it.

We have the promise that he will not lay more upon us than he will enable us to bear. 1 Cor 10:13. He will not try us beyond our strength; either he will make the yoke lighter—or our faith stronger. Should not this make us submit our wills to his, when afflictions have so much kindness in them? In all our trials he has left us promises, which are like manna in the wilderness.

[4] It is great kindness that all troubles that befall us shall be for our profit. “God disciplines us for our profit.” Heb 12:10.

Always Forgive, Usually

I once read John Stott write something like, “Why should we forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness?” This kind of took me aback, because it has been said that we’re supposed to always forgive.

Later on I read blog posts about where people will come out and forgive a mass murderer, even if they weren’t directly affected by the killer and  how this kind of steps in front of the victims and their loved ones and may in a way cut off their process of forgiveness, whatever that entails. And if someone is unrepentant and doesn’t want our forgiveness, does it make sense to give it to them?

There has obviously been a lot written about this, and I’m sure there are as many opinions on it as there are real life variations in circumstances. But here is a quote I just read by R.C. Sproul that’s helpful:

It’s important that we look closely at this directive from Jesus regarding forgiveness. It is often taught in the Christian community that Christians are called to forgive those who sin against them unilaterally and universally. We see the example of Jesus on the cross, asking God to forgive those who were executing Him, even though they offered no visible indication of repentance. From that example of Jesus, it has been inferred that Christians must always forgive all offenses against them, even when repentance is not offered. However, the most that we can legitimately infer from Jesus’ actions on that occasion is that we have the right to forgive people unilaterally. Though that may be indeed a wonderful thing, it is not commanded. If we look at the commandment that Jesus gives in Luke 17:3, He says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” Notice that the first response to the offense is not forgiveness but rather rebuke. The Christian has the right to rebuke those who commit wrong doing against him. That’s the basis for the whole procedure of church discipline in the New Testament. If we were commanded to give unilateral forgiveness to all, under all circumstances, then the whole action of church discipline to redress wrongs, would itself be wrong. But Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents…,” — here is where the command becomes obligatory — if the offender repents, then it is mandatory for the Christian to forgive the one who has offended him.

–R.C. Sproul, Christians Should be Forgiving People

As far as smaller offenses go, or people who just annoy us, I like how the NLT renders the first part of Colossians 3:13:

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

On this one I will be reading Moo’s commentary, along with others.

Encouragement For Sinners

I have been in a slump that is worse than the one before. I’m going through a very difficult time and would appreciate prayer. Faith is being tested.

I won’t apologize for lack of posts because I don’t presume that people wait for posts with bated breath (whatever that means). But I know that for some reason people like blogs to have regular posts.

I have found that similar to how C.S. Lewis found heavier theological works better devotional material than devotionals themselves, solid theological works can be just as good or better for suffering than books on suffering. I could write more about that, but for now, The Lord’s Prayer by Thomas Watson has been a great book during a difficult time, and it’s fantastic for knowing God better as much as it is for prayer. It’s becoming one of the best books I’ve read.

On to one of the quotes that I thought might be encouraging to some readers: If we have a right hatred of sin (Romans 12:9) and have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18), and God leaves us in certain sin and tests us through it, we should consider this a normal part of Christian life. This is something I had been thinking about before I read this, which summarizes it better than I could.

The best of saints have remainders of corruption. ‘They had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season.’ Dan 7:12. So in the regenerate, though the dominion of sin be taken away, yet the life of it is prolonged for a season. What pride was there in Christ’s own disciples, when they strove which should be greatest! The issue of sin will not be quite stopped till death. The Lord is pleased to let the in-being of sin continue, to humble his people, and make them prize Christ more. Because you find corruptions stirring, do not therefore presently unsaint yourselves, and deny the kingdom of grace to be come into your souls. That you feel sin is an evidence of spiritual life; that you mourn for it is a fruit of love to God; that you have a combat with sin, argues antipathy against it. Those sins which you once wore as a crown on your head, are now as fetters on the leg. Is not all this from the Spirit of grace in you? Sin is in you, as poison in the body, which you are sick of, and use all Scripture antidotes to expel. Should we condemn all those who have indwelling sin, nay, who have had sin sometimes prevailing, we should blot some of the best saints out of the Bible.

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer