Teaching Women to Read

The war of gender pronouns began some time ago. The modern emphasis of gender specific pronouns has changed the way we read and listen. Egalitarianism’s mission is to level the sexes, eliminating the God ordained distinctives between men and women. For example, we are told to say humankind, not “man,” when speaking of the human race. 

One consequence of this is that when you turn to a text that does not adhere to that modern principle, a woman reads the word “man,” and likely reads “male.” The result is that unless the text is written in a she/her format, the modern female reader might assume there is sexual exclusivity to the text, that is not actually there and thereby, reading into the text a distinction that does not exist. We lose the covenantal reality of language. Man (Adam) is mankind. 

Therefore, a woman might struggle with Psalm 8:4 by reading the pronouns incorrectly, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” 

Essentially, modern women are being taught to not see themselves in the texts of scripture. The fact that modern translations engage in this gender dysphoria, doesn’t help. 

Our equality is Christ, as it says in Galatians 3:28; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Yet the uniqueness of each sex is not lost as we see in the Apostle’s household codes (Ephesians 5:21-6:9; Col. 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 2:18-3:7). This reality is Trinitarian – unity, and diversity existing in loving harmony. 

We must reject the lies and schemes of the modern secular culture and learn how to read the scriptures properly again. 

The Light of the World

From the opening chapter of Genesis (1:3-5) to the closing of Revelation (22:5), light is one of the bible’s central symbols. It is a powerful motif, in both its literal and figurative uses. The dualism of light and dark is used to describe the powers of God and Satan (John 3:19-20; 1 John 1:6-7; Eph. 5:8; 1 Thes. 5:5).

The first thing that God did in creation was to turn on the lights (Gen. 1:3). Likewise, the first thing that God does in the recreation of man is to turn on the lights (1 Cor. 4:4-6). Without light, we cannot see, either physically or figuratively. Notice how Jesus connects seeing with understanding (Mark 7:18). 

Both the apostles John and Paul use this symbolically rich language because Jesus makes it plain that it is central to understanding Him (John 8:12). 

But what does it mean that Jesus is the light of the World? First, consider that light is both observable and the means by we which we observe. At night, we turn on our headlights, not so we can get out of the car to stand in the driveway and stare at the headlights, but so that we can operate the car safely. We can get where we are going because we can perceive our world, illuminated by our headlights. From ‘inside’ the light, we can experience the world. 

This is what C.S. Lewis meant when he wrote one of his most famous quotes, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Lewis’ essay, Meditation in a Toolshed, helps us understand the difference between the observability of light and light as a means of experience. C.S. Lewis describes being in a dark toolshed, suddenly becoming aware of a strong beam of light shining through a hole. He could see the light, but when he stepped in front of the beam, he ceased to see the light. He could see, by looking along the light, the blue atmosphere, the green leaves of a tree and at some great distance, the sun.  He no longer saw the light, but saw by the light, and once the light was experienced, he ceased to see it. It disappeared. But did it? The light was still there, but it was the means of seeing, not the thing seen. 

Lewis was experiencing the light. He couldn’t describe the light at that moment because the light was the means of seeing grass, leaves, sky and sun. The light had disappeared.

Jesus helps us understand this, he did not come in the flesh to learn about man, for he already knew all about man, he came to experience man. To know, from ‘inside,’ and use that experience to redeem man. (Hebrews) Jesus did not stand outside creation observing our suffering, he stood inside of our suffering. He experienced it and that experience is how he defeated his enemies and redeemed him (John 11). 

Lewis’ greater point in his essay Meditation in a Toolshed, is that seeing the light and experiencing the light are two different and important things. The modern man wants to stand outside, above, and apart from the light, while looking at the light. Lewis explains,

“Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences. But this is only a very simple example of the difference between looking at and looking along. A young man meets a girl. The whole world looks different when he sees her. Her voice reminds him of something he has been trying to remember all his life, and ten minutes casual chat with her is more precious than all the favours that all other women in the world could grant. He is, as they say, ‘in love’. Now comes a scientist and describes this young man’s experience from the outside. For him it is all an affair of the young man’s genes and a recognised biological stimulus. That is the difference between looking along the sexual impulse and looking at it. When you have got into the habit of making this distinction you will find examples of it all day long.”

Modern man wants to make everything about pseudo-scientific observation; cold, rational scrutiny. Soulless materialistic science. Modern man must learn that “experience,” is the missing ingredient to understanding our world. 

Using the light to see, looking along the light is what living out the Christian life is supposed to be. We have separated knowledge from action. We are not legalists, we are Gnostics. We see the light, but we fail to see by that light. To walk in it. 

We have applied this dichotomy to our relationship with Christ. We mediate on Him, but we do not experience him. If we wanted two young people to fall in love, would we give them data sheets about one another? Or would we get them together, to experience one another? 

Likewise, we must move from the contemplation of Jesus to the experience of Jesus. We must see him, but we also must see by him. Look at Him, but also, look ‘along’ him.  

Two places in scripture open this idea for us. The first is the opening chapter of Romans. The passage is 1:19–23. Paul contrasts wisdom and foolishness, light and darkness. Calvin states it clearly in his commentary on this text. “By saying, that God has made it manifest, he means, that man was created to be a spectator of this formed world, and that eyes were given him, that he might, by looking on so beautiful a picture, be led up to the Author himself.”

We see creation and if we look along that light, we see the creator of all things. 

We either ignore it, suppressing our apprehension of the light, darkening our minds, or we look along that beam and see God’s attributes and power leading us to honor and thank Him. 

We don’t just look at the light, the creation, but we look along it, up to heaven and experience God through thanks and honor – through worship. We look at the light of nature, and seeing it, we look along it, up to the heavens. Thanksgiving must shape the whole Christian life.

The appropriate response, our daily experience must be shaped by the recognition that we stand in debt to God, that his very life and experience of living is a gift – and seeing it, we must look along that light – see God with enlightened minds. 

The second is found in Titus 2:11-12. God’s grace “has appeared” the Greek word is epephanē, which in Luke 1:79 (metaphorically) in reference to Jesus’ birth and in Acts 27:20 (literally) regarding the appearance of the sun and stars. Paul intends this highly suggestive term to illustrate the dawning of the light of God’s gospel upon a dark and lost world. 

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8). “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13). 

This appearing was not limited to his birth but refers to his entire life including his death, resurrection, and exaltation, which accomplished the salvation now offered to “all men.”

And that Life is instructive. Paul says that the same grace that is saving us, is training us. The continual operation of God’s grace in the lives of Christians is one of Paul’s strongest aspirations for the churches – he doesn’t want us to merely see the light but see by it. To walk in it. 

Paul states that God’s grace “teaches us.” The Greek verb paideia means to instruct, educate. But it’s not mere math facts or scales. It’s the whole person’s whole life. Its worldview. Its spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental formation. That’s why Grace trains, Grace teaches. 

Teaching is demonstrating a skill to someone and then having them do it while providing correction. They don’t just see you do it. You haven’t taught someone how to make bread till they make bread. They don’t just see the light; they see by it. They don’t contemplate, they experience. 

The Bible is about Jesus. He shows us how to live in the light. We observe, the spirit illuminates, we hear the word preached, we study it, we see the light. We comprehend it. We learn from Christ’s example, then we go out and apply it – we do it, we see by it. We experience it.  

Education in Christian behavior is seldom a painless process since it involves the correction of human behavior which by nature stands in opposition to God. God’s grace “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.” There must be a conscious, willful repudiation of thoughts, words, and actions that are opposed to true godliness.

Grace appeared to save and train. The manifestation of the grace of God unavoidably carries along with-it exhortations to a holy life. To walk by the light of Jesus’ grace is to say yes and no in the present age. To not only know God’s will but do it. To not only see Christ – the grace that has appeared – but to see by Christ-light, the Grace that trains. To see one another. To see our spouses, our children, our co-workers and family members and neighbors. To see our circumstances and current events. To see our trial and tribulations by the light of Christ. To experience Christ in them. To experience the light of Christ by thanking and honoring Him. To experience the light of Christ by saying yes to godliness and no to ungodliness. 

Jesus doesn’t want us to merely observe grace, he wants us to experience it. 

We Are Like Those Who Dream

The Grace of God is staggering and often hard to believe. But its meant to shape our expectations and fill us with laughter.

Psalm 126:1-2 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; 

Introduction

Have you ever heard news so stunning that it numbed your heart? Have you ever gotten news so unexpected and so overwhelmingly good that you stared, speechless? So good, that it caused you to question reality itself? What I’m talking about happened to the Patriarch Jacob who believed his son Joseph was dead.  Jacob mourned and lived in sorrow, then in Gen 45:26 he gets the news that Joseph is in fact still alive; his sons “told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And Jacob’s heart became numb, for he did not believe them.” Jacob is gripped by a joy that affects the function of his body. His reception of the news is physiological. He hears news so great it causes disbelief. Jacob doubts the news because of the wonder of it; it’s too good to be true. His doubt originates in the overwhelminggoodness of the news. 

But the point of the good news is ultimately belief, not unbelief. And not an arid intellectual belief, but a belief that starts in the gut and springs forth in delighted laughter. God overwhelms evil with good, the poorness of fallen man with the wealth of our risen Lord. God takes what is empty and fills it to the point of near breaking and dissolution. 

God’s outpouring is good. So good, in fact, it startles the intellect and strains our faculties. And God does this to fill up the lowly with glorious song and rich laughter – with Joy. That is the Christmas story, that is the Christian story, this is your story. 

Its Christmastide, a feast day to celebrate with song, food, presents and lights – the implausible reality – God descended into the womb of a woman to fulfill all His promises. It’s the season in which we get a special opportunity to comprehend with all the saints the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

God overwhelms us with glorious blessing, to fill us with laughter. 

God acts to Overwhelm us with glorious blessing

Psalm 126 mentions the restoration of Israel’s fortunes, a return from captivity, victory after a long period of defeat. It’s not specific to a certain episode of restoration; it’s about the people of God and our common experience. No restoration though, was as remarkable and complete as our great Exodus in Christ. As it says in Ephesians 4:8, Christ “led captivity captive and gave gifts to men.” All the things that hold us captive, the king of our woe; Satan, His entire host, his minions of sin; his entire army of death – was led into captivity. We were converted from the armies of Satan to the armies of God. We have been made slave to the victorious Lord Jesus and discover that Slavery in his house is blessed sonship. 

God took away our captivity and our sin. But God takes away to replace. He empties, to fill. Jesus gave gifts to replace what He’s taken, and those gifts are greater than what he’s taken away. Compare death to life. The emptiness of fallen humanity to the fullness of the self-sustaining Triune God. Compare joy to sorrow, laughter to tears, song to silence. Fear to courage. Faith to despair. Compare the taste of cake to the taste of ashes. Christ has come and in His wake is a starling, overflowing grace that drowns our death and numbs our hearts and baffles our intellect. 

We are like those who dream. Is it true? Is it real? Are we, you and I, the inheritors of the stars? Are we perfect before the Father? Was our God a suckling babe? Was the Eternal one born in a Roman province under Caesar Augustus, to a virgin? We are like those who dream, and we blink in the brightness of the light like those struggling to wake up. God’s goodness is like a dream because His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our limits can’t bind Him. With God all things are possible. We hear and see with our flesh. God’s actions and promises are contrary to our own experiences. God’s actions are nearly incomprehensible because our minds our created and finite, full of the creation’s limitations. Our flesh aches, our strength fails, our imaginations have borders and boundaries. For instance, how can we comprehend the idea of eternity, when we live in a world with beginnings and endings? Furthermore, God was a man, with two natures, conceived by the Holy Spirit, laid in a manger, honored by angles and shepherds? 

Its sounds too good to be true. As fallen creatures we are too weak to believe such wondrous things. So, Christ came, cleansed us from the inside out and poured into us His Spirit. Christ cleansed and lined the interiors of our hearts with reinforced steel so that He could pour into us His infinite Love, his limitless spirit, so that we would be so drunk on 100 proof grace that we’d stagger about dazed with God’s glory. 

He reinforced the cavern of our hearts so that the fullness of God could dwell there. 

Ephesians 3:16–19 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

God’s spirit gives us strength to comprehend, to know that the Gospel is not a dream; God’s love is ours in Christ Jesus. To us was born a baby, a God-child, who didn’t stay a child. He grew big enough and strong enough to carry a cross up a hill and lead captivity captive in His wake. God’s work isn’t a dream, Satan’s is. Satan’s dream passes away as the sun of righteousness rises with healing in His wings, casting out darkness, the nightmare of death. We are all undone, disarmed and defeated by the grace of God. 

I’m not saying that God defeats Satan, sin and death and you just stand by as an onlooker. Jesus defeated your selfishness with His selfless sacrifice. Jesus defeated your self-righteousness with His perfect obedience to Our Father. Jesus defeated your worldly wisdom with heavenly foolishness. Jesus defeated your pride with His humility. God came as a man to defeat death and you, who were an enemy combatant, are now a member of His body. Awake, blink away the doubt. It’s not a dream. We are undone and remade by God’s unmerited favor and compassion 

A perfect example of what I’m talking about occurs in Acts. 

Acts 12:6–11 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 

God’s grace visits Peter and he thinks it’s a vision. He goes through the motions, all along thinking it’s all just a dream. God overflows his ability to comprehend with blessing too good to believe. Think about when you first believed, when you first emerged from baptism, when the first flush of love reddened your cheeks, when you first realized God would hear your prayers, when the church’s fellowship first welcomed you, when the Bible became true, the first time you knew what a sin was and confessed it and felt no shame for you knew you were forgiven. 

You were like the Apostles in Luke 24:10 Jesus “showed them his hands and His feet and while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, Jesus said to them, have you anything to eat?” God has done great things for us, let’s eat; let’s feast. The blessing and grace of God is difficult to believe because it’s so glorious.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. God overcomes us with a staggering grace, to train our imaginations to run wild in anticipation and hope. 

Consider what God has done for you and expect great things – things too good to be true, overwhelming your expectations. Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Well, our Father in heaven who caused donkeys to talk and seas to part and a virgin to conceive and stars to descend to stand at attention above lowly mangers, who loved you enough to slay His son to save you – delights to say; “watch this.” 

And God delights to startle us with his Love to fill us with laughter and song

Psalm 126:2 “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.”

God takes away our captivity and slavery: He takes away sorrow and overwhelms us with the blessing of His joy. He reveals gives himself to us, so that we might know joy, take delight, and be filled with mirth. God overcomes our curse with blessing. Our dourness with jovial love, our pessimism with glorious Hope. Jesus states the reason He has revealed Himself to us in John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

God’s aim is filling the empty with His joy. The nature of His joy is found in Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” God is in our midst and sings in His joy, gladness, and love. God as visited us, freed us, indwells us, to give us a joy that sings, to give us a gladness full of laughter. That is the Christmas story, the Christian story, your story. 

In our sin we doubt and weep, God frees us so that we may believe and sing. Now I am not saying that God fills us with laughter and song and if you aren’t singing and laughing you aren’t full of God’s spirit. Psalm 126 begins with restoration – as if Israel had known blessing, passed through a period of uncertainty and travail to emerge again with unexpected blessing that set them laughing and singing. God loves to mature and sanctify us. To take us from glory to glory. Our trajectory is upward though it’s not a straight line. 

We have a weekly Sabbath because God knows we need to renew the covenant with Him that often. It’s been a long year. Lots has happened. Many things are uncertain and here we are again, seasonally, liturgically – pondering the impossible. The God-man. The Christ- child. The God among us who cleansed us so that the Spirit might dwell among us always. In a Middle Eastern town, amongst livestock, under Roman tyranny, God cried for His mother’s breast. 

We are like those who dream, nothing is impossible for God, ponder it, let grip you heart. Begin to imagine what’s possible. What God might do next? 

We serve a God of wonder – so sing, raise your glasses and cheer, lift your prayers up to God’s throne even as your countenance lifts with the mirth of God’s glorious gift of Jesus Christ. Let’s consider two empty women that God filled, that God overwhelmed with joyous blessing, which demonstrate what I’m talking about. Abraham’s wife Sarah laughed at God’s promise to give her a child because the promise seemed so ridiculously impossible. She laughed at God and God said, literally, “Oh yeah? Watch this.” And then in Genesis 21:6-7 we read a joy-filled, humbled, transfixed Sarah say: “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

God delights to do what His children think is impossible, to set them laughing, to fill them with Joy and praise.  Another example is found in Luke 1. Mary, the Lord’s mother, was visited by an angel who startled her. The angel greeted Mary with a greeting too glorious for her and the angel told her news to marvelous to believe. Mary was already a daughter of God. She wasn’t found singing, but God startled her with glorious news, with greetings of joy to set her singing. And Mary’s response was to compose a song to commemorate the glorious deliverance of God’s people. “My soul rejoices in the Lord,” she sang. The mercy shown her, shown to her people, shown to the whole world – was so unexpected, so amazing, so singular – that Mary sang. 

When Christ fills us with Grace we are filled with gratitude. Karl Barth said “Grace creates liberated laughter. The Grace of God…is beautiful, and it radiates joy and awakens humor.” The Lord has set before you the record of His faithfulness, his works of wonder, His feats: His grace. Don’t be shaped by what your eyes see, or by your comprehension of events and what you can imagine happening. 

Take up and read. Listen, hear me. I bring you good news of great joy. It’s hard to believe because it’s so wonderful. God has come, in the flesh, as a man, the God-Man to build a bridge over the vast chasm separating us from Him. He’s built the bridge with His perfect life, so you don’t have to be. He’s paid the toll to cross with His own blood. It’s not a dream. 

This is the Christmas story, the Christian story, your story. We need to ponder this marvelous story as much as possible. Preach it to ourselves and to one another as often as we can. Let us laugh in merriment; sing in joy; feast in hope. Let us shout and sing and laugh in joy for the glory of the Lord. Let us delight in His love; in his presence for that is why He’s sent His Son. 

And He has sent His Son. 

Psalm 126

A Song of Ascents.

            [1] When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

                        we were like those who dream.

            [2] Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

                        and our tongue with shouts of joy;

            then they said among the nations,

                        “The LORD has done great things for them.”

            [3] The LORD has done great things for us;

                        we are glad.

            [4] Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

                        like streams in the Negeb!

            [5] Those who sow in tears

                        shall reap with shouts of joy!

            [6] He who goes out weeping,

                        bearing the seed for sowing,

            shall come home with shouts of joy,

                        bringing his sheaves with him. 

Fight the Good Fight

In 1st Timothy 6:11–16 As he has done previously, Paul follows his comments about false teachers with personal exhortations to Timothy, concluding with a marvelous doxology.

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 

The apostle addresses Timothy as a man of God in striking contrast to the previous description of false teachers. The things Timothy must flee from extend to all the vices mentioned from verse 8 onwards. The antithesis in the words flee and pursue is repeated exactly in 2 Timothy 2:22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” The objects of pursuit include two general religious dispositions; righteousness meaning “conformity to what is right towards God and man,” and godliness meaning “piety.”

This double pursuit is also found in Titus 2:11–12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”

 The words “faith” and “love” reflect trust in God and benevolence and goodwill toward others.Timothy needs “steadfastness” to not waver in his pursuit of these things. Timothy needs “gentleness” in order to deal effectively with cantankerous heretics and wavering believers.

What this amounts to is found in three parts, beginning in 2 Timothy 6:12a “Fight the good fight of the faith.”

The command to Fight means literally ‘to contend for a prize.’ The verb implies a disciplined struggle that’s already begun. To fight for “the faith” includes a struggle for the truth of the gospel, but also refers to the whole Christian life, as a great contest requiring discipline and purpose. The use of the present tense for “fight” suggests a continuous struggle. In His second epistle to Timothy Paul says, “He who hath become a soldier doth not entangle himself with matters inconsistent with his calling.” (2 Tim. 2:4.) Carelessness and self-indulgence arise from worldly concerns, and a great number of Christians wish to serve Christ at their ease, in easy-safe-selfishness – as if it were a hobby. But Christ calls his servants to warfare. Continual warfare. And if earthly soldiers do not hesitate to fight when the result is doubtful, and at the risk of being killed, how much more bravely ought we to do battle under the guidance and banner of Christ, when we the victory is certain? 

We fight well-fed at a table of victory set amid our enemies. John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

And we are to do it all with Joy. Philippians 2:17–18 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

“Fight. Laugh. Feast.” This is a worthy motto for God’s children. And what are we doing as we fight? As we pursue the right things? 

1 Timothy 6:12b “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” 

Divine sovereignty does not preclude human responsibility. The fact that God had “called” Timothy to eternal life suggests again that the outcome is secured in God’s hands. For what would God call us to if it were not ultimately for his glory and our good? Calvin commented on this passage: “there is nothing that ought to animate us with greater courage than to learn that we have been “called” by God; for we conclude from this, that our labour, which God directs, and in which he stretches out his hand to us, will not be fruitless.” Paul says in Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Because God has called you to eternal life; beware of being drawn aside to anything else. Hebrews 11:9–10 “By faith Abraham went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

Timothy had an obligation to work out his salvation as if he could see it, like Abraham stood on a hill looking out over a desert and could see the city of the Living God, Christ’s day – his victory, by eyes of faith – and so Abraham worked and built and strove for it. 

1 Timothy 6:12c “About which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

The event referred to is Timothy’s baptism. Everyone who follows Christ makes the “good confession of faith” when he joins Christ’s body. The Christians’ baptismal vows to the Lord must not be taken lightly. We must recall our commitments to God and God’s commitments to us. 1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to remember the confession he made before other witnesses exhibits the importance of Christians encouraging one another in the faith. We all have an important part to play in cheering on the discouraged Christians around us, and God will use our encouragement to help others grow to maturity in Christ. Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Stuck and stagnant, not fleeing what needs fleeing and pursuing what needs pursuing? You probably don’t need mores experts or coaches in your life or even more podcasts, books, or courses. What you need is simple, small, and consistent obedience. There are at least one or two things you know are displeasing to the Lord and bad for you in your life right now. Start there. Flee it and pursue something good in its place. On a related note, accumulating more experts and more info is often just a way to feel like you are acting without actually acting.

Paul concludes this passage the way all theological reflections should, with doxology. With worship. With gazing on Christ and worshiping him. It is the corrective to our ailing and wandering hearts. 

1 Timothy 6:13–16 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, [14] to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, [16] who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

A Holy Priesthood and It’s Work

The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is based on texts such as 1 Peter 2:9–10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

Which is quote from Exodus 19. 

The church is a priesthood because it is the body of Jesus Christ, the high priest Hebrews 3:1Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. 

The high priesthood of Christ may be defined as his complete dedication and obedience to God, his Father, and His unlimited compassion for his fellow human beings. 

We are priests who bring the word of God, prayer and thanksgiving together, lifting up God’s gifts and offering them to Him in glad service as we receive them with joy. 

And when we do this, we set the gift apart as holy unto the Lord. 

Biblical teaching about priesthood fills out the picture, because in the Bible priests are always embedded in liturgical communities and attached to a liturgical center. 

What they did in Israel for the whole of the people of God, Christians are to do now.

On this basis and in union with Christ, the priesthood of Christians involves spiritual worship and love of God and compassionate activity and prayer for their fellow human beings. 

Its full meaning is negated if it is seen only in individualist terms—my access to God, my right to interpret the Bible, and my ability to discern God’s will.

Priesthood is an activity and function which is best viewed in a collective sense as belonging to the whole body of Christians, though including obviously the individual Christian life of service. 

The distinct features of the Levitical priesthood may be applied to the church in the following way.

Direct access to God. By faith all Christians approach God directly and personally through Christ, as we read in Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Offering sacrifices to God. The whole life of the Christian is to be a service of love— “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18).

All of our good works, activity, prayer, and praise is to be offered to God.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.sacrifices like generosity and hospitality as we find in Hebrews 13:15–16 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

By lifting up the communion elements we declare the once for all sacrifice of Christ. 

Declaring the word of God. By word and deed Christians are to reveal the love of God in Christ. 

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 

Worship. 1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, Hebrews 10:24–25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 

Priests are called to be Holy as God is Holy. 1 Peter 1:14–16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 

Be Holy as I am holy is a directive from God directly to the priests, that Peter applies to all believers. 

Priests cannot profane themselves with unclean or unholy things. So, every lawful gift of God is to be set apart for our use as priests just as the priests of the Tabernacle did in accordance to the Holiness Code in Leviticus 17-26. Holy means set apart. 

Christians are set apart through the anointing of baptism, to be a holy priesthood, which through the great commission and cultural mandate are to minister, teach and mediate Christ to the world. 

As a priesthood, everything we use in our ministry – which should be everything – 

must be set apart as Holy.

But how is that accomplished? 

1 Timothy 4:4-5 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 

God created the world as a means of communion and worship. As an expression of His grace, which when received with gratitude and thanks, becomes a way of knowing and enjoying God. God is sacramental. 

He says here is my body broken for you, eat. Here is my blood of the covenant spilt for you, drink. 

Jesus is the shepherd, the door and the bread of heaven. Jesus heals eyes so they can see Him. He opens tongues to praise Him. He turns water into wine that we might drink together, with Him. 

John Piper wrote that “Smelling toast and bacon early in the morning is not worship but may become worship. Feeling fall breezes on the skin, and fall sunshine on the face, and fall colors in the eyes, and fall fragrances in the nose, are not worship, but they may become worship. Tasting and enjoying the pleasures of this world are not worshiping or honoring or loving or supremely treasuring God but they may become that.”

Whatever is gratefully received is consecrated, it becomes ‘holy’ to the user in contrast to the demonic taboos of the false teachers. 

The theologian Robert Letham writes, “Even our daily food marks the interface between the humdrum material world and the beneficence of the God who provides for us. Our daily bread should be the occasion for thanksgiving, praise and communion.”

Therefore, the Apostle Paul says everything is sanctified through thanksgiving. For Paul, thanksgiving has a performative effect on the things received. 

Receiving God’s gifts with thanks does not merely identify them as gifts but also sanctifies them, sanctifies them, consecrates them as holy things. The world is sanctified, made holy, through thanks. 

To say that created things are “made Holy,” by thanks is to say that crated things, already God’s by virtue of creation, become specifically his possession by the prayers of the people of God. 

Given Paul’s regular identification of believers s “holy ones,” or “saints,” – the logic seems to be this: 

“Christians are holy ones, indwelt and anointed by the sanctifying Spirit of Jesus, priests to God and to Christ. As Such, they ought only to touch, eat, and use holy things. If they receive anything that is impure, their priesthood will be defiled by it Purity and Holiness taboos continue to operate in the New Testament. Holy people must have holy things. But for Paul no elaborate rite of sanctification is required: only the giving of thanks. Once consecrated by thanks, a thing may be used only for God’s purposes. Holy food could be eaten only by priests in the Old testament, holy implements could be used only in the sanctuary, holy incense could be used only on the altar. If Christians consecrate whatever they receive by thanks, they are not only claiming it as God’s now but also obligating themselves to use it in a particular way, to use it with thanks. Thanksgiving is thus the liturgy of Christian living; it is the continuous sacrifice that Christians offer. Gratitude to God is the continuous sanctification of the world.”

You are not common. You are Holy people. Set apart for God’s work. 

Repent of defiling your priesthood by using profane things. Things not consecrated to God. Things not made holy. 

We go through our days with little thought about the goodness of God. 

We separate God from the “mundane,” instead of sanctifying everything through thanks; through the word and prayer. 

G. K. Chesterton said, “you say free before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and the pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before dip the pen into the ink.” 

We are the priesthood of believers, called to make the world holy with Thanksgiving. Let us set the example then. 

Salvation is the Armor of Light

We are the redeemed of the Lord, and if we are going to fully lay hold and understand what this means, we need to familiarize ourselves with the language of salvation. This way, when we preach the gospel to ourselves and to one another, we know just what we need to say to best encourage the downtrodden or disheartened.

Jesus, Joshua or Jeshua, as it’s rendered in post-exilic Hebrew and Aramaic. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament used in the first century), Joshua is regularly translated as Jesus (Iesous in Greek). “Joshua” is the combination of two Hebrew words meaning “ Yahweh saves.” You may remember that Joshua in the Old Testament was originally “Hoshea,” meaning “salvation,” but Moses renamed him Joshua (Num. 13:16). “Jesus,” like its antecedent “Joshua,” also means “Yahweh saves,” or simply, “savior.”

Although Jesus was a common name, with Jesus of Nazareth the name took on added significance. It didn’t just mean that His God saves; it meant that He was the God who saves. Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who can save us from our sins.

Gabriel says to Joseph, concerning Mary, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, For he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).

Salvation is not found in Muhammad or Krishna, a strong education, marriage, parents, children, presidents, prime ministers or material goods or any thing that can be named under heaven. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).

The point of the gospel is not that Jesus saves us from low self-esteem, or from singleness, or from our crummy job. We need to learn the vocabulary of salvation and teach it to our children.

The doctrine of Soteriology is the study of the religious doctrines of salvation. The Atonement is the work of Christ in dealing with the problem of sin, by bringing sinners into right relation with God. The term Propitiation, means the removal of wrath by the offering of a gift. The doctrine of Penal Substitution Atonement, means that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. God imputed the guilt of our sins to Christ, and he, in our place, bore the punishment that we deserve (Hebrews 2:14).

Most Christians don’t realize that we are actually saved from God’s wrath. Because of sin, God’s wrath is going to rest on mankind, unless that sin is dealt with.

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,” (Romans 2:4-9).

The Lord Jesus does not save us from sin, but because of our sin, he saves us from the coming wrath of God on all sinners. Jesus takes away the sin, imputing his righteousness to us and therefore, saves us from God. Its as if we tied ourselves to tracks with the cords of sin, in the path of God’s wrath train and Jesus came, cut the cords and laid down on the tracks in our stead.

The Bible provides other metaphors that are instructive. We find the first reference to the atonement in Genesis 3:21, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Adam and Eve were afraid, in hiding, ashamed, and covered in the guilt of their sin. So, the Lord kills an animal to cover their shame to take it away. Because God provides garments to clothe Adam and Eve, requiring the death of an animal to cover their nakedness, we see how the system of animal sacrifices foreshadow the eventual sacrificial death of Christ as an atonement for sin.[1]

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin,” (Romans 4:7-8). We must be covered, we need to be clothed. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” (Galatians 3:27). We are clothed with Christ. We are not naked and ashamed. We ought not to be fearful. Christ is our armor of light (Romans 13:11-14).

Atonement is the Lord’s gracious gift, one he grants to sinful people. Indeed, while we usually think of sacrifice as that which the Israelites gave to God, here he turns this idea on its head: sacrificial atonement is something he mercifully and lovingly grants to them, allowing the lifeblood of the sacrifice to ransom the lifeblood of the guilty person. “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Leviticus 17:11). God’s mercy and love is demonstrated supremely in the sacrificial death of Jesus, the ultimate ransom for the guilty.[2]

Isaiah 53 promisesthe perfect sacrifice and that prophecy was fulfilled by Christ. Christ fulfills the sacrifices because Jesus is the Lamb of God.

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35-36).

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life,” (Leviticus 17:11).

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins,”(Hebrews 9:22).

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified,” (Hebrews 10:11-14).

Jesus Goes into heaven with the gift of His own blood as THE High Priest and offers it as a gift to His Father, thereby turning away the Father’s wrath and satisfying the justice of God – blood for blood. And this is our hope, our healing and our the heart of who we are in Christ.

Deep down, and sometimes we don’t even have to dig that deep, many of us feel confident before God because we haven’t royally messed up our lives, at least not lately. We don’t get drunk or do drugs. We show up on time for work. We keep our yard clean and get involved in church. I’d feel pretty good with a record like that. I do feel pretty good sometimes! And that’s my problem. We put our trust in “self.

The fact that when I sin I feel like I should earn my repentance before I come back to God tells me that I live too much of my life feeling good with God because I feel like I am good enough for God. I was born full of myself, and every day needs to be emptied and filled with Christ. There is nowhere else we ought to look for our salvation than in Christ. You cannot trust Christ truly unless you trust Christ alone. No matter how much you boast of Christ or talk of your love for Christ or passion for Christ, if you add anything to Christ, your boasting and love and passion are all in vain. There is no “both-and” with Jesus, only “either-or.”

Either Jesus is the only Savior, the perfect Savior, and your only comfort in life and in death, or Jesus is for you no Savior at all.[3]

We need protect our faith from “self,” as much as the lies of the enemy, that we are not saved. But if we are in Christ, then we are redeemed. We are clothed. We are covered. We are well armored for whatever the enemy and his minions throw at us.

If Christ is for us, and he is, who can stand against us? Sin? Satan? Unbelief? Communism? We may live in the shadow of death, we are not alone and we will not be overcome. This is our prophetic message to the dark and fallen world and to those struggling in their sanctification. As Zechariah said of John the Baptist,

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace,” (Luke 1:76-79).

Let us bear the light of world; the Lord Jesus, the savior of mankind, faithfully and boldly today, forever.

 

Amen


[1] Gospel Transformation Study Bible

[2] ESV Study Bible

[3] DeYoung, Kevin L. (2010-03-26). The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism (pp. 64-65).

Gently Restore Trapped Sinners

What is sin? To have sin, to commit sin, original sin, sin nature, temptation

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1–2)

The very first thing to notice about this remarkable passage is the humility required to define our fellow Christian’s circumstances. To see a fellow believer as “caught in sin,” is very different that the “judgy,” way we typically consider other people’s sins. We rarely consider it a trap they are caught in. We generally consider it willful and deliberate. But thinking of your fellow Christian’s sinful situation, as a bear trap, recasts both them and you, in a very different story. You must be strong enough to pry open the trap, know how the trap itself works, gently remove the limb, carefully, to not catch yourself in the trap and then restore the crippled sinner. 

Therefore, Paul says that those who are spiritual should seek to restore others. Paul has spent chapter 5 of Galatians explaining the spiritual state necessary to fulfill the law of God, which is love (Romans 13:8-11). The adjective “spiritual” means “living and walking according to the Holy Spirit;” as Galatians 5:16, states. People who walk by the spirit bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and are thus equipped to deal with wounded sinners and traps, without themselves getting caught in them.

Walking by the spirit is a renunciation of the flesh, of self. It is turning away from the appetites and lusts of the flesh; sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (Galatians 5:19-21). This is another way of saying that being spiritual is to get the log out of your own eye, so that you can see clearly. You need to deal with yourself FIRST. If you are not spiritual, the conflict you are in, or the sin you see in others, takes a back seat. If you are not spiritual, then you have no place addressing the sins of others, whether they were committed against you or another, or have trapped someone. 

Once you are unburdened through confession and repentance, then you can bear other’s burdens; imitating the Lord Jesus, the ultimate burden-bearer 

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me” (Romans 15:1–3).

This is fulfilling the Law of Christ, which is love. 

We are talking about confronting sin. Coming into conflict with those desires that trap us in sin and trap others in sin. The first thing we need to understand about all of this is that not all conflict is sinful. 

If you and I have a dispute over our property line and hire a surveyor and lawyers, we can have a protracted dispute without animosity or sin. We hire mediators. If a husband and wife don’t agree on how many children they should have, this can be a protracted disagreement without being sinful. The battle of Gettysburg was a conflict and so is trying to merge onto I-5. Conflict comes in all sizes and shapes. Conflict is not categorically sinful. In Galatians 6:1-2, we are instructed to pursue conflict, since walking by the flesh is a conflict of spirit and flesh, as well as un-trapping others is a conflict with the trap. 

What makes conflict sinful, or not, are the circumstances. Conflict that arises over an attempted robbery or infidelity or road rage, are all categorically sinful because of why and how the conflict is being conducted. All conflicts arise out of our desires. I want the property line to run down the edge of the hedge on your side. You want it to run down the middle. I want to get into the diamond lane, and you want me to wait till you pass. Gen. Lee wanted to invade Pennsylvania to give the civilians in Virginia a break from foragers. You think three kids is a full quiver, your spouse thinks six is fuller. All conflicts arise from desire. 

So, when we are talking about conflict, we must understand that we are talking about desires. It’s crucial. This is what makes conflict such a hotbed of sin. We like our desires. We like eating, we like the marriage bed, we like affirmation and rest, we like entertainment and hearing the news about our friends. And all these desires can become sinful. 

Sinful conflict arises from the lawfulness of what it is we are desiring, our own spouse or someone else’s spouse. Do I save up to buy the car or steal it?” 

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14–15).

Desires are the source of sins. Identify your desires; lawful versus unlawful. 

Why do quarrels arise?

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask (James 4:1–2).

So much conflict arises, not because we are selflessly trying to free others from the trap of sin, but because we are ourselves trapped in sin. The purpose of walking in the spirit is the ministry of reconciliation that Christ has given to his church. We are reconciling all things to Christ Jesus. This process of the restoration of man is the great commission (Matthew 28). It is the ministry of the Church (Ephesians 4). Restoration is a theme echoed throughout scripture as we are urged to “help,” ‘restore,” “save,“ and ”forgive “ those who are caught in sins (see I Thess. 5:14; Gal. 6:1; James 5:20). 

Scripture rarely uses words we would translate as “confront” to describe the process of talking to others about their faults. Biblically speaking, it is more accurate to refer to our ministry to one another as confessing, teaching, instructing, reasoning with, encouraging, giving correction, warning, admonishing, or rebuking (Matt. 5: 23–24; Luke 17: 3; Acts 17: 17; 1 Thess. 5: 14; 2 Tim. 2:24; 4:2).

Clearly, there is more to restoring others than simply confronting them with their wrongs. Therefore, if we want to be effective in our ministry, we need to ask God to help us be discerning and flexible so that we can use whatever approach will be most effective in the given situation.  

We should also note that Scripture provides numerous examples of approaching others indirectly, instead of bluntly describing their wrongs to them. Jesus did not directly confront the Samaritan woman at the well about her adultery. Instead, he approached the issue indirectly, by using questions and discussion that engaged her in the process of thinking about and assessing her own life (John 4: 1– 18). This prophetic voice is exactly what Nathan used to un-trap David from his sin in 2nd Samuel 12. We need to let go of the idea that showing someone his fault always requires direct confrontation. 

Furthermore, Jesus did not deal with the confrontation between God and Man from a distance. He came and looked upon us. He dwelt among us. Jesus did not send a text, e-mail, or send servants. Jesus came to us, face-to-face, and addressed the problem (Phil. 2:7-9). Only when we are having real Christian fellowship can we know the traps that snares one another. This requires us to move past the niceties of a social club, into real Christian fellowship. Genuine relationships require personal communication. If you learn that someone has something against you, God wants you to take the initiative in seeking peace— even if you do not believe you have done anything wrong.

Jesus commands you to go. Also, peace and unity among believers significantly affects how unbelievers will receive the gospel (John 13:35). In addition, you can have greater peace of mind if you have honestly faced any complaints someone might have against you. Only by carefully listening to others can you discover sins of which you were not aware of or help others realize that their complaints are unfounded. You should initiate reconciliation out of love for your brother and concern for his well-being. You should invite others to examine your life for possible traps that have ensnared you. 

God calls you to go and talk to someone about a conflict if that person’s sins are too serious to overlook. If someone who professes to be a Christian is behaving in such a way that others are likely to think less of God, of his church, or of his Word, it may be necessary to talk with that person and urge him to change his behavior. If you are unable to forgive an offense—that is, if your feelings, thoughts, words, or actions toward another person have been altered for more than a short period of time— the offense is probably too serious to overlook. 1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude. It does and should, but sometimes it requires a greater display of selfless love. 

The offender may be hurting or imperiling others in a direct way. The person may also be setting an example that will encourage other Christians to behave in a similar manner. Knowing that “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough,” Paul commands Christians to address serious and open sin quickly and firmly to save other believers from being led astray (1 Cor. 5: 1– 13; cf. 2 Tim. 4: 2– 4; Prov. 10: 17). An offense can also adversely affect others if it is made public and other Christians take sides.

Finally, sin needs to be addressed when it is seriously harming the offender, either by direct damage (e.g., alcohol abuse) or by impairing his or her relationship with God or other people. Looking out for the well-being of other Christians, especially those in your own family or congregation, is a serious responsibility. Unfortunately, because many Christians have adopted the world’s view that everyone should be allowed to “do his own thing,” some believers will do nothing, even when they see a brother or sister ensnared in serious sin. This is not the kind of love Jesus demonstrated, nor is it consistent with the clear teaching of Scripture: 

1. “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt” (Lev. 19: 17).

2.     “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Doesn’t he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Prov. 24: 11– 12). 

3.     “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Prov. 27: 5– 6; cf. 9: 8; 19: 25; 28: 23). 

4.     “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over” (Matt. 18: 15). 

5.     “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5: 19– 20).

Although these verses endorse constructive confrontation, they are not a license to be a busybody. We should not be overly eager to comfort sins in others, it should force us to examine ourselves first (2 Thess. 3: 11; 1 Tim. 5: 13; 2 Tim. 2: 23; 1 Peter 4: 15). In fact, anyone who is eager to go and show a brother his sin is probably disqualified from doing so. Such eagerness is often a sign of pride and spiritual immaturity, which cripple our ability to minister effectively to others (Gal. 5: 22– 6: 2). The best confronters are usually people who would prefer not to have to talk to others about their sin, but will do so out of obedience and Love for God and love for others.

Christians have the responsibility to address serious sin, especially when it is found in a fellow believer. Before we get to the process, remember that it is appropriate to overlook minor offenses (see Prov. 19:11), but generally, an offense should be overlooked if you can answer “no” to all the following questions:

1.     Is the offense seriously dishonoring God?

2.     Has it permanently damaged a relationship?

3.     Is it seriously hurting other people? 

4.     Is it seriously hurting the offender himself?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, an offense is too serious to overlook, in which case God commands you to go and talk with the offender privately and lovingly about the situation. As you do so, remember to:

1.     Pray for humility and wisdom

2.     Check your eyes for logs that are blurring your vision. 

3.     Plan your words carefully (think of how you would want to be confronted)

4.     Anticipate likely reactions and plan appropriate responses (rehearsals can be very helpful)

5.     Choose the right time and place (talk in person whenever possible)

6.     Assume the best about the other person until you have facts to prove otherwise (Prov. 11:27)

7.     Listen carefully (Prov. 18:13)

8.     Speak only to build others up (Eph. 4:29)

9.     Ask for feedback from the other person

10.  Recognize your limits (only God can change people; see Rom. 12:18; 2 Tim. 2:24-26)

If an initial conversation does not resolve a conflict, do not give up. Review what was said and done and look for ways to make a better approach during a follow up conversation. It may also be wise to ask a spiritually mature friend for advice on how to approach the other person more effectively. Then try again with even stronger prayer support.

If repeated, careful attempts at a private discussion are not fruitful, and if the matter is still too serious to overlook, you should ask one or two other people to meet with you and your opponent and help you to resolve your differences through mediation, arbitration, or accountability (see Matt. 18:16-20; 1 Cor. 6:1-8).

This is what the church is for. This is being a healthy, functioning member of the body of Christ.

Brotherly Love as Literary Criticism

The Call of Ministry

Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. 

The word “equip,” in v. 12 is generally used in reference to act of mending something that is broken. In Matthew 4:21, Zebedee and his sons are “mending,” the nets. Mending is another form of the word for equip. In 1 Thessalonians 3:10Paul tells them that his desire is to “supply what is lacking in their faith.” The word “supply,” is a form of the same word translated as mending and equipping. Equipping, mending, or supplying. These are forms of the same Greek word. It means to bring someone or something to completion (perfect and adequate in every respect) and fit for its intended purpose. That is the sense of the final verses of this section.  Ephesians 4:15–16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 

The body, speaking words of love to one another grows up into the head, it grows up to Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father. We reach our heavenly perfection together, growing up to Christ, the measure of holiness. Equipped. Joined together, working properly, building itself up in love. 

God has always worked through his children to train up his children. 

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Nehemiah 8:7–8 …the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Galatians 6:1–2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

Douglas Wilson expounds on this idea, 

“The teaching of Scripture on this point is very clear. God requires uninspired teachers to exposit His Word and apply it to the lives of God’s people. The Bible does not say that worship services should consist of Scripture reading only—with no interpretive voice inflections. On the contrary, the Bible tells us that we are to receive much of our religious instruction from uninspired sources—parents (Deut. 6:6–9), husbands (Eph. 5:25–27), elders (Heb. 13:7), and fellow Christians (Heb. 10:25). And if some of the believers are tempted to give too much wide-eyed credence to their fallible teachers, then their teachers should warn them about that, just as they warn them of other sins. And because all human teachers are fallible, it is very important for them to stick as close to the text as they are able. Those who refuse to listen to such teachers (and who refuse to read books by them) may do so in the name of honoring Scripture, but they are really kicking against the requirement of Scripture. They say, in effect, that the Bible should be honored—so long as it is kept barren and produces no teachers, and no books. And incidentally, it must also be remembered that although they maintain that they sit at the feet of no man, there is at least one kind of human teaching they do think highly of—whatever has been forged in their own brain.”

A healthy church member is devoted to the teaching of the local church, its ministers, and its members. 

As Paul David Tripp explains, “the times of formal, public ministry are meant to train God’s people for the personal ministry that is the lifestyle of the body of Christ.”

Timothy Keller writes, “Every Christian should be able to give both…instruction and admonition…a common word for strong, life-changing counsel… that conveys to others the teaching of the Bible. This must be done carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one. That is the most fundamental form of the ministry of the word.”

He goes on to say that a Church’s “gospel ministry should be pulpit-centered, but not pulpit-restricted.”Healthy church members are ministers to one another. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 

What does this mean? Bearing and proclaiming the divine word can be very hard. We don’t like confrontation or being “judgy.” We don’t want to pry or have others pry. But we must mature in this. We must be exegetes of the bible, and likewise, exegetes of people so that we know how to apply the word of God to those around us. 

Crosstalk 

In his book, Crosstalk, Michael Emlet writes, “Reading the Bible without reading the person is a recipe for irrelevance in ministry. Reading the person without reading the Bible is a recipe for ministry lacking the life-changing power of the Spirit working through his Word” (p. 90)

To make sense of our lives, each of us relies on a complexity of largely unconscious beliefs and assumptions about ourselves, our identity, purpose, and our environment. “Ministry,” says Emlet, “is about helping others see the storylines by which they are living” (p. 71). 

Failure to recognize the dominant story that is shaping and directing the course of one’s life leads to a solution-focused approach that looks “a lot like putting out multiple brushfires” and that will likely neglect what most needs to be addressed (p. 79). Are we the villain or hero? Is the story of our lives a tragedy or a comedy? 

Emlet makes the same assertion as Keller, Wilson and Bonheoffer, “Any attempts at ministering God’s Word that do not fundamentally connect the good news of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, with the details, themes and plotlines of people’s lives will miss the mark” (p.7). 

Life is full of material – gifts of character and plot – providentially authored by God and we must learn how to exegete the text, just like we are learning to exegete the bible. Our biblical Hermeneutics matter, so too do our Hermeneutics for interpreting the story of our own life, and the lives of those around us. Suffering comes to us all, but when it comes to giving counsel, it matters if you are dealing with Job or Jonah. Peter or Judas. Especially, when your knowledge of the situation is so limited. We are working with sanctified wisdom, but still creaturely wisdom.  

There the kid is on the couch with a fist full of hair and a pair of scissors. There’s the husband on the couch watching baseball on a Saturday afternoon while the yard looks like a safari. There’s the clickbait. 

There is a friend telling you something in confidence. There is your sister asking you how you can believe in a God that allows miscarriage. Here’s the rainstorm just as you finalize the tent in your campsite. All these plot points require a response from you. What kind of character are you? What kind of story is being written? 

Each of us live our lives as a saint, a sinner, and a sufferer. The Christian’s fundamental identity is that of a regenerated, forgiven, and accepted child of God. Though sin’s power has been broken, sin’s presence remains, influencing our motives, thoughts, and actions. To varying degrees and in different ways, we are likewise sufferers because we have been sinned against, and we live in a fallen world. We tend to focus on one, or perhaps, two of these realities when we seek to help fellow believers but doing so results in a truncated understanding of the person we are trying to help, as well as, a failure to bring necessary truths to bear on a person’s life. 

We must minister the biblical truth of who and what we are, to one another in a gracious and firm way. As an aid, these three categories help guide us – saint, sinner, and sufferer. 

The Bible confirms the identity of the saint (Ephesians 1-4). Here are some questions that you can use to affirm someone in their identity in Christ. 

  1. What evidence of God’s grace do you see in the person’s life? 
  2. How does the person already exhibit the character of Christ in word and deed? Use examples from scripture. 

The Bible comforts the sufferer. Here are some questions for the sufferer. 

  1. What significant situational anxieties are you currently facing?
    1. Consider intrapersonal, interpersonal, and extra personal influences, such as health, relationships, and cultural pressures. 
  2. What were the significant aspects of life outside the person that are influencing them?  
  3. Ask if the person has been sinned against? 
    1.  Are they seeking reconciliation? Galatians 6:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; James 5:19-20. 
  4. How is the person coping? 
    1. Avoidance, medicating, anger, despair, condemnation? 
    1. Fear, confusion, shame, guilt?
    1. Bible reading, prayer, singing, or fellowship with Christians? 

The Bible confronts the sinner. Here are some questions for the sinner.

  1. What desires, thoughts, emotions, and actions are out of line with the law of God?
  2. What motives, themes and interpretations of life ‘compete” with the biblical story?
  3. Discover the narrative and presuppositions that are guiding the person and leading to sinful words, attitudes, emotions, and actions. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer encourages us with our responsibility.

“Christians are dependent on the Word of God spoken to them. They are directed outward to the Word coming to them. Christians live entirely by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. If they are asked “where is your salvation, your blessedness, your righteousness?,” they can never point to themselves. Instead, they point to the Word of God in Jesus Christ that grants them salvation, blessedness, and righteousness. They watch for this Word wherever they can. Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened because, living by their own resources, they cannot help themselves without cheating themselves out of the truth. They need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation.”

The more you understand a person’s situation, the more you understood the person. God’s word can be tailored to people in specific situations. The more you understand the situational factors at play in a person’s life, the more you bring the Word to their specific need in a helpful way. 

One of the delightful aspects of ministering to brothers and sisters is when someone returns to report growth that goes beyond the issue we originally hoped for. Always acknowledge it!

Remember that the bible speaks to the underlying intentions and attitudes of the heart. Confirmationcomfort, and confrontation—all have a place in personal ministry, and the Scriptures function in all three modes (p. 101). 

What we must learn how to build one another up in love, using the word of God. May the Lord grant you deeper understanding of his story, your story, and the stories of those living around you. 

What Has Athens to do with Jerusalem?

An apology for Classical Christian Education

Have you ever wondered what Classical, Christian education is? Why do some Christians encourage their children to read about pagan gods and culture? What as the Western Canon to do with God’s Canon? Who cares what happened in ancient Greece? Maybe, with that that 3rd century Christian author Tertullian, who’ve asked, “what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Athens here represent Hellenistic culture and Jerusalem represents biblical culture. 

This is a broad and important question. Does ancient pagan culture – literature, art, etc. – have any value for a Christian? There are so many good books written by Christians – why should we waste our time with anything else? There are so many modern authors? Why do we need ancient, pagan ones? 

Augustine had a ready answer for Tertullian on this important question. Augustine called studying classical Hellenistic culture “Plundering the Egyptians,” taken from the Exodus account. 

Exodus 3:21-22; 12:35-36 I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians. 

Later, as the Israelites gather materials for the building of the Tabernacle, God’s house, they are well equipped with rich raiment. 

Exodus 25:1–7 The LORD said to Moses, [2] “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. [3] And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, [4] blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, [5] tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, [6] oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, [7] onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. (ESV)

Israel plundered the Egyptians to build a beautiful, portable cathedral to God’s glory.  

There are several examples of the Apostles using their plunder, their classical education, to construct the word of God. The Apostles used truth and methods created by pagans. 

First, the apostle Paul himself sets an example of familiarity with pagan literature that is used for the glory of God. 

Acts 17:24–29 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, [28] for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ [29] Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. (ESV)

In v. 28, Paul, on Mars Hill, he quotes from two pagan Greek poets. “In Him we live and move and have our being” is from De Oraculis, a work by the 7th century B.C. Cretan poet/philosopher Epimenides. And the next line, “we are also His offspring,” is from The Phenomena, written in the 3rd century B.C. by Aratus. The same line is found in the Hymn of Zeus by Cleanthes. Notice that Paul is clear about what he is doing – “as also some of your own poets have said.” Paul has no problem knowing and using Pagan poets while arguing for the validity of biblical truth. But note, he denies the validity of idolatry in v. 29. Paul uses the same strategy in the Pastoral epistles. 

Titus 1:12–13 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” [13] This testimony is true (ESV).

Paul again quotes the De Oraculis, in making a point about the wickedness of certain deceivers, and says in the next verse, “this testimony is true.” All truth is God’s truth. 

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (ESV)

The phrase that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” is a quotation from a Greek philosopher – Diogenes the Cynic. Some may remember Diogenes as the one who went around in broad daylight with a lantern – looking for an honest man. That is a metaphor that can be validated by all Christians.  

This method of studying the wisdom and literature of pagans to use against them is exactly what Moses did. 

Acts 7:22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. (ESV)

Moses studied these things, not to worship Isis, but to destory Isis. This is precisely what Daniel did, as well. 

Daniel 1:3–6 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, [4] youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans…Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. (ESV) Daniel 2:27–28 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, [28] but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: (ESV)

Daniel studied and learned and when it came time to answer Nebuchadnezzar, he could articulate the failures of the Babylonian intelligentsia while promoting true biblical wisdom – the fear of God. 

Much later, this is exactly how Calvin argued in his masterwork, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, in which we observe how willingly he quotes secular authors – Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Galen, Cato, Cicero, Horace, Josephus, Juvenal, Lucretius, Ovid, Plautus, Pliny, Plutarch, Seneca, Suetonius, Virgil. Christian writers of Calvin’s day had more of a grasp of what plundering was supposed to look like. And it wasn’t to bow to idols but to destroy them. The doctrine of common grace, means that some men will discover the truth, Pythagorean theorem for example, even if they are not believers in the living God.  

To return to the New Testament authors, we can see how their classical education equipped them to be God’s mouthpiece. As Ben Witherington III articulates in his work New Testament Rhetoric;

“The dominant paradigm when it came to words and the conveying of ideas, meaning, and persuasion in the NT era was rhetoric…in terms of both structure and content, most NT documents look far more like rhetorical speeches.” 

These speeches are the exordiumnarratioproposititoprobatiorefutatio and peroratio, as developed by Aristotle, Cicero and the Greek rhetoricians. Examples abound thoughout the sermons of Acts, the book of Philemon, the epistles, and the gospels. 

Take the Chreia of Mark in Mark 1:1-6, which meets all the rhetorical criteria of the basic exercises of beginning rhetoric. It is pithy and concise, ending with a memorable saying in v. 4. This also ends the first major division of Mark’s Gospel. Mark has a sense of rhetorical development, leading the reader from one summit in the narrative to another. It helps makes Mark’s gospel so unique. The art of Rhetoric was stolen baptized and used to tell the glorious, good news of the Lord Christ. 

The Apostles were instructed in the classical forms of argumentation and persuasion and so, if we understand these forms, we can better understand the NT. This will equip us how to articulate the faith in the same well-reasoned, impassioned, and pithy style of the Apostles. 

Reading Old Books

C.S. Lewis, the medievalist Oxford don and Christian thinker, wrote an essay called the Reading of the Old Books, in which he argued;

“A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed ‘at’ some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (‘mere Christianity’ as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.”

Context matters. This is true in reference to farming practices in Ruth, the competing Sanhedrin and Pharisee parties of first century Palestine and the Classical metaphysical term “logos.” Context matters when reading Spurgeon or Athanasius. But it is even truer when reading parenting books by the Pearls, or Karl Barth’s systematic theology or studying the doctrine of Lesser Magistrates or listening to Crosspolitic. Let the fresh sea breeze of orthodoxy blow the chaff from your mind. And that healthy sea breeze is found in the reading of old books.

Warnings

Now, as classical Christian education continues to grow and flourish, the question of what to do with “the gold” from what we’ve plundered, must be considered. Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures are thoroughly pagan, after all, and we don’t want any nonsense about he the “noble savage.”  

We must be weary. There is an old adage, “beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” And this truth comes to us from a Roman poet named Virgil, in reference to the Trojan Horse. Learning how to discern gifts that bring destruction from gifts that bring wisdom is crucial to the education of our children. There are plenty of modern examples in entertainment; sports, movies, Netflix, books and much more – that are trojan horses of worldview rolled to our front door all day. Learning how to engage in the best and brightest of human thought, the “Great books,” is the best way to detect subtleties and errors in our own day.  

We can all agree that the Iliad is objectively better than the Hunger Games. We know that Shakespeare is objectively better than J.K. Rowling. But why? Shakespeare is often thought to be highly suspect because of his use of pagan mythology. But context matters. He was a thorough going Protestant. But given the censorship laws, he used the popular device of substituting “Jove,” for Jehovah. Jove, being Jupiter, the King of the heavens in Medieval cosmology. Context matters and learning that context has shaped the greater thinkers and artists of the modern era. 

To couple this with Lewis’ idea about old books, how do we articulate the obvious qualitative differences between Christopher Nolan and Woody Allen? Or Nickel Creek and Nickelback? The greatest Christian poem is, arguably, either Beowulf or Dantes’ Inferno. Well, its Beowulf, but why? 😉 And what has that got to do with our choice of worship music? 

A thorough going classical and Christian education prepares our children to take on the ideas of western culture, old or new, from a biblical perspective. 

Conclusion

Augustine, the Doctor of Grace, the most influential Christian thinker outside the bible (we are all Augustinians, whether we know it or not) argued that we “plunder the Egyptians,” to use the achievements of pagan society to construct God’s house and city. This is tricky, since the ideas we find in Plato, Virgil, Aquinas or Kant must be “baptized” – cleansed and converted. There is conflict here. But the kind of mental conflict, or wrestling that God intends for his Children.

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)

It requires sticking close to God and His word, the measuring rod for our faith and practice. But with care and wisdom, our children can be greatly enriched, even from pagans, just as God intended. 

Proverbs 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous. (ESV)

A Well Aimed Faith

David immense skill and tactical wisdom were not the reasons he prevailed against Goliath.

1 Samuel 17:48–53 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. [49] And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. [51] Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. [52] And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. [53] And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp.

Goliath was dressed like a serpent with his scale armor, and he died like a serpent, with a head wound, just as the Philistine god Dagon had his head crushed. Psalm 115 says that all those who worship idols will be like them – dead. 

David knows where true power comes from. Psalm 33:16–19 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Psalm 147:10–11 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. 

What matters is not whether you have the best weapons but whether you have the true and living God. In fact, your “inadequacy” is precisely our qualification for serving Him; for his strength shines most brightly behind the foreground of our weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

And by crushing the head of the Philistine army, David began a rout, driving the Philistines down the valley to the coastal plain back to Ekron. David’s boldness and heroism inspire the whole Israelite army, just as Jonathon had. And their destruction would serve a high theological purpose; it would be a revelatory event by which “the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” What happens when God’s people arise armed to the teeth with faith, defiant? We need to learn what this means: “it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s.” 

David was not self-confident; he was God-confident. We are not facing down our own Goliaths of secularism, statism, communism and the like. We are not going out, against all odds, facing our enemies, as if our lives are a sanctified version of a scrappy underdog. We’re not Appalachian state beating Michigan in a NCAA football game. We are not David. We are Israel; cowering, incapacitated by fear, fixated on the size and power of our enemies. Wallowing in disobedience. Israel sees Goliath. His size and armor. David sees Yahweh. Hapless and helpless Israel. We are more likely to accuse and malign obedient sons like David – just as Eliab and Saul did. 

We need someone to deliver us. We need saving. We need courage. We need proof that faith overcomes. That God’s promises are true. That our enemies and circumstances are not bigger than God. David comes and shows us, with defiance, confidence and grit what the life of faith could be. He is the captain leading the way. He is a type of Christ: Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 1 John 5:4–5 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? Psalm 37:1–6 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 

Our shepherd, armed merely with a staff has gone out to the chasm between our armies and Satan’s, and has thrown him down and cut off his head. Up Israel. The enemy is dismayed. The enemy is routed. Let us to the battle and follow our captain. Let us hunt down every sin and every lie and put them to the sword. In our hearts. In our homes. In our community.  Take up the sword of the spirit, the word of God. The battle is God’s battle. If our confidence is fixed on the power of God, rather than in any armor or sufficiency of our own, we may be certain the world’s utmost might cannot withstand us, because they could not withstand Christ. God resists the proud and pours contempt upon those who bid defiance to His people, humiliating them by a defeat with the meanest of instruments.

The humblest of tools – you and I. 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Do you believe this? Do you know the Christ who has delivered Israel from Goliath? Who has delivered you? Herman Bavinck explains, 

“Saving faith is not only a certain knowledge, a firm assurance, and undoubted certainty concerning the prophetic and apostolic testimony as the word of God, but is at the same time a sure confidence, as of one person in another, in Christ Himself as the fulness of grace and truth revealed in Him by God. The one stands in inseparable connection with the other. Without knowledge no confidence or trust is possible. For how should we trust anyone whom we do not know? But, conversely, too, if the knowledge does not lead to confidence and trust, it was not the right kind of knowledge. They that know the name of the Lord put their trust in Him. But those who do not trust Him have not yet leaned to know him from his word as he really is.”

Do you need to repent of the wrong kind of knowledge of Christ? Knowledge that knows of him, but does not know him? Do you trust him? Are you confident in him? Not just in words of ink about him – but Him. Do you have knowledge that does not penetrate beyond the head, to the heart? Are your eyes fixed on Him or your circumstances? Him or politics? Him or Economics? Him or COVID? Him or that which you fear? Him or wayward Israel? Him or the failed leadership? Him or his kingdom? 

A Faith well-aimed at Christ, eyes fixed on him, a head full of Christ and a heart full of Christ will overcome all opposition because he has overcome all opposition. In Him, you discover that you are already, whether fighting lies or sin or the world, victorious, because he is victorious. Do you believe it? 

Psalm 9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. There are giants in the land. But our captain, our king, our Lord is a giant slayer. Up Israel. Follow Him. 

Study Questions

1. 1 Samuel 16 is a very reassuring chapter, coming as it does before Chapter 17. Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is an amazing prophecy of Christ. Can you see that Isaiah 52:13 fulfils a similar function in relation to that passage?

2. A person’s words should be weighed, not counted, and the same applies to the books in a Christian’s library. How heavy are your words and books?

3. ‘Theocentric thinking’—it should be normal for Christians but often proves to be rare. Is it the normal way you think?

4. ‘In God’s economy no experience is wasted.’ Think that through in terms of your own life. It will enable you to find causes of thankfulness in the unpleasant as well as the pleasant times.

5. 1 Samuel 17 emphasises David’s weakness. Study the way Paul deals with the theme of weakness in 2 Corinthians 10–13.

 Davis, D. R. (2000). 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (pp. 190–191). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications