Archive for January, 2012

Acts 24 commentary

Posted: January 31, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in Uncategorized

from D.A. Carson

IN THE TRIAL OF PAUL BEFORE FELIX (Acts 24), the governor comes across as a man in authority who has no moral vision authorizing him to take decisive action. He is, in short, a moral wimp. He also represents the many powerful people who are disturbed by the Gospel, and at some deep level know that it is true, yet who never become Christians. Note:

(1) Judging by his approach and oratory, Tertullus is an orator trained in the Greek tradition and thus well able to represent the Jewish leaders in this quintessentially Hellenistic setting. The charge against Paul of temple desecration (Acts 24:6) is serious, punishable by death. When Tertullus encourages Felix to “examine” Paul (Acts 24:8), he means more than that Felix should ask a few probing questions. Roman “examination” of a prisoner was open-ended beating until the prisoner “confessed.” Roman officers did not have the right to “examine” a Roman citizen like Paul, but a governor like Felix could doubtless manage to waive the rules now and then.

(2) Paul’s response, no less courteous than that of Tertullus, denies the charge of temple desecration (Acts 24:12-13, 17-18) and provides a plausible explanation of the uproar by describing the actions of “some Jews from the province of Asia” (Acts 24:19). Paul also seizes the opportunity to acknowledge that he is a follower of “the Way”—a delightful expression referring to first-century Christianity, bearing, perhaps, multiple allusions. Christianity is more than a belief system; it is a way of living. Moreover, it provides a way to God, a way to be forgiven and accepted by the living God—and that Way is Jesus himself (as John 14:6 explicitly avers).

(3) Paul insists that he believes “everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14). This expression does not make the Law the final arbiter, yet nevertheless insists that the “everything” Paul believes agrees with the Law. The Law is thus a critical test that points to the “everything” Paul believes, but it is not the substance of everything he believes. Compare Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 3:21 (see meditation for January 31).

(4) And Felix? Owing to his Jewish wife Drusilla (Acts 24:24), he has some acquaintance with “the Way” (Acts 24:22). Yet here he ducks a decision between justice and his desire to placate Paul’s opponents, appealing to the need to hear from Lysias the commander. It is all pretense. He enjoys talking with Paul, and even trembles before his message, but always dismisses the apostle at the critical moment. For two years he is torn between a desire to repent and a desire for a bribe. In eternity, how will Felix assess those two years?

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Bible-reading, nourishes the believer

Posted: January 31, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in Discipleship, The Christian Life

Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.

Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading. (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)

Grace and Peace

Posted: January 30, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics and Evangelism, Biblical Studies, Discipleship

“To bestow peace and grace lies in the province of God, who alone can create these blessings. The angels cannot. The apostles could only distribute these blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. In attributing to Christ the divine power of creating and giving grace, peace, everlasting life, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, the conclusion is inevitable that Christ is truly God.”

 

Martin Luther, commentary on Galatians

 

 

Posted: January 30, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in The Christian Life

by Ray Ortlund

“In Kiev, where I found myself on a Sunday morning, on an impulse I turned into a church where a service was in progress.  It was packed tight, but I managed to squeeze myself against a pillar whence I could survey the congregation and look up at the altar.  Young and old, peasants and townsmen, parents and children, even a few in uniform – it was a variegated assembly. . . . Never before or since have I participated in such worship; the sense conveyed of turning to God in great affliction was overpowering.  Though I could not, of course, follow the service, I knew from Klavdia Lvovna little bits of it; for instance, where the congregation say there is no help for them save from God.  What intense feeling they put into these words!  In their minds, I knew, as in mine, was a picture of those desolate abandoned villages, the hunger and the hopelessness, the cattle trucks being loaded with humans in the dawn light.  Where were they to turn for help?  Not to the Kremlin . . ., nor to the forces of progress and democracy in the West. . . . Every possible human agency found wanting.  So, only God remained, and to God they turned with a passion, a dedication, a humility, impossible to convey.  They took me with them; I felt closer to God then than I ever had before, or am likely to again.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time: The Green Stick (New York, 1982), pages 258-259.

Being “in Christ Jesus”

Posted: January 27, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship, The Christian Life

by John Piper from here

 

Being “in Christ Jesus” is a stupendous reality. It is breathtaking what it means to be in Christ. United to Christ. Bound to Christ. If you are “in Christ” listen to what it means for you:

  1. In Christ Jesus you were given grace before the world was created. 2 Timothy 1:9, “He gave us grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
  2. In Christ Jesus you were chosen by God before creation. Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
  3. In Christ Jesus you are loved by God with an inseparable love. Romans 8:38–39, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  4. In Christ Jesus you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins. Ephesians 1:7, “In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.”
  5. In Christ Jesus you are justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imputed to you. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  6. In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Galatians 3:26, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
  7. In Christ Jesus you have been seated in the heavenly places even while he lived on earth. Ephesians 2:6, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
  8. In Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you. 2 Corinthians 1:20, “All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ.”
  9. In Christ Jesus you are being sanctified and made holy. 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus.
  10. In Christ Jesus everything you really needed will be supplied. Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
  11. In Christ Jesus the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  12. In Christ Jesus you have eternal life. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  13. And in Christ Jesus you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” All those united to Adam in the first humanity die. All those united to Christ in the new humanity rise to live again

How do we get into Christ?

At the unconscious and decisive level it is God’s sovereign work: “From God are you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

But at the conscious level of our own action, it is through faith. Christ dwells in our hearts “through faith” (Ephesians 3:17). The life we live in union with his death and life “we live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20). We are united in his death and resurrection “through faith” (Colossians 2:12).

This is a wonderful truth. Union with Christ is the ground of everlasting joy, and it is free.

 

 

Profitable Ways to Read the Bible

Posted: January 27, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity

1. Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing — is to do it; and the way to read the Bible — is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it — which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears — the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

2. Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to imagine, that all is done if they advance so many chapters every day, though they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark ahead so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere ritual form. Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood — is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, “What is this all about?” Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.

3. Read the Bible with child-like faith and humility. Open your heart — as you open God’s book, and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!” Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth — whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall — they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God’s Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind — that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand — you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray — that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture — that God is speaking to you, and you are not to “dictate,” but to listen!

4. Read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application. Sit down to the study of it with a daily determination that you will live by its rules, rest on its statements, and act on its commands. Consider, as you travel through every chapter, “How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?” It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes — in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best — which is practiced most!

5. Read the Bible daily. Make it a part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls — as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday’s food will not feed the laborer today; and today’s food will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God’s Word every day.

6. Read all of the Bible — and read it in an orderly way. I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is to say at the least, a very presumptuous habit. “All Scripture is profitable.” [2 Timothy 3:16]. To this habit may be traced that lack of well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people’s Bible-reading is a system of perpetual ‘dipping and picking’. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book.

7. Read the Bible fairly and honestly. Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning — and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a verse of the Bible seems to mean — it does mean! Cecil’s rule is a very valuable one, “The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular theological system.”

8. Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture, is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings, and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first coming and the second; the Lord’s humiliation and His glorious kingdom; His cross and the crown shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

I might easily add to these hints, if space permitted. Few and short as they are — you will find them most profitable when implemented.

~ J.C. Ryle

Practical Religion, “Bible Reading”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1998], 131-134.

A helpful little thought on the phrase “led by the Spirit”. It comes from a Pastor out in Arizona who had this passed on to him, so in like fashion I am passing it on to you.

Have you ever heard somebody say that the Spirit “led” them to do something? Or something like, “I felt led to” do such and such? I’ve heard those kinds of statements. I’ve said those kinds of things, too. But what do people mean when they say that? And, more importantly, is that a Biblical way of understanding and speaking about the Spirit’s ministry among believers?

It might surprise you, as it did me, to learn that the phrase “led by the Spirit” occurs only twice in the New Testament:

Romans 8:13-14 – For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Galatians 5:16-18 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

You’ll notice that both occurrences of “led by the Spirit” come in the context of the mortification of sin. The Holy Spirit’s testimony about His own role in “leading” believers is specifically set alongside the putting away of the desires and deeds of the flesh. To do that is to walk by the Spirit; that is, to walk by means of Him: to be led by Him. And so if we are going to be relentlessly Biblical, this has to be the way we primarily understand and use that phrase: being led by the Spirit. “The Spirit led me to put off my anger and bitterness.” “The Spirit led me to mortify my lust for attention and recognition.” And so on.

(HT:JohnSamson)